I’ll Take… Mr. Bill for $800 Please


Cassandra Bundrick

Reporter, Amelia Wright, captures Mr. Bill’s jeopardy experience.

Amelia Wright, Reporter

Teacher, Knowledge Bowl coach, and now a possible contestant on Jeopardy!, Jonathan Bill plans to try for a spot on the show, no matter how long it takes. The only problem is that once you audition, you have to wait 18 months before trying again.

Mr. Bill, a history teacher here at Peninsula High School, had an audition for Jeopardy! on Wednesday, February 17th, during break. Over the past 20 years, Bill has been trying to get on Jeopardy!, so after all of these years, getting an audition was really exciting for him.

Bill has been a Knowledge Bowl coach and teacher for over 14 years. Bill loves knowledge, and he was also on his school’s Knowledge team in junior high through 10th grade.

Knowledge Bowl is similar to Jeopardy!, but instead of competing individually, contestants compete as part of a group. This year’s Knowledge Bowl team has won nine out of ten games, with the losing game only lost by a margin of 2 points!

“Mr. Bill is a great Knowledge Bowl coach because he has a style of teaching and getting the information across to us that makes it fun and easy to remember,” said Nicolas Wright, a senior who has been in Knowledge Bowl for 4 years.

Teaching history has also been an important part of Bill’s life.

“I became a teacher because, quite simply, I wanted to make a difference. Helping people is my strongest instinct, and working with kids is fun. There is never a dull moment and never a boring day,” said Bill.

Even though Bill has a job that has everything to do with knowledge, he doesn’t necessarily think that his career choice had much to do with his desire to be on the show. However, he definitely thinks that it has helped him prepare.

“I learn new stuff every day doing this job, so I’m sure I could do better now than if I had gotten on 20 years ago,” said Bill.

Everyone who has ever played against Bill in a trivia game knows that history and geography are his strongest areas. He tells his students that most of what he knows about history is material that he has learned since he started teaching.

“Mr. Bill is a great Knowledge Bowl coach and teacher. He turns what could have been boring history lessons into fun stories. He is informative and entertaining.” said Kasey Davis, also a senior at PHS and a knowledge bowl member of two years.

When just watching Jeopardy! on TV, it seems like it would be an easy process, but the truth is that it takes a lot of patience and hard work to succeed on the show.

The first step Bill took to accomplish his dream of being on Jeopardy! was to take the online test that thousands of people take each year. There are 50 questions, with eight seconds to quickly type in the answer to each. Throughout the test, the tester’s scores are never revealed, but Bill must have done well because his score landed him a spot for the next step: the audition.

At the audition, the first thing that potential contestants had to do was to take another 50 question test (this one on paper), but with questions on a screen at the front of the room and again with only eight seconds to answer before the next one popped up.

Then, people were called up three at a time to play the game under slightly different conditions than on the show. Bill was one of the first three called. At this point, officials weren’t even keeping score and were mostly concerned with how auditioners looked playing the game and with how smoothly they answered and then requested the next clue.

The final part was the personal interview, in which would-be contestants were asked questions about themselves like on the show, but for a much longer time. The whole audition took about 2-1/2 hours.

Everyone who auditions could potentially be called at any point in the next 18 months, and that’s about all that the show officials tell the auditioners. There really isn’t any feedback, so Bill just has to wait for the call.

“I think it would be so cool if Mr. Bill went on Jeopardy! It will give Mr. Bill a chance to show his knowledge to the world,” said Wright.

Although getting a spot on Jeopardy! is a tough process that 10,000 people attempt each year, many students believe Mr. Bill has a chance, and that he should never give up trying to prove his knowledge.