Local resident on 'Jeopardy!' this week
By John Fitts
While Terry Wolfisch Cole has long been known for her storytelling, her recent experience on “Jeopardy!” has most certainly given her some additional narratives.
Wolfisch Cole has lived in West Simsbury with husband Andrew for 20 years now. The couple has two children, Emily and
Jonah, and a Husky mix named Stevie.
Wolfisch Cole is known in the area for her work at a synagogue and teaching yoga but perhaps most so through her storytelling ventures and coaching as founder and host of Tell Me Another.
When it comes to her “Jeopardy!”experience, Wolfisch Cole can’t yet tell the full story, but residents can tune in at 7 p.m. Thursday locally on WTNH, Channel 8, to see her compete.
We do know that the taping at the “Jeopardy!” studios in November fulfilled a long-time dream.
“I have been a ‘Jeopardy!’ fan since the reboot in 1984,” Wolfisch Cole said. “I watched when I was in college. I watched when I was in grad school and all along, I thought ‘gosh I could do that.’”
Wolfisch Cole certainly has a good background for it. She’s been an avid reader all her life, and has formally studied creative writing, dramatic writing, and cinema studies. She’s also said she’s been blessed with a “fairly sturdy” memory and participates in online trivia and periodically attends area trivia events.
But, for years, Wolfisch Cole never quite got the chance to audition for the show. That all changed when she started the process with a 50-question online test approximately two years ago.
“Way back when, you used to have to go places to audition,” she said. “Then, with the advent of the internet and especially come [the] pandemic, everybody just began to audition from home.”
Wolfisch Cole did well on that first test, so she was invited, via email, to take another – this time with a show representative watching to make sure her good scores didn’t come with the aid of internet searches or other outside help.
Based on another good test result, Wolfisch Cole was invited to a virtual group interview, which took place in May of 2021. Would-be contestants were told they might – or might not – get a call within 18 months.
“I know someone who was in the contestant pool four times before they got the call,” said Wolfisch Cole.
In October, she got a call, but didn’t immediately realize it was “the call.” Wolfisch Cole said she always answers the phone but when someone on this one asked if it was Terry, she admitted she was suspicious it was somebody looking to sell something.
“She said hi my name is Lauri – and I’m with the television program ‘Jeopardy!’,” Wolfisch Cole said.
I yelled at full volume, “Holy s***. Are you my call?” Wolfish Cole said. “In the world of trivia and ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants, that moment is known as getting ‘the call.’ Where were you when you got the call? What did you say when you got the call? And she was my call. I burst into tears.”
Wolfisch Cole went out to California for taping on Nov. 1 and 2, 2021.
While her husband Andrew helped her prepare, he is a teacher and can’t easily take time off during the week, so Wolfisch Cole’s sister, Lisa Wolfisch, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area, accompanied her to Los Angeles for the taping.
Unfortunately, COVID restrictions prevented Lisa Wolfisch from going on set or to the studios.
"I would have liked to have had my sister there with me to actually see it happen and kind of be there by my side during the experience itself," Wolfisch Cole said. “It was kind of a bummer to have to go back to the hotel after and tell her what had happened as opposed to her having seen it and experience it for herself.”
But Wolfisch Cole said her sister was a great sport, helping to quiz her at night and keep her prepared for the show.
In Los Angeles the two also got to visit some well-known locations, such Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Musso & Frank Grill.
“We had a real nice time out there,” Wolfisch Cole said.
While she said the studios did a great job with COVID protocols, Wolfisch Cole was also able to make new friends among her fellow contestants and has stayed in touch with several through active social media groups.
For now, Wolfisch Cole must keep the game – or games – experience a little vague but that isn’t just to keep it secret. While she knows the outcome and that it was a quick, intense experience, there are aspects she doesn’t remember.
“I can tell you everything about that day. I can tell you what I wore. I can tell you the names of the other contestants. I can tell you what I saw, what it looked like in the room. I cannot tell you anything about the game – or games – I played. I literally don’t remember. It will be a surprise to me when I watch it,” she said, noting she does know the outcome. “I know in that first game I played 61 questions. I can tell you about four of them. And it turns out this is a really common occurrence. I’ve heard so many people say the same thing. It’s as if in order to engage the recall part of your brain as hard as you have to, the memory part of your brain shuts off.”
“The actual game play happens in real time,” she added, noting that 5 shows are taped per day over the two days. “It happens as quickly as you’re seeing it on TV. It’s the most intense, brain engagement I have ever experienced in my life – much, much more than any exam I ever took or anything else.”
To find out how Wolfisch Cole fared, tune in Thursday evening at 7 p.m. on WTNH, which is Channel 8 on most local lineups.