They may know politics, but how will they handle history? The periodic table? Shakespeare's plays?
Fifteen political figures, journalists, and media personalities will face off on Jeopardy! as the game show of answers and questions tapes a special "Power Players Week" in Washington. It's only the third Power Players contest in the show's 28-year run. This year's roster leans heavily on journalists, but also includes an eclectic bunch of other celebrities: former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, surgeon and TV host Mehmet Oz, former professional basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and comedian Lewis Black. CNN's Anderson Cooper, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, NBC's Chuck Todd, and Fox News's Dana Perino and Chris Wallace are also among the competitors.
Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek says that even though these celebs may carry impressive credentials and be comfortable on camera, they don't necessarily have an edge over other contestants. The celebrities are "familiar with the show, but they're not into it the way the regular players are," Trebek told Whispers. "They're probably more nervous than the regular folks. ... And quite often celebrities are worried that they're going to lose face and embarrass themselves." [Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]
That might also help explain why there are no current politicians competing on the shows, though leaders of both parties still might not be safe, particularly with the notoriously prickly Black manning a buzzer.
"He's a free-enterprise comedian," Trebek says. "He'll attack both Republicans and Democrats. And good for him." Abdul-Jabbar, Cooper, and Matthews have each played on Jeopardy! twice before, and each holds a 1-1 record. "Kareem was very eager to come back this time," Trebek says. "In his last appearance he missed a clue about himself, so he's looking for redemption." [See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]
The winners will earn at least $50,000 for the charity of their choice, while the runners-up will receive $10,000 for their causes. The shows are scheduled to air May 14-18.