Q & A with Amanda Potter

By Columbus Alive
From the January 24, 2013 edition

Amanda Potter was recently a contestant on “Jeopardy,” which means she’s probably smarter than you. Potter may be really intelligent but it’s her thoughtful and outgoing personality that makes her great as a liaison for the Wexner Center for the Arts. She’s behind a number of programs designed to welcome as diverse a crowd as possible from within the university and community.

When Potter wasn’t making sure the Wex is as awesome as possible and winding up on game shows, she spoke with Alive about her work at the Wex, her experience on “Jeopardy” — the episode airs May 2 — and what Alex Trebek is really like.

I have a lot of different tasks under one umbrella. My main responsibility is connecting what we’re doing at the Wex with what’s happening on campus, especially concerning exhibitions. I bring artists in for students and the community to interact with them. I also organize a gallery talk series called Double Take. It involves bringing in professors from different areas to comment on the exhibitions.

I’ve been part of GenWex since it started about five years ago. We wanted to focus on our younger audiences, between kids and college [students]. Its [goal] is to get the community engaged here through different experiences. It’s a cross departmental initiative with a staff of about 12 and advisory committee of people from all areas of the community — government, small business owners, corporations, representatives from our docent team, a mix of young professionals in our target audience. Our main focus is the Off the Grid party. The next one is March 9. It’s really fun to work on, but it’s especially meaningful because it raises money for educational programs.

The day after Election Day, my phone rang and from the election I wasn’t answering unknown numbers. The area code was from Culver City and I asked my husband who we know from Culver City? He goes, “Jeopardy”! I called them back right away and they invited me out for a taping.

I was most nervous about the final wagering. It’s been a long time since I’ve done math in any kind of intense, must-get-this-right way. You can’t use a calculator and just have to suss out what you think everyone else is doing. I was relieved to learn that you have as much time as you need — it’s not just the commercial break.

We actually have little contact with Alex. Until he comes out from behind the clue board you don’t see him. As far as interacting with him as a contestant it’s that moment that’s televised. He does interact with the audience during commercial breaks and is very generous and pleasant answering questions I’m sure he’s heard a thousand times. “What do you think of Will Ferrell’s impression of you?” “Who’s you favorite celebrity guest?”

My interview time with Alex ended up being really more my husband’s story than mine. We had written our own marriage vows. Mine were fairly traditional and sweet, but nothing really out of the ordinary, whereas my husband wrote his in haiku form. It was nice to include him in that way. He was in the audience with my mom to cheer me on.

Alex is very kind and just seems like a regular guy. He actually does a lot of really funny accents. He takes a picture with each contestant, and was singing “Amanda, light of my life” [by Don Williams] while we took our picture. At the end, while the credits roll and we’re all talking, he complimented my shoes. He’s a very charming, nice and polite Canadian.

Photo by Tim Johnson