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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Alumni

Far from Clueless

January-February 2002

Like many Harvard seniors, Sofia Lidskog '01 interviewed for jobs with investment banks and management consulting firms in New York City. "I was on the treadmill with everybody else," she says. "But my heart wasn't in it. I wanted to perform." Less than a year later, she is performing--on television, before 32 million viewers. Lidskog is one of four members of the newly-created "Clue Crew" for television's top-rated and longest-running quiz show, Jeopardy! As a "roving correspondent" for the program, she researches and performs video "clues"--answers in search of the right question--shot in locations as diverse as Sea World in San Diego and the floor of the United Nations.

a-jeopardy-logoFive thousand applicants submitted three-minute videotapes to audition for this dream job. To make her tape, Lidskog lugged "100 pounds" of equipment from Harvard's Video Services to film herself giving clues--in one case vaulting a subway turnstile, and in another, getting technicians to hook her up to a static electricity generator in the Science Center. "My hair was standing on end," she says. "There was so much electricity going through my scalp, I thought my head was going to explode!" The tape also showed the thrill-seeking Lidskog skydiving, bungee jumping, and rappelling. "There's one picture of me with a huge black eye," she says. "I was sliding down a natural rock face when a rock punched me in the face! That helped me land the job, I think, because it showed I was a daredevil."

In the library of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harvard class of 1821, LL.D. 1866, Lidskog prepares to tape a clue for Jeopardy!
"Nineteenth-century minister of Second Church of Boston, known for essays like 'Self-Reliance.'" In the library of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harvard class of 1821, LL.D. 1866, Lidskog prepares to tape a clue for Jeopardy!
Photograph by Marc Halevi

The Swedish Lidskog family moved from Stockholm to Toronto and then to Concord, Massachusetts, when Sofia was six. (She also tapes clues for the Swedish version of Jeopardy!) Lidskog had her own rock band at age five--"I like being in the spotlight," she says--and competed in 10 different sports as a youth. She excelled in lacrosse, playing for the Swedish women's national team in the European championships. However, a persistent shin injury ended her lacrosse career as college began. "One door closed and another opened," she says; while at Harvard, Lidskog took singing lessons with a professional teacher and danced and performed in Jesus Christ Superstar at the American Repertory Theatre. As the Jeopardy! producers narrowed the field of 5,000 to 450, then to 21 finalists who flew to Los Angeles for a last tryout, Lidskog used all her skills; at one audition, she sang a version of Aretha Franklin's hit "Chain of Fools," with lyrics customized for the quiz show.

Lidskog's "dream clue," she says, would be done "running through Tiananmen Square in traditional Chinese costume, pulling a rickshaw." She has delivered a clue from the podium of the United Nations, on a 1989 Gorbachev speech there, and sat in a freezer with penguins--who pecked through her rain gear. (The clue: "Many penguin parents incubate their eggs on these body parts." Answer: "What are feet?") Holding a lacrosse stick, Lidskog caught a ball as a set-up for: "In 1990, Carole Kleinfelder led the Harvard team to an NCAA championship in this sport." So far, her daredevil side has not yet been fully exploited. "I'm still trying to get them to throw me off a cliff," she says, laughing. "I tell them, 'That's why there's four of us on the crew!' "

~Craig Lambert