In 2001, Sarah Whitcomb Foss beat out thousands of hopeful contestants to win a nationwide search for the Jeopardy! Clue Crew. What was supposed to be a one-year gig turned into the career of a lifetime —18 seasons and counting! During that time, she’s traveled to all seven continents, more than 40 countries, has been on 10 Lindblad expeditions and has delivered more than 200 clues in some of the world’s most thrilling locations — from the ice floes of Antarctica to the undersea in Alaska. She took a break between trips to share some behind-the-scenes stories.
How did you land such an incredible job?
I had just started working as a news anchor in Traverse City, Michigan when I heard a co-worker mention that Jeopardy! was looking for a team of correspondents to travel the world and get paid for it. I knew I shouldn’t already be looking for a new job, but it was too intriguing to pass up. To apply, you needed to submit a three-minute video of yourself presenting some clues. Since I had access to this television station, I used the meteorologist's green screen to transport myself to different locations — for a question about the Champs-Élysées, I wore a beret and had a backdrop of Paris. I guess that did the trick because I moved on to the regional callbacks and then several more rounds until I was finally selected as one of the four members of the Clue Crew.
You’ve been all over the world. Is it possible to pick a favorite destination?
I’ve been to some amazing places like Alaska, Easter Island, the Baltics and Baja, but for me, it’s definitely Antarctica. I was so enamored by the wildlife and the way it had no inhibitions. There was one moment I will never forget. I was sitting on a rock taking in the scenery when this penguin waddled over, looked me in the eye, started nibbling at my boot and then decided I wasn’t very tasty and moved on! In addition to the wildlife, there’s the indescribable beauty — the serenity, the stillness of the water and the reflections of the icebergs. It’s not like any place I’d ever been before and it just surpassed all of my expectations.
Seal-ing the deal! Sarah and crew filming a clue as Lindblad guests looked on.
What is the most memorable clue you've filmed?
That would have to be the one I did about leopard seals in Antarctica. I was really curious about them, so I read up a lot on these seals before my trip, not knowing if we would ever have the opportunity to see one. I was out on a Zodiac ride one afternoon and out of nowhere we came across one lounging on the ice. My team jumped into action, we wrote a clue on the fly, I quickly memorized it, and then delivered it right there. It always makes me smile when I see it because I know it was such an unexpected moment and I love that we were successfully able to pull it off. Plus, I didn’t really know how close I was to the leopard seal — the only seal that eats other mammals — until I watched the footage back later.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Expedition travel is one of the hardest things to do as a Clue Crew member. I need to have all of my material perfectly memorized since we never know what we’re going to see at any given moment. In Baja, for example, we had a whole category about whales and whale behavior. Well, all of a sudden, we’d see a breaching whale and I had to quickly recall and present my breaching clue, and then just as fast there’s a whale doing tail slapping, so I had to remember and deliver that clue. And there’s no second take — you don’t know if you’re going to see that behavior again so they’re counting on me to get it right the first time.
Wearing rollers in her hair on location. Sarah’s perfected the art of getting camera-ready at a moment’s notice—even after a windy Zodiac ride!