Looking Back at 21 Years of the Jeopardy! Clue Crew
For more than two decades, Sarah Whitcomb Foss and Jimmy McGuire traveled the world shooting clues for Jeopardy! as members of the Clue Crew. And now, after 21 seasons exploring more than 300 cities, 46 countries, all 50 states and seven continents, the two are setting aside their luggage and passports and stepping into new roles with the show.
For her part, Sarah will continue working as a producer, a role she was promoted to during Season 38. Since 2008, Sarah has produced several segments for the show and is now excited to be wearing the producer hat full-time.
“I'm really, really honored to now be part of, you know, the creative process on the show,” Sarah said. “I get to go out and record with amazing talent to bring you great video categories. [You'll see] a lot more from celebrities, and also just notable people in the world of Jeopardy! -- people that our community wants to see -- delivering clues. I'm also going to be co-hosting our new podcast and postgame show Inside Jeopardy! with executive producer Michael Davies.”
At the same time, Jimmy has settled nicely into his new role as Jeopardy!’s stage manager, overseeing much of what goes on behind the scenes during tapings. On set, Jimmy provides guidance to contestants about the way the game is played and stands in as the host during rehearsals.
“I'm replacing a stage manager who's been with Jeopardy! for 35 years, John Lauderdale. He groomed me [for this new role] even while he was still there the season before last,” Jimmy said. “I get to interact with the contestants. It's really my job to put them at ease. This is their big moment.”
Jimmy’s time with Jeopardy! dates back all the way to 2001, when the show’s producers held auditions in cities across the country looking for correspondents to join a new team they called the Clue Crew. Jimmy, who at the time was working as an auto show product presenter for General Motors, auditioned in New York.
“I looked around the room and there were these talented people,” Jimmy recalled. “This one guy had a duffel bag and he would put a hat on and he would do a character. And then he put another hat on, he would do another character. And then it came to me and I thought ‘ohh boy, I didn't come prepared.’ But you know what? I want to be genuine. So, I said, the one thing that I bring to this audition is something you can't put in a duffel bag. I'm going to give you enthusiasm. I'm going to give you curiosity and I'm going to do my best to never let you down.”
While working in Michigan as a news anchor, Sarah heard about an audition to become a part of the Clue Crew nearby in Chicago. After doing the morning news, she caught a flight to the Windy City with her eyes set on becoming a part of America’s Favorite Quiz Show.
“The airplane was late,” Sarah said. “When I landed in Chicago, I got in a taxi cab and called the hotel where the auditions were held. I talked to this man named Bill Gaudsmith, who worked for the show for years, and he said, ‘If you can get here before they post the callbacks, they will still see you.’ So meanwhile, in the taxi cab I had written this whole song to perform, ‘Ohh, my bags are packed. I'm ready to go to be a part of the Jeopardy! show.’”
Of the 5,000 people who auditioned for the Clue Crew, Jimmy and Sarah were among the 20 finalists to get a callback to come to Los Angeles.
“It felt like you had made it,” Sarah said. “I mean, you got to fly first class to Los Angeles and a driver picked you up. You stayed at the Beverly Hilton, Merv Griffin's hotel. And we had this two-day audition. You got to come to the set and see the stage. It just felt so magical.”
After the two-day final audition in Los Angeles, Jimmy and Sarah were both offered spots on the Clue Crew, which originally consisted of four members.
As founding Clue Crew members, Jimmy and Sarah have had the opportunity to visit some amazing locations around the world, including Antarctica, South Africa, Germany, the Galápagos, Israel and Peru — just to name a few.
“Antarctica was my favorite destination, probably because it was just one of those places I never thought I'd have the opportunity to travel to,” Sarah said. “And being somewhere that's so remote that the wildlife has so few opportunities to interact with humans. It was really a special, special experience.”
For Jimmy, it was all about exploring the monuments in Rome, Italy.
“Italy is my favorite,” Jimmy said. “That was my first international trip and I was beside myself when I saw the Colosseum. I thought, wow, it was like being starstruck — [geographically] starstruck.”
Clue Crew shoots often aimed to provide an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at some of the most pivotal events in history.
“We did clues once from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and we were the only ones inside,” Sarah said. “We filmed in a secret passageway that she had hid in. And it was never lost on me that I got to step back in time, and be in these important places in history to share stories through the clues our writers had written for the show.”
Whether Sarah was flying with the military in Death Valley, scuba diving with sharks in Belize or Jimmy was sailing the Baltic Sea or tossing a football with his favorite NFL team, the Pittsburgh Steelers — each Clue Crew shoot took Jeopardy! viewers on a unique adventure.
“The access that we were given, people were always just so happy to have us,” Jimmy said. “Whenever we went somewhere we were representing Jeopardy!, and to me it was a badge of honor.”
During many of their epic excursions, Sarah and Jimmy had the pleasure of spending time with longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, who passed away in 2020, creating memories that they said will last for a lifetime.
“I think that's what I cherish the most. I mean, of course I got to see him as the quintessential professional on the stage for all those years,” Sarah said of Alex. “But to have just shared a casual meal in a small foreign land somewhere in the middle of the night and have those genuine conversations. That's what I will hold on to.”
One of those special casual meals occurred during a trip to Israel when Alex asked Sarah and Jimmy to accompany him to dinner on a Friday night while the Sabbath was being observed.
“We found this one place that was open with very few people in it,” Sarah said. “And while we were sitting at the bar together, Alex said to Jimmy and me, ‘So why aren't you two married?’ And we're like, oh Alex. No. We’re like brother and sister. We could never be married. And he goes, ‘No, no, no, no, no, not to each other. Why aren't you married?’ We were both single at the time and he was very concerned about us getting married and having families. Thankfully he lived to see both of us do just that.”
In addition to sharing lighthearted moments with Alex, Sarah and Jimmy were also able to witness his tenacious spirit in action while traveling abroad.
“Machu Picchu was another trip Sarah and I took with Alex where we had a very surreal moment,” Jimmy said. “Alex had a kidney stone and he hiked all the way up the mountain. When it was time to leave, he was in severe pain, and to see him muscle through that was just another time we got to see how tough he was.”
Over the years, Sarah and Jimmy have built a friendship rooted in their love for the show, traveling the world, celebrating knowledge and providing the best viewer experience possible.
“To think of not continuing to travel the world with Jimmy is certainly sad,” Sarah said. “But I'm just so thankful that I had a chance to go on the ride I did with the best partner in television.”
And while Jimmy and Sarah agree the end of the Clue Crew is bittersweet, they are filled with gratitude to have shared the experience with one another.
“We know each other [so well],” Jimmy said. “We've yelled at each other. We’ve cried with each other. We've joked with each other, and she’s the only other person who knows what this job is all about.”
“Sarah has always been there for me. And I’ll always have her back.”