Techland Interview: Alex Trebek

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TL: Jeopardy has been on the air since 1984. During that time, which player sticks out in your mind as the most memorable?

AT: Well, Ken Jennings of course, because he won 74 shows. I don’t think his record will ever be matched.

Eddie Timanus, the blind contestant we had, was certainly amazing to watch. He would recall which clues had been used in which categories and he would say, “I’ll take History for 600, Alex.” And on a couple of occasions he’d say, “Ahh, I’ll take the next one in Geography,” because it had slipped his mind.

But my gosh, for a guy who was completely blind to do as well as he did against sighted opponents was truly amazing.

And there have been a number of the teens who have impressed me immensely. So, yeah, there have been many memorable contestants and special moments—moments that brought tears to my eyes.

TL: Which Jeopardy buzzer strategy is most effective? The single click, the rapid fire, the long press?

AT: Well since I’ve never been a contestant, only the host, you’re asking the wrong man. I don’t know, it’s what ever works for you.

Keep in mind that the signaling device always works better if you know the subject. If you are not 100% sure that you know the correct response, you will be a little slower in ringing in. And a lot of people will complain, saying, “Ah, it’s the buzzer. It’s the buzzer.” Well it’s not the buzzer, it’s your brain.

You’ll notice contestants who will be silent for quite a bit and then all of a sudden they’ll catch fire and run a whole category. It’s that they’re comfortable in the category, they know the category. That adds to the speed with which they’re able to ring in, and it also intimidates their opponents.

But you have to wait until the clue has been read in its entirety. So from that point of view, there’s a timing strategy involved. You have to get the timing down just right. But, again, if you are confident in that subject matter, you’ll get the timing down right.


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