I'll take winner for $500, Alex...
Jeopardy! isn’t a gameshow for everyone. While you don’t need a college degree to play along, it does require education, quick thinking, problem solving, and even some math. There is a rumor that the audition questions are even harder than the ones aired on television, meaning only the cream of the crop gets on the show.
The show has been on and off the air since 1964, where it started as a daytime broadcast. Since then there have been over 7,000 episodes. The famous Alex Trebek has been hosting since it became a daily syndicated show in 1984.
You already know about Ken Jennings, who holds the record for longest winning streak, where he earned over $2.5 million. But there’s a new Jeopardy! player who is kicking a** and doing it with style: 30-something, hipster-looking bartender, Austin Rodgers. He hails from New York City and has been killing it for weeks now. During that time, fans have come to love him for his sense of humor, mannerisms, jokes, and general quirkiness. As of my writing this (October 12, 2017), Austin has won 12 episodes so far!
Austin revealed to Vulture what it’s like behind the scenes and in his personal life.
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Of course, living in NYC, Austin gets stopped a lot for selfies. And The Daily News reported that he’s been getting hit-up by exes ever since he started his now-iconic run.
In a time where so much seems to be going wrong with the world, it’s nice to root for a real life champion — and one who proves you can still get ahead with smarts!
Austin said that a friend’s boyfriend told him:
“‘You came at a time where the Zeitgeist is so down and tragic, and everything’s going to shit lately. And I don’t know if you know this, but you’re such a spark of joy for so many in what’s otherwise a pretty dismal time in the United States.’ I’m like, ‘Well, that’s applying a huge burden on me.’ But if I step back from it and release myself from myself, it’s sort of right. I’m privileged and honored to have become a highlight in what otherwise would be a miserable past couple weeks.”
Austin went to a school in Saint Paul, Minnesota called Macalester, where he studied history and music. He continues to educate himself:
“I like reading and consuming knowledge; it’s almost irrelevant to my education. If I don’t know something, it visibly perturbs me and I have to find out. Back in the day, that meant dropping everything and finding a newspaper to find out exactly what I was looking for. But now, we have supercomputers in our pockets, which confuses me when people don’t know something and they go, ‘Well, I guess I’ll never know!’ I’m like, ‘You have a supercomputer in your pocket, you can know right now.’ You have all of mankind’s knowledge in your pocket. If you don’t know something, why not find it out immediately and close that chapter? I don’t know, people are weird. They’re not curious.”
Apparently they shoot multiple episodes of Jeopardy! in one day. Think about how mentally exhausting that is, then add on the cameras, lights, standing and audience all day long.
Between episodes, Austin would have to go backstage, change his clothes, drink a bit of water, and go back out. People often ask Austin if Jeopardy! was fun, he says, “Not really. Fun isn’t the right word. Enjoyable, absolutely. But fun? It’s a job. It’s two concentrated days of nonstop action.”
Austin mentioned how the producers loved his antics, except for his incessant swearing — likely a product of his hometown! Even a few fellow contestants had fun losing to him. He said, “One of them said, ‘I’m completely content that I get to say I got beat by Austin Rogers. If I lost to some squeaky anonymous person, I’d be infuriated. But I lost to you so I can say I’m happy and hold my head up high.'”
And for Alex Trebek? They rarely interacted and Austin respected that.