Matt Olson ’14, a Daily copy editor, progressed to the semifinals of the “Jeopardy!” College Championship after winning his quarterfinal game, which aired Feb. 6. The symbolic systems major competed in the televised round against Monica Thieu from the University of North Texas and Zach McDonnell from the College of William and Mary. The prize for the final round of the college championship is $100,000.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): How did you get to be a Jeopardy! contestant?
Matt Olson (MO): I took an online test in the spring of last year that was 50 questions [long]. People who do well on that [test] get a call, so Jeopardy! called in October for me to go to L.A. The other contestants and I took a test with another 50 questions and then played a mock game, just to make sure we could talk on TV.
TSD: Why did you want to be a contestant?
MO: Well, I’ve always been a fan of “Jeopardy!”. I started watching when I was six or seven, and Ken Jennings [74-time “Jeopardy!” winner] was my hero. I tried out for it in high school, but this was the first time I got called.
TSD: How did you prepare for the competition?
MO: I didn’t really do anything special. Because there are so many categories, you have to acquire the knowledge throughout your life. I did memorize world capitals, though.
TSD: Did you get to talk to Alex Trebek? What was he like?
MO: Contestants actually aren’t allowed to talk to him outside of the awkward interview segment and post-game talk, but we did learn that he drives a white pick-up truck. Also, when the crew counts down right before the game begins, he makes weird facial movements and “woop” noises to warm up.
TSD: Did you have a strategy for this round?
MO: I had planned a few things, but once you get up there you forget that! I wanted to bet a lot of money on the Daily Doubles, to build up a lead. I wanted more than double my opponents’ scores going into Final Jeopardy! because no one knows what’s going to happen then.
TSD: Did you get to talk to the other competitors?
MO: Yeah, they were cool. On the day of taping we got to know each other a bit when we were all hanging out, getting make-up put on and signing contracts in the green room. Beforehand, we do a rehearsal game, and after the tournament we had a little party.
TSD: What was your favorite category?
MO: I liked the math one, and the women’s sports. Not so much the dog one.
Olson will next appear in the college Jeopardy! semifinals Friday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m.
–Erika Alvero Koski