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Double ‘Jeopardy!’: Alum wins $32,600 on game show

David Brown ’12 upheld a family tradition when he appeared on Jeopardy! for three nights in a row

David Brown ’12 has always had an affinity for trivia. This past July, he shared it with America during a three-day appearance on “Jeopardy!”. Brown netted  $32,600 on the popular evening game show.


Young talent

Brown “always had a phenomenal memory for trivia,” said his mother Ellen Brown ’80 MD ’83 P’12, who was also a contestant on “Jeopardy!” in 2009.

David Brown said he participated in Quiz Bowl and Academic Bowl throughout high school. His love for trivia preceded his high school extracurriculars.

“I think he got his start with trivia with his grandfather, answering the daily Isaac Asimov questions in the puzzle section of the paper,” said father Marc Brown ’80 ScM ’82 PhD ’87 P’12. He added that his son also participated in a local trivia game show called Quiz Kids during high school.

Both parents were present in the audience during the taping of the shows on which their son appeared, and both said they were proud of him. During the taping, host Alex Trebek referred several times to Brown’s mother’s apperance on the show.

“The tag line for the commercial for the show that week was ‘will David manage to restore the family honor?’ referring to me not doing so well,” Ellen Brown said. She was disqualified from the final round during her appearance on the show and cited issues with the buzzer as one of the factors leading to her loss.

Though  she wished her experience had had a different outcome, “my whole ‘Jeopardy!’ experience was a good one, made even better by having David do so well four years later,” Ellen Brown said.


Going through the rounds

To land a spot on the show, potential contestants must pass several written tests, including an initial online test. If successful, they are invited to an in-person audition where they play a computer-simulated version of “Jeopardy!”, “Jeopardy!” Contestant Producer Maggie Speak said. The selection process also includes an interview to get a feel for the contestant’s personality, she said.

After Brown’s audition in March 2013, “he was called for the taping within days,” Marc Brown said.

David Brown said he didn’t believe the phone call that informed him he was going to be a contestant on “Jeopardy!” and thought it was a prank call.

But his father said he was not surprised by David Brown’s selection.

“They appreciated his persona and stage presence, not to mention his brilliance,” Marc Brown said.

To prepare, David Brown began to watch the show daily and to visit the online “Jeopardy!” archive.  He practiced buzzing in using a wooden spoon as the buzzer because “the handle would be sort of the same size as the buzzer,” he said. Brown also used the lists he acquired from high school Quiz Bowl and Academic Bowl competitions to aid him in memorizing various topics, he added.

“I think what helped the most was being really familiar with the show and with the kind of questions and with the buzzer,” Brown said.

Brown said drawing from his mother’s experiences on the show served as a calming agent.

“I was not nervous at all going into the studio, which is a good place to be,” he said.


It’s showtime

Most of the other contestants on “Jeopardy!” wanted to “have a good time,” Brown said.

“There were probably ... one or two who you could tell were very competitive. They were trying to psych you out... But I think for the most part that was the minority,” Brown said.

During the first game, Brown buzzed in to answer questions quickly, sweeping two categories, “Within Limitations” and “Bard ‘M’en,” finishing with the most money at the end of the show. Answering all the questions in both categories was his proudest moment from the first show, he said.

Brown’s second game was a rockier showing, though he said he scraped out a win in the last round “only because (one of my opponents) wagered too much at Final ‘Jeopardy!’,” he said. “It definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to win but I’m still happy I won,” Brown added.

But the third show was Brown’s last.

“I lost by a lot. It was a much harder game than the first two in my opinion, and the two people I was playing against were incredible. I felt like I played a very good game,” Brown said.

“It basically went ... easy, medium, hard in terms of first game, second game and third game,” Brown said, adding that the third game consisted of unfamiliar topics like “old TV hosts.”


‘An incredible time’

Reactions to Brown’s performance were largely positive.

“He was so well-rounded ... It was fun to watch him play because he had so much fun playing the game,” Speak said.

She added that Brown’s personality was “one big selling package” as a contestant.

“He’s one of the most delightful contestants I’ve worked with in a very long time,” Speak added.

The social media world also took notice of Brown’s appearance on “Jeopardy!” and during the show’s airing, Vine videos and Twitter mentions of Brown appeared on the Internet.

“It was totally unexpected ... literally hundreds if not thousands of people were tweeting specifically about me,” Brown said. He gave examples of tweets, including “Oh my God, this gay ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant is giving me life!” and “I love how sassy he is!”

“I just started retweeting everything,” Brown said. “I love attention, good or bad, so it was just funny for me to see these people giving it to me,” he laughed.

“It felt very exciting and surreal that all these strangers were talking about my close friend,” Pattie Umali ’12, a friend of Brown’s, said.

“The majority of the tweets were very supportive of David and many named him as their new favorite ‘Jeopardy!’ champ,” Umali said.

Drew Kunas ’12, a friend of Brown’s who appeared on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” in March 2013, said he was impressed by Brown’s performance.

“My first reaction was, ‘Who is this duck voice coming out of David, and why is it so good at ‘Jeopardy!’?’” Kunas joked. But Kunas said the two shows required different qualities.

“My game show is a show that requires you to be lucky a few times,” he said. “David’s is one that required knowledge, skill, stamina, apparently a duck voice and cool.”

Brown said “the fact that I don’t take anything too seriously” helped make his “Jeopardy!” experience enjoyable.

“Having a good time is so important to me,” he said. “Even getting second or third place on a show like ‘Jeopardy!’, I still would have had an incredible time.”

Brown said he is not positive what he is going to do with his winnings, but he added that he is thinking about getting a hybrid car.


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