The Western community had more motivation than usual to tune into Jeopardy! this week, as Richard Ivey School of Business student Eric Dolansky appeared on the popular game show.
Dolansky, a 30-year-old marketing PhD student, had enjoyed Jeopardy! since his youth, usually watching with his family members and shouting answers at the television.
In March 2005, he learned Toronto was holding auditions for the show and promptly applied via e-mail. With a stroke of luck — the show receives many more e-mails than it has audition spots — Dolansky was invited to the Royal York Hotel in Toronto for a 50-question, 50-category test.
“They want to see if you have a broad range of knowledge,” Dolansky said. “The show itself isn’t so much about knowing everything about a particular topic. It’s more about knowing a little bit about everything.”
Dolansky passed the test, joining seven others out of an 80-person group. He then passed a “mock game” test that assessed his in-game reaction time and articulation skills.
Dolanksy, however, still wasn’t guaranteed a Jeopardy! appearance. Show representatives said they would call him within the next year if they wanted his services.
Almost a full year passed without a call.
“I had more or less given up on the fact that they were going to call because I hadn’t heard as of the beginning of [March 2006],” Dolansky said. “Then the first week of March they called, and that was after many months of me asking my wife every day, ‘Have they called? Have they called? Have they called?’”
After learning that he would compete on the show in late March, Dolansky trained over several weeks by watching the weeknight telecasts, answering the questions aloud and having his wife grade his performance.
Dolansky had a few revelations while competing on the show.
“When you go down there, you meet other contestants because they tape more than one show in a day,” Dolansky said. “All the contestants are extremely bright. They’ve all passed the test, they’re all knowledgeable people, and they’re all trivia buffs. Yet two people lose every day.
“So there is a certain amount of luck involved in which categories you get, because you only get 12 categories on a given show. If nothing comes up that’s in your domain, or if everything comes up that’s in your domain, it can change your result.”
Dolansky also stressed that buzzer strategy and betting were more important than many people realize.
Overall, he had no regrets about his performance on the show.
“It was a great experience, I’m glad I did it, and if anyone is interested in doing it and is held back for some reason, I would say don’t hold back,” he said. “Go for it, because you’ll never know unless you try.”
Dolansky won Monday night’s show, taking home $24,801. On Tuesday he won $21,601 and earned himself another appearance. Wednesday’s show had not aired as of press time.