SCG Daily – I’ll Take “Magic Writers on Jeopardy!” for $200: My Experiences on America’s Favorite Game S

I’m praying I got those early jitters out of the way, and will always, always remember to give nothing but last names from here on out, and that hopefully won’t be just for this round. During the break, Jeopardy! staffers come out to offer encouragement and exhort us to keep the round going — clear the board, that’s their mantra.

I’m praying I got those early jitters out of the way, and will always, always remember to give nothing but last names from here on out, and that hopefully won’t be just for this round. During the break, Jeopardy! staffers come out to offer encouragement and exhort us to keep the round going — clear the board, that’s their mantra.

Alex announced that Catherine will select first in Double Jeopardy!, and the categories are:

And Now the “End” is Near
& So I Face The Final Curtain
I Bit Off More Than I Could Chew
I’ve Traveled Each and Every Highway
The Record Shows I Took The Blows
I Did It Norway

I watched those come up on the big board one by one and thought: “What…the…$%&#?”

Those Jeopardy! writers do love their puns, and apparently are Sinatra fans as well. The “End” category was obvious, as was “I Did It Norway,” but the rest were complete mysteries.

Catherine looked at the board before selecting and said, with a deer-in-the-headlights look, “where to begin?”

My sentiments exactly.

“’And Now The End Is Near’ for $400, Alex.”

Alex: “The answer is: Poe knows this swinging lever regulates the speed of a clock mechanism.”

Me: (clicking furiously) “What is a pendulum?” Booyah! I think I like this category.

If I didn’t get the $1600 answer in this category right, I’d never have forgiven myself: If I said a clue about a stripper had really nice facts, it’d be an example of this 2-word French term.

Do you know what a “double entendre” is? I do; the wife has to tolerate mine on a frequent basis, bless her heart.

Once that category is finished, with Jim nailing the $2000 answer, we go over the Norway. Pining for the fjords?

The first answer is deceptively simple: On the scenic Lofoten Islands, you can stay in Rorbuer, cottages traditionally used by those in this profession.

Nobody else is buzzing in, and it’s only $400, so I take a guess: “What is fishing?”


Perfect timing, as the next question is… the first Daily Double.

I bet $2000, not quite all my moolah but a goodly chunk of change should I miss. The answer is: The city of Alta, well above the Arctic Circle, has renamed itself the Nordlysbyen Alta, after this display.

Here’s where a lifetime of Jeopardy! watching comes into play, as I didn’t “know” this answer immediately. But I can put the pieces together quickly. We’re looking for “this” display, which is way, way north, and the new name has “nord” — Norwegian for “north” — in it.

“What are the Northern Lights?”

Can you feel the mojo, baby?

& So I Face The Final Curtain is about Broadway closing dates, and while I amaze myself by knowing most of them, Catherine is the queen of show tunes and all but runs the category. Jim and I, however, are neck and neck for much of the game. I do well in I Bit Off More Than I Could Chew (eating contests) and I’ve Traveled Each and Every Highway (North American roadways, in which I surprise myself by remembering that Highway 40 is the Cumberland Gap at the last second).

I’ve taken an oh-so-slight lead when we get to the last category, The Record Shows I Took The Blows, which turns out to be about famous war wounded.

I get the $400 response quickly (DeGaulle) and we’re all initially stumped by the $800 question: This ex-NATO commander & presidential candidate was wounded in Vietnam.

I have a small lead at this point, and I venture an educated guess. “Who is Clark?”

“Wesley Clark, yes.”

And now the part that makes my wife laugh uncontrollably whenever we watch the tape: “I’ll take ‘Blows for 12,’ Alex!”

Really, they do tell you to abbreviate the category names to speed things up. I don’t think this is what they intended, though.

‘Blows for 12′ doesn’t blow, though, as it’s the second Daily Double. Again, so much of this game is luck — if Jim had gotten Wes Clark right and not me, he’d have gotten the Daily Double, and could easily have overtaken my small lead. Once again, it’s the arcane and seemingly useless knowledge that comes from being a political junkie.

I have a small, $1800 lead over Jim at this point. I ponder for a moment and venture a wager of $1000.

In 1775, his leg was severely wounded in an assault on Quebec & was promoted to Brig. Gen.; 5 years later, he’d be in disgrace.

Aw, man, I wish I’d bet more now. “Who is Benedict Arnold?” One thousand is added to my score, and with that the round ends. Two answers left, darn.

Going into Final Jeopardy!, I had taken the lead with $12800 (I told you Podium #3 was lucky), Jim had an even $10000 and Catherine was still in the running with $4200.

The Final Jeopardy! category would be: Fictional Characters.

I was rather ambivalent about this category. Literature is not my strongest suit, and having been talking to Jim for most of the day and after hearing him talk to Alex about his massive book collection, I’m pretty sure he’d getting this one right. I was just going to have to bet Jim’s max plus one and hope for the best. I partake of water from the stagehands, take a few deep breaths during the two-minute break and try to stay focused.

The Final Question was: He first appeared in Kipling’s 1892 story “In the Rukh” as an adult who now & then refers to his very odd childhood.

These were the exact thoughts that went through my brain: Oh, crap, I know this… Jungle Book, gotta be Jungle Book… maybe Kim? No, too obscure. Who was in the Jungle Book? Babar! No, not Babar, Baloo, no, he was the bear… Mowgli! Yeah, gotta be Mowgli.”

I scribbled down my answer and waited for the think music to time out, fairly certain I was right, because if I wasn’t, this was going to be a one-and-done.

Alex came to Catherine first. She answered correctly, and increased her score to $8000.

Jim also answered correctly and bet $3500, a good strategic bet, putting him ahead of Catherine but he would cover both a zero bet by me and Catherine’s max bet. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into betting.

Alex came to me. “Dave doesn’t look happy but he’s nodding his head,” Alex said, as my answer was revealed to be “Who is Mowgli?”

“That is correct,” Alex said, and the corners of my mouth slid upward into a tremendous grin. I looked upwards, pumped my fists oh-so-slightly and whispered “Yes!” which is about as emotional a display as you’ll see on Jeopardy!

Over the audience’s applause, I could hear Alex saying, “Dave’s our new Jeopardy! champion, with a one day total of $20,001, and he’ll be coming back tomorrow.”

Holy cats! I’d done it! I’d won on Jeopardy!

I had a little time to celebrate, chatting briefly with Alex during the end credits and then it’s back to the green room to prepare for tomorrow’s taping.

Which was going to be in about two minutes.

Jim and Catherine say their farewells, I tell Jim to enjoy that dinner, and then I have to get my makeup retouched while my next opponents are selected, people whom I’m sure have been chomping at the bit to get in the game. I’m still riding an incredible adrenalin high and can’t wait to get back into the game. Jeopardy!, I discover, is an insidious drug; once you get a taste, you want more. If they could bottle this stuff, Sony would make a killing.

My two opponents are Jane Toczek and Cobra Becerra.


That, apparently, is a nickname, as “B. C.” is a landscape architecture professor and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever come across. Still, Alex has a laugh when he comes out to begin the show: “Dave… Jane… Cobra? I’m scared just saying the word!”

I think the combination of a) still being hopped up on adrenalin and Red Bull, b) having one game’s worth of experience and c) the fact the Jane and Cobra have been sitting in the green room all day works to my advantage. In the Jeopardy! round, I roar out to a big lead (high note: remember that favorite tidbit of trivia I mentioned in Part I? That was one of the answers in the Booze-A-Palooza category).

If you’d like to actually like to see what a Magic writer looks like on a game show (besides Heezy), a friend gratuitously put a clip up on YouTube, which you can view here, if you are so inclined. Just ignore that “goat” answer and concentrate on my swanky flying toaster tie.

I’ve got a big lead by the end of the round, and I extend it during Double Jeopardy! to make it a runaway. For me, the personal highlights of the round were, besides blowing a Daily Double, being able to name the film Amelie without ever having seen it and being able to dig back into the recesses of my mind to remember being 7 years old and going to the Drive-In to see The Gnome-Mobile.

That makes up for blowing the Final Jeopardy question (one of those deceptively easy questions — the only director to win an Oscar over age 70; I guessed Robert Wise, but it was Clint Eastwood, the year before for Million Dollar Baby — d’oh!).

Still, it only costs me $1000, leaving me with a two-day total of $36,201.

It really doesn’t hit me until I’m leaving the studio to catch a cab to the airport (where a long, four-hour layover awaits me) — I’m the returning Jeopardy! champion!

Holy crap!

As soon as I’m in the car, I call my wife at work, where she has been anxiously awaiting the results.

“How’d you do?” she asked excitedly.

“Well, at least I didn’t finish in third place.”

“Aww… did you finish in second?”

“No… how does two-time defending Jeopardy! champion sound?”

This being a family-oriented website, I cannot repeat my wife’s answer.

“How much did you win?”

I told her.

Again, this being a family-oriented website, I cannot repeat my wife’s answer.

As the defending champion, and since my second show was the last taping of the week, Jeopardy! would fly me down at their expense for the next taping. Since I had some money coming, I figured, why not have the wife come down with me? Worst case scenario, we can take a few days off and go to Disneyland.

If you had had the opportunity to observe me for the six days between tapings, you wouldn’t have noticed anything out of the ordinary… aside from the occasional outbursts where I would unexpectedly squeal like a little girl and exclaim, “Holy crap! I’m a Jeopardy! champion!”

Yeah. Really.

To Be Concluded in Part V: All Good Things…