A Way To Show Intelligence, Have Fun And Win Money

Jun 21, 2013

Tim Anderson (right) with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek

What is: Jeopardy!

Rockford resident Tim Anderson has a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Master's degrees in Philosophy and Spanish. A modern language instructor at Kishwaukee College, Anderson is finishing his dissertation in Hispanic Linguistics. Soon, he'll be Dr. Timothy Anderson, so it's safe to call him a really smart guy.

But a collection of degrees isn't enough to win on Jeopardy!, the smartest quiz show on TV. You have to answer questions like:

This 1884 American novel features a poor boy from St. Petersburg, Missouri, who sails down the Mississippi River.

Answer: What is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

Too easy? How about this one:

This French structural engineer said ironwork shouldn't be hidden but seen by the public.

Answer: Who is Gustave Eiffel?

Anderson answered both of these correctly, earning the title "Jeopardy! Champion" and $58,001.

So how does one prepare for that first question from host Alex Trebek? Anderson had no idea what to expect, so he concentrated on his weaknesses. "I looked over some geography," he tells WNIJ. "Things have changed since I was in school," he says, "and I was never good at African geography so I looked at that."

In addition, he looked up host cities for the Olympics and Secretaries General of the United Nations. "Those are the sort of things that sometimes show up," Anderson says. "Other than that, I didn't look at anything."

And what's it like sharing the stage with Trebek, a five-time Emmy-award winner with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Anderson says access to the host is tightly controlled before each quiz. "He's seen all the questions in the morning," Anderson says, "and they don't want even a hint of impropriety. So everything is highly regulated to make sure it's on the up and up."

The only interaction contestants have with Trebek is on the set. But when each episode ends, everyone relaxes. "We had some interesting conversations," Anderson says. "Sometimes it was about the Final Jeopardy! question. Sometimes it was something Alex read on someone's card that he didn't talk about during the contestant chat."

Anderson calls Trebek highly intelligent, noting the host speaks several languages and holds a degree in Philosophy. But he smiled as he revealed why Trebek always looks like the smartest guy in the room:

"He gets to fix his mistakes," he laughs. During Anderson's final appearance on the show, Trebek read a category incorrectly. "They stopped taping," Anderson says. "He said `middle names' instead of `middle initials'." According to Anderson, the producers didn't want any confusion, so they quickly re-recorded Trebek and proceeded with the quiz.

In the audio link above, Anderson talks about the busy taping schedule -- five episodes per day -- and the audition process.