Eau Claire man on Jeopardy today!

Rob Reid

Local Man Michael Tvaruzka and some kind of game show host.
 
Local Man Michael Tvaruzka and some kind of game show host. Photo: UW-Stout.

Eau Claire resident Michael Tvaruzka will appear on Jeopardy this Wednesday, April 4 at 4pm. WEAU television will carry the broadcast. Michael, a Contracts and Human Subjects Research Specialist at UW-Stout, recently sat down and talked about his experience. He did not respond in the form of a question.

V1: How did you get chosen to be a contestant?

Tvaruzka: I wanted to be on the show for years. Three years ago, I became aware of the online test. You had to log on at a certain time and answer 50 questions. You had 15 seconds to answer each question. Based on my score, I was invited to Chicago for an in-person audition. We were all given another 50 question test and had to play a practice game and be interviewed. It became apparent they wanted contestants with social skills as well as intelligence; to see if you had what it takes to be “fun” on the show. 

I decided to mix it up a bit and ring in even if I didn’t know the answer. I determined they liked contestants who had fun even when they gave the wrong answer. For example, one time I said “Nurse Betty” when the correct answer was “Nurse Jackie.”

I was in the pool for 18 months but never heard from them. So, I took the online test again. I was invited for another in-person audition – this time in Kansas City. I decided to mix it up a bit and ring in even if I didn’t know the answer. I determined they liked contestants who had fun even when they gave the wrong answer. For example, one time I said “Nurse Betty” when the correct answer was “Nurse Jackie.” I knew I was wrong as I was saying it, so I laughed it off. I think that helped me get invited to be on the show.

400,000 people took the online test. They called 400 of us to be on the show over the course of the year.

V1: How did you find out that you were going to be on the show?

Tvaruzka: They called me at work and invited me to come to California. They sent a lot of paperwork – contracts asking if I was running for political office, if I had been on another game show recently, etc. I also had to promise not to tell the outcome of the show before it was aired. They told us to bring three changes of clothing in case we won. We also had to fill out a long questionnaire to help them write our introductions.

V1: What was taping like?

Tvaruzka: My wife and I flew to Culver City, California last December. Most of the contestants stayed in the same hotel and we took the shuttle together to the studio. They tape five shows a day so we sat in the audience until our name was called. It turned out that I was called for the third show – the Wednesday show.

Before the actual show, we all participated in a practice round. That helped reduce the anxieties. Someone stood in for Alex Trebek. All of the contestants are obviously smart. The secret to winning in my opinion turned out to be who was able to buzz in at the right time and also who found the Daily Doubles.

V1: Did you get to hang out with Alex?

When he walked away, I called out “Hey, where’s my wallet?” That got a laugh from everyone. Trebek turned around and said no one had pulled that on him before.

Tvaruzka: The first time we saw him was when they announced his name and he walked on stage. As soon as the show was finished, he left. He did talk to us during commercial breaks. I got my picture taken with him at that point. When he walked away, I called out “Hey, where’s my wallet?” That got a laugh from everyone. Trebek turned around and said no one had pulled that on him before. I honestly think they kept Alex away from us to maintain the fairness quotient. He did talk to the audience during breaks. He flubbed some Latin phrases at one point in the game, so they kept taping but made him re-record them during a commercial break until he got them right and then edited it later.

V1: So … did you need to wear more than one change of clothing?

Tvaruzka: You’ll find out on Wednesday.

This was made by

Rob Reid  author

Rob Reid is a senior lecturer of education studies at UW-Eau Claire. In addition to writing Children’s Jukebox (ALA Editions 1995/2007), Reid has also written two more books about children’s music: Something Musical Happened at the Library (ALA Editions, 2007) and Shake and Shout: 16 Noisy, Lively S

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