I had the aces of honour interviewing Arthur Chu of favourite game show, Jeopardy. His total winnings were $297,200 while on a 12 day roll of kicking ass. If you don’t know who he is, you must have heard of him, because he was the baddest, raddest villian on the show. Chu would hunt for the Daily Doubles at the bottom of the board, as well as jump from category to category to unseat his opponents. This worked out big time, and it was even more fun to watch the show unfold while reading his twitter. I was intrigued by Chu’s strategy and I was extremely impressed by his stealth is picking the different categories quickly on the board.
Without further ado…
1. When you applied for Jeopardy, did you think in your wildest dreams you would’ve been casted?
I thought i had a decent chance. One of the nice things about Jeopardy is that unlike prime-time game shows/reality shows, Jeopardy processes a LOT of contestants — it runs five nights a week, 52 weeks a year and the production is a highly-efficient well-oiled machine.
So your chances of getting on Jeopardy, or another syndicated show like Wheel of Fortune or the current version of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, are much higher than on a primetime reality show that has a much more prolonged “casting” process.
That said, I did still know that it was a huge pool and that my chances weren’t great — I knew people who’d been trying and failing to get on the show for decades and I’d already auditioned once and not been called. So I just did my best this time to be personable at the audition and do everything I could to maximize my chances.
2. What was your reaction when you got accepted?
I kind of froze up. I’ve said this in a lot of interviews — my initial reaction was to ask myself “Do you feel ready for this?” and the answer was very clearly “No, I don’t” — and then the next step was just “How do I get ready?” The only way to keep myself from freaking out was to obsessively plan — plans, for me, are the talisman that keeps fear and anxiety and other emotions at bay.
3. How much time did you get to prepare for the show?
Exactly 30 days from when I got the phone call to when I had to fly out to LA. Not a lot of time, but I think that’s good — the urgency kept me from procrastinating. The much longer lead time I have before the Tournament of Champions means there’s a lot more temptation to let distractions get in the way of studying.
4. Did you walk into the game with your strategy or was it impromptu?
Yes, I had already drilled and rehearsed my game plan by the time I got there. I was extremely determined to have as little left to chance as possible. Most people who fail at things like this fail because of whatever part of their strategy is “impromptu”.
5. You made a lot of enemies because of your strategy, why did you decide to play up the villain (as noticed on twitter)?
It was fun. It was more fun than trying to be apologetic or trying to keep my head down and disappear. And it’s paid off for me in terms of garnering positive attention and opportunities.
6. If you could add a category, what would it be?
Well, it’s self-serving since I’m a gamer but I think that in the modern world video games should be at least as common a source for pop-culture clues as movies, TV and music.
7. List your 5 favourite books. Yes they could be plays too.
Well, if we’re including books and plays, then: August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace, Think Like A Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly, and The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.
8. What do you do in your down time?
Video games are my major vice. Right now I’m addicted to snack-sized roguelike games like FTL and The Binding of Isaac. I also make it a point to support live theater wherever I live — I’m a huge fan of the programming at Cleveland Public Theatre, and I have the good fortune to have a father-in-law who serves on the board of the Great Lakes Theater and to be able to catch plays at Playhouse Square regularly.
9. Have you ever lost a game of Trivial Pursuit?
I’ve very rarely played Trivial Pursuit and don’t like it much. The times I have played, the game usually devolves into me getting all the wedges except for the orange (sports) wedge and everyone else marking time until I finally get a sports question I can answer.
10. How Asian are you?
I’m 100% Asian (Chinese) if you mean in terms of literal blood quantum. If you’re speaking metaphorically/stereotypically, I feel like I’m a very Asian person in terms of my upbringing and childhood — valedictorian of my high school class, Tiger-Mom expectations about becoming a genius scientist or engineer or lawyer, etc. I feel like a lot of my life since then has been about rebelling against those expectations — dropping out of college for a while, becoming obsessed with “soft” subjects like theatre and literature and so forth — but I also feel like I’m not particularly unique in that respect and that that’s the same exact story of rebellion and identity-reclamation that a ton of other second-generation ABCs (American-Born Chinese) have to tell. See what Jeff Yang writes about, or Angry Asian Man (Phil Yu), or the graphic novel American-Born Chinese by Gene Yang.
11. how has your life changed since Jeopardy?
Day-to-day my life is pretty much the same. My motto going into this was “Don’t be stupid,” and quitting your job and changing your lifestyle immediately over a one-time windfall is pretty stupid. So I’m still doing the same job, still hanging out the same places, still living the same life. But knowing that thousands of people know who I am is pretty cool, and so is getting the continuing opportunity to make my voice heard in publications like this one or in my freelance writing for The Daily Beast and Mental Floss.
12. Are you more recognized in your hometown?
Yeah, in the Cleveland area it’s rare for me to go somewhere without someone stopping me and saying they recognize me. I’m used to it by now.
13. Any thoughts to move to LA where the are more voice/acting opportunities?
I’ve considered it and it may yet happen but I don’t want to go without a solid plan. I’m especially conscious that my “fame” is really of a kind of flash-in-the-pan nature and I need to do something more than just win a lot on a game show if I’m going to actually make a career out of voiceover, acting or anything else like that.
Thank you Arthur Chu for being so gracious and badass for your time. We look forward to seeing you again on TV, big screen or stage.