Q&A: Gus Guszkowski ’22 participates in ‘Jeopardy!’
The classics major sat down with The Dartmouth to discuss their path to the ‘Jeopardy!’ quarterfinals.
Dartmouth student Gus Guszkowski ’22 was featured on the “Jeopardy!” National College Championship — a nine-day TV quiz show featuring 36 college students from around the U.S. — on Tuesday. Guszkowski took home $10,000 from the show, which was taped in the fall of 2021 in Culver City, CA, making it to the quarterfinals. Guszkowski, a classics major from Connecticut, sat down for an interview with The Dartmouth to discuss their time at the College and their experience being a contestant on “Jeopardy!”.
What led you to try out for “Jeopardy!”?
GG: My dad. He loves the show. He has spent his entire adult life auditioning for it whenever he can. He always sends me the link to the Anytime Test — an online test offering the chance to qualify for the show — whenever he remembers that it exists. So he just randomly sent me the link to the college test in the fall of 2020. I took it and then I just kept getting further in the audition process and being like “Oh my gosh, no way, this is surely the furthest I’m going to get,” until they finally invited me on the show. I immediately accepted.
Were you a fan of the show as well?
GG: Yeah, I enjoy the show. I grew up watching it because of my dad. But I definitely had to get back into watching it once I knew I was going to be on the show, because I haven’t since I got to college.
Can you describe the audition process?
GG: You have to take two tests. You pass the first one and then if you pass the second one you get invited to a practice game, which I think ordinarily would happen in person in various cities around America. Since it was winter 2021, we just did it on Zoom where they see whether you have buzzer skills and whether you have some knowledge of various things or whether you just fluked your way through the tests. I think they’re probably also testing whether you’re personable and whether you’re good on camera. They liked me well enough in that step to just say “Hey, come compete on the show.”
Once you were invited on the show, how did you prepare?
GG: I didn’t find out I was going to be on the show until about five weeks before my game taped so I did not have a lot of time to prepare. I ended up just watching as much “Jeopardy!” as I possibly could and doing practice games. I would have my partner pull up an archived college championship game and read me the questions and I would have to buzz in and he would keep track of my score. We did one or two of those everyday from when I found out until when I got on the show.
Did you have a specific strategy?
GG: Not at all. Honestly, I was pretty convinced that I was just going to get my butt kicked. So I did as much preparation as I possibly could, but I don’t think I had a strategy. I think my strategy was just, “Don’t embarrass yourself.”
You didn’t have any strategies about how much you would risk?
GG: Oh, no. It’s all very luck-based and situational anyway. Not even counting what board you get, what you know and what you don’t know. Literally just how fast the other person can buzz in can completely change the direction of the game.
How would you describe the experience being on the show?
GG: It was amazing. I realized I’m not probably going to go on TV ever again because there are long days and not a lot of autonomy. It was like being back in high school. You have to ask to go to the bathroom. But I loved the experience of getting to play the game and I made a ton of friends with other competitors in the tournament. I’m glad I did it.
Did you get to interact with the host?
GG: Yeah somewhat. Mayim Bialik is hosting it and she was very kind to all of us and we got to talk to her a little bit. There was a part where they had to stop for a technical difficulty, so there was like an hour where we weren’t doing anything. Mayim and a couple people from the “clue crew” came out to talk to us and keep us entertained while they were fixing the technical difficulty. So that was so cool.
Do you think your time at Dartmouth helped you at all on the show?
GG: I’m sure it did. I think going to a liberal arts school helps because you’re forced to study things outside of what you think your interests are. Because of the way that course requirements are distributed I took a class on the history of the Jewish diaspora across the Atlantic which covered so many wild things that I never would have studied otherwise. And I know a little bit about calculus because I took a calculus class. So I think the liberal arts structure makes you more knowledgeable about a lot of things which is what you need for a quiz show.
What is something that the average person doesn't know about the show?
GG: The set is so much bigger than it looks on TV. You know how when you’re watching it on TV, they’ll blow up the question so it fills the whole screen when they read it? They don’t do that on the big game board. It’s still the tiny little question slot on the game board. So if you don't have good vision, you have to squint and lean forward to read the question. Which is part of why they read it to you.
Do you have anything to say to people who might consider going on “Jeopardy!”?
GG: Oh, absolutely do it. It was an incredibly fun process. And everybody I met was so cool and supportive and now that I’ve done it and the news is out there that I’m on “Jeopardy!”, former contestants on social media are reaching out and being incredibly kind and supportive. So I think that if you have the chance to do it, even if you think you’re not big into being on TV, which again I am not, it’s completely worth it to join this community of incredibly cool, smart people.
Are you going to watch the show live?
GG: No, no way. I am hosting a watch party at which all of my friends will come over and they can watch it and I will be in the kitchen making snacks and drinks, so I don’t have to see my face on TV.
Are you going to watch more “Jeopardy!” just because of being on the show?
GG: Oh yeah, absolutely. I have taken a bit of a break from it since taping. I just needed to fill my mind with things that weren’t trivia for a while, but I’m definitely going to keep watching it just because there is so much more stuff that I can appreciate now, having been there.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.