Jeopardy champion Matt Amodio on LeVar Burton, pop culture, and why he didn’t want to try out for the show

Matt Amodio stamped his title in the Jeopardy historical past books after simply seven video games, racking up a complete of $268,800 that made him one in every of the top 10 highest-winning Jeopardy champions ever. (His winnings now stand at $291,200 after one other victory on Friday’s episode.) It’s greater than slightly ironic, contemplating he didn’t even want to try out for the beloved quiz show in the first place.

“I was only reluctantly trying out because I didn’t think I would make it, and even if I did make it I wouldn’t be very good,” Amodio tells EW. “I only tried out at the behest of my dad, who insisted, as any parent would, ‘My son is awesome. He would do so well.’ And so I said ‘Fine, I’ll do it for you.'”

That’s not to say Amodio is not a Jeopardy fan — very a lot the reverse, in actual fact. “I’ve been a Jeopardy watcher my whole life, even before I could really make out the words, because my parents would have it on,” he says. “To see me on the stage is just surreal. It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling.”

And it is a feeling he’s been ready to share with the individuals who launched him to Jeopardy, as Amodio has been watching his run on the show at his mother and father’ dwelling in Ohio. “I told them how it goes, so they weren’t totally floored by by the outcome,” he admits. “But they weren’t allowed to come with me to tape [the show] because of COVID, so this is their first time actually seeing it. I love getting to share that time with them.”

Jeopardy Productions, Inc. Matt Amodio on ‘Jeopardy’

A Ph.D. pupil from New Haven, Conn., as he’s launched every night time on Jeopardy (Amodio is at present working in the direction of a doctorate in pc science at Yale), Amodio has deployed a mix of intelligent gameplay, large Daily Double wagers, and, after all, voluminous information to run away with most of his video games. EW referred to as up the champ to focus on his Jeopardy technique, why he hates pop-culture classes, and what it was like working with visitor host LeVar Burton.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you put together for Jeopardy when you discovered out you have been going to be a contestant?

MATT AMODIO: I usually really feel like lots of the stuff that is in my curiosity space, I’ve properly lined by the nature of issues. The downside is, how do you find out about the stuff that you do not essentially discover all that attention-grabbing? I’m a historian at coronary heart; I like studying about just about something as soon as it develops slightly little bit of a buffer between now and then. So I do not thoughts tradition, so long as it is from, like, my mother and father’ time rising up, and it is had a while to stew and domesticate slightly bit. And so I had an enormous black gap in pop tradition information, and I knew I used to be going to have to study [about] that. I went to principally each web site on-line that I may discover to find out about Grammys, as a result of I do not know very a lot present music; Emmys, as a result of I do not watch very a lot present tv; Oscars, as a result of I have never seen very many films that have been launched in colour. [Laughs] It’s slightly little bit of an exaggeration. I’ve passing acquaintances with issues, however I knew in contrast to the trivia monsters that go on Jeopardy, I used to be, gonna be having a significant deficit in contrast to them in that information.

Did you’ve got some other strategies for brushing up on information? I do know James Holzhauer talked about reading children’s books to put together; did you do something like that?

I’m unsure what kids’s books he discovered which have all of this superior info. But my major supply is Wikipedia. I do not know the way individuals received information prior to the age of the web. I normally simply begin the night on a selected single query, however then fall into 15 hyperlinks from that web page, and every of these hyperlinks offers me 15 different hyperlinks. I simply learn as a lot as I can and hope to bear in mind a few of it. [Laughs] That’s how I might spend the night on the whole [before Jeopardy]; it simply would have a tendency to be on stuff I’m extra concerned with, fairly than deliberately shoring up gaps.

Can you inform us about your technique for precise Jeopardy gameplay?

I believe that my technique getting into was watch Ken [Jennings], and try to do no matter Ken does. He’s achieved TED talks, he does podcasts, and he drops slightly bit of data right here and there, like, “When I was trying to get in on the buzzer I would just listen to the cadence of the voice and try and view it like a musical meter and get the rhythm and stuff.” So I might simply take any notes I may from him. And then additionally, James introduced in lots of probability-based evaluation when it comes to which clue choice to do. I simply remembered how they did it, and I’m hoping that I’m imitating it as finest as I can.

Jeopardy champion Matt Amodio on LeVar Burton, pop culture, and why he didn't want to try out for the show

Jeopardy Productions, Inc. Matt Amodio gained $74,000 on July 29’s episode of ‘Jeopardy,’ placing his whole winnings amongst the high 10 highest in the show’s historical past.

The manner you choose the high-value clues first and wager large on the Daily Doubles is certainly a Holzhauer-esque technique.

Yeah. But the downside is, he’s a gambler, professionally, and I’m a “minimize the risk at all costs” sort of character. There are instances once I know an enormous wager is mathematically the proper factor to do, and I simply hate it. I actually hate it. I believe [James] reveled in that adrenaline, and I simply actually, actually want it wasn’t the proper factor to do. I try to suck it up and do it anyway, but it surely doesn’t come naturally to me.

What was the expertise of taping the show like? I do know Jeopardy movies lots of video games in at some point.

I’m going in on the first day, and I say, “I hope it goes well, but if I win a single game, I’m going to be as delighted as can be.” And I gained, however my perspective is to have a tendency to be hungry. And so as soon as I gained one, I wasn’t sitting on my laurels or something. I mentioned, “You know, that was good. Let’s do it again.” I went right into a full day of taping saying, “This is just the dream. I can’t believe I have the opportunity to do this.” And to get the alternative to come again as a returning champion was simply astounding to me. Each step of the manner, I used to be simply sort of amazed that it saved going.

Also, one factor I didn’t know getting into is the camaraderie that the contestants get, as a result of we really spend comparatively little time with anyone from the show. Most of our time, we’re simply amongst ourselves. And so it is sort of like that classroom ambiance the place you simply put a bunch of children who do not know one another collectively, and ultimately they type friendships. I see these different individuals on TV, and despite the fact that I simply met them that at some point, they really feel like outdated associates now.

I do not know the way a lot of the fan response you’ve got seen on-line, however lots of people appear to have seen that you just say “what is” for each response. I used to be curious if there was any pondering or technique behind that?

I do not essentially want to say an excessive amount of about that. I suppose I simply want to say that I hope no one’s offended by it. I do hear some individuals say that it is disrespectful to the sport, and I might counter that if there was a Jeopardy fan membership rating, I believe I might have a robust case to be primary Jeopardy fan. I dwell and breathe the show, I like each side of it, and so I’m undoubtedly not doing it out of any disrespect or undermining of the show.

Jeopardy champion Matt Amodio on LeVar Burton, pop culture, and why he didn't want to try out for the show

CAROL KAELSON/JEOPARDY PRODUCTIONS, INC. LeVar Burton is the new visitor host of ‘Jeopardy.’

You have been on set for LeVar Burton’s highly-anticipated run as guest host of Jeopardy. What was it like working with him?

That was wonderful. He is an superior man. He simply exudes a calmness and a coolness to him that I envy as an individual. And he was extremely gracious. He clearly wished to do properly, and I believe the incontrovertible fact that he needs to be chosen as the everlasting host is extremely apparent, due to how a lot care he put into it. I used to be honored to meet him. He’s been an icon for me personally ever since I used to be a child; Reading Rainbow was a staple for me. I’m not a Star Trek particular person, however my brother is, and he actually wished to ship me with each meme quote that I may presumably get to say in entrance of him. I held my tongue; I’m positive he will get sufficient of that. But I used to be floored by the expertise. I had excessive expectations getting into simply due to the legend he is, and he met them. I’ll always remember it.

And I do not want to give quick shrift to Robin Roberts both, who was the host at the starting [of my run]. She would not essentially have the loopy Twitter momentum that received LeVar onto the show, however she was superior and very enjoyable. I’m unsure I noticed her lose her smile from the second of the show starting all the manner to leaving at the finish of the day.

Now that you’ve got gained greater than 5 video games, you may be returning to Jeopardy subsequent season for the Tournament of Champions. Are you wanting ahead to that?

I’m, with a mix of anticipation and dread. Because my opponents have been extraordinarily good, however on the different hand, in the Tournament of Champions, you’ve got filtered it so that you just solely get individuals who have gained at the least 5 video games of Jeopardy. That’s going to be a extra aggressive stage than I’m ready for mentally. So I’m fairly fearful about that. Hopefully I’ll do properly, however I’ll be shaking in my boots slightly bit.

Coming off of your run, how has it felt to have achieved so properly, and additionally to have amassed this a lot prize cash?

It’s useful. [Laughs] I’ll admit that I had some monetary concerns in my fast future — when am I going to graduate, what am I going to do instantly after — and a few of the elements there have been, how a lot is hire once more? This has been a blessing when it comes to liberating me from that. So on a really sensible stage, that is useful. But extra importantly, the concept of simply saying “Jeopardy champion” — as soon as I gained as soon as, they name you a Jeopardy champion, and that moniker stays with me ceaselessly. I’ll try not to appropriate individuals too typically once they handle me as “Matt Amodio” and say, “That’s Jeopardy champion Matt Amodio to you.” But I’ll know that that all the time applies, and that is only a large supply of delight for me.

This interview has been edited and condensed for size and readability.

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