Monthly Archives: May 2009

Spoofing History: Jack Black as Benjamin Franklin

Another installment in College Humor’s Drunk History series, this time with Jack Black as Benjamin Franklin.  No, I’m not being lazy.  The last four installments of the Jeopardy! cycle took a lot out of me.  Enjoy.

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Mr. D and the Jeopardy! Experience, Part IV

Todd Covert, who ended my reign as champion.

Todd Covert, who ended my reign as champion.

The Tuesday of my second show was bright and sunny.  It did not take long for storm clouds to gather.

I entered Sony Studios with the confidence of Muhammad Ali after dancing with George Foreman in Zaire.  Whatever was coming, I was ready.  Let’s see what this new batch of contestants had in store.

As we did the usual rigamarole of last session, I perused the group.  All of them, in my mind, were beatable.  By the rehearsal, however, there was one wild card–a local contestant named Todd Covert.  If anyone was capable of taking me down, it was him.  But that would have to be decided later.

The contestants for my first title defense were drawn.  The first was a demure, retired teacher from Groton, Connecticut named Mary Tuohy.  The second was Todd.  Crap.  Oh well, maybe the board will break my way, as it did last week.  Hopefully, even the Daily Doubles will finally work out to my advantage.

The entire show was a joust between Todd and I.  Mary didn’t even buzz in the entire first round.  By Final Jeopardy, we were both neck and neck, with Mary finally chiming in for some questions.  The category: “Historical Shakespeare.”  I owned this.  Even if you didn’t read all the plays, a cursory knowledge of the plotlines of the histories, coupled with an extensive knowledge of medieval British history–both of which I had–could get you clear.  Yet once again, it was unsure whether Todd or Mary could handle it, too.

“In ‘Henry VI, Part I’ this woman is described as ‘a holy prophetess new risen up'”


The one goddamn history that I never even glanced at.  Screw these late Lancastrians.  So I guessed.  If I reasoned it out, especially the time period, I should have written the right answer, which was Joan of Arc.  I used my balls, and went with Isabella of Spain.  I bet the farm.  Do the math.  In all fairness, Todd would’ve beaten me anyway since he could bet $1 more than my doubled score.

So I lost.  Todd ended up becoming a multi-day champion, so it was no slouch on my part to lose to him.   I had a great time, and its an experience I carry everywhere, especially my classroom.  One thing I like to do is create Jeopardy!-like games for my students to play–culminating in a 5th-grade trivia contest attended by much of the school.  We didn’t have time for it this year, but it is happening again next year. 

So that you can do the same, below are some links to Jeopardy templates you can use in your classroom:

Amy Johns at Fayette County Public Schools has a great site with game show templates:

You can also try Elaine Fitzgerald’s site at:

The following website has links to templates that are both browser-based and PowerPoint-based, in case you want to work outside of Powerpoint:

If you want to see how I did question by question on Jeopardy!, go to  It has all the games cataloged since the first syndicated game in 1984.  My games were the 25th season, Oct 10 and Oct 13, 2008.  See if you can do as well.

Anyone who wants to discuss the game show process further, especially people in the Neighborhood who will appear or plan to appear on Jeopardy!, can certainly post or e-mail with any questions.

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Mr. D and the Jeopardy! Experience, Part III

Jim Davis, the two-time champion I played against that fateful afternoon.  A great guy.

Jim Davis, the two-time champion I played against that fateful afternoon. A great guy.

Mr. D, for those who missed last week's post.

Mr. D, for those who missed last week's post.

The beginning of my television debut did not go well.

To start, Johnny Gilbert mispronounced my name.  He had to retape my intro during the break.  Not an auspicious beginning.

Since it was the end of the taping day, the lights and audience had increased the studio’s temperature considerably, and I was flopping sweat all over my clothes.  The makeup people placed tissues on my podium so I can strategically daub my forehead when the camera was not on me.  For the first ten minutes, I needed them.

After answering the first question, I went on a cold streak.  By the first commercial break, I was $1400 in the hole.  It was no longer a matter of winning.  It was now a matter of getting out of this in the black, with some degree of dignity.  The last thing I wanted to do was talk to Alex Trebek.  Besides, the years have not been kind to him–his makeup looked almost clownish at close glance.  Must be a lot of divots to fill in.

Yet I returned Alex’s banter about my die-cast Ferrari collection, which got a laugh.  It relaxed me, somewhat. It was just a game, I remembered.  Don’t look at the score and have fun.  By the end of round 1, I managed to pull myself to $400, with returning champion Jim Davis (a really nice fellow, by the way) with $2200 and Hannah Lynch with $8000. 

The hardest category had to be about Thomas Hardy.  We hardly got any of those right.  The only reason I had a correct answer of “Return of the Native” was because I remembered the Monty Python sketch about Hardy writing it as a sports event.

By the second round, I was in a zone.  The sweat had subsided, and I only flubbed on one question early.  By the end of the second round, I was in second place with $13,600.  Jim had $12,400 and Hannah had the lead with $17,200.  Now it was more like it.  Even if I lose, I can lose with dignity and not look like a complete ass. 

Yet, as I was doing the math, it dawned on me…I could actually win this.  It all depended on the Final Jeopardy category: “Biblical AKA.”  I knew a thing or two about the Bible.   The problem was that I was Catholic, and Catholics have a distinct disadvantage to our Protestant brethren when it comes to Biblical knowledge, insofar as Protestants actually read the darn thing.  So it had to be something that was not the Psalms or the Beatitudes or any of Paul’s letters–an obscure, yet knowable Old Testament factoid that could flub anyone.  

Plus I had to bet the farm since it was the only way I was going to win.

Up came the question, “This second king of Israel was the ‘sweet singer of Israel.'”  Easy, it was David.  Yet it seemed too easy: any half-practicing Episcopalian or lapsed Catholic could figure this one out, I thought.  So it was up to the final showing, and hopefully things will break my way.

When Jim’s response was read–“Who was David?”–two things happened.  First, I sighed relief.  Then, I heard Hannah quietly click her tongue.  Holy shit.  Had she flubbed it?  Is she faking it?  Alex came to me next, and my massive wager which put me in the lead, for now. 

Last was Hannah, and she answered “Who was Solomon?”  I didn’t hear anything from then on.  Not even the fact that Alex Trebek just announced that I was the new Jeopardy! champion.  It seemed too matter-of-fact, too easy.

The crowd exploded.  As Alex shook my hand, he told me that after my poor start, they were thinking of calling an ambulance for me.  Funny.  At any rate, there I stood, next to Hannah and Jim and Alex Trebek, while people were hurredly getting forms for Jim and I to fill out.  Jim didn’t leave empty handed–he was a two-day champion with over $62,000.  It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, and we chatted all the while afterward, as my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and Jim’s wife all gathered with me at the door to the green room. 

That day was a roller-coaster ride, and my win was probably the most dramatic of the day.  Even watching it now, it seems so odd.  But it happened.  I was a Jeopardy! champion.   The rest of the week, until my next taping day on Tuesday, was a victory tour in my mind.  Even though I couldn’t, it was hard to not tell everyone my good fortune.

Part IV, and the last, will be my dramatic exit as champion, and some sites so teachers can play game shows in their classroom.

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