Arthur's Affecting Jeopardy! Performance


That picture of him standing next to Trebek looking all frumpled and smug probably isn’t helping.

I’m thinking we won’t get many books about winning strategies on “Deal or No Deal”. It is nice to hear there is a quiz on TV that responds well to clever play, even if the audience don’t.


Helping to do what? Get people to like him by looking past their prejudices? Sorry, but I don’t see it as his responsibility to get people to like him by acting and looking (white, middle-class) “nice” or something.


“there’s more than a tinge of racism and neurotypical shaming to it”. Bingo.


I’m with his critics. He’s totally ruining the game. He’s almost as bad as those basketball players who zig-zag down the court instead of running straight, or those football players that throw the ball over everyone’s heads instead of running.


The AV Club had an interview with him a couple of weeks ago:


I’m not going to comment on Chu’s game-play, as I have not been watching it at all (although I suspect the analysis of tinges of racism and nerd-hatred in the condemnations of his game-play is probably correct). I just want to say that Bob Harris’s book, which got name-checked, is thoroughly fun and touching.

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I hope some day a contestant “ruins” Who Wants to be a Millionaire? by just knowing the answers to the questions and stating them immediately.


“Git gud, scrubs.” --Arthur Chu

Has anyone played deal or no deal yet by just picking the numbers in ascending order?


The AV Club also has an interview with Chu. What I found most interesting was his descriptions of the Jeopardy interviewing process. It isn’t all about getting the right answers – they pick people who are reasonably telegenic as well as winners. As nerdy as Chu is, there are probably hundreds of nerdier contestants who didn’t get picked because compared to them, Chu is Mr. Charisma.


He’s also a narrator for one of my favorite webcomics, Erfworld. It’s a “small” comic. The narrator part is a side project.


Let’s be real: Jeopardy has always attracted contestants that fall a bit higher on the socially awkward nerd spectrum than the norm (we’re all pretty tuned into this phenomenon here at BB, n’est ce pas?) Have you heard some of the stories these people tell Alex about their lives in the introduction segment? Some of them are just painful, grasping-at-straws attempts to come up with something–and this is with the help of the staff beforehand. This hate on Arthur seems misplaced to me. He’s a nerd with a bad haircut who’s not concentrating on his facial expression because he got his game-face on. This could be said of countless former contestants, but 1) they didn’t have a unique strategy and win big like Arthur, and 2) they were white.

Jeopardy is a conservative show. Advertising is always targeted to a show’s audience, and Jeopardy’s is all for old people stuff: Life Alert, life insurance, medicine–literally every ad. This is a show that hasn’t changed, except for the set design, in 30 years. This is programming that is a rock for it’s audience in a sea of modern tumult. Phones, lightbulbs, banking, and culture are all fundamentally different than 30 years ago, but not Jeopardy.

All the hate on Arthur is really just the audience saying “we fear change.” That’s the whole reason they watch the show in the first place. (Except me. I’m down, right guys? : P )


I read about the interview process in former-champ Michael Dupee’s book. He wasn’t as blatant in his description, but he did mention that you were “on stage” during the interview process (done after the test back then, before there was an online test.) Those that came in to take the test in sweatpants or were crude or awkward got nixed in the interview. One imagines the staff googles you and stalks your facebook before making their choice these days.

EDIT: just finished reading that link in full–great link, thanks, @jhbadger!

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I don’t watch Jeopardy, but I’m amazed at the hating on his strategy – the only other time I had even heard of a “Jeopardy strategy” was when everyone was buzzing about Watson, and I remember hearing that Watson’s strategy was exactly the same. Going for the Daily Doubles.

So I guess what’s most amazing to me is: if it was obvious to Watson’s programmers what the best strategy was, and obvious to this guy what the best strategy is, why has it taken everyone else so long to get there?

And you can’t say “good sportsmanship” or anything, because I’m sure if any of the prior (white, “respectable looking”) winners had been pursuing this strategy, everyone would have been lauding them.


It’s not even an unusual strategy, you’ll see it at least once every third game or so on Jeopardy. It’s hardly unusual to see people frantically clicking away when they know the answer too.

Chu’s only sin is maybe combining all of the annoying habits into a single package, and coming back week after week. There’s nothing wrong with his strategy, but nothing that says I have to like it either.


The strategy is annoying for viewers at home. If you hear “Name this bridge” for 200, 400, then by 600 you’re kind of in the groove for naming bridges. And then you finish out the category and move on to the next one.

That same comfortability is lost if you jump around. What people at home seem to often overlook is that it is NOT just about answering the questions – it’s about answering the questions first. The rules of the game actually benefit the people at home because they don’t have to think about “form of a question” or “wait until he finishes or else you’re locked out.” Mr. Chu is just playing the game in a way so that he has a couple mild advantages.

He still needs to know the answers to the questions, which has always been the hard part of winning Jeopardy.


It seems Jeopardy has meta-rules that are not written down but generally understood to be ‘fair play’. Cricket has them too - most infamously with the UK’s body-line bowling ( see ). More recently, there was a test series which Australia would win unless England got more than 4 runs off the very last ball. They bowled it underarm, which meant the batsman could probably whack it for one or two runs, but would be very unlikely to get it in the air enough to make the boundary. I remember thinking this was really ingenious, but there were howls of protest at the time.

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If all it takes for people to feel uncomfortable is to watch someone shirk the pattern of their favorite game show… then they have much bigger problems than someone shirking the pattern of their favorite game show.

(and if, from there, they need to peg every racial and personality stereotype on that person in order to avoid the fact that they simply feel uncomfortable by his ‘non-patterned behavior’… well, I think there’s far bigger issues to deal with.)

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