He's ready for his close-up, Mr. Trebek!

Tonight, Tyler Benedict, CC ’13, and Poet Laureate of the Columbia University Marching Band, will compete in the Jeopardy! College Championship. Slightly less obscene than Celebrity Jeopardy!, the College Championship brings together 15 college students to answer trivia and make cheesy promo videos for the chance to win $10,000.

The show will air at 7:00 pm on channel 7, though it was taped over a month ago. “My grandmother thinks it’s live,” Tyler admitted to us, “It’s going to blow her mind when I call her during the show!”

We asked Tyler a few questions about his appearance, though we probably should have just given him answers and let him provide the questions.

Bwog: Were you forced to wear a Columbia sweatshirt?

Tyler: Technically speaking, I guess I was “forced,” yes, but I prefer to think of it as I GOT to wear a Columbia sweatshirt. Lion pride, yes?

Did you have to purchase the sweatshirt yourself?

I got a stipend from Jeopardy! for “expenses” to purchase the sweatshirts (they make you bring 2, in case you get food, makeup, or vomit on one of them). Got ’em at the good ol’ Columbia Bookstore. And yes, I am plugging them because I’m hoping for an endorsement deal. Sue me.

How beautiful are people on television?

I can’t speak for myself (though I must say the makeup artists were miracle workers…thanks Lisa!), but so far the Jeopardy! blogosphere (it exists!) seems to think that our pool of contestants is among the most attractive in history, as evidenced by posts like these. And of course Alex Trebek is just dreamy.

Did you have to sign an NDA about specifics of his taping?

Yes, there’s a lot of paperwork about disclosing results of shows before they air. I seem to remember signing it in blood.

Did you sign an exclusivity contract that says you can only answer trivia questions on Jeopardy!?

Part of that paperwork says that I can’t be on another game or reality show for 18 months after my Jeopardy! appearance or they’ll break my legs. So my Price is Right appearance will have to wait. But bar trivia at 1020 is still fair game.

Did you like Alex Trebek better when he had a mustache?

I must confess, I prefer a more facially hirsute Trebek…can’t you just imagine lazily running your fingers through it in some seedy L.A. motel bed? But I was lost in his eyes, so I didn’t pay too much attention to his upper lip.

How long does it take to film an episode?

I have no idea how long it takes to film a game…to me it felt like the time was flying by. But probably about forty minutes, including setup, fixing technical problems if they occur, and the commercial breaks.

How did you prepare?

Jeopardy! is really something you prepare for unconsciously your whole life…I mean, I was getting questions right based on stuff I’d seen on The Simpsons. Even the stuff I tried to “study,” like world capitals and presidents, didn’t help me at all.

The best preparation is to watch Jeopardy! like a crazy person…I burned through all the YouTube clips I could find, studied old games on Jeopardy! fansites, and of course watched each new episode on the good old-fashioned TV. That definitely paid off…I remember getting a few answers just because I had a vague feeling I’d “seen them before.”

What was the process like to get onto the show?

First, you take the online test at jeopardy.com, which is something like 50 questions. You have 8 seconds to answer each question, so Google won’t really help you. If you get a good score and you’ve got luck on your side, you’ll get a call for a live audition somewhere in this fine nation (I did mine in New York).

There, you take another 50-question written test and play a live game with buzzers. You also get to do “practice interviews” with show staff to make sure you won’t look super-awkward on television. After that, you get a nice free pen and a “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” I’d tried out once before, and this time I was fortunate enough to get the call.

Numbers-wise, thousands of people take the online test, about 300 or so get a live audition, and from that 15 people go to play in the College Championship. Clearly, luck is a HUGE factor.

What were the other contestants like? Did you make any new friendships?

All the other contestants were awesome. Here I was all worried that they were going to be a bunch of pasty, mouth-breathing nerds, but they weren’t pasty or mouth-breathing at all! We still keep in touch, and it’s been fun to watch everyone on TV. The next day there’s always some fun chatter on our Facebook group. (That’s right, we have the Facebook. Aren’t we cool.)

Would you do it again if you had the chance?

I would absolutely do it again if I had the chance. It was probably the best experience of my life (well, maybe top 5). Alas, since Jeopardy! is quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I’m stuck watching at home for the rest of my life, but I already have a master plan to succeed Alex Trebek as host. He has to retire someday…

Daily double! The answer is: Columbia University. What’s the question?

“Despite protests from a certain school in Ithaca, what institution is generally accepted as the only Ivy League school in New York?”

If I’ve learned anything in my three years here, you can’t go wrong bashing Cornell.

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