Q&A: Evan Struble’s “Jeopardy!” journey

By Abernathy Miller
From the December 26, 2013 edition

It would appear 2013 is a lucky year for local librarian Evan Struble. After four years of effort, Struble finally made it onto America’s (and his grandmother’s) favorite quiz show. Even after being forced to reference an unfortunate scene from “Deliveranc”e on national television, and the onslaught of “groupie” Facebook requests, Struble would jump at the chance to take the journey to “Jeopardy!” all over again.

I grew up watching Jeopardy!” every day with my grandmother. I was one of those people who would watch it and think, “Oh, that looks so easy.” It was different actually getting on there. There were times when I knew the answer but my brain would not communicate with my mouth and I just froze.

The process is completely overwhelming. There is an online test held once a year. It’s 50 questions long and at the end, you have no idea how you actually did. I’ve taken [the test] four years in a row and this last time I finally got the call. I was asked to go to Detroit where I did a mock “Jeopardy!” game and interview as an audition. That was when it started to seem real. I thought, “This might actually happen.”

I totally flipped my lid when I found out I was going to compete in California. Once the reality set in, I started thinking about what I should do to prepare. I wasn’t sure if I should rely on what I already knew or if I should try to explore broader subjects. I decided to delve into Trivial Pursuit cards and trivia books. My job as a librarian helped too. I knew the movie and book categories inside out.

Alex is cool as a cucumber, he just isn’t very cuddly. He was really professional with us, but he was kept separate from the contestants most of the time. I think they do that so there won’t be any talk of “funny business.” It was sort of refreshing to see that he actually flubs lines and they have to re-shoot it. I also didn’t know they shoot five episodes in a day. While you’re waiting to film your [episode], you sit in the audience and watch the other contestants. That was actually really fun and it made filming my show less stressful.

A classic line from Deliverance was one of the answers. I had to identify the “squeal like a pig,” line. When I watched my episode, I saw that I made a face after answering it. I remember thinking, “I am never going to hear the end of this from my friends.”

Apparently Jeopardy!” groupies are a real thing. After my episode aired, I started getting all these weird friend requests from older ladies across the country on Facebook. I asked some of the other contestants if they were experiencing the same thing, and they told me that it came with the territory. The friend requests are still in purgatory. I’m not sure what to even do with those yet.

The worst part was keeping the results a secret. The producers are really hardcore about the contestants not telling a soul about the results of each episode. Like, they won’t pay out your winnings if you let anything slip. My mom was so frustrated with me at Thanksgiving because of it. She kept saying, “You won’t even tell your own mother?” My friends kept taking me out and buying me drinks too. I think they were hoping to get me a little drunk so I’d spill the beans.

I didn’t win my episode. The competitors were tough and as I said, it’s a lot more difficult doing it for real rather than at home. Even still, everyone has been overwhelmingly supportive. It would have been great to win the big prize and gone on, but the experience alone was enough to make me want to do it again. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Plus, I still left with $1,000. That’s $1,000 more than I had.

Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions Inc.