Gary Waters honed his buzzer technique and reaction times using a click pen, brushed up on American history, and watched as many episodes of "America's favorite quiz show" as possible before his moment in the spotlight.
The George Brown College community was watching when Waters, a math and science professor at the Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies, appeared on Jeopardy! Monday, May 21. He auditioned for the game show at the Fairmont
Royal York Hotel back in November and got the call two months later with the good news that he'd been invited to compete on the show. His episode was taped in February.
"When you try and get on the show it's all just a bit of fun, a lark, you don't really think anything's going to come of it," he said. "And then when someone finally says, ok, come to L.A. — that's when you start to get scared."
The contestant application process starts with an online test . Waters was asked to audition for Jeopardy! a decade ago but didn't make it to the television studio.
Amazingly, Waters kept his Jeopardy! appearance a secret until just before his episode aired, only telling his immediate family and a close friend. He didn't even tell his mom.
"Having 1,000 people knowing and wishing you well would only make me more nervous," he said.
Waters placed second.
Waters's daughter played an important role in his training for the televised trivia battle, acting as his coach and "campaign manager."
And he had an important tool — a Jeopardy! click pen he got at the audition.
"When I was watching the game for the month before the show my daughter made me stand up and use the pen and buzz in and click, click, click and improve my reaction time," he said.
He studied lists of world capitals, U.S. state capitals, and state nicknames and memorized key dates in American history.
"None of this came up on the show," he added.
Each Jeopardy! contestant gets to engage in some light banter with Alex Trebek. Waters chatted with the game show host about his travels to view solar eclipses. But there was another anecdote Waters wanted to chat about.
Each contestant submits five stories for possible Trebek chats. Waters wanted to remind Trebek that they'd met once before — on the set of CBC's Reach for the Top, a quiz show for high school students that ran through the 1960s, '70s and
'80s. Waters was a 16-year-old contestant representing Bathurst Heights Secondary School.
"When the camera's not on he cracks jokes and is quite affable," Waters said of his most recent meeting with Trebek. "It was a wonderful experience for me."