Alex Trebek: Awkward in Real Life

This resident of Pennypacker was recently a contestant on “America’s Favorite Game Show,” Jeopardy!

Who is…Alexandra A. Petri ’10?

While her classmates were shopping for plastic storage bins at Target in August, this freshman trivia phenom was answering questions about Bach, algebra, and Norway, while poking fun at Alex Trebek on national TV.

On Wednesday, Sept. 20, the Harvard-bound Wisconsin native made her small-screen debut, walking away with a second-place finish (after the other two contestants tied for first) and $2,000—enough for about 450 late-night Felipe’s super burritos.

Petri grew up in Fond du Lac, WI, the only daughter of Congressman Thomas E. Petri ’62 and Anne N. Petri ’77, both of whom also attended Harvard Law School. In addition to great genes, Alexandra has always had a sort of “lust for trivia,” says her mother.

While she didn’t take home the big prize, she gained useful knowledge about the show’s much-parodied mustached host, Alex Trebek. According to Petri, Trebek is “more awkward in actual life” than he appears on television. She recalls this enigmatic gem: “Buddha got his enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, but I get my enlightenment under the clothes tree, in my closet. I go in my closet, and come out of the closet,” said Trebek, according to Petri.

After leading her two opponents—Nick Calton, a New York paralegal, and Sara Terrell, a veterinary technician from Connecticut—for much of the show, Alexandra drew an untimely blank during Final Jeopardy.

“Justice Peter Smith embedded a secret code into a 2006 ruling that said this author hadn’t violated a copyright,” Trebek read.

“The camera panned from one happy smiling contestant to the other, and then to me and I’m making this egregiously awful face on national television,” recalls Petri. The answer was “DaVinci Code” author Dan Brown, but her response?

“Who is some dude?”

Her answer brought her score down to $0, but she says her Facebook friend requests skyrocketed after her 60 minutes of fame.

As for Petri’s aspirations to compete on other TV shows, her mother jokes, “We’re hoping she’ll raise enough money to pay her tuition.”