Schleicher Stars in...Jeopardy!

Senior says 'Trebek was horrified' during show’s interview segment

Answer: A Harvard senior who makes his game-show debut on Jeopardy! next Thursday and miffs host Alex Trebek.

Question: Who is Christopher R. Schleicher ’09?

While Schleicher cannot divulge if he won—“They reserve the right to ruin my life and take my first-born child if I say how I did”—he did share that he and Trebek didn’t exactly get along.

Trebek asked Schleicher, who is co-president of the Harvard Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine, about the organization during the contestant interview segment of the show.

Schleicher said he wanted to mock the traditional displays of modesty in this segment.

“People are like, 'Oh yeah, I’m a rocket scientist and like a brain surgeon, but you know, I think I’m a really down-to-earth person,'" Schleicher said. “But I just kept claiming I was really popular, charming, and good-looking.”

Schleicher said he didn’t think the iconic host appreciated the irony in his pompousness.

“Trebek was horrified,” he said.

A TRIVIAL PURSUIT

Even before this fall, trivia has held a constant presence in Schleicher’s life throughout his undergraduate years. Troy C. Murrell ’09, who met Schleicher when the two were freshmen, said that they used to do New York Times crossword puzzles and play Trivial Pursuit. Last summer, they took a team to trivia night at Charlie’s Kitchen.

Schleicher said they were sure they would win but ended up in second-to-last place. The team returned until finally, at the end of the summer, they tasted victory.

Before he started preparing, Schleicher and friends already had a tradition of watching Jeopardy! and shouting the answers.

“He’s gotten every single question right and faster than everyone on TV,” said Robert I. Padnick ’09, who is also co-president of the Lampoon.

In the spring, Schleicher and a few friends qualified for in-person tests and interviews after taking the initial online test.

This fall, Schleicher got the invite to be on the show. Initially he was “shaky and emotional,” then excited as he called his friends who had also taken the written test: “I bragged my face off to them.”

But then Schleicher became nervous about the task of learning “everything in the world.”

He sought help for his weakness in sports facts and started watching more Jeopardy! than ever before—up to three episodes a day.

Schleicher said concentrating in English probably helped a lot, but many of his answers—or rather, questions—came from information he has acquired by chance.

ANSWERING FOR BURRITOS

Though he couldn’t give away the content, Schleicher said he happened to read about one of the answers on Wikipedia right before he went to sleep the night before the taping.

“I think it made me look really smart,” he said. “Really I was just good at being on the Internet.”

In contrast with watching with his friends, Schleicher said that trying to respond before Trebek finishes reading the answer locks your buzzer out for a few seconds.

He also said that when no one rings in, it’s not necessarily because they don’t know the answer.

“There’s a lot of risk aversion,” Schleicher said, adding that he would imagine how many burritos he could buy with the dollars hinging on a question.

Schleicher, who performs with the improv comedy troupe On Thin Ice and the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, plans to get back on TV and start making money as soon as the six-month period, during which Jeopardy! stipulates he cannot compete on other shows, is over.

For now, though, the Winchester, Mass. native and former competitive figure skater hopes to get back to enjoying the show in front of a TV screen—starting next Thursday night, when he will watch himself compete.

“I’m hoping for a lot of Facebook wall posts the next day, ‘I didn’t know you were on Jeopardy! I saw you yesterday.’”

—Staff writer Chelsea L. Shover can be reached at clshover@fas.harvard.edu.