Daniel Ludlam CM ’18 Takes On ‘Jeopardy,’ Wins $1,000


A Claremont McKenna College student smiles with Jeopardy host Alex Trebek
Claremont McKenna College Senior Class President Daniel Ludlam CM ’18 recently appeared on the television show

Some students spend their after-class hours at internships. Others volunteer. Daniel Ludlam CM ’18 spends his free time training for the American television show “Jeopardy.”

His interest in competing began during sophomore year of college, while he was sick and on bed rest.

“I was in my room watching YouTube videos, unable to do a whole lot, and saw some clips for ‘Jeopardy,’” he said.

From there, Ludlam decided that competing on “Jeopardy” was something he could try.

Once committed to his goal, Ludlam utilized different resources to prepare for his audition and appearance.

“I started by watching the show every single day,” he explained. “You have to be faithful about it.”

Other than watching current episodes, Ludlam also searched up where past Jeopardy episodes are stored.

“There’s a whole archive online,” he said. “They don’t store the game video, but they do store a map of where the questions were, the order they were chosen, how much they were worth, the question, the answer, who got it right, who got it wrong.”

Ludlam studied the questions and made notes on which ones were missed, which he further researched.

Additionally, Ludlam compiled his own spreadsheet, using different tabs for the seven categories that frequently appear on “Jeopardy.”

“There were some [categories], which I realized I was too far behind [in] that weren’t common enough … to justify studying for them within a short window of time,” he said.

Ludlam lists fashion as an example. However, for other categories, such as literature, art, opera, and dance, he recognized that a little studying could make a big difference.

The audition process for the show took over a year. His first audition was the fall of junior year, and during his junior spring, he flew out for an additional callback interview.

The callback audition consisted of 50 rapid-fire questions. However, Ludlam explained that Jeopardy takes into account more than just answers.

“In addition to getting questions right, they test to see how you do on camera, how you are with the buzzer, how likable you are on camera, what you’re going to do with the money, and how you choose clues,” he said.

Ludlam thought his experience on “Jeopardy” was close to how he had expected it to be. He ultimately placed third, taking home $1,000.

“My favorite moment … was probably getting the daily double right,” he said.

He described how a friend’s comment in his international relations class led him to look up the answer.

Ludlam said that, on the other hand, “the most difficult moment was at the end, when I was having such a hard time buzzing in.”

He explained the complexity of the buzzing system.

“There’s a very small window once Alex stops reading the clue … that the gates open and you can start buzzing in,” Ludlam said. “My problem was timing the buzzer. There were a bunch of questions that I got completely out-buzzed on.”
Regarding the strategies he used while competing, Ludlam said he relied on his instincts and not overthinking his responses.

“I played fairly aggressively, I took some risks and I rang up on some clues I didn’t know for sure,” he said.

There were also aspects of the show that Ludlam was not sure about beforehand, or had not expected.

“I hadn’t anticipated how much I would like the other contestants,” Ludlam said. “Everyone was absolutely qualified to be there. … I was quite pleased with the friends I made following the release of the episode.”

Ludlam also expressed surprise at how active people on Twitter were during his episode.

“I was watching comments come in in real time based on the different time zones,” he said.

Ludlam also said he escaped a lot of bullying, describing the discriminatory comments the returning transgender champion received.

“I am shocked at some of the hate that came out of [being on] Jeopardy,” he said.

However, overall, Ludlam described his experience on television as “really cool, really empowering.”

In fact, Ludlam added: “I am really happy about how I portrayed myself on camera and how I answered the questions. I think I made CMC proud.”

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