What was your reaction when you were invited to the Tournament of Champions?
Well, when I found out I was invited to the Tournament of Champions, I was a little stunned, because I had just played all these games of Jeopardy! in a row, and I--I was scrambling 'cause I--when I won my fifth game, I had to come back to L.A. the next week to do another week of Jeopardy!, and then the--and then they were also telling me, "Oh, by the way, the Tournament of Champions is taping next month, so clear your schedule, and make sure..." and I was like, "Oh, my goodness, I'm already trying to figure out how to come back just--just to, y'know, defend on Jeopardy! for a regular game. And so it's all been a blur, it's happened very quickly, very recently for me.
Any plans for your winnings from your original run?
The winnings I had from my original run, um, my wife Caroline and I would like to donate a lot of it to charity, maybe half of it or so. Um, we'd like to give some of it to our church, and some of it to poverty and hunger relief efforts, and also for disaster relief, because it's been--it's been a bad year for natural disasters--hurricanes and earthquakes and um... Actually, Hurricane Irene kind of derailed--or threatened to derail me coming back to L.A. to d--to defend on Jeopardy! for my second week, so we had to change my flight and... um, so a lot of people, um, need the money more than we do, so we'd like to give some of it away.
What do you think of the competition?
The competition is unbelievable. Like, I-I was watching these people on TV when they were winning on Jeopardy! and they are amazing champions, so it'll be exciting, but also kind of daunting, to be playing against, uh, like, really great players, and I think it's--it's an incredibly strong field.
How do you feel about advancing to the next round?
Well, I'm really happy about it. I knew I was up against two incredible players, um, so I was just hoping to, y'know, get my share of answers in there, and, uh, it--it all worked out, and I'm really happy to be going on.
Was there a turning point for you?
Um, well, I feel like I-I came out of the blacks pretty fast. I put up a big pile in single Jeopardy!, and that really helped me relax and sort of get into it, and, uh, y'know, the--the--the boards were very friendly for me, the categories were--really to--played to my strengths, so that was a big help.
Is the level of intensity higher in the Tournament of Champions than during your original run?
Oh, definitely. I mean, the pl--the players I played against in my initial run were very good, but these--these players, um, y'know, especially the ones I played--just played against, Tom and John, like, they--they just dominated Jeopardy! for a week or longer, and, y'know, playing against pleep--people that you know are Jeopardy! champions and that have really, y'know, run the table for quite a while--it's--it's intimidating, actually
What advice do you have for aspiring contestants?
Uh, I don't know if I'm really qualified to give advice yet. I just--just relax and don't be too scared by your opponents, because they're all really, really good, so just... go out there and do your best.