Former Editor-in-Chief of The Dartmouth Review, Forbes Top 30 Under 30 for Law & Policy, and Bush White House aide Michael Ellis appeared on Jeopardy! on Monday April 22nd where he was victorious! He has had quite the career in both conservative politics and law. Mr. Ellis was lucky and talented enough to clerk for Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Tune in to see him make Dartmouth College and TDR proud - and hopefully take home a significant amount of money. We were lucky enough to interview him before both about the process of Jeopardy! as well as his thoughts on his career and the College. His opinion on the College and the process of shifting towards a Dartmouth University is particularly relevant and timely.
The Dartmouth Review: How did you decide to try out for Jeopardy? What was the application process like?
Michael Ellis: I watched Jeopardy pretty regularly growing up, and my mother had actually tried out for the show a few years back, so I was familiar with the application process. But nonetheless I decided to try out on somewhat of a lark. In January 2012 I took the online test that Jeopardy offers twice a year. You don’t need to have any special qualifications for the test. It’s just 50 open-ended questions, and you have 15 seconds to respond to each one, effectively eliminating the possibility of someone looking up any answers on, say, Google or Wikipedia. After you complete the online test, they don’t tell you how many questions you answered correctly. You just have to wait for a call to find out if you’ve advanced to the next round. In late April, they called me and invited me to come to an audition in Cleveland. I trekked up to Cleveland where I took another 50-question test and did a practice game. In the practice game, I’m pretty sure they were looking to see if the prospective contestants were quick on their feet and had personality or something interesting going on in their lives. That audition was in May, and in the months after I more or less forgot about the tryout. But in November they called me out of the blue, and invited me to come out to L.A. to tape an episode of the show.
TDR: How did the taping process work?
Ellis: I went out to L.A. in early December for the taping. My wife and my parents came too and sat in the audience. It turns out they film about five shows a day, so if you win your game and advance to the next round, you don’t even have to fly back to L.A. The “next day” is actually only about 20 minutes later. But anyway, before I filmed my episode, I was kept in a holding area, sequestered from anyone involved in writing the clues, with probably about fifteen other people who were going to be on the show that day. They don’t tell you in advance against whom you’ll be competing, but when they’re ready to start filming, someone comes to the front of the room and calls out three people, and off you go.