This UAHS alum appeared on Jeopardy! earlier this year.
BY JAMES UNDERWOOD, ‘23.
On June 24, Arman Ramnath, UAHS class of 2012, appeared on Jeopardy!, taking home an impressive $19,205 and moving on to the June 25 game. Arlingtonian sat down with Ramnath via Zoom earlier this month to interview him about his experience.
Q: Can you start by walking us through what originally had brought you to Jeopardy!?
A: Yeah, so I grew up watching it all the time, pretty much with my parents every night. At dinner or after, we would watch Jeopardy!, and so I just grew up watching it. But I never was like, “Oh, I need to be on the show.” Then, I saw that you could take an online test to get on the show, [which] they offer a certain number of times a year. I just decided to do it, kind of for fun, which was March, 2020, and then I forgot about it really. Then, in October of 2020, they said that I qualified for the next round. I did another sort of test over Zoom with some other potential candidates. Then, in February, 2021, they said that I qualified to do a mock game over Zoom. So it was me and other people, and we competed. They had a gameboard, they shared the screen, and you used a pen to click in. They interviewed us as though we were on the show. And the first week of March, they called me and said they wanted me to come out and film at the end of March, and that’s when I did it.
Q: What was your initial reaction to that?
A: Mostly shock. The last mock game I did and the interview part—I felt like it went well. But I never actually thought that I would get on the show. When you take that last test, they tell you that they can call you any time in the next 18 months for the show. So when they asked to talk to me in, like, three weeks later or so, I was very surprised. I did not expect that they were calling me to tell me that I was going to come on [the show].
Q: Once you found out you were going on the show, did you start to prepare right away?
A: Yeah, I Googled how other contestants prepared, and the number one thing people would seem to say is [to] watch a lot of episodes. So I would pretty much go on YouTube and watch two to three episodes a day. I bought children’s books and studied them, because I read that James Holzhauer did that, because they cover a topic broadly, but not in depth, so it’s similar to Jeopardy! question knowledge. I did both of those together. It was only three weeks between when they told me I was on and when I came out, so basically for those three weeks I did my best, just so I would feel comfortable when I actually got on the show.
Q: From there, what was your actual experience that day in the studio? Was it what you had prepared for and expected?
A: Yes and no. It’s a really busy day. They tape five episodes in a day. It was pretty long; it’s kind of an exhausting day. There’s about a fifteen minute break between the two episodes that I did where I had to change clothes and pretend that [it] was the next day. I didn’t expect it to be such a long day. The producers were really nice—they really want people to do well and they’re really encouraging. And then [guest host] Savannah Guthrie got there, and she was really nice. I just graduated from Georgetown Law, and that’s where she went to law school, and so it was nice to talk to her. All the other contestants were really, really nice. I didn’t know what it would be like to interact with the people on the show, or the other contestants, and that was unexpected, but it was very cool and I enjoyed getting to meet them all.
Q: Once the episode had actually aired, what was it like to actually see yourself on the screen?
A: It was very strange. I kept saying it was surreal, and that’s probably the best way to describe it. I was in Columbus with my parents at home, and they invited a bunch of friends, and I invited friends from high school and from UA. At first I [had] told my parents I didn’t want anyone to come over to watch it with me, because I was stressed to see how I would look on TV. But then I figured it’s such a surreal experience and even a really cool experience, just the fact that I got to be on. So it’s like, might as well embrace it and let people also watch.
Q: Do you have any tips to Jeopardy! enthusiasts, or to students who are interested in getting involved?
A: Yeah, I would just say, don’t doubt yourself about [your] ability. Because I never thought that I would get on, and I never thought that I would win, but I just remember liking the game and watching it and playing along at home. So I would say, go for it if it’s something you really want to do.