Austin Rogers is not your typical Jeopardy! champion.
Sure, he’s got brains — answering rapid-fire trivia in the form of a question to the tune of $278,000 in winnings.
But Rogers, a New York City bartender, has also got plenty of flair (not to mention hair!). His goofy contestant intro segments are far from the stiff pose and awkward smile that have become a mainstay of America’s Favorite Quiz Show. In one, he pretends to be talking on a phone; in another, he shifts to profile and mimes opening a bottle.
Whenever he gets an answer correct, he breaks into what he describes as “celebratory histrionics.”
Shorn of his signature mop-top, Rogers told ABC’s Good Morning America on Thursday that he doesn’t own a television but nonetheless found ways to watch “hundreds upon hundreds of episodes” of the game show in preparation for his first appearance.
“I’m not going to say that there’s a system or a code, but if you watch enough, you’ll start seeing things repeat,” he says.
Example? “If it ever says ‘sculptor’ it’s probably going to be Auguste Rodin. If it ever says ‘American sculptor,’ it’ll probably be Alexander Calder. If it ever says ‘Romanian poet,’ it’ll be Eminescu.”
“I have no idea who Eminescu is, but I’ve seen that come up three times in episodes across the decades,” he says.
Asked by Trebek how he got to be so smart, Rogers replies drolly: “Genetics. Luck. Karma.”
What about school? “School? Nah!” he scoffs with a wave of the hand.