Ph.D. Student Tyler Jarvis appears on ‘Jeopardy!’

Published: April 30, 2024

by Sean Brenner

UCLA doctoral student Tyler Jarvis studies early Jewish community and the Hebrew bible. So during his recent appearance on “Jeopardy!,” he felt pretty optimistic as host Ken Jennings read a question about the current most popular baby names that referenced a well-known biblical tale:

“It was No. 2 [most popular] for males, or should we say, ‘There went in two and two unto’ this name ‘as God had commanded.’”

Jarvis knew right away that the correct response was, “Who was Noah?” But, as often happens to even the most trivia-savvy Jeopardy! contestants, another competitor buzzed in first with the answer.

When the episode aired on April 25, that triggered a good-natured ribbing in an email from William Schniedewind, one of Jarvis’ professors in UCLA’s Near Eastern Languages & Cultures department, who was amused that an Old Testament expert would miss a question about Noah.

No matter. Jarvis thrived during the game’s opening round. Halfway through the contest, he had $6,200 to his competitors’ $5,800 and $800. But the game took a turn in the higher-stakes Double Jeopardy segment, in part because a few of the categories — French history, novels about sailing, and rock and roll — were, Jarvis admitted, a little outside of his wheelhouse.

Ultimately, Jarvis settled for second place, but he said the experience was a blast.

“It was very surreal to be on the set of one of my favorite shows,” he said. “And so much fun just meeting all of the other contestants who were there.” (The show records multiple episodes per day, each with the previous game’s champion and two new competitors.) Jarvis said that since recording his match in March, he has remained on a group text chain with his fellow trivia buffs.

For Jarvis, one surprising aspect of the experience — apart from seeing the normally suit-clad Jennings in casual clothing before the recording began — was how little of it he remembered after the fact. When his game was complete, a friend who was in the studio audience complimented him for correctly answering a question, also in the baby names category, that cited the protagonist in an 1815 Jane Austen novel. (“Who is Emma?”)

Jarvis realized that had been in such a zone during the game that he didn’t recall hearing, or responding to, that clue. He had a similar experience watching the game on TV weeks later, he said.

Friends and colleagues who missed seeing Jarvis’ recent TV appearance will soon have another chance to see him compete. Even before he recorded the Jeopardy! episode, Jarvis competed in an episode of the NBC quiz show “Weakest Link” that will air in May.