Who was the last male monarch who had not previously been Prince of Wales? Don’t know the answer off the top of your head? Neither did Arthur Chu, who ended his 11-game winning streak on Jeopardy! last night when he incorrectly answered the final question of the night.
Chu lost to Diana Peloquin, someone who the controversial Jeopardy! star calls “a bit devious” (in a good way). We caught up with him over the phone to see how he’s feeling, who his favorite movie villain is, and who he took some selfies with before heading back home to Ohio.
What happened last night?
Well, I lost. I think Alex Trebek actually pointed it out; he saw how I was feeling that day. I was really fatigued, and I was sort of losing my mojo. And Diana, to her credit, picked up on the strategy I was using, and she used it herself to great effect.
You said she picked up on your strategy – was she the first competitor to do that?
Other people tried to do it, but I think some people weren’t prepared to play in a way different than they’d practiced. Diana had the advantage that she watched me for a whole day before having to play because she was an alternate the day before, and so she had that time to prepare and she’s also a little bit devious. She’s a very clever person, I hope she does well in her future games.
You have this title as a Jeopardy! villain, do you remember the first time you saw a mention of that in media?
There was someone who wrote a tweet, I think they were being tongue-in-cheek, they posted a picture of my face and were like, ‘This is the face of a Jeopardy! villain, can anyone stop him?’ And that meme sort of ran out of control.
You’ve humorously embraced that title of villain. Did it get to you at first, or was your initial reaction, “oh, that’s funny”?
It’s really more of an antihero thing. People are saying, antiheroes are big now, people say I’m the Walter White of Jeopardy!, or like I was Moneyballing Jeopardy!. It was something that made Jeopardy! different for a while and I think a lot of people appreciated that. There was this awesome video by these Taiwanese animators that shows me as literally a super villain with super powers. I loved that. I said, that justifies this whole media thing by itself.
If you could be any TV or movie villain, who would you be?
I always sympathize with Syndrome in The Incredibles because it totally was like, if you don’t have super powers, why not use your brain to try to figure out a way to give yourself super powers? I don’t see why that’s a bad thing. Ken Jennings might have just been much naturally better than me at Jeopardy!, but shouldn’t we be encouraging people that if you don’t necessarily have the natural talents to exceed at something without trying, than succeed at it by trying. So the fact that The Incredibles showed the bad guy Syndrome as evil because he wanted to give everyone the chance to have super powers, that never sat well with me. I see it from the other perspective: If you can use your brain, and figure out inventions or tricks to compensate for your natural disadvantages, that’s what science is about, that’s what progress is about.
So do you have any natural talents?
[LAUGHS] There’s no way to get money in Jeopardy! without knowing the answers to questions. But it’s just like any other sport. It’s not just about athletics, it’s about the playbook. Everyone who plays in the NFL is good enough to play in the NFL for the most part, and then it comes down to which team was better coached, which team had the better strategy going into the game, which team used their resources most effectively. And I don’t see a game show as being any different.
Who could you tell about your winning streak after the taping?
I ended up telling my family over Christmas, because I had to explain why I could afford to buy my brother a TV. [LAUGHS] A lot of my friends said they were sure that I’d lost on my first episode; they said they were sure the way I was promoting it, like telling everybody to come watch it with me, like, ‘that must have been his only game, he must want people to support him.’ [LAUGHS]
What category would you ace, no question?
[LAUGHS] A category on, let’s see, text adventure computer games from the 1980s. I would smoke that category. That’s something I know way too much about compared to how important it is in life, but that’s one of my expert categories.
What entertainment are you into, what are you watching?
My wife and I really liked Orange is the New Black, we really liked Alpha House on Amazon, and Betas, also on Amazon. Actually, one of the best things about Betas is this quote, where there’s a character named David Chu, and he says this awesome thing that I wish I’d thought of it earlier. But this would be my quote for people who don’t like watching me play on Jeopardy!: ‘That sounds like a ‘you’ problem, like a Chu problem.’ So that’s my tagline.
Do you talk to Diana?
I messaged her on Monday, saying, ‘are you ready for what the media is going to do to you on Wednseday?’ because I hadn’t anticipated the story about me would blow up so big. And she was like, ‘No, I have no idea what to do! I’m freaking out!’ And I was like, ‘you’ll be fine.’ [LAUGHS] What was really cool was that I happened to run into her mom and her best friend in the airport when I was going to fly back to Ohio after the taping and they actually, they had nothing but good things to say. We took some selfies and everything and it was cool.
So how are you feeling?
Obviously, I wish I had gone on to be Ken Jennings. But we can’t all be Ken Jennings. In fact, the evidence suggests most of us can’t be Ken Jennings. I don’t know how he did it. I like to think I’m the best mere mortal in Jeopardy!. There’s Dave Madden, then there is Ken Jennings, who isn’t human. It’s like if we were doing basketball rankings, I’d be the best normal basketball player in history and then you’d have Michael Jordan and you know, Ken Jennings would be like, God or something.
You’re like the the Jeopardy! champion of the people, basically.
Yeah, yeah. I’ve had people say that. They’re like, Ken Jennings seemed like he wasn’t trying, it seemed like it was easy for him. Whereas for you, this guy was saying to me, for you it seemed like you struggled a lot. So it was much more human, it made me feel like I could do that. And I was like, that’s the message I want to send to people.