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NewsApr 28, 2021

Shakespeare clinches ‘Jeopardy!’ win for MFA alum

Trivia buff Patrick Hume ’12 celebrates stint on classic game show

Patrick Hume on the set of Jeopardy!
Patrick Hume ’12 on the set of Jeopardy. Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

By Georgia Sparling

If you’ve ever wanted to be on “Jeopardy!,” here are a few things to keep in mind. The first one is obvious: you need to know a lot of trivia. Second: you’re probably not going to get on the show your first try. And third: if you’re going to beat the buzzer, you need to get really fast with a clicky pen.

“The buzzer is a huge part of the game,” says Patrick Hume ’12. “You feel a little ridiculous clicking on your couch but it pays off.”

Hume, an alum of our MFA in Creative Writing program, can say that with full confidence. His ability to recite random facts along with repeated applications to the iconic game show over the years and, of course, a really quick thumb on the buzzer made him a three-time champion. It also made him $62,500 richer.

Hume was always that guy who knew a little something about everything.

“I was told since I was small, ‘You’re going to be on “Jeopardy!” someday,’” he recalls. “I kind of took that to heart, I guess.”

In 2011, while majoring in Writing for the Stage and Screen at Lesley, Hume made his first attempt to be on the game show by taking the timed 50-question online quiz. He continued to take the test over the years and was invited to the studio for more quizzing and screen tests three times before finally getting accepted as a contestant.

Aaron Rogers and Patrick Hume on the Jeopardy! set
Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Hume on the "Jeopardy!" set. Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

A native of Stoneham, Massachusetts, Hume studied creative writing and English literature as an undergraduate before coming to Lesley. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles where he now lives with his wife. A lover of screen and stage, Hume toured the “Jeopardy!” set before his big break, but finally being there as a competitor was different.

“I wasn’t nervous at all until we walked into the sound stage, then the reality sunk in a little bit more,” he says. “There was definitely a little anxiety, but I also felt very well prepared as someone who’s been a big trivia buff. This is like being called up to the majors.”

Years of playing from his living room prepared Hume well. Aside from having famous football quarterback Aaron Rodgers behind the podium instead of longtime host Alex Trebek, who died of cancer last November, the experience was much like Hume expected.

He’d taken practice tests, boned up on weak subjects, reviewed “Jeopardy!” fan sites, and of course, practiced with his pen.

“If you get on the show, chances are you know probably 85 or 90 percent of the answers, and it really just becomes — one, can you get it out of your brain fast enough to feel confident buzzing in and two, can you buzz in first?”

On day one, Hume had one notable snafu when he got the Daily Double.

Answer: It wasn’t just a purple color and flower it was a washerwoman.

Question: What is lavender?

“I had no idea what the answer was. Aaron Rodgers is looking at me. I know the camera is on me, and I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ I just couldn’t come up with anything that would be remotely applicable in the moment. I did get some flak on Twitter and Reddit for that afterwards,” says Hume.

When it came to Final Jeopardy, however, the lifelong film and theater aficionado could not have gotten a better category: Shakespeare. Still, he played it safe, risking just enough to put his final tally ahead of the opponent in second place.

Answer: With 4,042 lines, it’s Shakespeare’s longest play & it’s also the one that’s been filmed the most.

Question: What is “Hamlet”?

On day two, Hume added another win, again clinching his victory with the final question with an answer about Isaac Newton.On day three, he continued the streak, even though he and his fellow competitors all flubbed Final Jeopardy.

Answer: One of the luminaries who drove in the “Golden Spike” in Utah in 1869 was this man who later founded a university.

Question: Who is Leland Stanford?

Hume’s run ended on his fourth episode. Although he held his own, Mike Nelson was fast on the buzzer and had a strong lead going ahead of the last question, which both he and Hume answered correctly.

Hume didn’t mind losing.

Answer: The New York Times noted “balls of orange-yellow light” & “the town off in the distance” from the artist’s window in this piece.

Question: What is "Starry Night?"

“At that point it was all gravy for me because I had so far exceeded what I expected to do,” he says.

Now that he’s fulfilled this bucket list item, Hume has plans for his winnings. The money will go toward the down payment of his first home and will pay off his student loans. It will free him up to do more screenwriting, as well.

“I’m still trying to circle back around to getting a movie made someday. It’s always at the top of my mind,” he says.

Hume’s preferred genres are horror, sci-fi and crime and he says it’s possible his stint on "Jeopardy!" may sneak into a future script.

“You never know,” he says. “This has certainly been a very notable experience in my life.”