PHOTO BY ALLISON BABKA
When Will Gilbert isn't being hounded by Alex Trebek on Jeopardy, he manages STL Style on Cherokee Street.
We’ll take “Brilliant St. Louisans” for $500, Alex.
The question: Who’s the latest Gateway City scholar to vie for big money on one of TV’s most celebrated game shows?
The answer — Will Gilbert — won’t reveal the outcome of his recent dalliance with Alex Trebek on Jeopardy
; you’ll have to watch the show at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, June 23 on KSDK Channel 5 for that.
But Gilbert does promise a good fight.
“I’m not playing to be here for one game," he vows. "I’m playing to be here for 75 games.”
Now, odds of Gilbert making a 74-win run a la Ken Jennings are not good. But Gilbert, the retail manager of STL Style on Cherokee Street, is no stranger to Jeopardy
. A lifelong trivia fan, Gilbert first applied to be on "College Jeopardy” ten years ago and has regularly taken the online Jeopardy
test since then. (His best trivia subjects: sports, history, geography and comic books.) After doing well during a live audition in February 2015, he finally received the call to be on the show — a call he almost missed.
“I’ve gotten a lot of calls from California where it was a spoof or Google voice number or a scam, so I didn’t answer,” Gilbert recalls. “But I called back immediately as soon as I figured out who it was. I was like ‘Oh, OK, yes I will sign those papers and figure out a way to get to California and take time off work.”
Gilbert didn’t share his good fortune immediately, though. Except for his father and a few friends in niche disciplines who put together study guides, Gilbert sat on the news for a while.
“I didn’t tell lot of people because what if I do awfully and everybody hates me and my life’s dream means nothing?” Gilbert remembers. Still, he adds, “I was so excited about it because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
After a few weeks of watching Jeopardy
at Riley’s Pub in Tower Grove East, studying his friends’ guides while drinking at Urban Chestnut, and picking out five days’ worth of TV-appropriate clothes with his sister, Gilbert found himself at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California, ready to take on other contestants who, like him, would likely would be able to answer 80 percent of the game’s questions.
He can’t talk about what went down, but he’s got a few interesting tidbits to share. For instance, have you ever wondered why some contestants seem to have trouble with their buzzers? It’s all in the timing.
“You can’t buzz in until a judge presses a button, and that judge only presses when Alex stops talking,” Gilbert says. “There are lights on the side that viewers can’t see that light up, and that’s when you’re allowed to press.”
Gilbert, who attends two to four trivia nights every week in St. Louis, also shares that producers write questions-and-answers for six shows at a time but an impartial party throws one out before filming a block of five episodes. Gilbert was told to bring enough clothing combinations for a week’s worth of shows.
And what about Trebek? Is he as wise in person as he seems on TV? Gilbert said that he only talked to the Jeopardy
host during the interview portion and again for a minute at the end of the show, but the imaginary boyfriend of everyone’s grandma did make a few mistakes.
“He spends some of his commercial breaks redubbing the things he messed up. That’s not something that came into my imagination as something he would do,” Gilbert spills. Gilbert admits that he wasn’t perfect during his time on Jeopardy
, either, but he’s proud of his performance nonetheless.
“I would definitely do it again,” Gilbert says. “I wish I had more time out there, but I enjoyed my experience entirely.”
Watch Gilbert’s Jeopardy
appearance during a special party at Riley’s Pub, 3458 Arsenal Street, or find it on KSDK Channel 5 on Thursday, June 23.