WASHINGTON TERRACE — Tim Kutz remembers his first tryout for Jeopardy! in 2006. Ten years later, he appeared and won on the ubiquitous game show.
Kutz filmed his Jeopardy! appearances on Jan. 11 (the show films five episodes per day, twice per week), the first of which aired on Feb. 17. In that first show, he unseated a three-day champion and won $46,599.
He scored big by landing film trivia during “Final Jeopardy!”
“I knew going down there if I had a good movie category I’d have a shot, so as soon as I saw I had a movie category, I bet big,” Kutz said.
He wagered the bulk of his winnings — $22,799 as he remembers — and was given an answer which sought to know what living actor is in six of the American Film Institute’s top 100 films of all-time.
“It just clicked, I knew the answer right away,” Kutz said. The correct question: “Who is Robert Duvall?”
Returning as the champion for the next show that aired Thursday, Feb. 18, Kutz once again defeated his two new rivals, winning $16,900. He now has total winnings of $63,499 going into the next round, which airs Friday, Feb. 19, at 6:30 p.m. MST.
Kutz, 36 of Washington Terrace, is a data conversion manager for the Internal Revenue Service, where he has worked for nine years.
He graduated from Clearfield High School and attended Weber State University, where he said he has started and stopped his education as a history major twice. Stable work has kept him from finishing his degree, he said, because “it’s tricky to make the schedules line up.”
His experience at the show’s filming studio in Los Angeles was much different than he anticipated, from the staff to the contestants.
“The experience itself was awesome,” Kutz said. “I can’t say enough good about how friendly and professional the production staff is. The show runs like a well-oiled machine.”
Contestants are familiarized with the show and given an hour to play practice rounds before filming begins, time when Kutz said he was surprised by support of his fellow contestants.
“It’s like everyone’s dream, it’s the Super Bowl as far as trivia goes, so we’re all in the same boat,” he said. “I was expecting it to be more cutthroat because everyone is competing, but everyone was super supportive. Everyone is on the same side, everyone was together. It was a really cool experience.”
To appear on Jeopardy!, a hopeful contestant must complete a tryout process that includes an online test, an audition in Los Angeles for the show’s staff and completion of a mock game. Hopefuls are then entered into a pool for callback, a wait time which can extend as long as 18 months.
Kutz said he completed this process three times — once in 2006, again in 2010 and finally in 2014 — and finally received his call in late 2015.
He paid his own way back to Los Angeles, as all contestants do, given only a discount hotel rate and a shuttle to and from the studio. “That’s why they give $2,000 for second place and $1,000 for third, so contestants can at least pay for travel,” Kutz said.
Despite the long process, Kutz felt at ease throughout. After contestant coordinators selected three contestants for each episode from the group, Kutz said they spent the rest of the time making contestants comfortable to calm their nerves.
“By the time they actually start taping, they’ve taken all the nerves away. They have it down to a science,” he said.