Calgary man selected to appear on ‘Jeopardy!’ works on buzzer reflexes and U.S. presidents

Calgary's Ujal Thakor is set to appear on an episode of Jeopardy! on March 2, 2021. Courtesy, Ujal Thakor

A Calgary man has been selected to appear on Jeopardy!

Ujal Thakor, 42, first applied to be on the game show in the summer of 2020 and heard back in October. He had a Zoom audition in May 2021 and in mid-December, he was informed that he would be headed to Los Angeles to be a contestant.

“At first it felt surreal because you hope for this but the numbers are against you. There’s about 300,000 people who write the online test every year and only about 400 people make it on stage,” said Thakor, who is a director of strategy for FYidoctors in Calgary.

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Thakor immediately hit the books after getting the big news. He said he bought about 30 different textbooks covering all the topics he figures might be weak spots.

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“U.S. presidents, geography, Shakespeare, Greek mythology. Things that come up often enough that they are almost guaranteed to be on your game,” Thakor said.

He was hoping for more Canadian categories than ones on opera and U.S. college sports.

“You really hope for that because it’s a bit of an edge being Canadian, and at that point you just cross your fingers but you’re also competing with people who know U.S. history and geography inside and out,” Thakor said.

Click to play video: 'Amy Schneider’s epic ‘Jeopardy!’ run comes to an end' Amy Schneider’s epic ‘Jeopardy!’ run comes to an end
Amy Schneider’s epic ‘Jeopardy!’ run comes to an end – Jan 27, 2022

Lightning-fast reflexes are also required for Jeopardy! success and Thakor practiced for that too.

“The magic number is around 200 milliseconds. The buzzer time between the time the lights come on the board that allows you to ring in and actually buzzing. There’s a good chance the other two contestants also know the answer so it’s a race against that. I really focused on that and improved my time from about 0.3 to 0.2 seconds, which is a world of difference in that,” Thakor said.

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He said there is a risk that if you buzz too early you actually get locked out for a quarter of a second and that can make or break your success on the question.

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Thakor grew up watching Jeopardy! and although friends and family were keen to help, there’s not much they could offer.

“They tried but it’s also one of those things that if you’re not deeply immersed in the Jeopardy! world it’s tough to give too much more advice other than, ‘I hope you do well and don’t forget who Abraham Lincoln is,'” Thakor laughed.

The show that he was in was shot on Jan. 11 in Los Angeles.

“The day of filming was great. The staff and crew were really accommodating and fantastic to work with and so I found the being on stage, the nerves just melted away and it was like any other exam,” Thakor said.

The program that Thakor appeared on airs on the evening of Wednesday, March 2.

He’s not permitted to talk about any of the results.

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