A senior from Johns Hopkins University...

Scott Menke

How did you react when you found out you made it on Jeopardy!?
Uh, it was pretty exciting. Uh, I picked up my cell phone; my mom had called. I couldn't really make out what it was saying. It sounded something like "Sony" and--and just kind of unintelligible screams. But, uh, I decided that I would keep my phone on for the next few minutes to see if anyone else called me. Sony called, and, uh, they said--y'know, asked me a couple questions, told me I'd be on the show. And, uh, I just kinda hugged everyone that was around me, so...

What's your motivation for being on the show?
Um, I guess I just like trivia, and I like competing with other people in a contest that allows you to match wits. Um, my other hobbies include chess, uh, crossword puzzles, poker... These are all kind of contests that allow you to compete on a--on a mental and somewhat physical level, I guess. I mean, playing poker, you push chips into the center, so... Little bit of physical contact. Little bit of buzzer action, yeah. So, yeah, little bit of everything, I guess. Any--anything like that is a hobby of mine.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Ten years... Um... Well, I'm an applied math major, and I originally concentrated in finance. That's not such a good area nowadays, so, uh, I've been re-evaluating some things. Re-evaluating my life. Um, and, uh, let's see, something that I'm thinking about. Um... Well, eventually, I did want to start my own artificial intelligence company. Um, I've taken some computer classes, some computer coding in school. Um, yeah, every year I try to take something different, so it's allowing me to, y'know, branch out and do a lot of different things when I grow up. So, owning a--owning a business of some sort, maybe in artificial intelligence is a dream of mine someday.

Show your school spirit and tune in!

2009 College Championship semifinalist: $10,000.

21 and from Flemington, New Jersey at the time of the College Championship.

Scott won $52,690 in cash & prizes on Wheel of Fortune on 2024-04-19.

Jeopardy! Message Board user name: smenke

Scott Menke Blog Entry 3
May 12, 2009

I got a great night's sleep on Tuesday, and arrived at the studio rejuvenated on Wednesday. After a quick round of rehearsals and makeup, Maggie and Robert informed us that the first three competitors would be Eric, Ariella, and myself. Game face, round two! I took my place at the first podium, listened to Johnny Gilbert's introduction, and took a deep breath.

Eric jumped out to a quick lead during the Jeopardy round. He showed off a good all-around knowledge base, and I knew I had my work cut out for me. In Double Jeopardy!, Ariella jumped all over a Broadway Musicals category; I was being left in the dust! I quickly got on a roll though. I honed my buzzer technique, and was able to beat the other 2 on several key clues. I wagered real conservatively on a late daily double, and cruised into Final Jeopardy! with a $1600 lead over Eric, and a few more thousand over Ariella. When Trebek revealed the category of "Word Origins", I didn't feel terribly confident, but I hadn't come this far to lose with a small wager. I was going to go out swinging. I bet enough to guarantee me the game if I won, which turned out to be $12,001. The commercial ended, Trebek revealed the clue, and nothing jumped out at me at first. I kept running through journalism terms in my head, and as I heard the music coming to a close, jotted "headline" down at the end. I glanced nervously at Trebek as he started revealing our answers. Ariella had my same guess, and had wagered a large chunk of her money. It looked like it would come down to Eric's response. I saw "deadline" come up on his screen, and thought "Huh, yeah... that works". It was the kind of response that makes sense as soon as you hear it. Hats off to him for coming up with it though, I thought it was pretty darn tough. My ride was over, but I had been defeated by a worthy opponent!

Participating in the College Jeopardy Championship was a phenomenal experience. I really can't put it into words. I can only marvel at the transition I made, from an everyday, Ramen-eating college student, to a Jeopardy! competitor. I remember being pampered at my podium, being given a water bottle and given reassuring advice from Glenn, and thinking "This is the life of a contestant!"
My advice to any College Championship hopefuls out there: take the test. Three years ago, I would've thought my experience was a crazy daydream. Anything is possible! $10,000 is going to change my summer, but being on Jeopardy! is already changing my life.

Scott Menke Blog Entry 2
May 6, 2009

When I pulled out of my apartment's parking lot back in Baltimore on Sunday morning, it was still dark. While the city wasn't alive, I certainly was. My bags were packed, my world capitals memorized, and a television appearance was in the making. I was ready!

The plane ride was pretty uneventful. I did tell some of my fellow passengers that I was flying to LA to film Jeopardy! and that got me some high fives. I grabbed a Super Shuttle from LAX to the Universal Hilton, and checked in to my room. Really nice amenities, but the thing that struck me the most was the view. Think "The Hills".
I was pretty beat from the trip, so I took a quick nap, then met up with my parents for dinner at an Italian restaurant a couple blocks away.

The next day, I met up Anthony from Harvard, Larissa from Rice, and the tournament's alternate, Steve from UCLA. We went to Universal Studios together and had a great time. We threw some trivia questions at each other throughout the day, but overall it was just a great way to relax and get to know some fellow contestants. That night, we went back to our respective rooms, and geared up for the first day of competition.

We all woke up and congregated in the Hilton lobby at 7:30 AM. I recognized Maggie, the contestant coordinator from my audition back in November, and she helped corral all the contestants and get them onto the bus. As we drove to Sony Studios, Maggie lectured us on the ins and outs of the game. I thought that I knew how to play Jeopardy! backwards and forwards, but I learned quite a bit on that bus ride.

We were ushered in to the green room once we arrived, where we filled out some paperwork and went over our "interesting" blurbs. One by one we were taken out to say some lines to the camera and promote the show. I had quite a bit of fun hamming up my performance!

After all 15 contestants were thoroughly schooled on everything that goes on behind the scenes, we were brought back into the green room, which would become our temporary holding cell. Some of us would only have to endure it for a few minutes, while others would be locked in for hours on end. We started up Mean Girls on the DVD player, and waited for the announcement as to who would be playing first...

Laura (Missouri), Mark (Kansas), and Jennifer (Ohio State) filed out to meet Alex and play the inaugural game! Everyone else tried to concentrate on the movie but we kept hearing intermittent clapping and roars in the background. I couldn't wait until I had my shot!

When I was just starting to get sucked into Mean Girls for the millionth time, Mitch, the sound technician walked in and told me I was getting miked up. I would be in the second game! Better yet, this quarterfinal match would air on May 5, my dad's birthday! I got my makeup touched up, filed out with Kadeem and Courtney, and took in the scene. The studio audience was seated, the lights were on, and I put on my game face!
Johnny Gilbert gave his trademark introduction, and Alex appeared out of nowhere. Trebek lives! It was surreal seeing this TV icon speak only an arm's length away. But before I had time to step back and appreciate the moment, the categories appeared on the board and Kadeem selected the first clue. Time to zone in.

As many readers have heard before, I remember very little from my game. I do recall finding all three daily doubles, so that was very fortunate. I could see all three of us buzzing in on many, many clues, and the signaling device happened to give me the nod on a lot of them. Many things broke my way in my quarterfinal, and once I saw $30,000 above my name during the Double Jeopardy! round, I just had to thank my lucky stars. I had the game locked going into Final Jeopardy!, thrilled that I could deliver a birthday present to dear old Dad. Semis, here I come!

Scott Menke Blog Entry 1
May 4, 2009

Hello Jeopardy fans! My name is Scott Menke, and I'm a senior at Johns Hopkins University. This is my story:
I guess I'm different from a lot of trivia buffs in that I didn't commit to it from an early age. I knew I had a great ability to memorize things, but wouldn't necessarily apply it to academic pursuits. As a kid, I used to memorize as many powers of 2 as I could, or try and remember license plate numbers I had seen on the highway. That continued through adolescence, when I started to become slightly obsessed with sports statistics; won-loss records, batting averages, championship teams, memorable streaks and records. I had heard of Jeopardy!, and had seen the show, but really didn't watch it at all. As it turned out, the way I got hooked ended up being through sports. I used to watch a show on ESPN called Pardon the Interruption (PTI) every evening in high school. It basically recaps all the sports news of the day in a conversational manner between the two hosts. During the last minute of the show, they started bringing up a guy named Ken Jennings, who was having an unbelievable streak on Jeopardy! Every night PTI seemed to report on his progress, and his win-streak started to climb into unheard-of echelons. I had to tune in and see this Jeopardy! legend in action.
Luckily, Jeopardy! was on right after PTI, so all I had to do was change the channel to ABC after the conclusion. Lo and behold, there was Jennings, standing at the left podium, buzzer in hand, ready to dominate yet again. I sat back and watched him quickly take over the game. There was something so mesmerizing about watching him answer questions. I know it sounds crazy, but it just drew me in. I guess I have a lot of respect for anyone who is the master of their trade, craft, game, whatever. Be it Roger Federer with a tennis racquet, Lang Lang at the piano, or random teenagers at the video game Halo, some people you just have to sit back in awe of. There was something soothing and inevitable about Ken Jennings decimating his opponents. I watched him until the end of his magical run, after winning over 2 and a half million dollars.
In college, I would catch Jeopardy! in our freshman dorm occasionally, although I'd rather watch the Daily Show back then. Sophomore year, when we got a DVR recorder for our room, I started to set a daily recording for Jeopardy!, and would watch episodes in blocks when I had some free time. As I started getting better, I was enjoying the show more and more; these days, I have it taped as a backup, but usually end up watching it live. My roommates don't really understand my obsession; in fact, I can't really comprehend it either. But I think I've missed only a handful of episodes over the past two years.

I took an online test on October 1, 2008. It was 50 questions, and they tried to cover every topic in the book, with questions on American lit, pop culture, world capitals, sports, wordplay, you name it. I was actually compiling a powerpoint presentation at the time for my Entrepreneurship class, glanced at my watch, and realized I had two minutes to log in and get to the test. I told my partner to bear with me for 15 minutes or so, so I could answer some trivia questions. It ended up being over in 7 or 8 minutes, and I went back to business. I thought it was pretty tough, but took solace in the fact that I had done my best, and didn't really think about it after that.

Around 3 weeks later, I was working in the library, when I got an e-mail from Jeopardy! and the first word was Congratulations! That really made my day. I opened it up, and it was an invite to an in-person audition in Washington DC on Sunday, November 16th. I quickly replied that I'd be able to make it. It was at 9 AM, so I envisioned waking up early on Sunday, catching an Amtrak down to DC, do the Jeopardy! thing, see some sights and hop a train back. Of course, when I told my mom about my plan, she was having none of it, and made a hotel reservation that day so I wouldn't be rushing around at 5 in the morning. Probably a wise decision.

I ended up taking a train down on the 15th with a friend, and we walked around DC for awhile and got a good night's rest. The next morning, I got up bright and early, and walked over to the St. Regis hotel, which was only a few blocks away. They said the Jeopardy! auditions were on the Basement floor, I walked down, and started filling out forms. The contestant coordinators came in and took attendance, and snapped Polaroids of each of us. They gave us some instructions and had a couple giveaways to try and warm people up. After that was another 50 question written test to confirm that we didn't have a bunch of friends help us on the first one (Apparently they just don't want to see a huge discrepancy between the two). This test was easier, and I felt like I got 43 or 44 right.

The best part was grabbing the buzzers and playing a mock game. We were called up in groups of 3, with a makeshift Jeopardy! board being projected on the overhead. The game flowed as usual, with people answering in the form of a question, selecting the next category and dollar amount, etc. It was a thrill to just play the game. Honestly, I would've walked away happy just getting to play, because you watch the show so much, and then get a chance to prove yourself against other smart people. It's awesome. Anyway after 25 or so questions, we put our buzzers down, and the coordinators ask us some questions about ourselves, interesting stories, things we like to do, to get a feel for how we are on our feet. Before you knew it, we were all finished, and they told us we'd hear from them in March if we made it.

Fast forward 4 months. It was March 20, I was on spring break in Hilton Head, SC with 5 friends, just relaxing in our condo. My mom calls frantically, I can barely make out what she's saying, but it seemed like Sony Pictures was trying to get in contact with me at my home number. She gave me their contact info, I phoned them up, and they asked me a few questions about my eligibility, i.e. if I was running for political office, if I was a full-time undergraduate student, if I've been convicted of a felony. No, Yes, No. "We'd like you to come film our College Tournament in April. Can you do it?"


Honestly, I was extremely surprised. If you just look at how I did on paper, there's no way that I make it. Looking back, I think I got 35 out of 50 right on the initial online test, which is considered by many to be the cutoff to even be invited for an audition (They implement a random selection process, so even if you get 49 out of 50, you are not guaranteed an audition). I showed up on audition day in jeans, sneakers and a polo. There was exactly one other person wearing jeans, and everyone else had on pressed, natty suits and jackets, or skirts and high heels. I felt like I did pretty well on the in-person written test, but in my mind I wasn't the most trivia-savvy there; this one kid from Virginia Tech was just an animal, I wouldn't be surprised if he's on the show as well. During the buzzer round, I probably got around the average number right for our audition group of 25, and I did have that major flub. Knowledge-wise, I bet I was in the middle of the pack for all 2000 auditioners. I could be wrong though.

Overall though, I was pretty stunned. Just based on sheer numbers it was the longest of shots. Given that I had boned up on some trivia since the audition, I figured I would just try and get on the regular show down the road. Even though I thought about the possibility of being selected every day leading up to the call, I knew that the odds were just onerously stacked against me. Getting the call was absolutely surreal.

Soon after I auditioned, I started maintaining a document where I kept anything and everything I needed to learn more about. A person, a place, a movie, an event, an epoch, anything. Eventually, I'd start looking things up on wikipedia, which would inevitably lead me to more things I needed to study. What I ended up with was a sprawling list in no particular order of facts and figures of all forms. While this might seem like an inane way to study, it has actually helped me quite a bit.

Additionally, I identified 3 problem categories prior to even beginning my studies: geography, Shakespeare, and the Bible. I made a note of committing to memory world capitals, major characters by play in Shakespeare's works, and basic plotlines in the Old Testament. I've actually still got a little ways to go on this front.

The best way to prepare though is to watch the show. It gives you a great feel for what kinds of questions are asked, commonly recurring themes, and gives you practice for reading into clues to try and extract answers. http:j-archive.com/ has 85%-90% of all of the games that Trebek has ever hosted, and it has basically become my homepage for the last few months.

I'm just glad to be here in LA, and I'm going to give the tournament my all.

Later taters!

Scott appeared in the following 2 archived games:
#5691, aired 2009-05-11 Scott Menke vs. Ariella Goldstein vs. Eric Betts 2009 College Championship semifinal game 1.
#5687, aired 2009-05-05 Kadeem Cooper vs. Scott Menke vs. Courtney Trezise 2009 College Championship quarterfinal game 2.

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