A Grammy winner, Oscar nominee and multi-talented performer from Hairspray and The Pajama Game...

Michael McKean

Could you tell us about your charity?
I am playing for the International Myeloma Foundation. Myeloma is a--an insidious disease. It's rare, but it's not rare enough. Uh, a good friend of mine, Lee Grayson, a wonderful musician, very funny man, uh, passed away from the disease about four, five years ago. [J! Archive note--it was actually almost 7 years prior.] And, uh, so I've become involved with this charity, uh, the International Myeloma Foundation. It helps, uh, it helps people to live with the suffering, but it also looks for a cure.

Are you the Jeopardy! champion at your house?
I wouldn't say I'm the Jeopardy! champion. We play every night, my wife and I, and, uh, if one of the kids comes passing through the room, they can--they can play, too. But we try to get the children out of there, because who needs children at a time like that? Uh, I do pretty well, but my wife's awfully good, too. I'm weak in some areas--I'm not gonna tell you what they are, because they'll--they'll--they're gonna get me with it. Um, but I'm--I'm--I'm okay.

Are you more or less nervous to play Jeopardy! this time?
Well, uh, I've--I've had a chat with Maggie, who's--kinda helps prep everybody, and I'm much more nervous now. Because I thought it was gonna be easy going in, but she's convinced me that, uh, it can make you a nervous wreck. So, uh... I think I'm doing--I think I'll do okay. I've won twice, so it's okay if I really mess myself this time.

What's more important: winning or having fun?
Well, in this case, uh, it's--it's lovely to win, but, uh, your charity ends up with a, with a bunch of money anyway, so that's--that's good. Pressure's off.


What does winning Celebrity Jeopardy! mean to you?
Winning Celebrity Jeopardy! means everything to me at the moment. Uh, it's great. It's, uh--it's very, uh, it's invigorating.

What would winning $1,000,000 mean to your charity?
Winning a million dollars would be, uh, uh, an amazing windfall for the, uh, International Myeloma Foundation. Um, they could use every penny, and the more pennies the better. So, here's hoping.

Was there a point when you knew the game was "in the bag"?
No, I was terrified--I was terrified 'til the very end that someone was just gonna--just gonna dance around me, and, uh, leave me in the dust. And a little humiliation is actually good for the soul, so I knew I'd survive, but, uh, I'm glad I won.

What was the best part of your Celebrity Jeopardy! experience?
This is just a great hang. I mean, it's always fun to just hang out. Watching Andy Richter just take the competition apart was a little intimidating. But, uh, it's--it's fun. It's fun hanging out with people you know, and meeting people you've never met before. So, uh... I've never met Kareem before. I once saw him in a bookstore. And I kept almost going up to him, and I decided, "No, he's too tall."


Why do you think comedians might have an edge in this competition?
I don't know, maybe it's the button. Maybe it's, like, we're really hitting a rimshot, you know? Maybe we're just--we treat everything that Alex says as though it's a punchline and then you go bum-bump. Maybe that's it.

Have you talked to your charity about the potential donation?
Well, they're very excited. It's a--it's the International Myeloma Foundation. Uh, it's a smaller charity, because it's a fairly rare disease, but it's very important, very key disease in the, uh, the autoimmune system, et cetera, and, uh, yeah, they're delighted, and I'm delighted to--to help them where I can.

Have you made any mistakes that you're hoping to avoid this time?
I think it's real important to remember what category you're--you're--you're laboring in. Because that's the worst thing. When it's--when you know it's supposed to start with the letters "C-O-L" and your answer is "escargot". So... yeah. Try to avoid that.


What does winning Celebrity Jeopardy! mean to you?
Uh, it's great, it's great. I'm very--very proud, and, uh, those people up there in the stands--they're standing over there now--and the person I'm married to, they're very proud of me, and, uh, that's the way I like it. You know, tomorrow, I'll just be a nobody again, but... [laughs]

Did you ever imagine you'd make it all the way to the finals?
No, I didn't know that's what they were gonna do. Uh, uh, last time I--I--we did the show in--in 2005, and then--then this--this whole thing. And I was doing a play on Broadway when this--when these were running--I mean, periodically, every--every--what is it?--every third Thursday, or whatever it was--and, uh, I would always arrive at the theater just as the show was kind of finishing up, and I'd just check out the competition, you know. And I saw a lot of my buddies go down in flames, and a lot of them prevailed, and, uh, you know, it's--it's been a lot of fun.

What did you think of the competition?
Way scary smart people, and fast on the--on the button, and, uh, y'know, it's--it was daunting. And then, of course, when I saw MIDDLE EAST COUNTRIES come up, I knew that I just didn't have the answer. Didn't have a prayer. So, uh, I was glad that I wagered sort of conservatively.

Was there a point when you knew the game was "in the bag"?
No, I never feel that in my life. Because I always know--see, I'm a baseball fan, rather than a basketball or football fan. Uh, anything can happen in the--in the bottom of the ninth, so...

How are you going to celebrate?
Well, I'm going to give a few minutes' thought to a guy name Lee Grayson [points to "I Love Lee" button on his jacket], who--who, uh, died of multiple myeloma eight years ago, uh, and another thought for--for the great Peter Boyle, a man in this business who everybody adored. Uh, you know, and if we can keep those numbers down, if--if some breakthroughs can be made due to the research, uh, these amazing people in the IMF do, then that's a good thing. If I, you know, if I contributed a little bit, that's cool.

"This multi-talented performer is a Grammy winner and Oscar nominee and has starred on Broadway in Hairspray and The Pajama Game. Here's..."

Playing on behalf of International Myeloma Foundation.

Michael McKean appeared most recently on Broadway in the critically-acclaimed 2008 revival of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, for which he received a Drama Desk award for Best Ensemble. His other Broadway credits include the 2006 Tony Award winning revival of The Pajama Game, Hairspray, and Accomplice (Theatre World Award). Off-Broadway: Woody Allen's A Second Hand Memory. London: Love Song. Chicago: Steppenwolf's Superior Donuts. TV: Series regular on Laverne & Shirley, Dream On, Sessions, Tracy Takes On, Saturday Night Live, Primetime Glick. Guest appearances include Friends, The X Files, The Simpsons, Law & Order, Smallville, Alias, Boston Legal. Film: This is Spinal Tap (also co-wrote), Clue, Coneheads, The Brady Bunch Movie, True Crime, Jack, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration, Whatever Works and many more. Mr. McKean most recently toured 30 U.S. cities with the "Unwigged & Unplugged" concert and appeared in the "One Night Only World Tour" as lead singer/guitarist with Spinal Tap at Wembley Arena. He has composed music for several films and co-wrote the Grammy-winning theme to A Mighty Wind (with Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy), the Oscar-nominated A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow (with wife Annette O'Toole) and the recently released Spinal Tap record titled Back From The Dead.

Currently he is set to reprise his role as donut shop owner Arthur Przybyszewski in the Broadway premiere of Steppenwolf Theatre Company's new American play Superior Donuts, by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning ensemble member Tracy Letts, directed by ensemble member Tina Landau. Mr. McKean originated the role during Superior Donuts' sold-out, world premiere at Steppenwolf last summer. Full casting will be announced shortly.

Michael appeared in the following 4 archived games:
#5915, aired 2010-05-07 Michael McKean vs. Cheech Marin vs. Jane Curtin 2009-2010 Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational final game 2.
#5914, aired 2010-05-06 Michael McKean vs. Cheech Marin vs. Jane Curtin 2009-2010 Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational final game 1.
#5912, aired 2010-05-04 Michael McKean vs. Isaac Mizrahi vs. Charles Shaughnessy 2009-2010 Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational semifinal game 2.
#5769, aired 2009-10-15 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Soledad O'Brien vs. Michael McKean 2009-2010 Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational quarterfinal game 2.
Michael previously appeared on Jeopardy! as Michael McKean in the following archived game:
#5107, aired 2006-11-21 Michael McKean vs. Hon. Margaret Spellings vs. Hill Harper 2006 Celebrity Jeopardy! game 10. From Radio City Music Hall...

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