Question: On May 30 and 31, 2016, this English professor from College of the Canyons won $54,999 on the world-famous game show “Jeopardy!”
Answer: Who is Erin Delaney?
The assistant English professor beat Buzzy Cohen, a nine-day champion, by correctly answering two literature-related questions about Robert Louis Stevenson's novel “Treasure Island” and Oscar Wilde's play “Lady Windermere's Fan.”
Being a “Jeopardy!” contestant had been a lifelong dream of Delaney’s, who has watched the show for as long as she can remember.
“My brother and I will (record) episodes and binge watch them together,” said Delaney. “It's one of our favorite ways to bond.”
However, playing against fierce competitors, such as Cohen, added to the thrill.
“When I was preparing, I really wanted to play against people who were good,” said Delaney. “All of my dreams came true with my fellow contestants. All the people I played against were smart, fast, and an absolute pleasure to meet.”
Even though Delaney had not read Wilde’s “Lady Windermere's Fan,” the writer quickly came to mind when asked about a 1890s playwright who was illustrated lounging with a cigarette in one hand and a fan in the other.
“I got the answer right because Oscar Wilde is the only playwright from that time who I could picture lounging,” said Delaney. “When Alex Trebek asked me if I was thinking of ‘Lady Windermere's Fan’ when I wrote my answer, I replied ‘I was thinking of lounging.’”
The TV game show’s selection process is long, said Delaney, who took the online test in January 2015 and auditioned to be a contestant in July. The audition consisted of another test, a practice game, and a short interview. She was invited to play as a contestant in February 2016 and her episode was taped in March.
“I had a wonderful experience on the show,” said Delaney. “Waiting to play the game was a bit nerve-wracking, but once things got started, I was able to focus.”
Time seemed to work differently on set, noticed Delaney, with a 20-minute episode feeling like two or three minutes. “The five seconds I got to answer a question can feel like ages, especially if I wasn't sure it was the right answer. But suddenly, watching the show on TV, everything seemed timed just right.”
The spring semester was in full swing when Delaney was invited to tape the show and she shared her excitement with her students.
“They've been really enthusiastic about it,” said Delaney. “I found out after the show aired on Friday that they were Snapchatting with each other during the show. I've even had a few students from previous semesters contact me to send their well wishes.”
Delaney eventually lost to Tim Mercure, a new contestant, on her third “Jeopardy!” appearance. According to the game’s rules, she does not qualify to return as a Tournament of Champions contestant.
However, she plans to use her “Jeopardy!” winnings to fulfill another lifelong dream next summer — visiting Italy.
“I'm a huge fan of Italian food, but I also studied music in junior high and high school,” said Delaney. “So much of music uses Italian vocabulary. For example, musicians know to play loudly when they see the Italian word ‘forte,’ which means ‘strong.’ So, for me, Italian has always been the language of music.”
Delaney has already been brushing up on her Italian so that she can communicate competently during her trip.