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'Jeopardy!' Champion Goes Viral With Quirky Style, Big Bets

Austin Rogers is not your typical Jeopardy! champion.

Sure, he's got brains — answering rapid-fire trivia in the form of a question to the tune of $278,000 in winnings.

But Rogers, a New York City bartender, has also got plenty of flair (not to mention hair!). His goofy contestant intro segments are far from the stiff pose and awkward smile that have become a mainstay of America's Favorite Quiz Show. In one, he pretends to be talking on a phone; in another, he shifts to profile and mimes opening a bottle.

Whenever he gets an answer correct, he breaks into what he describes as "celebratory histrionics."

And to top it all off, he bets big!

Some say he's the best thing to happen to the game show since IBM's Watson trounced its human Jeopardy! opponents six years ago. Rogers has even spawned his own trending hashtag, #austinonjeopardy.

"He's got hair; he's got chutzpah. He's got broad-based knowledge," Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek says.

Elsewhere, Rogers has been described as a cross between actor Zach Galifianakis and Martin Prince, the teacher's pet character from The Simpsons.

Shorn of his signature mop-top, Rogers told ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday that he doesn't own a television but nonetheless found ways to watch "hundreds upon hundreds of episodes" of the game show in preparation for his first appearance.

"I'm not going to say that there's a system or a code, but if you watch enough, you'll start seeing things repeat," he says.

Example? "If it ever says 'sculptor' it's probably going to be Auguste Rodin. If it ever says 'American sculptor,' it'll probably be Alexander Calder. If it ever says 'Romanian poet,' it'll be Eminescu."

"I have no idea who Eminescu is, but I've seen that come up three times in episodes across the decades," he says.

Asked by Trebek how he got to be so smart, Rogers replies drolly: "Genetics. Luck. Karma."

What about school? "School? Nah!" he scoffs with a wave of the hand.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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