Bartender in Jeopardy

Tucsonan Eric Smith makes game show Debut

Eric Smith with Jeopardy! legend Alex Trebek
Eric Smith with Jeopardy! legend Alex Trebek
Eric Smith's lifelong dream came true in front of a studio audience in Culver City earlier this month.

A few years ago, on a whim, Smith took an online, 50-question exam to appear on the television trivia show Jeopardy!

The Kingfisher bartender did so again a few more times over the coming years, before hearing back from executives that he'd been invited to an audition in San Francisco, which he attended in July of 2018.

Smith, who attended University High School in Tucson before graduating with a history degree from the University of Arizona, called the appearance a dream come true.

"It kind of just started off as a lark," Smith said. "I was watching it a lot and felt I was doing pretty well on the episodes. So, I went online and saw that they were having an online test."

Smith remembers taking the test three or four times.

"I didn't think in a million years that I'd be on Jeopardy! But I enjoy going to Geeks Who Drink and other trivia nights around town about once a month or so," Smith says.

Smith can't disclose how he performed during his television debut, which will air locally on Thursday, Dec. 19.

He recalls how professional the folks inside the studio were, with the affair taking on an assembly line-like efficiency.

"I would say the biggest surprises from the whole thing were, one, that the studio audience was way smaller than I thought it'd be," Smith said. "And two, that I'm excited to watch myself on TV, because the game itself was a blur for me. It felt like one minute, the guy was wiring up and testing my microphone, then the next, I'm talking with Alex Trebek and the thing was over."

Above all, Smith saw his television performance as proof that anything is possible, as he never saw himself ever getting a shot to be on the show.

He also wanted people to know that Trebek is just as effervescent as he appears on television, making sure to spend time with each contestant, while also answering the audience's questions between segments.

"I can't stress how professional and cool he was," Smith said. "Obviously, he's sick and he had this horrible chest cold the day I was there. But, any time he had a moment between rounds he would take questions from the audience and joke with them.

"And outside of hearing him cough, you'd never know that he's sick."

Smith said his top-three subjects heading into the November taping were, in order, history, sports and geography, with opera and ballet ranking last on the list.

He didn't disclose which, if any, of those topics were covered during the taping, but said the experience was fantastic, from start to finish.

"It's an extremely fun experience," Smith said. "I have a baby that's due at the end of December and I'm not sure if I'm more excited to meet her or if I'm more excited to see myself on Jeopardy!"

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