James Holzhauer is now into the second week of his hiatus on Jeopardy!, as the show’s annual Teacher’s Tournament rolls on. But his star only continues to rise as his 22-day winning streak on the show gets more attention.
The latest bit of play comes from a podcast, as well as some nepotism. Holzhauer appeared on NPR’s Planet Money podcast in an episode that dropped late last week. As it turns out Holzhauer is the relative of a Planet Money contributor, Kenny Malone, who framed the episode around his nephews and how Holzhauer one-upped him as an uncle.
The episode, entitled “How Uncle Jamie Broke Jeopardy!” is hilarious and also informative. Remember those birthday wishes Holzhauer kept giving on the show? Those were for his daughter and, later, his nephews. That’s a tough thing to match if you’re an uncle.
There is a bit of interesting news from the episode, which also includes interviews with Ken Jennings and other Jeopardy! champions. The episode includes exactly how he prepared for the show, which he had three weeks to prepare for when he got the original notice that he made the show in January.
The episode describes how he would watch and play along on Jeopardy! with a “makeshift mechanical pencil buzzer” and tried to get the timing right for Alex Trebek’s voice. Much has been made of the buzzer during his run — as the episode explains, Jeopardy! is as much as quiz show as it is a “bad video game” — and training to get it right and not getting locked out is essential to his run.
One fun fact, though, is that he actually would stand and watch the show in shorts and the dress shoes that he wore during filming.
“I think that was possibly more important preparation than learning any facts and figures,” Holzhauer said. “I think making sure you’re comfortable in your environment.”
He added that he realized he needed inserts in his shoes to make them more comfortable, and he actually asked if he could wear shorts and more comfortable shoes on the show. The people in charge, however, refused to let him do that.
And when you think about it, getting comfortable for him would be a really big deal. Jeopardy! films five episodes a day, twice a week. And he showed up to his interview on MLB Network in a Cubs jersey, for example, and as a pro sports bettor who is on again, off again retired, it’s not like he needs to wear a suit and tie to the office to get things done.
The whole episode is pretty great, and the framing with Holzhauer’s family is a pretty good look at how him on the show has impacted the people closest to him. It’s also a fun look at the uncles that are trying to keep pace with his grand gestures on TV.