Episode 26.6 - Jeopardy! 3:
Rise of the Machines
Chico: Hmmm... *points at whole picture* Nailed it. Pic-Ho-Reka!
Robert: 100 points, to Chico. Well done.
Gordon: Also well done - this week's 20 Questions Segment. As you know, Jeopardy
featured man vs. computer this week. What you may not know is that there were
170 practice games featuring Watson and previous Jeopardy! players. The host of
those demos was not Alex Trebek, but Todd Alan Crain, who is a member of The
Onion and is currently on IFC's Onion News Network. It is an honor to have Todd
on as our guest. Welcome aboard.
Todd: Thank you for having me.
Chico: 1) How were you approached to do this?
Todd: In early 2009, I shot a TV pilot called EcoFreaks that was (at the time)
to be pitched to the National Geographic Channel. The show was done in 2
segments. The first segment featured an environmentally friendly idea that will
never catch on in popular culture and the second segment was the opposite —
meaning the segment would be about an environmentally conscious concept that
will eventually (hopefully) be implemented in America. The first segment we shot
was with a group of people called the Freegans (they don't care for this term,
but more people have heard of "Dumpster Divers.")
The second segment on our pilot was with a man named David Shepler. He lives in
a "Net Zero Energy" home in New Paltz, NY. The house is being built in a
subdivision where all 25 plots are being built green. We spent 8 hours together
in his house with a camera crew going through all of the elements that qualify
this house to be "Net Zero" or, it produces as much energy as it needs to
consume in one years time through solar panels on the roof and a geothermal
heating system that heats and cools the house depending on what time of the year
David and I hit it off and spent the whole day laughing. I had no idea what he
did for a living, it never came up. After the shoot, we stayed in touch and a
couple of months later, he called and said, "I'm coming into the city for work,
would you like to go out to dinner?" So, we went, had a pitcher of Sangria and
had a great time. Then he said, "I have a business question for you." He told me
that he worked for IBM and that's all I really understood. Here came the
business question: Shepler asked, "Would you be interested in hosting
The first thing out of my mouth was, "Man, this Sangria is good. I thought you
asked me if I would be interested in hosting Jeopardy!"
"No, I did, actually."
"Um, YES! Now, WHAT!?"
"All I can say is that I'm working on a project where we may need someone to
host Jeopardy! matches."
And, that's all he said about the project. He wasn't able to say anything more
than that, and he didn't. I was completely confused, but it didn't matter
because I thought I might have an opportunity to do something that I've always
dreamed of: to be the host a mass media game show.
A few months, and several arguments later (Shepler, who, as it turned out, was
the Project Manager for the Watson/Jeopardy! experience), had to fight with the
IBM research team to get me on board. IBM wanted to hire someone in-house to
host the games since they were already paying someone as an employee. But,
Shepler went to bat for me — countless times - and argued that hiring a "third
party" host who would be impartial to both Watson and the contestants outweighed
the sense of IBM loyalty and privacy concerns. Jeopardy! liked that idea as
well. And, then, the advertising agency wanted to hire someone with a "name" to
host these games because of the potential of major press events involved.
Shepler eventually won the battle...all without me knowing what he was going
through. He, of course, filled me in on all of the drama after my contract was
finalized. To this day, I'm incredibly grateful to my friend's persistence.
And, honestly, it turned out well for everyone. I achieved a major career goal
and, in my opinion, IBM has great material to use to showcase their baby.
So, no. This wasn't a typical audition situation. This job was, essentially,
handed to me because of a previous job. This is another prime example of "right
Robert: Wow. Great story. 2) Were you a game show fan before you did the
Todd: In a word: YES! I've always been a game show fan. The funnier the better.
I have a comedy background and have always LOVED the quick-witted nature of the
game show host. One of my favorite game shows growing up was Press Your Luck.
MAN, I loved that show! Just the excitement of watching people answer questions,
receive points (spins) for those correct answers and use those points as the
number of spins they had on the giant, red, square board...what's NOT to love?!
No Whammies, no Whammies, no Whammies..STOP! Another was The Newlywed Game. The
contestants were fascinating to me — so willing to reveal such private, and
often ridiculous, information about their private lives. Bob Eubanks was SO good
at what he did because he KNEW what follow up questions to ask in order to get a
response that would be even more insane than what was written on their newly
attained spouse's card. There's Jokers Wild, Family Feud and Wheel of
Fortune...those topped my list as a kid as well.
But, the BEST game show ever filmed in terms of a crash course in staying on
your comic toes was, and will always be, Match Game. I didn't see this much as a
kid, I was born late in its run, but nothing has come close to my love of that
game. Gene Rayburn was the best ringmaster there ever was, and his circus of
celebrity animals kept him on his toes the entire half hour. From the on-screen
smoking, the backstage liquid lunches and the biting tongue and razor sharp wit
of Charles Nelson Riley, every episode was a potential disaster all reeled in by
a man holding an 18 inch microphone who could barely keep it together himself. I
find nothing more enjoyable than watching old re-runs of that show in a marathon
on GSN. The questions were ridiculously sexual, the responses from the
contestants were often so dumb you wondered how they made it through the day
without accidentally being killed or killing themselves by making toast while
taking a bath.
Gordon: You are a member of the staff of The Onion. 3) Tell us about the journey
to being Jeff Tate.
Todd: In 2006, I campaigned to be a part of the satirical fake news web site.
When I heard they were going to start doing webisodes, I created a package to
take to them with my hosting material (my reel), my headshots and a glossy, 8 X
11, photo-shopped page telling them exactly why I would be a perfect reporter
for their web series. With direct quotes from my Mother, my dog and my pimp (it
IS The Onion, after all), I was positive they would hire me on the spot.
I packaged all of this material up, ran down to their offices myself, handed it
to the receptionist and waited by the phone.
8 months passed.
Then, I started working with an agent who got me an official audition with The
Onion (unrelated to my handiwork). I went and auditioned for several different
spots. A few weeks later, I found out that I was hired to be the Tech Trends
Reporter, "Name To Be Decided."
The first day on the set, I was to shoot three videos for them that would appear
on the web site over the next few months. I was told when I arrived I was, "Jeff
Tate." From 2007-2010 I filmed 12 videos total for The Onion web series. A few
of which, I'm proud to say, have been the most successful videos they've ever
produced. Looking at YouTube alone, Jeff Tate's segments have had over 10
million views. And, in 2009, The Onion won a Peabody Award, handed out from
Brian Williams (of whom I am a huge fan). Right before we won the award, they
showed my MacBook Wheel segment. When the segment finished playing, Brian
Williams said, "I'm such a huge fan of these guys."
In late 2010, during my break from Jeopardy! (we played our matches in two
separate segments over the course of a year) I was asked to be a part of The
Onion News Network on IFC (The Independent Film Channel). The only issue was I
wasn't going to be named "Jeff Tate." I was concerned because The Onion has such
a loyal following, I wasn't sure how the audience would react to someone they
knew from the videos being called a different name. BUT, the genius of our
writers came through. They created a story line for "Tucker Hope" (a much more
network ‘newsy' name, in my opinion) that made the name change make sense for
everyone. The story line they created was: there have been many Tucker Hopes
over the years on ONN. I happen to be Tucker Hope #7..."the most popular Tucker
Hope to date." The last Tucker Hope was Asian and several before him were old
white men. It doesn't matter what your "real" name is, if you are filling that
position, you are Tucker Hope.
We are currently awaiting word on our renewal for a second season. IFC has
renewed Portlandia (Fred Armisen's show that airs directly after ours), but we
have 4 more shows left to air before our first season is complete. We expect to
hear something between now and the end of our first season. The Onion has
exceeded IFC's expectations, so we're all thinking we'll get renewed. We hope.
Chico: 4) Did working for The Onion help you when it came to hosting the run-thrus?
Todd: Quite the opposite, actually. My two big jobs of 2010 were extremely
different from one another. The Onion is a show that makes fun of network news
and the people who are "reporting" it. There isn't a group that is "safe" from
our writers, so, in a matter of speaking, we are an equal opportunity offender.
The material that you see on The Onion News Network on IFC is completely the
work of our writers...nothing is left to the improv abilities of the actors.
With Jeopardy!, I came in with a certain skill set that I have been working on
for years. Nothing thrills me more than encouraging and supporting someone to
the point where they feel great about what they've done in their lives or in the
past 10 seconds. I came at each game I hosted with a positive "go out there and
give it your all" attitude. If I'd gone in with "prove to me what makes you
think you can take on Watson and win," our games would have been highly
unsuccessful...miserable to be a part of and miserable to watch. My main goal in
hosting every game of Jeopardy! (and, quite frankly, every job I have, without
exception) was simple: If I'm not having a good time, then my contestants won't
be having a good time. That was it. There was no other way that I could have
worked on this project for over a year if I wasn't committed to the fact that I
wanted everyone in the room to be having the best possible time watching or
playing the game. With that being said, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to
have had this opportunity. I go to work every day with one goal in mind: have a
great time. I know that not everyone can say that. People work for years at jobs
they hate. I'm definitely not one of those people.
Here's a story of how my encouragement was a little off-putting for IBM at the
beginning: after one of our first matches where we were just playing with IBM
contestants, someone from IBM came up to me afterwards and said, very seriously,
"Do you have to clap so much?" I realized in that one sentence IBM is not used
to working with (what's affectionately called, in this business) "talent." The
subject of me being overly enthusiastic and playful with the contestants was a
little off-putting to the IBM team. They were used to a research scientist
hosting the games in front of other research scientists with research scientist
contestants. That doesn't make for good TV, believe me. I made it clear that I
wasn't an IBM researcher and that I was going to do my job to the best of my
abilities, even if that was extremely different from what IBM had in mind.
Eventually, we became VERY good friends because he saw the importance of the
psychological effect I was having on our contestants and audience members. It's
nerve-wracking to stand behind a podium and go up against a computer system that
is clearly better suited to search through millions of documents per second and
come up with some obscure response to a well written pun. My job was to make
everyone as comfortable as possible while they played against or watched Watson.
I am an entertainer. I do my job well and I wasn't going to let anyone tell me
that I wasn't doing my job as best I could.
Robert: 5) Did you ever to get to play against Watson?
Todd: Not in the sense that you're asking. But I found myself "playing against"
Watson every game I hosted. Watson was bound to say something inappropriate or
strange during every game we played, or be so far ahead of everyone else that it
was clear he was going to win, or bet so large on a Daily Double and lose it all
that it created an opportunity to play WITH Watson in a way that lightened the
mood of the room.
My main goal was to have the best possible time I could while I was working. If
I had resisted the urge to point out the ridiculous nature of a wacky response
Watson had just given or poke fun at Watson's pronunciation of a simple English
word, then I wouldn't have been doing my job to the best of my ability.
I said in the PBS-NOVA documentary, "In terms of comic duos, Watson is the best
straight man in the business because he doesn't get why his inappropriate
answers are funny. You can't write material that good." I meant every word of
that. I took advantage of comic situations that presented themselves to me and
was guaranteed to be handed a new "golden nugget" within the next 5 minutes of
game play. That's how our relationship developed and that's exactly how I wanted
Gordon: 6) What other champions played against Watson in the run-thrus?
Todd: The first set of games we played (starting in November of 2009) were with
contestants who had been on Jeopardy! at least once. The requirement for us
being able to use them was that they lived in the tri-state area (NY, NJ and
CT). Jeopardy! gave IBM a list of contestants that lived in the area, IBM
contacted those players and asked if they would be interested in playing some
"test matches" of the game. They arrived at IBM, sat through a briefing session,
filling them in on the background of Watson and how he does what he does. Then,
they would come in to our studio (two at a time) and play against Watson while
the other contestants sat in the green room and wondered how it was going. After
the contestants had all played against Watson one time, they were allowed to
stay in the studio and watch the rest of the matches throughout the day. We
didn't want anyone to be intimidated by the process of watching Watson play and
then having to play against him for the first time. So, the first time our
contestants came in to play, they hadn't seen Watson perform.
The second group of games we played (September-December of 2010) were all with
ex-Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions contestants. We played more than 60 games
and had at least 40 different players. So, IBM was upping their game and pitting
Watson against people who had been on the show in a Tournament of Champions. The
only requirement was that they couldn't have won a Tournament of Champions
match. Jeopardy! prefers to reserve the winners of those matches for future
Chico: 7) Was Watson as dominant in the run-thrus? Or were contestants able to
Todd: We had many contestants beat Watson during our games. The IBM scientists
realized which categories Watson struggled with and then eventually improved his
algorithms to compensate. It made Watson stronger as a player, but he could
still be beaten, as he was many times.
Robert: 8) You've seen the Watson warmups up close. What were you thinking or
feeling as you saw the computer up close just go wild on the board like that?
Todd: Our matches were unlike anything ever seen on the broadcast version of
Jeopardy! On the broadcast version, you see three humans fending for themselves
and trying to out-smart, out-buzz and out-bet the other human players. Everyone
is in their own little private compartment routing against the other people.
With our games, something incredibly interesting happened. The game shifted from
three humans competing against each other to two humans playing against a highly
advanced Question-Answering System. The humans would, essentially, team up
against Watson. I can't tell you how many times, during a match, I heard one
human contestant say to another upon their discovery of a Daily Double, "You
have to bet it all. If I don't win, I want you to." When was the last time you
heard that happen on the broadcast version? The sense of "us against him" ran
through every game we played. Keep in mind that these are HIGHLY competitive
players who are incredibly knowledgeable. Their pride was at stake and they were
there to, in most cases, redeem themselves from a (self proclaimed) botched
Final Jeopardy response or an incorrect wager on the broadcast version of the
show. These people had something to prove to themselves and, a few times, defeat
the actual person they played on the show. It's a tight-knit community in the
Jeopardy! world. Champions know other champions, great players know other
players. It's a much smaller MENSA-type organization that sometimes still get
together for Jeopardy! sponsored press event matches. They are great people who
have a specialized set of skills that constantly wowed and surprised me.
I was in a constant state of awe at the breadth of knowledge and ability to
recall the most obscure facts from material that I had never even heard of. I
loved seeing the overwhelming joy the contestants had when they defeated Watson
or the person who had beaten them on the broadcast.
On the other hand, I was amazed and proud of Watson when he would run a
category. Not necessarily proud of Watson, himself, but of the scientists that
programmed him. Their work paid off. The years of research and testing was
displayed before my eyes and I felt an utter sense of prideful teamwork with the
IBMers. I had nothing to do with the programming of Watson, or the decisions
that would change his betting strategy, but I was taken in as one of them
because of my role in this project. I was an outsider that was allowed to
witness the birth of something extraordinary that would, eventually, have an
enormous affect on the entire planet.
Gordon: 9). What was your favorite moment during the 170 game run-thrus?
Todd: October 29, 2010. That was my favorite day of the entire project. I
arrived at IBM knowing what was going to happen that day. There was MUCH ado
leading up to that set of games. Emails were sent out, rules were established, a
detailed schedule was created and everyone kept looking at me waiting for my
reaction about the days events.
Alex Trebek was in the house.
For me, this day was special. This day would be a defining moment in my career.
This day would also hold a tremendous amount of pressure — not unlike a knife to
the throat. I would be hosting 4 games in front of the man who had been hosting
this show for the past 26 years (at that point). I scoured over the games in
preparation for the days events, making sure I knew exactly what each individual
clue was asking, where the emphasis was on each word and which clues gave me an
opportunity for a "fun fact" after the correct response was revealed. All of the
244 individual clues for the day were mine. I owned them, inside and out.
I knew that Mr. Trebek was in the building because of the unusually large number
of people watching the game. I never saw him before I stood behind my podium. He
was secluded, with the IBM executives, in what I called "The Fish Bowl," a glass
enclosed room attached to our studio with a sound proof sliding glass door
hidden from my view directly around the corner from our game board.
I stood behind the podium and started to explain to my two contestants how this
game was going to be different from the game they had played on the broadcast
version. We didn't have a time limit, we would play every clue on every board
and if you have something to say (funny or otherwise), please feel free. In the
middle of my explanation, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man and a camera
crew come from around the game board. Initially, I didn't think anything about
it because of the large numbers of camera crews we had at some of our sparring
matches. Then, I realized that whoever was walking towards my podium was coming
at me with his hand outstretched. I turned and there he was. Mr. Trebek.
I stuck out my hand to meet his and every eye in the room was on me.
"Todd, we didn't get a chance to meet before you took your place behind your
podium. I just wanted to introduce myself."
"Mr. Trebek, it's an extreme pleasure."
"I just have one piece of advice."
I was pretty sure that everyone in the room could hear my heart beating. I knew
"Don't be too good."
The room erupted with laughter. And, with that, he turned and walked back into
the Fish Bowl.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mr. Trebek!" Again, the room was a giggle.
Later in the day, Mr. Trebek asked me how I ended up hosting these games. I told
him a much shorter version of the story I mentioned above, and he looked me in
the eye and said, "Well, you are very good at what you do. Very good indeed."
In that instant, I knew that I would never forget what had just been said to me.
The second moment that changed my life was, once again, thanks to Mr. Trebek.
During the taping of the first day of the actual broadcast Tournament, the
documentary on Watson's test games played and I had made it onto the show. I was
sitting across the hall from the actual theater where the broadcast was being
taped. It was the room that was my studio for the sparring matches. There were
about 50 people in the room watching the taping on monitors, about 25% of which
I knew. At the end of the documentary, Watson's icon appeared on screen and the
studio audience began to applaud. The shot went back to Mr. Trebek behind the
podium and he said, "And, I want to thank Todd Crain, that very talented young
man who hosted all of those games."
The room I was in exploded with applause and cheers. These people, most of whom
I did not know, knew what that moment meant. They understood what an honor it
was to be mentioned, by name, by the man I admired so much and that everyone in
the country knew as the host of this iconic television game show. The only thing
I could think was, "Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry." That didn't work. My eyes
filled with tears and I sat there in shock at what had just happened.
After the taping was over, I made my way into the studio and walked up to Mr.
"Mr. Trebek, I can't thank you enough for what you said. You have
single-handedly changed my life."
"Well, you deserve it."
Two days I will never forget. Ever.
10) I noticed that there wasn't any video or audio categories. There
also weren't any 'Before or After' or Wordplay categories. Why was this the
Todd: Watson, at this point, is blind and deaf. It would have taken another
year, at least, to perfect the ability for him to register audio and visual
clues, so IBM decided that it was more important to get this technology out in
the public eye without delay. It was a rule that there would be no audio/visual
clues in the Man vs Machine competition for that very reason.
As for the "Before and After" and Wordplay categories, that was up to the
Jeopardy! clue writers. Watson is fully capable of handling clues of that
nature, but there simply weren't any for him to play in the random mix of clues
selected by the Jeopardy! producers. Luck of the draw, really. There was no
reason why there weren't any Wordplay clues, that's just how it worked out.
Robert: 11) Many of the pundits claimed that he 'cheated' for various reasons.
What's your thoughts on that?
Todd: I can guarantee you that neither Watson, nor the human players "cheated."
The game was played honestly, without any type of favoritism. If Jeopardy! was
simply a game of waiting for a light to go on and buzzing in as fast as possible
61 times per game, YES, Watson would most likely win every time. The speed and
accuracy of a computer program can not be matched by human precision. That is a
simple fact and I will not argue against that.
But, as we are all fully aware, Jeopardy! is not all about the buzzer. I think
the real issue is not "do you think he's smart or quick"...the real issue is
that Watson can UNDERSTAND. I'm not sure enough emphasis is being placed on what
an achievement in modern computing Watson represents. For a human to understand
what a Jeopardy! clue is asking for is one thing. For Watson to "understand"
what is being asked, is another. Everyone seems to be focusing on the fact that
he's "quick on the buzzer." I, honestly, think that everyone is missing the real
issue here. A computer, a non-living machine, is capable of "comprehending" a
highly advanced sentence created in natural language by a human being.
I feel that ignoring this part of the story is like an alien craft coming to
Earth full of aliens who do not know English. The aliens find a way to
communicate with an English speaker, teaching us things about our universe that
we could not have discovered for centuries and everyone saying, "Yeah, but he's
got green skin!" I think this falls under the concept of "the dumbing down of
America." Journalists and skeptics are focusing on something that is so
unbelievably insignificant. I find this all incredibly insulting and feel that
everyone is missing the point of this whole experience. It's not enough that
Watson is fast on the buzzer. It's the fact that Watson is sent a text message
that literally translates to a bunch of 1's and 0's, he's searching through
millions of documents to find the most relevant piece of information that would
correctly answer this one question and then is able to verbally respond (in the
form of a question, no less) IN ENGLISH with the correct response.
THAT'S your story. THAT'S what should be focused on. NOT the fact that he beat
Ken and Brad on the buzzer. That's the LAST thing on which everyone should be
focusing. We're better than this. We're smarter than this and we need to focus
on the real issue and not something that is the equivalent of what a spoiled
housewife in a southern state is doing for lunch.
Robert: 12) Any pointers for people looking to get into "the business" of
hosting a game show?
Todd: The one piece of advice that I have given many, many times to young actors
(and this is fitting for any profession, not just entertainment), "Figure out
exactly what it is that you are better at than everyone else around you." If you
have a passion for something, a legal activity that you can be paid for and that
you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life, despite all of the odds,
then by all means pursue that. But, with that being said, you better be the best
at whatever it is you truly love. Work harder than everyone else to perfect your
skills and zero in on what you want and how to achieve that goal. Be open to
criticism and advice; don't shut people out because they are critiquing your
work. Those bad reviews and moments of praise help you become who you were meant
to be. Listen to everything. Become involved in your own life and take control
of what you can, taking note of what you can't.
If you are gifted at sculpting ice, than be the best ice sculptor you can
possibly be. If you are intelligent and love to care for people, be the best
doctor you can be. If you are good at thinking quickly on your feet, hosting
game shows and making people feel comfortable around you, find another
profession because this one I've got covered.
Gordon: Heh. 13) Did you have any 'geek-out' moments when you went, 'Oh my God,
it's Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, (fill in your favorite contestant here)?
Todd: Besides Mr. Trebek, just one; Eddie Timanus. He is an extraordinary man
who is incredibly gifted at playing Jeopardy! and, he happens to be completely
blind. Eddie was one of our players during our sparring matches and was such a
joy to be around. Jeopardy! sent us an audible buzzer activation sound cue that
we used in addition to our buzzer light. The game was played the exact same way,
but we heard an additional "ding" when our lighting system went on to alert the
players it was time to ring in. Watching Eddie play against Watson was
outstanding television, in my opinion, and something that I'm so proud to have
been a part.
Gordon: I'm sure Eddie will appreciate that. He's a fan of the site and I hope
we'll be hearing something from him after he reads this.
Chico: 14) Did you think the end results would be as it was, or did you think
there would be a different outcome?
Todd: I wasn't sure of the outcome of the game before it started. I was nervous
for the IBM research scientists that had poured their lives into a project that
had no guarantee of coming off as well as it did. They were all a wreck the day
of the taping, more so than I had seen them be the entire year. January 14th
was, for them, the Academy Awards, The Olympic Games and the NASCAR Grand Prix
all at the same time. They had one horse in the race and their pride and self
esteem was on the line in front of the whole world...namely, the other
technology companies across the globe who were, no doubt, hoping that Watson
would crash and burn beyond recognition. IBM achieved what no other computer
company has even come close to achieving.
Robert: 15a) What was your thoughts when Ken Jennings beat Watson on Day #3, but
didn't have enough to overtake Watson when he won the tournament?
Todd: Before Mr. Trebek revealed the Final Jeopardy category on day 3 of the
Tournament, you saw a quick shot of the players. If you looked closely enough,
you saw Ken grab a piece of paper that was on his podium. Ken knew the outcome
of the whole Tournament according to the scores he had written on that paper
from the previous game. He knew there was almost no chance of beating Watson
because of the cumulative score from both games, which is why he wrote what he
did under his correct response in Final Jeopardy for that game. Ken's a great
guy with a fantastic sense of humor. If you are on Twitter, I highly recommend
following him--he's got great things to say (under and over 140 characters).
Gordon: 15b) What's your thoughts on having a computer as the new
overlord and master?
Todd: I completely appreciate the Terminator references when people speak of
Watson. Watson has become a member of popular culture with Conan, Jon Stewart
and other comedians poking fun at what he's achieved. There is no greater honor
than being the butt of someone's jokes...especially when everyone understand the
Watson was designed to be a tool for our use just like the laptop on which I'm
writing the responses to your questions. He's got no hidden agenda. He's not
creating his own agenda. He's got no feelings or dreams of his own, so I'm not
too worried about him taking over and becoming our master. After all, we created
the material that uses for his references. Humans did that. He didn't.
I'll leave the unscientific doom theories to those whose lives revolve around
such things. Like I mentioned before, you have to know what you're good at to
succeed in any business. Unscientific doom theorists are experts at what they
do, no matter how ridiculous the rest of us may find them.
Gordon: And now the 5 questions we ask everybody. 16) Favorite game show, past
Todd: Jeopardy, of course.
Gordon: 17) Favorite game show host, past or present?
Todd: Alex Trebek.
Gordon: 18) Let's say you want to try out for a game show, but as a contestant.
Which one do you go for?
Todd: I'm a fan of Chain Reaction, hosted by Dylan Lane on GSN. I like
word/puzzle games, myself. I was actually on a flight to Florida a couple of
weeks ago to host a Watson game at an event for computer programmers called
Lotusphere and Dylan was across the aisle from me on the plane. I didn't talk to
him, but found it a strange coincidence that two game show hosts were on the
Gordon: 19) If you could remake one show from the past, which one would it be
Todd: Clearly, my love of Match Game would be the one that I would choose. I
would love to host that game with the comedians and writers that do the Comedy
Central roasts. That would be an amazing opportunity. I know that there was an
attempt to bring that show back on the air, but, honestly, it was a horrible,
horrible, half-hearted attempt. We are in a satirical comedy period right now
(thus, the success of The Onion) and I think the show would be highly
successful...as long as the comedians were as good as the ones on the roasts. It
wouldn't work with comedians that didn't have that comic bite, I don't think.
And, of course, this show would NEVER work on network TV...it would have to run
on cable somewhere. The type of adult language I would like to encourage our
"panelists" to use wouldn't be received well on network TV.
Gordon: 20) Finally, it's Todd time. Anything you want to say or add that we may
Todd: I would like to remind everyone to watch The Onion News Network on IFC
(The Independent Film Channel), 10 p.m. EST every Friday night. It's a great
show with great comic writing and, it will be something that I'll (hopefully) be
a part of for a long time. If you are on Facebook, Tucker Hope—the character I
play—has a fan page, "LIKE" the page and follow Tucker and I on Twitter (@TuckerHopeONN
and @ToddAlanCrain). Let me know what you think of The Onion and of the Watson
experience! I look forward to hearing from you. And, of course, my website is
Gordon: Todd, this has been a great interview. Thank you very much for your
Todd: Thanks for asking me something about my experience with Watson. I knew
from the beginning that this whole project wasn't really about me, so when
someone shows some interest in my part of the Jeopardy! journey, I'm more than
happy to talk about it.
Gordon: Thanks again Todd. When we come back, Chico does something Watson can't
possibly do. What is it? Find out after the break...
Chico: You'd LOVE to know that, wouldn't you?
Gordon: I do. Hopefully something not involving cherry stems and a garter.
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