August 13, 2007
Ed: I'm your vehicle
baby, I'll take you anywhere you want to go...
Rob: Sound advice.
Gordon: As we always do with our special guests, we will start 20
questions, then if he isn't sick of us by then, we've got another game on tap.
Ed: What if I'm already sick?
Chico: ... Well, can't help you if you're already sick.
Gordon: If you're already sick, then you'd be right at home here :)
Question #1 - To you, Mr. Alexander
Chico: Thank you, Mr. Pepper. Question 1 to Ed... #1. First off, How'd
you hear about Grand Slam?
Ed: I heard reports and rumors about it for several years. I knew Michael
Davies secured the rights to do it in the US, and I hoped that I'd be considered
if it ever happened. Then it became a reality earlier this spring, when I heard
about a few friends who had been invited on the show. I think the first reports
I heard about Grand Slam were in early April, and since I didn't get a call, I
figured they didn't want me. I finally got a call from the show on April 30th,
inviting me to be on. So I quickly accepted.
Chico: And then the trivia two-a-days began, so to speak.
Ed: Yes, at that point it was mainly a matter of trying to learn what the
show was all about, and how to prepare. There wasn't much to go on, except a
clip on YouTube from the final of the 2003 UK version.
Gordon: #2. How many of the people did you know and which ones?
Ed: Of the 15 other contestants, I had previously met Nancy Christy,
Leszek Pawlowicz, Dave Legler, Phyllis Harris, and Kevin Olmstead. I was looking
forward to seeing them again, and meeting the others. I had also met Thom McKee
at last year's Game Show Congress. So that's six I'd met before and nine new
friends and potential opponents.
Jason: #3. Was the atmosphere friendly or was there a feel of legit
competition? You had friends there, but this was for $100,000?
Ed: There was a mutual respect and admiration among the contestants. Win
or lose, we socialized together each evening. But when it came time to play the
game, I'm sure no one pulled any punches. There was a genuine sense of warmth
and goodwill among most of the contestants. All but one of the 15 had already
won more than $100K, and we knew that the odds were against us winning it all,
so I think it was more important for us to have a great experience. We felt that
we were part of something special, and we all tried hard, but just being there
was an honor.
Don: #4. When exactly did you find out who was facing whom in the 1st
round, and how did you react?
Ed: There was a contestant meeting on Tuesday June 5th, the night before
the first taping. Michael Davies, Jen Kelly, and various lawyers and network
people were there to brief us on the rules and what to expect. The meeting went
on for several hours, and they kept us waiting until the end before they
announced the pairings. How would anyone react if they thought they would have a
lesser opponent in the first round, then learned that they were paired against
Chico: I'd've hightailed it to the bathroom before I soiled myself.
Don: Good point.
Ed: Each pair shook hands with each other as the pairings were announced.
I think Leszek and I both shook our heads and smiled at our fate. We had
an epic battle against each other in the 2004 Smarty Pants competition at GSC,
so there was a lot of mutual respect.
Joe: #5--I think all 16 of the Grand Slammers are worthy of being there,
but say there was room for a 17th player, and it was up to you to choose it. Who
would it be and why?
Ed: Interesting question. I haven't thought about it, but I'm sure there
are hundreds of people who think they were worthy of consideration. I have no
doubt that there are 16 people in America who are smarter than the ones who were
chosen. However, the whole premise of Grand Slam is that it's an all-star
tournament of game show players. I guess you could open it up to all comers,
like the World Series Of Poker, and allow anyone to compete who puts up a
substantial entry fee. That would be fine with me. I'm sure I'd pay to play each
year. But to answer your question, one guy who impressed me a lot in the early
days of WWTBAM was Michael Shutterly. He really seemed brilliant on his show,
and I would have liked to meet him.
Rob: #6: I noticed from Grand Slam that you said that you were on one of
my favorite shows, The Challengers. How well did you do and what can you tell us
about the environment of the show and how different it was from Grand Slam.
Ed: I've spent the past 16 years trying to forget! It was not my finest
hour. I haven't seen my tape of the show in about 15 years, and it's a little
hazy in my mind. I went home with nothing but the consolation prizes. This was
in January 1991, and 99% of America never saw my episode, because it aired on
the same day the US started bombing Baghdad in Gulf War #1. There was nonstop
coverage of the war that day, but somehow my local affiliate in Austin took a
break long enough to air my episode of "The Challengers." As I recall the
format, there were three players, and it was kind of like Jeopardy, where if you
had zero money, you didn't get to play the final round. That's what happened to
me. I thought I would do well on the game, because it was mainly about current
events, and that's one of my strongest areas. But not on that day. At least I
got to meet Dick Clark. Many years later, at the Game Show Congress, I got to
meet the creator of "The Challengers," Ronnie Greenberg. He's a real nice guy.
Chico: That he is. Okay, 7) Something I like to do is collect quotes and
one of my faves is "The system only works if you challenge it.." ... You know
where I'm going with this...
Gordon: I do.
Chico: Back on Millionaire, you "flubbed" the $16,000... How'd you find
out that it was an invalid question?
Ed: I initially thought it was just an unusually tough question for that
level. In my mind, it was much harder than most of the million dollar
Chico: Understandable, $16,000 are hard, but not too hard.
Ed: I thought it was just my bad luck to have such an obscure question in
my stack, but I assumed it was valid. When I got home to Austin the next day, I
started looking for more information on the subject. I did not assume the
question was wrong at the time, just very difficult. No matter what question I
got, if I missed it, I was going to educate myself on the subject and learn
something I'd never forget. Once I started digging into the subject of glowing
potatoes, I kept finding more and more problems with the question. It was never
a big news story in the United States. I had to find it in European media. There
were problems like the research being done at the University of Edinburgh, when
the question stated "scientists in England." There were other issues about how
the potatoes don't actually glow. Only the leaves of the plant glow, but only
when you wear special goggles and subject them to a UV lamp. A friend at work
told me that was all very interesting, but he didn't think I had a case just by
proving that the question was flawed. He said what I really needed to do was
prove that my answer was right. I thought that would be almost impossible, but
that's what I set out to do. So I had to find proof of glowing tomatoes in
England. It took me several weeks, but I finally found the smoking gun.
Gordon: #8. What did you have to do after finding the smoking gun? In
order to get back on the show, I mean. What were the next steps?
Ed: For several weeks in early 2001, I was probably Google's best
customer, and I never could have found the information I needed without it. But
I eventually found a researcher at the University of Oxford, who sent me some of
his published research on glowing tomatoes, so that pretty much sealed the deal.
Once I had the facts in hand, it was just a matter of writing a letter to the
producers, telling them what I had found. Up to that point, there had been no
discussion of the matter. People sometimes ask me if I hired a lawyer. I'm
astonished that they would even suggest such a thing. The producers have their
own integrity to maintain, and the best way to handle any problem is to lay the
facts on the table and give them a chance to do what's right, not to threaten
them with legal action. I sent my letter to the show around March 10, 2001. I
never heard anything until around the end of April, when they called and invited
me back. There was never any back and forth discussion. My facts spoke for
themselves. I think it says a lot about Michael Davies' integrity that he
admitted the error and brought me back on the show. (And I'm not just saying
that in case he reads this!)
Gordon: Great story.
Joe: My thoughts exactly, Gordon.
Jason: #9. Whats your thoughts on the state of the industry....do you
like the fact that people are going for the more luck based shows vs. skill
Ed: Of course I don't like that trend. I guess it must appeal to people
with no skills. I don't put myself in that category, and I don't find it
entertaining to watch people who do. I've been watching a lot of game shows
lately and I hate a lot of them, but I've been pleasantly surprised by some,
including the original word games on GSN, which I only recently began receiving
on my cable system. I think Grand Slam is a good antidote for some of the
no-talent, no-brains shows on TV.
Don: Speaking of Grand Slam... I'm guessing you were quite prepared for
the General Knowledge questions. #10. What about the Numbers & Logic and the
Words & Letters questions? How prepared were you for those?
Ed: I tried to prepare, but it was hard to know what would help and what
kind of questions to expect. All we had to go on was the UK clip on YouTube, and
about 20 sample questions that the show sent us. For example, they said they
could ask us about the Greek alphabet, so I tried to learn that. The sample
questions they gave us did not reflect the full scope of the types of questions
on the show. In hindsight, I think it was more important to learn about the
mechanics of the game, when to pass or switch, optimum clock management, and
recognizing which questions were gettable in a short time and which ones should
be quickly passed instead of burning precious seconds to get the answer. For
example, on the anagram questions, usually if you didn't immediately see the
answer, they were just too time consuming to figure out.
Joe: #11. I've been hearing from people who attended the tapings of Grand
Slam that the non-game portions were extremely dull. What exactly was going on
Ed: I'm sure that's true for most people in the audience. There were long
periods of nothing happening, punctuated by an occasional two minutes of intense
competition. I think a lot of that down time was when they were shooting the
commentary between Dennis Miller and Amanda Byram. None of that was audible to
the people in the studio. There were also some segments shot backstage with the
contestants, where they were interviewed at halftime and after the match. The
audience couldn't hear that either. I'm sure some of the time was needed to work
out technical issues. There are a lot of technical effects, and there are sure
to be glitches with the initial production of any new show. If you want to hear
some real horror stories, talk to the people who were at the initial taping of
"1 vs. 100."
Joe: I hear Deal or No Deal has some, too
Don: Oh, I remember hearing about that...
Rob: #12: When you got invited back to Millionaire after the flawed
question, did the staff treat you any differently or was it the same way when
you originally appeared on the show?
Ed: I wondered about that myself, before I got there. It wouldn't have
surprised me if I were treated with a little hostility for causing them to look
bad and admit an error. I don't know if anyone actually felt that way, but I
never sensed it while I was there. Everyone was friendly and treated me very
well. I'm sure they didn't expect me to go all the way and make the confetti
fall. I was just one of several people who had been invited back because of a
bad question, so my case wasn't unique. In the years since then, I've wondered
if I was considered the black sheep among the WWTBAM winners. Especially when I
was never asked to be a "Wise Man" for "Super Millionaire," when other top
winners were asked not just once, but twice. At the contestants' meeting for
Grand Slam, Michael Davies assured me that he doesn't hate me for what happened!
Rob: It's nice to know that he's forgiving.
Chico: ... Heh. Make it do what it do.
Chico: Okay, Ed.. 13) Any advice for any future quizzers/gamers/reality
hoes out there?
Ed: I get asked for advice pretty often, and I'm always glad to share
whatever knowledge I have. I'm sure you guys know most of what I know, if not
more. Some of my sage counsel includes knowing the show you're trying out for.
It's amazing how many people think they can win on a show that they hardly ever
even watch. People have asked me for advice about WWTBAM, but they don't even
know the basics, like that there's now a "Switch The Question" lifeline, or that
the tenth question is worth $25K, not $32K. It's fair to say that in the
spectrum of current game shows, there's probably one for everybody, so aim for
the one you're best suited for. If you have no brains but like to scream and
jump around, maybe you should try for "Deal or No Deal." For serious players of
quiz shows, which are what I like best, you can get into a much deeper level of
analysis and strategy.
Chico: Cool... #14, Gordon?
Gordon: This is a 2 parter. Part #1 - I know that you, like myself, are
ardent followers of the Game Show Congress. Do you prefer the more-gameplay
style of GSC NY, or the more-tribute and celebratory style of GSC West?
Ed: As you know, I haven't gotten deeply involved in the game play
tournaments at GSC. I agree that there's amost a dichotomy between the two
facets of the organization. I don't want to offend anyone here, because you guys
do a great job in organizing the competition, but you can't be in two places at
once, so I've gravitated toward the industry history and celebrations with the
legends, when forced to choose. As an organizer and one of Paul Bailey's good
friends, I try to stay available to help him out whenever he needs something
done, which sometimes keeps me away from the games. However, I really enjoy
playing in the Smarty Pants tournament, since it's a stand alone event. It was a
thrill to play against game show legends, especially since I found out I was
good at it.
Gordon: I always appreciate the praise, Ed. :-) I also think that Paul
has done a masterful job of hosting the GSC's (both in CA and NY), and it's
great to see you competing in the NYC editions. Second part - part of the
gameplay at the GSC includes something called the Smarty Pants Tournament, which
is something that I thought would give you an edge in Grand Slam. Can you
explain a little bit about it and how you became a three time champion?
Ed: Smarty Pants is a simple, fast paced quiz format, created by Paul
Paquet of Ottawa, Canada. He first hosted it at the 2004 Game Show Congress. It
uses a conventional quiz bowl type of buzzer system but instead of playing four
to a team, it's each person for himself. The host reads short general knowledge
questions, and as soon as anyone thinks they know the answer, they can buzz in.
A wrong answer has no penalty, but the question becomes available to the other
contestants. This goes on for a set period of time, 30 minutes or more, with a
running score for each of the eight contestants. It has similarities and
differences to other shows. I was amazed to see myself beating Jeopardy legends
like Jerome Vered, Leszek Pawlowicz, Steve Chernicoff, Bob Harris, and others
but the buzzer skills for Smarty Pants are different from Jeopardy. On Jeopardy,
all three contestants usually know the answer, but they have to wait until the
question is read and then time their buzzer with the lockout light. On Smarty
Pants, you can interrupt the question, so the first person who anticipates what
the question is asking will ring in first on the buzzer. It's a great game, and
I could see potential for something like that as a TV show.
Chico: Sale of the Century?
Gordon: I would agree
Jason: #15. Why do you think Ken Jennings gets such a bad rap? Did you
get to interact with him at the tapings? What do you think of him?
Gordon: I think Jay's referring to a number of message boards and
mainstream media that personify him as obnoxious, especially after he went after
the Game Show Congress, Jeopardy and Alex Trebek in his blog.
Ed: I wasn't aware that he gets a bad rap. I guess I don't read his mail.
I spent a fair amount of time around him at Grand Slam, and he seemed like an
unfailingly nice guy. Also very funny and talented in a surprising range of
fields. At that time, he was still trying to finish up the first draft of his
upcoming new book, so that kept him busy some nights. I am a faithful daily
reader of Ken's blog, and I often post on his message board. The whole episode
about Alex Trebek was a joke that was totally taken out of context by the New
York Post, which seemed intent on smearing Ken. I guess I'm not familiar with
any message boards that are out to get Ken. From my perspective, Ken's blog
mentions of the Game Show Congress have always seemed positive and welcome so
maybe I'm missing something.
Chico: Alright. Next round is easy. It's the questions we ask everyone.
And you don't even have to use a switch.
Ed: The switches didn't hurt me, but the pass sure did!
Chico: 16) Favorite game show, past or present.
Ed: Gotta go with Jeopardy, for its longevity and consistent high
standards. Other great shows have come and gone, but Jeopardy has been the cream
of the crop for over 40 years.
Chico: Alright. 17) Favorite game show host, past or present.
Ed: No way I can pick anyone but Regis, since he was so good to me. I
think he was the right guy at the right time for a groundbreaking new show. He
can get a little cranky, but I thought we had a good rapport. He'd be a fun guy
to hang out with. I still wear Regis brand shirts in his honor, and the purple
shirt I wore on Grand Slam was from the Regis collection.
Chico: Was that the same shirt we went to the Bike with?
Ed: An interesting second choice would be Art Fleming. I'd love to watch
some old Jeopardy episodes with Art Fleming, just to see if he was really as
good as I remember, when I first started loving game shows.
Chico: Alright. 18) When your year's or sitting out of game show's is
up... You want to try out for a new game show. Which one?
Gordon: I'll guarantee it wont be Deal or No Deal ;-)
Ed: Probably one that doesn't exist yet. I try to keep my ear to the
ground on web sites like yours, for early news about any new game shows in the
works. (Not that there are really any other web sites like this one!). At this
point, being known as a big winner on past shows probably hurts my chances of
getting on most other shows. Last year I auditioned for three shows - World
Series Of Pop Culture, The Rich List, and 1 vs. 100.
Chico: You never know. Okay 19) if you could bring back one show from the
past, which one would it be and why?
Ed: This is probably an unusual choice, but I'd like to see "The Rich
List" get another chance. I still don't understand why it failed, but they only
aired one episode and then pulled the plug. I thought it had a lot going for it,
including excellent play along at home elements. Maybe the execution of the show
needed a little work, but I thought it had a lot of potential. I am probably
biased, because I was optimistic about my chances of becoming a contestant,
based on the audition I was in. It was more like a low budget pilot, since we
got to play the game for a couple of hours and interacted with the producers a
lot. I also liked the prize structure, and the fact that you could keep coming
back until you lost. (Assuming there was a show to come back to.)
Chico: Okay, and finally, it's Ed time. If there's anything you want to
get off your chest that we didn't cover, now's your chance.
Ed: I'll probably think of something important after it's too late, but
I'd like to use this space to give a shout out to my family who helped make me
the game show demigod that I've become to a few people. I was one of eight
brothers and sisters, and playing games together was a big part of my
upbringing. As early as I can remember, we always played lots of Scrabble,
Monopoly, Checkers, Chess, Cribbage, and lots of other games together. I don't
think I've ever mentioned this in any other interviews, but my older sister
blazed the trail for me on TV game shows in the 1960s, when she was on the
original GE College Bowl. I don't know if a video tape exists in the world, but
it would mean a lot to me if I could ever get my hands on a copy of Ursuline
College vs. East Carolina University from the spring of 1966.... Just finding a
transcript of the show would be great. If anyone can do that, I'll owe you big
Chico: Did you try the trading post at Mike K's at classicgameshows.com?
May be a good place to start for that.
Ed: No, I'm not familiar with specific trading sites. I assume if it's in
any catalogs, Google would find it. There is a 1966 College Bowl clip on
YouTube, but I think it's for Princeton or one of those elite "academic schools"
as Milt Wagner once called them. How's that for an obscure reference?
Chico: As opposed to East Carolina, which has since... well, I have
friends who went to ECU, so I won't say anything. Ed, guess what... You just
survived 20 Questions!
Jason: Whoo hoo...
Gordon: Congratulations! Thanks again for doing the interview.
Ed: Many people have run 26.2 miles faster than I answered 20 questions!
Gordon: Maybe, but I enjoyed the interview, and more importantly, I think
your fans will enjoy it as well.
Jason: This was a lot of fun.
Ed: I'll hang around for a while. I rarely get this opportunity. I'm now
in the same company as Michelle L'amour, so that's pretty special!
Chico: A computing specialist... and a burlesque dancer.. There's a
Ed: I just went to her web site to check out her credentials. Very
Chico: I 'm sure they were.
Jason: They were...and are.
Gordon: Ed has survived 20 Questions. Can he select what to buy and what
to sell? We'll everyone else our favorite game of consumerism when we come back.
Chico: Meanwhile, Grand Slam continues on GSN weekends at 7p ET. This is
(Brought to you by Dethklok, the official fake band of Quiznation.)