Penn student a contestant on 'Jeopardy! College Championship'

Greg Johnson

Answer: “This University of Pennsylvania freshman from Davie, Fla., appeared as a contestant during the Quarter Finals of the ‘Jeopardy! College Championship’ on Wednesday, Feb. 3.”

If you asked, “Who is Robert Berg?” you are correct!

A fan of the show and loyal viewer, Berg says he began the audition process before arriving at Penn. After completing an online test consisting of 50 random questions, he fared well enough to score a callback audition, which was held in Philadelphia in October.

There, he took another 50-question test, underwent a second interview and also played a mock “Jeopardy!” game so producers could determine how he would look on television. In early December, Berg received a call from the contestant producer informing him that he had made it onto the iconic quiz show.

The episode featuring Berg was taped on Jan. 5 and 6 in Los Angeles. “It was a blast,” he says. “It was such a wonderful experience. It was kind of surreal. I watch the show a lot at home and so just being on the set and getting to ring in with the buzzers and meeting Alex Trebek, it was so cool.” After taping, he and the other contestants toured Universal and Sony studios. Click here to view a video of Berg discussing “Jeopardy!”

Berg says one of the surprising aspects of the game show is how fast everything moves. “In 'Jeopardy!' everything’s very quick,” he says. “It’s not just knowing the answers, but knowing them quickly and being able to ring the buzzer.”

In fact, one of the hardest parts of the game was ringing the buzzer. Berg says there is a man on the show who is responsible for activating the buzzers after Trebek finishes reading a question. If a contestant buzzes in too early, he or she is locked out for about a quarter of a second, priceless time in “Jeopardy!” land. Buzz too late, and another contestant might answer first. “It’s a bit of luck, and timing it right,” Berg explains.

Berg says he plans to take a “competitive hiatus” from game shows for the time being, but as for the future, “you never know.” In addition to “Jeopardy!” he’s also a big fan of the CBS reality show “Survivor.”

“I don’t feel like I would last very long living out on an island, but that would be a cool game show to be on,” he says.

So, does Berg win? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

Originally published on February 3, 2010