I fought ‘The Chase’ and ‘The Chase’ won

Last May, I went to Los Angeles to record an episode of the ABC game show The Chase. Now I can finally tell the story, since the network aired my episode last night and I approved the terms of my nondisclosure agreement. I went one-on-one with James Holzhauer, the greatest TV quiz mastermind in history, in the second round of the show, taking him to the rack and cashing in $ 250,000 for my team. On the last lap, only a performance by Tom Brady at the end by Holzhauer prevented me and my teammate, Nellie Kuh of Dallas, from sharing a whopping $ 310,000 prize. But in the end we were missing a few questions and six seconds less. I played really well. But in the end, I fought The Chase, and The Chase won.

photo and television courtesy of Jason Franz

Everyone in my small but living world of semi-professional scammers knows what The Chase is, and the series certainly has a lot of fans, but doesn’t exist as an enduring part of the public brain like its predecessor, Jeopardy. ! The Chase is from the UK, where it airs almost every day. The United States has aired a few iterations, including a popular one on the Game Show Network. The current version features four “hunters”: Holzhauer, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, Jeopardy’s “Greatest of All Time” contestants, and Mark Labett, “The Beast,” which appears in the UK edition and was the “Chaser” in the Game Show Network Version.

The show has three rounds: In the first, a contestant has to answer a few questions. This builds his bank, then the pursuer makes that competitor an offer to raise or lower the bank, and the competitor has to play head-to-head against the pursuer, answering a few multiple-choice questions. Then, if they survive, they go to “Final Chase”, a timed barrage of questions and… look, the rules are a little complicated. And unless you’re on the show, they don’t really matter. Just know that in the world of trivia games, The Chase is considered the third step in a televised triple crown. Peril! is the king, of course, and the current Who Wants To Be A Millionaire show offers a lot of prestige. The Chase offers the real bragging rights to the true quiz enthusiast, because it gives us a chance to face the best.

Training setup

So how did I get on the show? Well I was on Jeopardy! in 2013, and I remained active on the scene. I belong to several online trivia groups. Rumors began to circulate, at the start of the pandemic, that The Chase would return and hold Zoom hearings. I took a quick online quiz, passed it, and ended up in a Zoom room with the usual assortment of hopefuls, many of whom I recognized from the trivia circuit. While I certainly know a lot of anecdotes, my real advantage when it comes to being on TV is unlimited self-confidence, a wacky personality, and lots of great personal stories. Show me in the room with a producer, and they’ll choose me.

Unfortunately, due to COVID, I got there a little too late and the producers decided to only recruit people from California for most of season 1. But rumors abounded for season two, and I didn’t have not much else to do. So I drilled hard.

For months, I questioned myself relentlessly. I did endless online testing, delving into obscure corners of European and African history, memorizing TV show cast lists, reading science fact books, studying recipes and blogging about world cuisine. , watching as many movies as possible and playing live quizzes, with some of the best players in the world, several times a week. I went deep into the trivia dojo.

Basically, I refused to let the pandemic melt my brain. I was going to be ready, mentally and physically. I intensified my yoga practice and began to meditate for half an hour a day. My COVID legacy was going to be a full knowledge of the world; I had to learn everything.

Then came the vaccines, TV hope and another cast. And since I had gone through the process before, I knew what to expect. I went through the first few laps, then stood ready for further instructions. They informed me that the show chose me, maybe. I met on a Zoom wardrobe advisers; I made endless series of personal introductions to random people on random calls.

And getting on The Chase was a huge deal. Peril! is the biggest honor trivia, but the show travels nearly 200 attendees per year. The Chase throws just over a tenth of that number. There is some overlap, but not complete overlap. This is a network show and a “team” game, so producers are looking for more than someone who can answer the quiz questions and who is not totally vile. There is some kind of secret sauce. For at least one episode, I was a key ingredient.

The long and winding pursuit

Me and Sara Haines, host of ‘The Chase’, in simpler times.

Even then, it was not easy. I continued to crush the anecdotes, trying to fill in the gaps where they appeared. When it comes to Complete World Knowledge, where Charli D’Amelio is the news of last year, the gaps still appear. In this world, Logan Paul and Boyle’s Law all exist on the same plane. Answer a question, about anything, and earn money. You can never stop studying if you want to earn at the highest level. I kept playing in tough online quiz leagues, realizing that I knew nothing on the geography of Oceania.

They gave me a recording date. Then they canceled my check-in date at the last second. I gave myself what looked like an endless series of nasal swabs to make sure I didn’t have the plague. Finally, I got another recording date. They sent me a plane ticket. I went to Los Angeles. I did more nose swabs. Then I quarantined myself at the Universal City Hilton for 48 hours, doing yoga in my underwear like Martin Sheen at the start of Apocalypse Now, intermittently ordering takeout on Postmates.

Check-in day arrived and I sat alone in a lodge for two hours. They made me up and ironed the awesome cowboy shirt I wore on set that the “Chasers” all laughed at even though they were all dressed like they were going to their own Bar Mitzvah. friend. They put a face shield on me, took me to the set, and then just before the recording started, they took me off the set. Apparently I was about to face Ken Jennings, but they must have shot me because I interviewed him once at a book festival.

Instead, the show sent me back to my dressing room for three more hours, gave me lunch, and then took me once again to the set, where I fought as hard as I could, before finally losing to the world’s best trivia player. But I’ll tell you, I took Holzhauer to the wall. I, a man in his fifties who recently released in public as a recovering marijuana addict, faced him at the highest stakes possible and almost won. And I would never have succeeded to this point if I had not approached my goal with unique focus. I was determined not to let the pandemic, life, or fear take hold of me. So to that end, I won, or at least that’s what I’m trying to tell myself.

Even people who lose on Jeopardy! describe their participation in the show as the absolute highlight of their life. Peril! the competitors form a big and warm extended family, and it is a club with several thousand members. The Chase is a smaller club that offers less hot fuzzies. Even though everyone involved in the production of The Chase was extremely kind and professional, the vibe is not that of the folkloric charm of the quiz bowl. Chasers are mean to you, by design. Losers are in fact losers, thrown away as quickly as recycling.

In the end, I overcame huge obstacles to barely not succeed, but also sort of succeed. It feels like an epitaph for my whole life and career. Dude, I really could have used that $ 155,000. Who couldn’t? Hope to have another chance. In 18 months, my limitation period for appearances in TV games will expire.

Hope Card Sharks is ready to throw a middle aged man wearing a cowboy shirt.

About Herbert L. Leonard

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