‘Danger!’ master Amy Schneider on making history, host

Prior to the filming of a recent episode of “Jeopardy!”, Current host and all-time best player Ken Jennings had some advice for contestants facing reigning champion Amy Schneider.

“People were potentially a little scared when they heard how good I was,” Schneider tells The Times, “and saw one of the things [Jennings] would say is … ‘When I played, people would be really nervous. They would not want to hang around me. But the person who eventually hit me was the one who was super kind and wanted to hang out with me. ”

“And immediately, with perfect deadpan timing, [contestant Clark Dawson] turns to me and says, “Amy, I want to hang out with you.”

It’s easy to understand why “Jeopardy!” hopefuls want to increase their chances of ousting Schneider. On Friday, the 42-year-old software engineering manager from Oakland won his 33rd game in a row, taking over James Holzhauer’s 32-day total to secure the third-longest winning streak in “Jeopardy!” history.

That puts her just five wins back for second-place Matt Amodio. (No one has come close to touching Jennings’ colossal 74-day race.) Schneider is also the first woman to raise more than $ 1 million on the program, making her the most successful female participant and the most successful transgender participant ever.

A man in a suit talks to a woman standing behind a podium on the set of "Danger!"

Guest host Ken Jennings shares a laugh with Master Amy Schneider about “Jeopardy!”

(Casey Durkin / Sony Pictures Television)

On television last week, Schneider credited her mother – a former maths teacher who “spent much of her academic career as the only or one of the only women in whatever environment she was in” – for instilling in her the value of education and “prove your possessions.”

“‘Danger!” has been a boys’ club … and much of it is about all the messages you get from society that this is not what women do. That women do not know things, ”says Schneider.

“I also got those messages. But I had my mother right there all the time as a living fashion example for all of them. … I’ve always had it that counteracts the messages that could have deterred me not just from learning, but to show that learning. “

Schneider has certainly shown his learning, as well as his lightning-fast buzzer reflexes, often on his way into Final Jeopardy! round with a runaway lead. As of Friday, her accuracy when responding to tracks is 95%.

So how did she get so smart?

The simple answer that Schneider has outlined in an essay that considers the frequently asked question is about wanting to know things. A lot of things. And having a razor-sharp memory, as Schneider admits, is “the luck of the genetic trait to some degree.”

A woman in a pink blazer standing behind a podium

Amy Schneider gives the correct answer during Final Jeopardy! round of “Jeopardy!”

(Casey Durkin / Sony Pictures Television)

The sticky brain and the unquenchable thirst for knowledge even gave her the foresighted title of “Most likely to show up on ‘Jeopardy!’ in eighth grade.

“Once we’ve learned something, once I’ve read it once, once it’s come up once in a lecture or whatever, I just wanted to remember it without really working so hard to do it,” he says. Tailor.

“Things that were challenging for my fellow students seemed easy to me. … They were not always as easy as it seemed, but nonetheless, it was a real advantage. And people were like, ‘Well, she just seems to know everything.

Although she does not quite know it all (even though she occasionally misses Final Jeopardy! Clue), Schneider is generous with what she knows – not just on “Jeopardy!” but on Twitter. There, she summarizes each game in detailed threads and provides insight into her invincible strategy and demystifying aspects of “Jeopardy!” production process for about 79,000 followers and counts.

Have ever wondered what happens behind the scenes when the judges change their decision on an answer? Or how much time the participants really get to calculate their bets for Final Jeopardy? Or how the champion of the day came on the title of the obscure Shakespeare play? Schneider has you covered.

“I made it my first game, and then … I just realized this is something I’d always wanted to see,” Schneider says.

“I find ‘Jeopardy!’ so fascinating, and it’s the kind of content I want to read. There are only a few people able to produce it, and I’m one of them. So I want to go ahead and put it out there. “

Two people on the right clap for a woman on the left, all standing behind podiums

Amy Schneider, left, George Adesanya and Gregg Morrow on “Jeopardy!”

(Casey Durkin / Sony Pictures Television)

To keep in mind each game before it airs, Schneider visits an online archive of “Jeopardy!” track. In the hours leading up to the episode, she notes anecdotes about her competitors and crucial moments before settling down with her boyfriend, Genevieve, to watch the show and polish her summary with any last-minute thoughts.

By sharing his own experience in vivid detail, Schneider hopes to make “Jeopardy!” seems “achievable for other people”. And in doing so, she has gained a number of loyal fans who praise her and read her comments after the game religiously on social media.

Some of the most significant messages she has received are from people whose relatives have come to understand and respect transgender people and their pronouns by watching and rooting for Schneider on television every day.

“Even though I generally had a good experience with the transition, my family and the whole thing, there were still some … difficulties around learning my pronouns and respecting them. And I know how much it meant to me to finally get past it and hear my mother call me her daughter and stuff like that, ”says Schneider.

“Knowing that I have been able to provide that experience to people in the trans community is just the best I can hope for.”

A woman in a gray shirt standing behind a podium

Amy Schneider gives the correct answer during Final Jeopardy! round of “Jeopardy!”

(Casey Durkin / Sony Pictures Television)

For Schneider, it is important to show people that “being trans is not a limitation” and should not prevent anyone from “pursuing something.” In addition to inspiring others, Schneider’s “Jeopardy!” the journey has had a confirming effect on how she views herself.

“It’s actually been great, the opportunity to get used to seeing myself on screen and seeing people react so positively to it,” Schneider says.

“I can now look at myself and see someone that people like and agree with and understand why … I was honestly not sure I would ever have that feeling.”

“Like” is a bit of an understatement. Not only has Schneider emerged as an honored figure on TV and Twitter, she is also loved by her Bay Area community. While attending a basketball game last week at the San Francisco Chase Center, home of the Golden State Warriors, Schneider received an exuberant ovation from the crowd – cementing her status as a hometown hero.

The feeling is mutual for Schneider, an avid Warriors fan who moved from Ohio to Oakland in 2009 and never wants to leave. Schneider is a true transplant from the Midwest, and he’s excited about the “beautiful” Northern California climate, which gets gloomier than the average sunny California place without being also season.

Four people are talking on the set "Danger!"

Guest host Ken Jennings, left, chats with contestants Amy Schneider, Mike Parks and Chantal Nguyen about “Jeopardy!”

(Casey Durkin / Sony Pictures Television)

“People said to me when I moved out here, ‘You’re going to miss the seasons,’ and it turns out, no. I like it where it’s just cozy all the time,” Schneider says.

“I live near Lake Merritt. … and it’s just such a nice little urban move. Walking and hanging out by the lake with people is something I never get tired of.”

As much as she enjoys living there, Oakland has also been the place for some painful experiences for Schneider. On the second day of the new year, Schneider was robbed of weapons on Lenox Avenue – a “not fun” ordeal she wished had not happened. But in the end, she says, “It’s not something I can not replace.”

Schneider was also at home in Oakland when she heard the news that longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek had died of pancreatic cancer, and her dream of sharing the stage with the Canadian-American TV legend came to an end. Originally, Schneider was to film “Jeopardy!” before Trebek died, but COVID-19 got in the way, and her footage was eventually pushed to 2021.

“He has been, as for so many people, a part of my life since childhood,” Schneider says. “I knew there were a very limited number of times left where I would have the chance to be on the show with him.”

“It was really hard to know that I had come so close to meeting someone who in a way was my hero and who just fell short. But I think things happen for a reason. In hindsight. , although I’m certainly sorry I did not get the chance to meet Alex, I’m also glad that … it happened now instead of when it should, because I had not yet started dating my boyfriend, Genevieve , and in general I did not have the support system I have. “

More than a year after Trebek’s death, a permanent “Jeopardy!” host, and Jennings is one of several former champions who have embarked on the program in the meantime. Could Schneider be the next step behind the famous student lectern?

Although she fully supports Jennings as a “fantastic” host for the show, Schneider says she would be open to any potential offer from Sony.

“It would definitely be a cool experience,” she says. “It’s a lot harder than it looks. Whether I would actually be good at it at all, I do not know … But yes, I would certainly consider it if someone asked.”

So far, she continues to win tracks as the most decorated female and trans participant the show has ever seen, and she proudly takes her rightful place among Jennings and other trivia powerhouses in “Jeopardy!” Hall of Fame.

“Especially around the former trans-participants who have been on – it meant a lot to me to see them and be able to imagine where they were,” says Schneider.

“I hope it makes it seem possible. … A place that women belong to is on the champion’s podium.”

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