UW–Madison film student to compete on ‘Jeopardy!’

Lance St. Laurent will be making his game show debut on Feb. 12.
St. Laurent on Jeopardy!
Photo courtesy of Lance St. Laurent

Lance St. Laurent’s year in a pandemic has looked a lot like his peers’ experiences. Online classes swept across the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, forcing St. Laurent to move his studies to the confines of his home. He watched movie after movie — he is a film Ph.D. student, after all — and stayed inside just like the rest of us.

But St. Laurent also got to fulfill the dream of almost every trivia nerd. After a months-long process of testing and interviews, he was invited to compete on the NBC game show, “Jeopardy!

“I immediately freaked out a little bit,” he says. “I had been trying to get on for a while. I’d been through a few steps of the process, things were starting to look positive, but you don’t know until you get that final call.”

St. Laurent promptly called his girlfriend and mom, “Y’know, to share in the freakout in the only way that we can now.” He then got to studying the crowdsourced goldmine of past questions on the game show before heading to Culver City, California.

The film categories? Naturally, a piece of cake. And while St. Laurent is startlingly good at trivia, there were still a few categories he hoped wouldn’t pop up during his run, including geography, art history and opera.

“But honestly, what I was most worried about was just saying something stupid on TV,” he jokes.

St. Laurent got the call shortly after longtime host Alex Trebek died, but Ken Jennings — who happens to be the all-time highest-earning American game show contestant — took over as interim host for his episode.

As if the transition of hosts wasn’t challenging enough, the Jeopardy! team also had to adapt to COVID-19 era precautions. Since the show is filmed in one week sections — with all contestants quite literally picked out of a hat to see which day they compete — strict guidelines were absolutely necessary.

“Mask was on, 100% of the time, until the moment I went up to the podium to play my game,” he says. “But more interestingly, where they had us stay instead of the Green Room, was the Wheel of Fortune stage that was next door.”

Since no audience members were in attendance due to the pandemic, non-competing contestants got to stand-in for the claps and support. St. Laurent was slated to compete at the end of the week on Friday, allowing his nerves to boil all day as he watched the other contestants take to the podium.

Insecurities and all, St. Laurent said he would definitely do so again if he had the chance.

“The moment the game started, you could’ve told me there were no cameras at all,” he said. “At that point, it was just like, ‘I am here to win some money.’”

While St. Laurent can’t disclose what happened on set that day, we can all watch for ourselves when his episode premieres on Feb. 12.

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