South Pasadena resident Steve Gavenas will be a contestant on the iconic game show “Jeopardy!” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, on KABC television.
The 61-year-old business consultant and artist was selected for the popular program out of 70,000 competitors. Every year, he said, that’s how many people take the online test.
“Some 3,000 to 4,000 are called for an audition,” he explained. “Out of that, only 400 actually appear on the program.”
Gavenas took the 50-item online test in January 2016. “I had 15 seconds to answer each question,” he said. “I felt like I did pretty well.” He and his family are devoted fans, and people had told him he should apply.
In August, he was notified that he had been selected for an audition. He and 20 to 25 other contestants met with four “Jeopardy!” representatives at a hotel in Culver City.
“We took another 50-question test,” he said. “This time, we had only eight seconds to answer each question.” The potential contestants were interviewed and played mock games. Each also prepared brief personal anecdotes that could be used if they were selected.
On October 10, he was notified that he had been selected.
“I launched into major study mode,” he said. “I prepared giant stacks of stuff in the most likely categories. I played 500 games on the website J! Archive, a fan-created site that contains questions and answers from every game since Alex Trebek began hosting .”
His appearance was taped in January 2017 at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City.
On hearing the opening theme music, he said, “It felt to me like when I first saw the U.S. Capitol. I had seen pictures of it. But seeing it for the first time was quite an experience. It’s actually real.”
There is much that the public is unaware of, he said. “Contestants have to think about more than just answering the questions correctly,” he said. “You cannot ring in [with the signaling device] until Alex finishes asking the question. If you do, you are locked out.”
The TV audience does not see a panel of judges seated on the set, he said. “They are very serious,” he said.
“They will stop the taping if there is a question about an answer. They may redo the segment, he said. “Contestants appreciate them being so rigorous.”
Gavenas, his wife and two children moved to California in 2007 from Washington, D.C., in order for him to attend art school. There he was an executive with XM Satellite Radio. He had earned an MBA in finance from Cornell University.
Once in California, he began attending the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and obtained an MFA in studio art from the world-renowned school. He now spends two-thirds of his time consulting for media companies and one-third in his art studio in downtown LA.