May 25, 2009

Racinian for $200, Alex

What school did today's Jeopardy contestant graduate from?

Ah, yes, it's a trick question: he graduated from more than one school! Harvard would be a correct answer. So would Case High School. Also Jefferson Elementary.

Charles Swanson of Racine is one of the Jeopardy contestants you'll see on today's episode, broadcast at 3:30 p.m. on WLS, Chicago, Time-Warner channel 7, and 6 p.m. on WDJT, Milwaukee, Time-Warner channel 8.

Swanson graduated from Harvard with a degree in government, and from Case High School in 2004 with an International Baccalaureate diploma. His parents are Charles and Anne Swanson; dad's an attorney and mom is principal at Giese Elementary.

As we all know, Jeopardy contestants are sworn to secrecy, so neither Anne nor Charles would tell me how well he did. "He's fooled everyone," said his mom. Still, I didn't get the impression from either of them that he's now independently wealthy, or ready to move from home ... like the guy who won $2.5 million a few years ago. ("Who is Ken Jennings?")

Since graduating from Harvard in January, Swanson has been substitute teaching in Racine Schools. Right now, he's mostly at Jefferson, where he went to school. Which is fine, he said; "I know the teachers."

Swanson, who just turned 23, said his appearance on the show took place exactly three months ago. "It was a really great time. I was out there in L.A. for three days; two days of taping. The first day was spent practicing, getting ready to be on the show. I had to sit through five tapings before doing my own show. The people there were incredible."

The biggest surprise, he said, was that "we weren't allowed to talk to Alex at all; not permitted to chat with him. It's all part of their rules to prevent favoritism." ("What is Jeopardy host Alex Trebek's first name?")

"I really enjoyed the taping; they made it so casual and fun, that after it's over you don't realize you were on TV," he said.

Jeopardy contestants have to pay their own airfare to Los Angeles and their own hotel bills -- although the hotel is subsidized by the show, Swanson says. His mother explained to me that only the winner gets the money the players accumulate during the game; the second-place contestant receives $2,000 and the third-place gets $1,000.

Given all that, how did he do? "I definitely broke even," was all Charles would reveal. Guess we'll have to watch.


  1. Go Racine! my daughter went to Jefferson, its a great school!

  2. Finally - some good news about a young man from Racine! Not some idiot basketball player, rapper, or other thug. Someone with a brain and who amounted to something!

  3. Good on him!

  4. This is great. My daughter went to Jefferson, Park, Harvard and was on Jeopardy a number of years ago. Good to have some good news for Racine.

  5. Yet he couldn't ring in on "What is Lake Winnebago"!