I first met Arthur Chu, the “mad genius” cum “Jeopardy villain,” in an improv class with Washington Improv Theater back in 2011, several lifetimes ago in blogger years. Our roughly 12-person class met every Monday once a week for several months, and I remember thinking even then that he was much smarter than any of us, in that sort of geeky mastermind way that the world doesn’t always fully appreciate.
As it turns out, he is, and as it turns out, it does.
Chu angered the Internet trolls this week with his controversial Jeopardy strategy, which includes “ruining” the game by using an “evil” game-theory-inspired strategy to dominate his competition. So far he’s won $102,000 across four matches, appeared in a dozen-plus major media outlets, and has very little sympathy for the haters. Quoth Chu: “I have myself and my wife and our future family to think about, and I think it’s absolutely crazy that people would think it’s reasonable to ask me to give up a chance at winning tens of thousands of dollars — life-changing money, even after taxes — because some people on the Internet think it makes the game unpleasant to watch.”
His unconventional Jeopardy approach includes annoyingly aggressive buzzing, bouncing from one category to the next in search of Daily Doubles, and curbing his wager amounts in final wager Jeopardy to strategically tie his opponent. The method combines the teachings of former Jeopardy champion Keith Williams, who currently runs The Final Wager blog, and Chuck Forrest, who first invented the eponymous “Forrest Bounce” technique back in 1985 (for more on exactly how Chu cons the system, read this and then this). Mostly though, he’s just an extremely impressive know-it-all who’s fast with a buzzer.
That translates easily into his improv personality. Anyone who’s done any improv will be familiar with the “yes, and” rule, wherein you say “yes” to any ideas people offer you in a scene and you add to them creatively. Chu was always extremely adept at building momentum by taking scenes in interesting new directions. Sadly, I can’t remember specific examples anymore but I do remember thinking, “What?! How did he think of that?” Now, I suppose, I know: His brain moves really, really fast.
Chu has since moved to Broadview Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, but his smartypants-ness transcends even that distance. He follows me on Twitter and several times in just the past month, when I’ve tweeted one of my stories, he’s tweeted back at me with an alternative angle or an example I wish I’d thought to include.
A few examples of our recent exchanges:
Why we got bored of the NSA story. Hint: rhymes with Shedward Slowden http://t.co/5KJqTwzlVi— Lucia Graves (@lucia_graves) January 22, 2014
@arthur_affect Dammit, that’s a good point! I should have included that.— Lucia Graves (@lucia_graves) January 22, 2014
@lucia_graves Every state should have bottom-of-the-barrel financial regulation to get credit card cos to move there?— Arthur Chu (@arthur_affect) January 23, 2014
@arthur_affect I need to hire you as a writing consultant.— Lucia Graves (@lucia_graves) January 23, 2014
He currently works in insurance compliance but has long aspired to be an actor. I wouldn’t have predicted that his first big television break would happen on Jeopardy, but in retrospect it makes sense.
He’ll return to the airwaves on Feb. 24 after the “Battle of the Decades,” a tournament in celebration of the game show’s 30th anniversary. Expect to see all the former Jeopardy champions, including one Richard Cordray of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fame.
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Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.
UPDATED: Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) will not be playing the role of Ralph Nader in this year’s election. Speaking in Dallas today, Webb said, “We looked at the possibility of an independent candidacy. Theoretically, it could be done, but it is enormously costly and time sensitive, and I don’t see the fundraising trajectory where we could make a realistic run.”
“The leaders of the Republican and Democratic national committees on Wednesday weighed in on the prospect of an independent presidential run by” former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I). “DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz suggested that the former New York City mayor’s priorities are already ‘well cared-for’ in the Democratic platform, while RNC leader Reince Priebus welcomed the idea, saying Bloomberg would siphon off votes from the Democratic candidate.”
Three hundred fifty-two, thanks to superdelegates pledged to Clinton, and the vagaries of the delegate allocation process in early states. Not bad, considering her results have been a virtual tie and a blowout loss.