An Interview with Joey Kornman

An Interview with Joey Kornman

Elizabeth Horan, Staff Writer

Joey Kornman, now a junior at Brandeis University majoring in economics and classical studies, and minoring in politics and history of ideas, graduated from Hall in 2019. He recently competed on Jeopardy!’s college tournament, winning his first game and advancing to the next round before unfortunately getting beat in the second. Joey is currently studying abroad in Greece, but took the time with me to talk over Zoom about his Jeopardy! experience. Here’s what he had to say (edited for length and clarity):

 

What made you audition for Jeopardy!, and what was the process like?

The tryout is low stakes. It wasn’t the first time I took it– you just take a quiz online. I did it my freshman year of college as well as my sophomore year. The second time I did it, they sent me another quiz maybe a month or two later, and you do that one.  If you do well, then you interview on Zoom. 

I was in a big Zoom, with maybe about 20 other kids. I don’t know exactly what it was about me, and they never even released why they chose me. That was in January of 2020, and then I didn’t hear from them for like eight months, so I had honestly kind of forgotten about it. 

 

Once you found out you had been chosen, how did you prepare for the show?

I get this question a lot. We had about a month in between when we got the 100% assurance we were going to be on before we actually flew out there. I have areas of knowledge I’m totally blank on: I don’t know any pop culture, I don’t know any sports. I figured it wouldn’t be worth it trying to cram things like that. I could probably spend a week and learn every Super Bowl winner in a row, but like, that would be at most one question on one board, and I’d burn myself out trying to do that. 

 

You answered a question about Gossip Girl wrong, which a lot of people aren’t happy about. Has that inspired you to watch the show?

I know, every woman in my life has let me know. I’ve been telling people I will. I probably will at some point. Maybe my girlfriend will make me, but I almost think it’s funnier if I don’t at this point. I’m a classics major, and I’ve never read the Percy Jackson books, so, at this point, it’s kind of a point of pride. 

I rewatched the episodes and I had totally forgotten most of it. I remembered some things, but I didn’t even remember getting that question wrong. That’s like the only thing people talk about with me. I’m like, guys I won that episode! Stop talking about the question I got wrong! I got 25 right, why do you have to focus on the five I got wrong? To be fair, you could tell I was very unsure about that answer. I didn’t like my answer. But I went for it, and I was burned. 

 

I’ve seen a lot of positive things about you on the internet, and people really love you. How have you handled this newfound fame?

I don’t think I’d call it fame. I made a Twitter account last week. I’m semi-famous in a very niche part of the internet, so I don’t know if it really counts. Mostly I get a lot of weird DMs from old guys. A lot of people just message me like, “How are you doing? Congratulations on Jeopardy!” And I say thank you, and then some get really weird, like, “Hey how are you doing? Can I just say you’re really handsome by the way. Not trying to be weird!” I usually just block those people. 

I don’t think I’m famous, but it’s interesting to be known to the public. Until it actually aired, I don’t think it hit me like how big of a deal this was. The whole thing was totally surreal; just being there and even just knowing I was on it. Once I could reveal it, which was only like a month and a half ago, I had to keep it a secret for a long time.

 

What was it like being on set ?

They did my makeup. I’d never been in a makeup chair before. I didn’t know that hair and makeup were two different people. I had to get a lot of makeup done. I get in the chair and she goes, your skin is too fair for TV. And then she just spent like an hour putting makeup on my face. I think I was in the chair the longest out of anybody. My skin was a different color than my neck. My face was orange. I mean, there were girls in those chairs getting eyeliner and stuff on their face, and I was in there longer than any of them. 

 

Was it hard to keep it a secret if you won or not?

Only my mom knew how I did. They told us you could tell people who would’ve been there if not for covid; like my dad didn’t know, my siblings didn’t know, my girlfriend didn’t know. Everyone asked. I signed so many NDAs; I was very worried. I didn’t wanna get my money taken back!

 

Do you have any plans for the money you won?

I’m in Greece, so it’s helping me pay for things in Greece right now. I didn’t have any big things planned; I didn’t have any splurging to do. I bought myself a new computer, bought my girlfriend some jewelry. After taxes it’s gonna be like $13,000. Which again, is a lot, but they take like 33%. My friend won the teen tournament. She won $100,000. There’s a photo of her holding the check to the government for $33,000. It’s very sad!

 

Is there anything you wanna tell the kids back at Hall?

Stay in school. Take Latin!