When guest “Jeopardy!” host Mike Richards announced the categories for “Double Jeopardy,” Natalie Tyson was instantly drawn to the “Hamburgers” column. Her initial thoughts, however, concerned meat patties.
“Born in Hamburg in 1833, he rose from his humble beginnings to become one of the three ‘B’s of classical music,” Richards said, reading the $400 clue.
“Who is Beethoven?” Tyson guessed.
Although it would be the only question Tyson answered incorrectly during her appearance last week on the television quiz show (the answer is “Brahms”), she would ultimately finish the contest in third place, earning $1,000.
“The funny thing is I’m just recently a vegetarian, but I still felt confident – more confident in my burger knowledge than my citizens-of-Germany knowledge,” she said, laughing, during an interview with the Town Crier last week.
Tyson, 30, a UC Berkeley academic adviser who lives in Walnut Creek, is the daughter of Los Altos Hills Vice Mayor George Tyson and Stephanie Tyson. She’s been vying for the privilege of wielding a “Jeopardy!” signaling device since 2006, two years before she graduated from Monta Vista High School in Cupertino; in addition to multiple attempts at appearing on the traditional, adult version of the show, she’s tried out for the Teen Tournament and College Tournament versions throughout the years.
In an email sent last week, her proud dad described a commitment to helping her realize her dream.
“Years ago, we still had dial-up internet service, and I was in no hurry to upgrade it,” the vice mayor wrote to the Town Crier. “But then Natalie tried to log on to the Jeopardy Teen Tournament, and our connection was too slow for that to work. I thought, ‘that’s not right, she needs to be on that show!’ So I switched our service to higher speed!”
In recent months, Natalie Tyson completed a timed, 50-question test on the show website, took another, proctored version via Zoom teleconference and then competed against other potential contestants during a mock Zoom contest. Her performances earned her an invitation to a Jan. 11 taping at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City. Her dad helped her practice and even made her a study guide.
Due to the pandemic, the taping did not feature a live audience, and Tyson’s fiance, who accompanied her to Southern California, could not attend. During lunch on set, she had to yell to share conversations with other contestants, a collection of California residents scheduled to appear on future episodes.
Tyson competed against David Maybury, a magnetics engineer originally from Richmond, Va., and returning champion Sam Stapleton, a college consultant living in Los Gatos who by then had already amassed $33,201 from a single, prior appearance. Richards, the show’s executive producer, is one in a series of guest hosts who have filled in since Alex Trebek died Nov. 8 at age 80 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. The last episode featuring Trebek aired Jan. 8. Upcoming episodes will feature hosts journalist Katie Couric, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a former “Jeopardy!” celebrity champion.
A salute to ‘Stomper’
During the contestant introductions following the first commercial break, Stapleton, a San Francisco Giants fan, and Tyson, an Oakland A’s fan, both shared anecdotes about their favorite baseball team. Tyson described her 2019 experience winning a contest to ride around the RingCentral Coliseum with Stomper, the A’s elephant mascot, in his spoofed-up, cartoonish golf cart.
“He can’t talk, but I really feel like we formed a strong friendship that day,” Tyson told Richards. “So Stomper, if you’re watching this, hopefully you feel the same way.”
“The feeling is mutual,” Stomper’s official Twitter account, @Stomper00, later tweeted, responding with an image of the elephant superimposed over a photo of the “Jeopardy!” set.
Tyson knew the answer to the “Final Jeopardy” clue – “Just 24 notes, this piece is nicknamed ‘Butterfield’s Lullaby’ for the U.S. Army General who arranged it” (“What is ‘Taps’?”) – wagering $3,201 to bring her total to $8,401. But she couldn’t catch Maybury, who also answered correctly and wagered $2,001 to finish in second place with $10,401, or Stapleton, who admitted he had no idea and scribbled “Love, baby don’t hurt me no more,” on his own bright-blue screen. He wagered just $100 and finished in first place with $17,100.
Tyson was too nervous to observe her episode during a Zoom watch party with family and friends last week, but she chatted with them about the experience afterward. She said she was surprised and delighted by the number of acquaintances who subsequently contacted and praised her.
“Everyone has been so nice about it,” Tyson said. “And hearing from people I haven’t spoken to in a while, just saying, ‘Oh, I saw you. It was really exciting and we rooted for you,’ that has been really sweet.”