Cranston resident and emergency medical technician Louis DellaPeruta will go to a bar in Pawtucket Thursday night with friends and family to watch “Jeopardy!”, as he’s done regularly for most of his life. This time, he will be watching himself. It is the culmination of a lifelong dream.
“I’ve been trying to get on the show since I was eligible,” DellaPeruta said. “It’s been quite a road.”
DellaPeruta, an EMT for LifePACT, Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital’s pediatric and adult critical transport ambulance, spoke to The Boston Globe on Thursday about his appearance on the game show. He did so under the general condition known in the industry as “No spoilers.”
It would not be a spoiler to say that DellaPeruta had a wonderful time, crediting the staff and host Ken Jennings with incredible generosity and kindness. He acknowledged some disappointment that he did not get to play with Alex Trebek, the legendary host who died in 2020. But Trebek’s legacy lives on.
“His presence is in the studio in a good way,” DellaPeruta said. “They would constantly refer to how Alex would love this, or Alex would do that.”
In a sort of reversal of the A&Q format of Jeopardy!, here is a Q&A with DellaPeruta about his appearance on the show, edited for length and clarity.
Q: How long have you been a fan of “Jeopardy!”
DellaPeruta: Oh, boy, I can remember being 7 years old, 8 years old and watching at the barbershop and being an insufferable little know-it-all. I watched “Jeopardy!” for as long as I can remember. I would watch it every night.
Q: How were you able to finally do it?
DellaPeruta: Moving to Rhode Island. I was raised in New York. Every time I would apply, every other person in New York is applying for “Jeopardy!” But when I moved to Rhode Island a couple years ago, I took the test this past April. And then a couple of weeks later, they emailed me and they said we’re going to do take the second exam. So of course I jumped on it. And then during the summer I did a number of auditions, over Zoom. And then they contacted me in December and were like, “Can you be on the show?” And I said, “Absolutely, yes.” I just jumped at it and said yes.
Q: So how did you prepare?
DellaPeruta: Nerdy stuff, reading obscure books. There’s one book in particular about the history of alcohol and how it influenced human society. Normal trivia. If I see a book on trivia at a bookstore, I will buy it. There’s a lot of pop culture questions, which people don’t realize in “Jeopardy!” And of course, no one talks about this, but you really should do buzzer prep, because that is difficult. And I have to say, I didn’t do enough buzzer prep. What they recommend is using a highlighter, like a normal yellow highlighter and just pressing that, because it has a similar texture. I was unprepared for how much the buzzer plays into it.
Q: And the timing of the buzzer is important, too, right? How does that work?
DellaPeruta: You’re at a podium and across the way at the judges table. After the question is read, a guy there presses a button and turns a light on. And whoever hits the button first, after the light is on, gets the opportunity to answer. But if you hit it too early, you’re locked out. For three whole Mississippis. If you hit it too early, you can pretty much kiss that question goodbye.
Q: What’s Ken Jennings like?
DellaPeruta: He’s very, very sharp. You get glimmers of his humor every now and then on the show. But it’s almost like sharp isn’t adequate to describe how he is in person. And he’s also extremely generous.
Q: Being an EMT requires quick decision making and some sort of tolerance for adrenaline. Do you think that your EMT experience helped you out at all on the show?
DellaPeruta: Absolutely. We do critical care transport, so we have the sickest of the sick, and the most horrifically injured that we’re taking care of. And it’s not like you can sit there and take four or five minutes to make a treatment decision on this patient when you’re helping the paramedic. I mean, if the paramedic or the physician or the nurse who’s with you wants to do something, it’s not like you can say you should think about this for a few minutes. It’s a snap decision. And being decisive is very beneficial in “Jeopardy!”
Q: So last question. Final Jeopardy. Are you going to get any time off to watch? And if so, where are you going to watch?
DellaPeruta: I am watching it tonight at a bar in Pawtucket, with my wife, my daughter, all of our friends. It’s weird to think that all these people are coming to watch the show for what amounts to 19 minutes. The cultural reach of “Jeopardy!” is not what I was expecting. When I tell people about it, they’ll say, “Oh, I love ‘Jeopardy!’' I watched every night.” It’s such a unifying experience. And I’m really looking forward to sitting in a bar and drinking while I watch.