Behind the Scenes of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire: The Prelude, The Process, the Game

The Prelude

Trivia saved my life.

This was back in Orange County, in the two year stint directly after graduation. The molasses of the suburbs was cloistering, facilitating a bout of deep depression and heartbreak. I was also living with my parents, who were justifiably anxious over my future career plans, and floundering in an industry in which I knew no one and knew even less what I was supposed to be doing.

I drank a lot during that time. I drank more in my two years in Orange County than I have at any other point in my life, partly because I was so miserable, partly because I had nothing better to do.

There were two weekly traditions that kept me afloat: pho + bowling nights on Thursdays with Tammy and Akshar, and Wednesday night trivia. I attended trivia like some people attend church — with a religious fervor and belief that this activity was going to keep me alive. My two consistent teammates — Benji and Kevin — may not understand just how essential their attendance was to my survival.

We were pretty damn good. We played a weekly quiz at Slater’s 50/50 in Anaheim Hills and consistently placed in the top 3. Being the frugal fucks we were, our team would collectively order a plate of fries and a soda. I would often get a beer. Sometimes, if we had won three weeks in a row (giving us a total of $90 in gift cards), we would add wings and a burger to that order. We won so frequently that we didn’t pay a dime for our tab in nine months of play. By the time we left, the bar changed their prize policy so that something like what we had pulled couldn’t happen again

All around me, I watched as my fellow Cal grads went on to found companies, attain graduate degrees, cash in on IPOs and put down payments on houses. I was underemployed and listless. But once a week, at an OC sports bar, I won. I won, and for a few hours of the night, I batted away the demons.

From right to left: Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Trevor (Neville Longbottom’s toad). Thank you all Orange County homies for holding down the emotional fort. Sadly I don’t have any pictures of me and trivia boys.

Things got better and my desperation tempered out. I owe an unfathomable debt of gratitude to the people who emotionally scaffolded me during that time, from writing meet-ups in Newport and Costa Mesa to football Sundays in Yorba Linda. These people know who they are.

Eventually, I would get my shit together. I wrote and published Humans of Orange County, and got my ass out to Los Angeles.

In LA, I became a trivia host at an awesome venue in an Arts District brewery. As a host, I often see people who are in what used to be my situation. People who have just transplanted to LA and are struggling to acclimate to the city; people who have long work days and draining jobs and need a weekly outlet; people who are newly married, who have just met, who haven’t seen each other for a long time. Some people have yoga or Soulcycle, some people have the bottle, and for the nerds, we have pub trivia. I recognize the people who use trivia nights as their raft lines — I know what that feels like, and I’m only happy to be on the other side now, paying it forward.

My first time hosting trivia in LA! A great side hustle and weekly enjoyment for my underemployed ass.

The Audition

In the spring of 2017, I was happily adjusting to my city. The book was out, I was writing for LA Weekly, and I had just quit a job with an awful commute. By the time I showed up to O’Brien’s in May, I had a solid three-and-a-half years of trivia fanaticism under my belt.

I was writing a piece on LA’s trivia subculture for LA Weekly, and O’Brien’s is reputably the toughest pub quiz in Los Angeles, replete with Jeopardy! winners and nerds galore. The night I showed up, a table of recruiters from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire were in attendance. Like many of you, I had no idea the show was still on. The recruiters came by and passed out flyers — there were open auditions in the city and all you had to do was fill out an application and show up.

Hell, why not?

The WWTBAM audition has three steps. Most of the following includes tips for folks interested in auditioning for Millionaire, so if you’re not about that life, skip on to the next section.

Round 1 is a written test. The overwhelming demographic of people auditioning are retirees over the age of 60. Who else besides retirees and underemployed writers have time to audition at 1:00 p.m. on a Thursday? A pair of very peppy assistants administer the test and ask questions like “Are we excited? What is everyone going to do with the money?”

When the assistants ask these questions, folks clamor to impress them, fighting to be heard over the din. My piece of advice: these are not the people making decisions. Don’t waste your energy and breath fighting for their attention. Mentally prepare yourself for the task at hand.

The test is 30 multiple choice questions in ten minutes. It goes by a lot faster than you’d expect. I have to thank Tanay Kothari, who would eventually go on to be my Plus One on the show, for warning me about this. You really don’t have time to dilly-dally on each question — get it done and if you have time leftover, go back and check. Ten minutes breezes by. I’m not allowed to say what the test questions are, but they range on everything from geography to U.S. presidents to pop culture to the latest tech news. I would recommend studying past transcripts of shows, because they often pull questions from those.

No one knows how they curve and calculate the tests, but out of my room of about 30 plus people, they took the top 10 highest scores.

Round 2 is the personality interview. This is going to sound blunt, but if you are under the age of 40, put-together, and mildly interesting, you should be automatically whisked onto stage 3. There are so many people auditioning who are older and retired that the moment they see someone young and groomed, they’re very excited. In my group, I was the only person under the age of 30 and one of two people under the age of 40. If you are of the older demographic and auditioning, my advice is to have your story put together so you stand out from the rest of the pack.

Something else that could throw you off your game: the interview takes place at a long table and they run three interviews simultaneously. I was stuck in the middle and I had an older man on my right and a slightly less older man on my left. You are talking at the same time the others are talking, and it can be incredibly distracting. At one point, I heard the producer on my right tell the man, “Okay, we’ll give you a call in a few weeks,” and I remember thinking, “Poor guy. He’s done.”

Focus on the producer in front of you and engaging with them. My producer and I ended up having an enthused chat about the best bars to drink at in Downtown Disney. That was literally my whole interview. I was asked maybe a few other questions (“what will you do with the money?” being an obvious one) but for the most part, we shared hot gossip on Dtown Disney watering holes. Like I said, being younger is definitely an advantage — if you got it, work it. If you don’t, come prepared with your story.

Hot tip: Trader Sam’s is the best bar in the Downtown Disney area (tucked into the resort section) and my producer and I spent literally 10 minutes talking about the drinks menu.

Round 3 is the on-camera test. If you’re able to make it to this point, it’s arguably the most important round. They need to make sure you look good on-camera and that you have appropriately enthused reactions.

The producer, Liz, asks you four multiple choice questions that have been pulled from the show, and you have to answer them in the style of contestants on WWTBAM, working through your logical reasoning out loud. Even if you know the answer immediately, don’t just say, “B. Final answer.” Explain how you got there, because that’s what they’re looking for people to do on the live show. When Liz tells you that you got it correct, have an excited reaction for the camera.

I only got two out of the four questions right, but I don’t think that really mattered. It was more about me performing my personality in a way that would look good on television.

And that’s that. They release you and you find out in about three weeks time whether you made it on or not. My big tips: go in confident with your story prepared, and be sure to have a lot of ENERGY and enthusiasm. Know your answer to the question “What will you do with the money?” Have fun.

The Study

I was alerted 22 days before my tape date that I had made it onto the show. I had exactly three weeks to prepare.

My biggest key to studying for the show was the WWTBAM message boards. I would like to sincerely thank the Internet and the kind people who have taken the time to upload all those show transcripts. If you’re studying for the show, I would encourage systematically making your way through a few months worth of transcripts — it gets you a very good sense of the types of questions they ask and how they frame them.

For example, there is at least one geography question in every deck, especially if you make it to the $30,000 mark. Know your state capitals, your country capitals, your maps of the world. Geography is one of the easier things to study, and you know they’ll ask you about it — I bought an atlas of the world and a puzzle map of the United States and went through them endlessly. Other subjects that I heavily reviewed were tech news, Greek mythology, and my periodic table.

How many states AND capitals can you get without looking them up? If the answer is not 100 percent, then girrrrrl you gotta study!

Another thing you’ll notice (and you’ll see I didn’t take my own strategic advice) is that by the time you hit the $50–100k question, it usually isn’t about trivia. It’s some number-based question or obscure minutiae. Either you can logic your way through it … or you can pick what sounds to be the most counter-intuitive answer. Around the $100k mark, the most counter-intuitive answer is oftentimes the right answer. But we’ll get to that later.

The Tape Day

On tape day, you and ten other contestants, plus everyone’s Plus Ones, get ushered into a literal box that’s been built on the soundstage. WWTBAM has done away with the “Phone-a-Friend” lifeline because too many people on phones were Interneting — it’s now a Plus One. Your Plus One sits with you through the entire process and when you want their help during the game, you call them down from the audience and they stand and work through the question aloud with you.

My Plus One was the inimitable Tanay Kothari, whose knowledge of baseball and art and obscure geography had me feeling very reassured (Tanay knew there was a river in France called Aa. Wtf? Who knows that?). Tanay has also been a trivia bud since college and regularly nerds out with me about trivia happenings.

So on tape day, Mama Yu drives Tanay and I across the street to the Millionaire studio, a giant tent set up behind a Vegas hotel. It feels just like a speech and debate competition, except now we’re twenty-something adults. Tanay and I get crammed into a box at 9 a.m. with around 20 other people. The first half-hour is taken up by a lawyer telling us that we have signed a strict NDA and you cannot say anything about the results, don’t say anything because you are legally bound, and hey, let’s repeat this one more time: don’t say jack shit.

Then we get a tour of the studio and everyone gets to do one practice question at the podium. After that, it’s a waiting game.

TIP for people appearing on the show: Eat breakfast. I assumed they would provide food for us (they DO feed you a Subway lunch), but all they have in the morning are Chips Ahoy and gummy bears. If I could have changed one thing about that day, I would have eaten a bagel in the morning.

I want someone to do a psychology study on the WWTBAM stew room. The entire set-up is designed to drive you insane. You have your phone stripped from you the moment you enter. You are not allowed any papers or materials to study with. You have no idea in what order you will be called up to play — you could be up in a few, or you could be there until the end of the day. You are isolated from the game floor, so you and all the other contestants have no idea how the people before you are performing, or what questions they’re getting.

The two assistants hook up the TV in the stew room and play past episodes of Millionaire, but they only have four episodes worth so you’re stuck watching the same four episodes over and over on loop. All you can do is sit there, maybe chat with the other contestants and your Plus One, and listen to the same four episodes in the background. I’ve heard of some stew rooms where the contestants bond with each other and become life-long friends. Mine was far from that — all the contestants were too nervous to talk to each other and kept to their pairs; one guy had intense stomach issues and was curled over clutching his abdomen the whole time. At one point, a couple of the contestants in my room wanted to go over potential questions they might get, which is a hopeless Exercise in Futility. Oh and when you want to go to the bathroom, you all go as one giant group, with two PAs watching you like hawks. In some ways, it’s infantilizing.

Little prisoners aka how I felt in the Millionaire stew room

I wouldn’t have been so nervous if I wasn’t trapped in this room with other contestants who were so anxious. Nervous energy feeds on itself and before you know it, the tension levels are palpable. It’s like an entire box of people are jacked up on cocaine but have nothing to fidget, tweak, or release their energy with. So everyone is stuck bouncing their legs up and down and calling for more trips to the bathroom when they don’t really need them (except for the poor guy with intense stomach issues). I distinctly recall zoning out of the whole room for what felt like hours. I positioned my chair facing away from the TV, so I wouldn’t have to look at those damn re-runs anymore, and silently brooded in my own head. I didn’t even talk to Tanay. I wonder what was going on in his head because I’m pretty sure he sat there silently with me.

Finally you get called out to make-up and that’s when you know it’s almost your turn.

Fun Millionaire story for me:

So after the make-up department cleans you up, you get taken to another tiny box. Here, your producer is supposed to give you a pep talk as the contestant in front of you plays. But in my case, I decide I need to use the restroom prior to my pep talk. No problem.

The problem is the contestant who goes on right before me. Karmic justice, by the way. In the stew room, this contestant was bragging about how he showed up drunk to his audition and made it onto the show. When I told him I studied my ass off, he scoffed and said, “You studied?” He got what was coming to him, because he went out on the second question (he does not appear in either of my episodes and I don’t remember his name, so I have no idea if he even airs).

When I emerge from the bathroom, the contestant before me is already done. A PA says to me, “You need to run.” Remember that scene in The West Wing when Abby Bartlett cuts Jed Bartlett’s tie and the whole crew freaks out and rushes the president onstage in a burst of adrenaline? That’s kind of how this felt. I had no pep talk, no time to process. I sprint over, the sound guy slaps a mic onto me, I get pushed onto the floor, and it’s game time.

The Game

The edit was incredibly generous. They cut my first episode so that it looks like I answer questions at a freakishly fast pace, when in fact I hemmed and hawed my way through most of them. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what was going through my head on each question [SPOILERS DEAR CHILD, THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW]:

$500: Which of the following will you NOT find on Grandparents.com’s list of “9 Habits of People Who Don’t Get Sick?”

A: They don’t smoke B: They get the flu shot C: They stay rested D: They lick doorknobs

Because I was pushed onstage in an adrenaline craze, I felt myself blacking out when the first question popped up. I had a hard time breathing and had to, despite the simplicity of the question, repeat it aloud twice before choosing the answer. If it had been any harder than that I probably would have gone home because I was having so much trouble focusing. The edit makes it look like I breezed through it when in fact, I barely remember even doing this question.

Answer: D: They lick doorknobs (duh!)

After the $500 question, my nerves simmered down considerably.

$1000: What variety of Tostitos brand tortilla chips are shaped like a bowl for easier dipping?

A: Scoops! B: Basins! C: Receptacles! D: Dumpsters!

Easy money. For people wondering, Chris Harrison was nice and charismatic and he does his job well. He has exactly the jaw-line that appeals to suburban moms. We flirted by chatting about SAT prep for his kids in the in-between. Very scintillating.

Answer: A: Scoops!

Big shout-out to my cheering section: Mama and Papa Yu, brother Ronald, and friends Stephen and Shannon. You can see the entire fam in the background throughout the game, going anxiously wild.

$2000: Valued at thousands of dollars and prized by collectors, what Stephen King book was once released in a special limited edition, fittingly bound by asbestos?

A: Christine B: Under the Dome C: Firestarter D: Cujo

This question actually took me forever — I spent what felt like a full minute speculating whether Under the Dome was right — but the edit skips ahead to the part where I figure it out.

Answer: C: Firestarter

Lol supes embarrassing. I didn’t know that asbestos were a fire retardant. I actually wasn’t sure what asbestos did besides cause cancer (well done, mesothelioma lawyer ads!) but somehow my brain made the connection between fire and asbestos and I got to move on.

$3000: Which of the following is an actual grass-eating monkey named for the distinctive bright red mark on its chest (and not any liberal political leanings)?

A: Politically correct capuchin B: Bleeding heart gelada C: Progressive mandrill D: Left-wing macaque

I didn’t realize until afterwards that I had lucked the eff out on this question as well. On the show it looks like I breezed my way through the question, no problemo, but that’s because one of my terms was off! In my head, I had the notion that “bleeding heart” was in reference to a conservative — bleeding = red; conservative = red. But no! It’s a bleeding heart liberal.

Answer: B: Bleeding heart gelada

OH WELL I WIN MOVING ON.

$5000: If you add a different letter to the front of each of them, three of these words will form the name of a country. Which word does that NOT work with?

A: PAIN B: MAN C: HAD D: AMEN

Best question all set. What you see on TV was what I did in real time. YOU KNOW I STUDIED MY GEOGRAPHY BETCH!

Answer: D: AMEN

There’s a commercial break at this point and a producer comes over to spray product in my hair because my freakin’ bangs won’t stay out of my eyes. Y’all, I even got a haircut days before the Millionaire taping and still had this issue. Pro tip: Do not have bangs on a live game show!

$7000: Historian Elizabeth Mitchell has theorized that surprisingly, artist Frederic Bartholdi’s brother could have been the model for what work depicting a female?

A: Mona Lisa B: Statue of Liberty C: Venus de Milo D: Girl with a Pearl Earring

Anyone remember this book?!

So much of trivia can be about little Slumdog Millionaire moments. After I use the 50–50, my choices are narrowed down to Girl with a Pearl Earring and Statue of Liberty. When I was in 6th or 7th grade, a young adult mystery book called Chasing Vermeer came out. Chasing Vermeer was the smash hit of the young adult world at the time; the Yu Fam still has a copy of the book on our shelves. That coincided with the release of the Scarlett Johansson movie Girl with a Pearl Earring. I believe the confluence of Chasing Vermeer and the ScarJo movie led me to read Girl with a Pearl Earring, the historical novel. Well thank God I did. Warp speed me into 2017, and 24-year old Lynn is recalling all the media 11-year old Lynn consumed. Girl with a Pearl Earring is definitely based on a girl. I still remember a gruesome scene in which she pierces her ear on behalf of that pearl earring, gets an infection, and then has to re-pierce the infected wound repeatedly.

Answer: B: Statue of Liberty

Ironically, in the months following the taping, I heard the Bartholdi fact a bunch of times at various trivia nights. I can’t believe my trivia lifestyle failed me on this front!

The dress from Hell

At this point there was a break for me to change my outfit so that it would appear I had come back “the next day.”

You know the Jed Bartlett-esque bathroom run leading into my $500 question? This debacle was much worse.

WWTBAM asks contestants to bring three alternate outfits to their tape day. I only brought one, thinking there was such a low probability that I would have to change. I stuffed a dress into the bottom of my bag and didn’t give it a second thought during my hours in the stew room.

Well, as luck would have it, I had to change.

We pull my only alternate outfit out of my bag and it’s hopelessly wrinkled. They put me out onstage to see how it looks on camera and it’s awful. Will not do. They then grab a bright blue cardigan from another contestant and throw it over the dress and put me out for another camera test. Again, awful.

Now the producers are running around looking for Chris Harrison’s steam press. After a long delay, they get it steamed and I throw the dress on. Time to get miced.

In the first half, I was wearing pants, which meant the mic pack rested in my back pocket. But now that I was wearing a dress, I would have to get miced through my bra. Cue one of the funniest moments all day, which was the sound guy screaming, “I need a wommmaaaan! I NEED A WOMAAANN!”

Everyone’s running around trying to find a woman to mic me up and finally I go, “Dude I’m from LA, it’s fine.” In retrospect, I don’t know what the hell that means. I think I was going for “Dude, I’ve been around actors and dressing rooms, I could care less if a professional sound guy sees my underwear while micing me.”

I have a steam-pressed dress and I am miced up to go. It’s time to play! I go out there to the podium, and just as the lights go down, my dress rips.

Well, not exactly rips. The zipper on the right side is broken and has fallen open, flashing my underwear for the whole audience to see. The producers scream at me to get back in the wings. I return and now everyone is running around looking for safety pins to bridge the gap together. And then, the greatest moment:

A wardrobe lady pushes everyone aside, rips off pieces of duct tape with her teeth, and tapes up my dress from the inside! “Hollywood magic,” she tells me.

And now, FINALLY, I am presentable. I used to have a picture of the inside of this ruinous dress but it has been lost to the ether. I apologize to my producers for that mess.

Thank you to everyone who has said I look cute on my day two episode when the reality is that was the dress from Hell.

$10,000: Alicia Keys’ 2016 song “Blended Family” celebrates the “diverse unit” made up of her sons, stepsons and husband, known to music fans as whom?

A: Future B: Kid Cudi C: Swizz Beatz D: Earl Sweatshirt

I know some of my friends are ashamed that I didn’t know some basic celeb facts, but thank God Americans know their celeb facts! In retrospect I should have figured this one out. I follow Earl, Cudi, and Future, and all three are way too young for Alicia Keys. Not knowing who Swizz Beatz was threw me off though. Thank you audience for saving my butt on this one. This question is extra embarrassing because I’m a huge fan of early 2000s Alicia Keys.

Answer: C: Swizz Beatz

No one, no one, NO ONEEEE … can get in the way of me and my moneeey.

$20,000: In the name “TED Talks,” referring to the popular online lectures limited to 18 minutes in length, the acronym “TED” stands for what?

A: Talk, Educate and Deliver B: Timely, Erudite and Dense C: Teach, Elevate and Dare D: Technology, Entertainment and Design

The edit skips over the back-and-forthing I did between A and D. Ronald was apparently shocked that I had even a little hesitation on this one. I swear, I thought “Education” is what that “E” in TED stood for! That’s what tripped me up for the longest time. Thankfully I figured it out.

Answer: D: Technology, Entertainment and Design

P.S. Really? This was my $20k question and asbestos was my $2k?!

$30,000: What third wife of King Henry VIII, who died shortly after giving birth to their son Edward, is the only one of his six wives to be buried with him?

A: Jane Seymour B: Catherine Howard C: Anne of Cleves D: Catherine of Aragon

May we all sing our praises to Tanay Kothari.

Now here’s a crazy story:

One day in his junior year of high school, approximately 8 years prior to my fateful Millionaire tape date, Tanay was heading home when he thought to himself, “I should create an acronym to help me remember the wives of Henry VIII.” Ya see, Tanay Kothari was the star of the Bellarmine high school quiz bowl team, a stellar speech and debate competitor (which is how I first met him all those years ago), and a baseball encyclopedia extraordinaire. Such mastery in the kingdom of nerds necessitated that he remember the wives of Henry VIII.

Tanay formed his acronym: CAJACC (Catherine-Anne-Jane-Anne-Catherine-Catherine), committed it to memory for the next quiz bowl competition, and then proceeded to forget about it for the next eight years.

On my $30,000 question, I’m stuck gaping at the board and I call down my Plus One. It’s clear I have no idea what I’m talking about as I ramble on about Henry VIII. Tanay says he too doesn’t know what the answer is as he joins me onstage. We stand at the podium fumbling for some time, neither of us sure what to do. The edit doesn’t show this part, but it was then that Tanay’s brain somehow clawed all the way to the dregs of his memory, the deepest pits of the well, to call forth an acronym he had formulated EIGHT. YEARS. AGO.

I don’t know how he did it. Did the heartbeat music trigger CAJACC? Did the pressure of being on the show send his memory into overdrive? I’ll chalk it up to brilliance. In any case, the moment Tanay mentioned he thought he had the acronym, I knew that he had the acronym (Tanay says he doubted himself, but knowing my friend, if Tanay knows something then he knows something).

Answer: A: Jane Seymour

I go for it with blind confidence. Tanay is shitting his pants next to me and according to Mama Yu afterwards, she was silently hoping for me to walk away with the money at this point. Chris Harrison tells us we’re right and I scream. Thank you Tanay and your incredible hippocampus!!! Jane Seymour, American public education may not remember you, but I will never forget you again!

Tanay Kothari shall henceforth be forever known as GIN SEYMOUR.

$50,000: New York City’s Central Park is home to 9,485 what?

A: Miles of pathways B: Species of birds C: Benches D: Trees

I hemmed and hawed my way through this question for what felt like an eternity. I won’t say much here because the edit shows my full thought process, along with Chris Harrison’s wildly misleading face. Afterwards, my father told me “Of course it had to be benches! The exact number of species of birds would be very difficult to pin to such a precise number.” I guess a gut part of me must have known.

Answer: C: Benches

My whole cheering section was dying. Stephen: “I was on the edge of my seat. The edge. of. my. seat.” Tanay: “A computer wouldn’t have gone for it with the odds you had.” Good thing I ain’t a computer. $50k, holy Christ! The first thing that crossed my mind was that I will finally have time off now to write.

P.S. I had no idea “Oh my GOODNESS” was the go-to phrase of exclamation in my vocabulary. Now I know my brain can auto-correct to day-time television-friendly phrases in moments of pressure!

$100,000: Complaining that her clothes “don’t fit me anymore,” what Grimms’ Fairy Tale originally involved the protagonist getting pregnant?

A: Snow White B: Cinderella C: Rapunzel D: Red Riding Hood

In hindsight, I’m mad about this one. In my vigorous study for Millionaire, one thing I noticed was that when contestants reached the $100,000 question, the most counter-intuitive answer was usually correct. I remember coming across a $100k question asking “Which of the following actors has never won a Tony Award?” One of the answers was Julie Andrews and I immediately knew it had to be her because she was the most counter-intuitive answer of the four provided.

My strategy of pick-the-counter-intuitive-answer went out the window. Possibly because I had successfully logicked my way through the $50k moments before. If I had remembered it in the moment, I would have gone for Rapunzel. But I didn’t. Oh well! I still get to walk away with $50k. I just made more money in 30 minutes than I do in an entire year.

I answered: A: Snow White

Correct answer: C: Rapunzel

(Btw, the story as to why she gets locked in the tower is super dark — read the summary here).

The Aftermath

So that’s the whole journey, from pre to post. The most frequently asked question I get is “what are you going to do with the money?”

But first, quick time out:

There are two types of people in this world.

The first type of person hears of my success and says “Congratulations!” or “How exciting!”

The second type of person hears of my success and says “So how much of that is going to taxes?” or “You realize most of that is going to taxes, right?”

Really think about what type of person you want to be. It speaks volumes about you.

But yes, no shit dumbass, I do know that a solid 40 percent goes to the government. Somebody gotta fund those public libraries and uh, Yosemite!

What to do with the rest? I’ve thought about doing something altruistic. Starting an alternative publication in Los Angeles, because our media scene has been suffering. A lot of upstart filmmakers would kill to have $30k+ to shoot the short film that garners them the kind of attention that kick-starts careers. I’ve thought about saving it all and putting it into a project, a creation of some sort. Because wasn’t the whole point winning enough money to fund my art?

The idea of starting something with this money is incredibly appealing. But the reality is probably going to be a lot more practical and boring. I’m likely to pay off a lot of student loan debt. I’m going to treat myself to a new laptop (the one I am currently typing this piece on has been with me since 2010 and is slow AF). After all that debt and a laptop, I’ll have a couple Gs left. It might finally be time to do a whirlwind tour of the world.

The best part of the winnings is it relieves the psychological burden of money, money, money for a year. I can focus on writing. I don’t have to bust my butt paying bills month to month. But this bliss won’t last long. You bet your ass I’m going to enjoy it. And when this money runs out, well, I guess that’s what Jeopardy! is for.

I’m super grateful that the weird machinations of our world have constructed forums for me to answer questions and win money. I’m super grateful that my love of knowledge of the world, and particularly my love of Americana, has been rewarded in the long run. This has been a long time coming, from the obsessive iMDB searches in middle school to the hours of speech and debate competitions in high school to the years playing and hosting pub quizzes.

We should always want to know more, of ourselves and of each other. Self-absorption is a killer, and the best remedy to fighting it is … well, knowing shit. In other words, trivia.

We’ll see what’s next.

Until the next quizzing adventure fam,

Lynn Q. Yu