The Nerd: Arthur Chu

Jeopardy! Winner and Social Critic

The Nerd: Arthur Chu
Photo by Frank J. Lanza

Arthur Chu became something of a household name in early 2014 when his eventual 11-game winning streak was beginning on Jeopardy! Broadview Heights resident and amateur actor Chu played the game a little bit differently — jumping around the board, making unexpected wagers couched in game theory and aggressively buzzing in after nearly every clue was given. On March 12, Chu's streak ended and he walked from the game with nearly $300,000 in total winnings.

And like many Jeopardy! winners before him, Chu found himself able to ride the notoriety the game show granted him. "It's been a big validation for me," Chu says. "Now people care what my opinion is. There are people listening, and I'm part of the conversation. That's really cool. More than being, like, a celebrity in the broad sense of the term, just being able to connect to cool people online and talk to them and have them share their ideas with me — and then I can share my ideas back."

In particular, Chu penned a May 27 column for The Daily Beast that discussed the Santa Barbara, Calif., shootings that had happened days prior. In "Your Princess is in Another Castle," Chu explores misogyny and entitlement in "nerd culture," a vastly growing social lens that has become more mainstream via video games and shows like The Big Bang Theory. The article flew around the Internet and generated a great deal of buzz alongside similar types of discourse, like the #YesAllWomen hashtag.

"It came from a very emotional and genuine place, and I think that's what people responded to," he says. "It was really striking to see how many women came to talk in the aftermath through #YesAllWomen. The biggest impact is seeing women who aren't necessarily in the news as feminists or social critics or political people, but who have a story to share or a perspective when it becomes a big conversation: To me, that's the value in hashtag activism."

And given all that, there's the thing: Chu doesn't want to be pigeonholed as the "trivia guy." His stint on TV introduced him to the world, and now he's seeing opportunities to spread visions he's been holding onto for years. "When doing my comedy or my acting, I've had a mission in mind to try to talk about important things or share important messages. I've always done that on a small scale. And it's really funny that I got this national platform through something totally unrelated to that. I can't be the Jeopardy! guy for that long; I'm still not Ken Jennings, and there's really only room for one Jeopardy!-related celebrity in the world. If people are paying attention to me, what can I do that's true to myself?"

The future surely holds many great things for Chu; he's considering putting together a book proposal and striking out toward the world of speaking engagements. His success on Jeopardy! lent him an interesting platform to discuss the matter of navigating life as a self-proclaimed nerdy introvert. And that's an issue about which plenty of people across the world have questions and misconceptions.

Like this story?
SCENE Supporters make it possible to tell the Cleveland stories you won’t find elsewhere.
Become a supporter today.

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
Scroll to read more Cleveland People articles

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.