How to play the game

Norway House’s own Joe on Jeopardy!

grodahl

Photo courtesy of SONY
Joseph “Joe” Grødahl, director of programs and events at Norway House in Minneapolis, thoroughly enjoyed being a contestant on the popular television game show Jeopardy!

NICK ROGNESS
Luther College

For many of us as children, watching Jeopardy! on television was accompanied by wondering how it would feel to stand up on the stage ourselves. For most, this was nothing more than a childhood fantasy, but for Joe Grødahl, director of programs and events at Norway House in Minneapolis, this dream became a reality. He grew up watching Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune with his grandma, and inspired by her love of crossword puzzles, he aspired to complete them.

With a degree in history from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and degrees in business and law from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., Joe was well prepared for his appearance on the game show. He is “always curious” and enjoys diving deep into Wikipedia articles about topics that he finds interesting.

While some might assume Joe’s Jeopardy! application was meticulously planned out, he describes his process of applying to the game show in an unusual fashion: “I was just kind of bored one day and thought, ‘Oh, it’d be fun to do that online [Jeopardy!] test.’”

Lo and behold, after completing the exam, he ended up being invited to the next round. This was not Joe’s first try to compete on the Jeopardy! stage. Fifteen years ago, he took an initial test at a traveling Jeopardy! event in Minneapolis and he clearly remembers the reason he didn’t make it to the next round. In a question about a Dutch painter, he recalled, “I couldn’t stop thinking Van Gogh, even though I knew that was the wrong answer. So, Rembrandt, I blame it on him for not making it on Jeopardy! 15 years ago.”

After learning he would be on the show, Joe started preparing. He didn’t want to pressure himself heavily and instead continued his normal routine, opting not to create thousands of flashcards or obsess over factoids like others may have. When asked if he was nervous to appear on the show, Joe recalled he “was nervous about travel logistics … but no, [I] really wasn’t nervous.”

As a part of the show, Jeopardy! contestants introduce themselves to the host and the audience with a short introductory story. Joe chose his story primarily because he “wanted an excuse to be able to speak Norwegian on national TV.” He also attempted to mention the Norway House in hopes of getting an opportunity to promote the nonprofit organization but was unable to do so.

In the end, Joe’s game ended with a victory for fellow contestant Mattea Roach, her fifth win in a row (she later continued her streak up to 23 games won in a row). Joe said the biggest challenge on the show was the buzzers. He said that the buzzer clicking is “really, really critical to actually being able to have a chance to even answer a question” and that “Mattea was just a lot better than everybody else at that timing.” When asked how he would sum up his Jeopardy! experience, Joe said, “I’ve never had more fun losing.”

While there is no Jeopardy! in Scandinavia, there are similar quiz shows filmed in Norway. One of these shows is Who Wants to be a Millionaire­ (Vil du bli millionær?). Joe reminisced about attending a filming of one of the episodes:

“I tried to get on [the show], because if you’re in the audience, you can try and get on it. I was kind of surprised at how many of the questions I knew, even though it was in Norwegian.”

He said that Jeopardy! is such an integral part of U.S. culture, as it had been parodied on Saturday Night Live and alluded to in other forms of media.

“And I think there are references that might be lost on a lot of foreign audiences because it is pretty specific to North America,” Joe said.

To celebrate Joe’s achievement, Norway House hosted a watch party for his episode of Jeopardy! In addition to viewing the show, they also held a happy hour get-together beforehand, and Joe hosted a Norwegian-themed game show to play with the attendees. He created a PowerPoint presentation to play the game, with categories like “Cities in Norway” and other similar topics relating to Norwegian America.

Since Joe’s appearance on the show, he worked on the plans for Norway House’s Midtsommer Gala fundraiser on June 12. This year, it was held in a new facility, the Omni Viking Lakes Hotel in Eagan. He also has had at least one request from a group to come and host a Norwegian-themed game show at a meeting and is hoping to continue that endeavor in the future. If your group is interested in hosting a similar event, please contact Joe at jgrodahl@norwayhouse.org.

This article originally appeared in the June 24, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Nick Rogness

Nick Rogness is a student at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, majoring in Nordic studies and data science. Nick grew up in the Twin Cities in Minnesota and is a intern for The Norwegian American for the summer of 2022.

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