Alumni Interview: Jimmy McGuire
Jimmy McGuire, class of 1984, travels around the world as a member of the Jeopardy! Clue Crew. Prior to being chosen as one of the four original Clue Crew members in 2001, he worked at KDKA, WTAE, WPXI, and WQED both on TV and behind the scenes. The Squirrel Hill native also warmed up audiences for The Gayle King Show, The Gordon Elliott Show, and The View.
What was your experience at Allderdice like?
It’s so hard for me to even believe that it’s been twenty-seven years. Every memory I have of Allderdice is always a good one, and I’m flattered that you’re even interviewing me because Allderdice is a fond memory, and I want to stress to all you kids that time goes by so quickly, that the times that you have in high school—when you’re at your locker, when you’re at lunch—before you know it you’re going to be forty-five years old, and you’re going to wish you were back in high school. Allderdice, in my opinion, is probably one of the best Pittsburgh Public Schools that is available. I felt extremely prepared to go to college. As a matter of fact, my English teacher, whose probably one of my favorite teachers ever—his name was Wayne Somerfeld—was an amazing English teacher, and he got the very best out of every student. He just commanded so much respect, and you were afraid of him, and yet you respected him, and you wanted to perform well in his class. He just expected so much from us and brought the best out of everybody. You would write a paper, and you would get it back, and he basically just ripped it to shreds and tore it apart. I’m just a kid from Squirrel Hill, and I had a dream, and I never quit, and Allderdice gave me a good foundation, and I loved every minute of it.
What is your role on the Jeopardy! game show?
I’m part of what’s called the Jeopardy! Clue Crew. We are a team of correspondents, almost an extension of Alex Trebek, if you will. We travel all around the world and all around the United States doing video questions—clues, as we call the questions—that end up on the game board.
Of all the places you’ve traveled, do you have a favorite?
That’s one of the most difficult questions to answer because on the ten years that I’ve been on the show, we have traveled to well over thirty countries—already, that list is approaching forty countries. We’ve been to almost every state, minus about four of them, and we’ve been to well over 250 cities, so to pick your favorite is hard. That being said, international travel has probably been my favorite because without Jeopardy, I probably never would have left the United States. Recently I visited Israel, and having grown up in Squirrel Hill—my mom’s Jewish and my dad’s Irish, and I had a bar mitzvah—and being a Jewish American, that’s probably one of the best places you could ever ask for to go, especially when you’re working for the best game show on TV. So Israel is probably at the top of my list; Rome, Italy is probably a close second; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and even Amsterdam I got a chance to visit. When I wasn’t working, I went on my own time and saw the Anne Frank House, and to me that was just so moving.
How did you get the job at Jeopardy? Did you always want to be on TV?
Pittsburgh Public School really got me interested in television. When I was in eighth grade, I went to Reizenstein middle school. It was a cool school, and they had a television studio inside the school, and in eighth grade I got a chance to play around with the cameras and the equipment, and I thought, “Wow, this is just for me,” and I wanted to have a career in TV. From there, I went to Allderdice, and while in high school, with a good friend of mine, we had a DJ business. We would DJ all the kids’ bar mitzvahs and all of the junior and senior high dances at the JCC. I really liked it, and I ended up going to Ohio University, and while I was in college, I had an internship my senior year at KDKA. I got a chance to actually work in a real TV station in Pittsburgh, and that’s when I said to myself, “This is what I want to do.” Then when I graduated, my first job was at WTAE, Channel 4. It was behind-the-scenes, but I was working with Joe DeNardo and Don Cannon and Sally Wiggin. I thought, “Wow, this is the greatest thing ever.” [Later,] I saw a commercial on TV during the Jeopardy! Show. Alex Trebek said, “America, we’re looking for four people to be part of our new thing called the ‘Clue Crew.’ Send in your resumes, send in a tape—two minutes or less—telling us why you’d like to be one of these members.” So sure enough, I downloaded the application, and I made my own videotape. I found out later that 5,000 people sent in videotapes, and I was fortunate enough that they chose my tape. That was ten years ago; I was one of the original [Clue Crew members].
What advice do you have for graduating high school seniors?
Looking back and trying to remember when I was a senior, at a very early age, I decided what I wanted to do. I originally wanted to be the second-baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers because I played on the Allderdice baseball team, and we won the City Championship that year. I realized, “You know what, I probably won’t make the Dodgers so I’m going to come up with something else.” My passion was radio and television, and I found a college that really shone in that area, and that was Ohio University. Once I got to college, I got involved with everything that I could do: I had my own show on campus, I got an internship, and I was persistent. I really, really tried to meet as many people as I could, and that’s how I got my internship at KDKA. When they did their interviews for the summer internship, I was the first one to call and line up, and I interviewed with every department at KDKA, and it was to my benefit because I really knew what I wanted to do. I networked, and I met people, and even if there weren’t jobs available, I was always asking questions. Sometimes a lot of people waste a lot of time because they don’t really know [what they want to do], which is a good thing; It’s hard to say when you’re eighteen what you want to do. Really, you should have an idea because college goes by very quickly, and I was fortunate to go to a college that specialized in what I wanted to do.
When I was in high school, one of my friends wrote an article about [my DJ business]. I still have it, and it’s funny because I’m quoted in the article, and it says, “What do you want to do when you graduate Allderdice?” And I said, “I want to have a career in television.” And when I look back at that, it made me almost cry. It was like, wow, I knew what I wanted then, and it’s great.
How would you fare in a Jeopardy! match?
To be honest with you, I would do so much better than I would’ve done ten years ago. It’s funny you say that: I watched Jeopardy! last night, and I did very well. I answered “Final Jeopardy”, and I felt like a genius. It was: “It’s the longest running movie since 1975,” and the correct response was “What is ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’?” I remember seeing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” down in Oakland when I was in high school. That’s the thing about Jeopardy!—there are so many things that I’ve learned that I can’t put my finger on. Just by doing these clues, you live these clues. I just feel like it’s the best graduate school you could ask for. And it’s my life now, and I love it. I feel so smart now just by association.