Jay Malarcher, associate professor in the West Virginia University School of Theatre & Dance, recently got to spin “the big wheel” on the popular game show “Wheel of Fortune.”

As the longest-running syndicated game show in U.S. television history, “Wheel of Fortune” is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary season, and in November Malarcher joined the ranks of the thousands who have been contestants on the show.

He didn’t do too badly for himself, either. He walked away with roughly $20,000 including a vacation to the Caribbean.

Malarcher is a master at trivia contests and not shy about showing off his skills. In addition to “Wheel of Fortune,” he has appeared on “Jeopardy!” and “The Weakest Link,” the popular show hosted by Anne Robinson.

“I am blessed and cursed with a wastebasket for a brain,” Malarcher said. “I remember things most people wouldn’t, because I try to connect everything I’ve ever learned or experienced to everything else.”

It all started in high school in New Orleans when Malarcher captained the quiz bowl the year his school won the state championship. After being on TV and being titled Most Valuable Player on the tournament, his fire for the competitive trivia arena was sparked.

At the same time, he was exploring his interests in acting, directing, researching the history of plays and operas as a dramaturg, and studying television and comedy.

He earned degrees from Loyola University, St. John’s College, and a doctorate from Louisiana State University.

In the 1980s, he was on “Jeopardy!” while teaching high school in Louisiana. He then taught at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now ULL), Louisiana State University, and Muhlenberg College, before coming to WVU.

Professionally, he has directed extensively in Louisiana and everywhere he has taught, and as a playwright he has had many original plays produced.

As an actor, he has performed with several summer theater companies, in WVU theater productions, and at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He’s even been in the movies. Glimpses of him may be seen in the Oliver Stone film “JFK” and in Alan Parker’s “Angel Heart.”

And he was recently a Fulbright lecturer, teaching “American Comedy as Cultural Mirror” at the University of Zagreb in Croatia.

Malarcher uses his theater background to make his auditions memorable.

“I know how to make myself inevitable,” he joked.

Soon after arriving at WVU, Malarcher auditioned to be on “The Weakest Link” in Columbus, Ohio. During his appearance on that show, he only missed two questions during the entire hour.

One unique aspect of this show is that contestants are allowed to vote fellow contestants off the show.

“I was the last person voted off, and the women who voted me off were chided by host Anne Robinson as cowards,” Malarcher laughed.

When he received an e-mail announcing the “Wheel of Fortune” Wheelmobile was coming to Washington, Pa., this past summer, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

After being awarded a spot on the show, Malarcher showed off his skills and solved many puzzles including “Michael Jackson’s Thriller” and “The Next Big Thing.” He didn’t solve the bonus round “Long Overdue,” but still managed to leave the show with a hefty payoff.

In the future there may be more TV game shows, who knows?

In the meantime, Malarcher is having fun teaching (his students call him “Dr. Jay”) and working on his book of comedy theory, tentatively titled “The Situation of Comedy.”

His book, “The Classically American Comedy of Larry Gelbart” was published by The Scarecrow Press in 2004.



CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
304-293-4359, Charlene.Lattea@mail.wvu.edu

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