Home News Church organist returns to ‘Jeopardy!’

Church organist returns to ‘Jeopardy!’

Courtesy Vince Bacani

Community members tuning in for beloved quiz show Jeopardy! last week might’ve been surprised to see a familiar word in one contestant’s sign off, after St. Francis Xavier Mission Catholic Church organist Vince Bacani ended his time in the Wild Card Tournament with a simple “Thanks/Merci/Niá:wen.”

“After my appearance, so many people messaged me. They were writing to me in Mohawk, and I had to say ‘I’m actually Filipino, but thank you!’” Bacani told The Eastern Door. “It was just something I had wanted to say. I made a little joke linking it back to choir practice, and I said that everyone was really supportive.”

In the contestants’ interview segment, host Ken Jennings asked Bacani about his connection to the community.

“I’m the pipe organist for the Mohawk choir in Kahnawake, and Kahnawake’s the only place on Earth where I’ve ever gotten recognized,” he told Jennings. 

“I just wanted to say a big niá:wen to my friends who are watching today – and get back to choir practice!”

Avid Jeopardy! watchers in the community were excited to hear about Bacani’s return to the show, having supported him in his appearance in January 2023, where he qualified for the Wild Card Tournament, which aired last Friday.

“It’s pretty cool that he includes Kahnawake in the few moments of his bio during the show. He could talk about other things in his life, but he chooses us,” said St. Francis Xavier church member Laurie Montour. “He’s a nice guy, and it would be awesome to see him make his way to the top of Jeopardy! stardom.”

Though Bacani made it all the way to the semi-finals, he made a risky play on a question involving rocket science, answering incorrectly and losing all of his money halfway through the episode.

Despite the loss, Bacani still had fun, with the episode being particularly cutthroat since the tournament brings together past champions. Kanehsata’kehró:non Myrna Gabriel said that it was exciting to watch Bacani make it as far as he did.

“Being a Jeopardy! fan, it’s always fun to cheer for the contestants. However, the fact that there was a local contestant, especially returning to join the champion lineup, made it even more exciting,” Gabriel said. “Seeing that Vince wrote ‘niá:wen’ at the end just made me proud that he would include our language on such a large stage. We were quite happy for his thoughtfulness.”

Bacani himself is a lifelong Jeopardy! fan and knew since he was a child he wanted to be on the show, having watched it each night at dinner with his family. 

When the show started taking Canadian applicants in 2016, Bacani decided to give it a shot. It took a few attempts before he was successful, and once he made it through the first round of applications, it took two years before he was on the show, after countless interviews, quizzing, and screen tests.

Though it was arduous and required what felt like endless hours of brushing up on his facts, Bacani said he left the Jeopardy! studio with new friends in his fellow contestants – as well as a solid $10,000 consolation prize.

“We hung out. We’re really close now, we’re all on WhatsApp together and watching all the games together,” he said. “We’re all one or two-game winners, so we’re lucky we got to come back. What a bonus!”

evedcable@gmail.com

This article was originally published in print on February 23 in issue 33.08 of The Eastern Door.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.