Iowa State alumnus competes at King of the Nerds TV show


Courtesy of Trae Patton

king of the nerds

David Gerhold

He played Quidditch, performed an alien autopsy and built a functioning volcano — all while being watched by thousands of people on public television.

Jack Hou, Iowa State alumnus and medical doctorate student at the University of Illinois, is a contestant on the second season of the TBS reality show “King of the Nerds.”

“There was this big casting call at my university and I sent in a few paragraphs about me, even though I didn’t really think I had a chance,” Hou said. “A few minutes later I got a call back asking for more information and audition tapes.”

After a few interviews and casting stages, Hou ended up as a candidate for “King of the Nerds,” a reality game show where eleven “nerds” compete in various nerd-related contests to win the grand prize of $100,000.

“Being a medical Ph.D. student and not having much of a social life as a result of that takes a lot out of you,” Hou said. “So I kind of wanted relief from that and maybe get more popular as a result.”

In his audition tapes, Hou said he tried to showcase his academic talent but also his non-academic skills such as fencing and board games.

“I just wanted to be myself, because a lot of people I know really want to get in, so they try way too hard in their audition tapes. You can tell that they’re trying to fake it,” Hou said.

Starting the filming process, Hou said he didn’t really know what to feel as he was kind of nervous, but soon he became more comfortable in front of the camera.

“I made a lot of really good friends with the other candidates,” Hou said. “Our downtime was actually my best experience on the show, because we could just hang out together.”

As a result, when some of his new friends were eliminated from the show, Hou said he was genuinely upset about it.

“People bash on reality TV for not being real enough and sure, there is a lot of editing going on, but a lot of these emotions showcased there are very real,” Hou said.

Donald Beitz, distinguished professor in animal science, was Jack Hou’s academic adviser during his time at Iowa State. He said he is not at all surprised by the fact that Hou now appears on television.

“Jack was a very ambitious kind of guy. He wanted to take advantage of everything,” Beitz said. “It’s so fitting that he’s on the show; he’s just that kind of guy.”

Beitz said the only downside of Hou appearing on TV could be if he ends up spending too much time devoted to his television career.

“A medical Ph.D. takes a lot of time and focus as well as energy. If you start neglecting that, then you will have a problem, but I think Jack can manage that,” Beitz said.

Hou said that seeing himself on television is kind of a double-edged sword for him.

“Some things just look so different once you see them on TV,” Hou said. “You look at it and go ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I actually did that’. It’s just so strange.”

Since the show was filmed last summer, Hou said he already knows the outcome of the show.

“But obviously I’m not going to tell anybody, what’s going to happen next. You have to watch the show for that,” Hou said.