Jennings in March 2008.
|Born||Kenneth Wayne Jennings III
May 23, 1974
Edmonds, Washington, U.S.
|Residence||Mountlake Terrace, Washington, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Brigham Young University|
|Known for||74-time Jeopardy! champion
All-time game show winnings leader
|Political party||Democratic Party|
|Religion||The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)|
|Children||Dylan Jennings, Caitlin Jennings|
Kenneth Wayne "Ken" Jennings III (born May 23, 1974) is an American game show contestant and author. Jennings is noted for holding the record for the longest winning streak on the U.S. syndicated game show Jeopardy! and as being the all-time leading money winner on American game shows. In 2004, Jennings won 74 Jeopardy! games (in a row) before he was defeated by challenger Nancy Zerg on his 75th appearance. His total earnings on Jeopardy! are $3,172,700, consisting of $2,520,700 over his 74 wins, a $2,000 second-place prize in his 75th appearance, a $500,000 second-place prize in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions, as well as half of a $300,000 prize in the IBM Challenge, when he competed against Watson.
During his first run of Jeopardy! appearances, Jennings earned the record for the highest American game show winnings. His total was surpassed by Brad Rutter, who defeated Jennings in the finals of the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions (first aired on May 25, 2005), adding $2,000,000 to Rutter's existing Jeopardy! winnings. Jennings regained the record after appearing on several other game shows, culminating in an appearance on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (first aired on October 10, 2008), though Rutter retains the Jeopardy! record.
After his success on Jeopardy!, Jennings wrote about his experience and explored American trivia history and culture in his book Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, published in 2006.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Family and personal life
- 3 Streak on Jeopardy!
- 4 Ultimate Tournament of Champions
- 5 After Jeopardy!
- 6 Jeopardy! Events and Further Tournaments
- 7 Endorsements
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Born in Edmonds, Washington, Jennings grew up in Seoul, South Korea (1981–1992) and Singapore (1992–1996), where his father worked for an international law firm and then as Asia Pacific Division Counsel of Oracle Corporation. He watched Jeopardy! on American Forces Network television while growing up.
Jennings graduated with a degree in Computer Science and English at Brigham Young University, where he played on the school's quizbowl team for three and a half years. He graduated from Seoul Foreign School where he completed an International Baccalaureate diploma. Jennings attended the University of Washington during his freshman year.
Family and personal life
Jennings currently resides in the Seattle metropolitan area. He has stated that he is an avid comic book and movie geek with a website listing his top 4,000 favorite movies. He also writes questions for, edits the literature and mythology categories of questions of, and is otherwise active in the National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT), a quiz bowl organization; in particular, he moderated (i.e., read questions) at the 2005, 2006, and 2009 NAQT National High School Tournaments in Chicago.
Streak on Jeopardy!
Before 2003, Jeopardy! contestants were limited to five consecutive games. At the beginning of the show's twentieth season (in 2003), the rules were changed to allow contestants to remain on the show as long as they continued to win. After this rule change, and until Jennings' run, the record winning streak was set by Tom Walsh, who won $186,900 in eight games in January 2004.
Before his Jeopardy! appearance, Jennings was a member of BYU's Quiz Bowl Team. Jennings' run began during Jeopardy!'s 20th season with the episode aired on Wednesday, June 2, 2004, in which he unseated two-time returning champion Jerry Harvey, and continued into season 21. In that first episode, Jennings' entire win streak nearly ended before it even began, as he responded to the Final Jeopardy answer with "Who is Jones?", referring to Marion Jones. Host Alex Trebek said, "We will accept that, in terms of female athletes, there aren't that many." If the response had not been accepted, Jennings would have lost. Jennings' run was interrupted by the 2004 Kids' Week, the Tournament of Champions (aired from September 20, 2004 through October 1, 2004), and the College Championship (aired from November 10, 2004 through November 23, 2004). He did not participate in the Tournament of Champions, as invitations are only extended to champions who have already been defeated (with the exception of the winner(s) of the College Championship), which Jennings had not yet been.
End of the streak
On November 30, 2004, Jennings' reign as Jeopardy! champion ended when he lost his seventy-fifth game to challenger Nancy Zerg. Jennings responded incorrectly to both Double Jeopardy! Daily Doubles, causing him to lose a combined $10,200 ($5,400 and $4,800, respectively) and leaving him with $14,400 at the end of the round. As a result, for only the tenth time in 75 games, Jennings did not have an insurmountable lead going into the Final Jeopardy! round. Only Jennings and Zerg, who ended Double Jeopardy! with $10,000, were able to play Final Jeopardy! as third-place contestant David Hankins failed to finish with a positive score after Double Jeopardy!.
The Final Jeopardy! category was Business & Industry, and the answer was "Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year". Zerg responded correctly with "What is H&R Block?" and wagered $4,401 of her $10,000, giving her a $1 lead over Jennings with his response still to be revealed. Jennings incorrectly responded with "What is FedEx?", and lost the game with a final score of $8,799 after his $5,601 wager was deducted from his score. He was awarded $2,000 for his second place finish, which gave him a final total of $2,522,700 for his run on Jeopardy!. Zerg, whom Jennings called a "formidable opponent," finished in third place on the next show.
Jennings' 75 matches took place over a span of 182 calendar days, which included stoppages for the show's summer break, one Kids Week series of episodes, the 2004 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, and the 2004 Jeopardy! College Championship.
Effect of the streak on Jeopardy!
Jeopardy! implemented some backstage changes during Jennings' run. Normally, players only get a short time to practice, but more rehearsal time was added so that the new players could get comfortable with the buzzers. Additionally, the person who managed the buzzer system was changed. In his book Brainiac, Jennings says that the consistency of the original manager's timing had given an increasing advantage to continuing players, and that the change made a noticeable difference in the second season that he was on the show.
On December 1, 2004, the day after his defeat, Jeopardy! broke with tradition by having Jennings make a "guest appearance" at the start of the broadcast, during which host Alex Trebek acknowledged his success and enumerated the various game show records he had broken.
Jennings appeared in The Guinness Book of World Records under "Most cash won on a game show."
According to the Nielsen TV National People Meter, Jeopardy!'s ratings were 22% higher during Jennings' run than they were during the same period the previous year. For several weeks of the winnings streak, Jeopardy! was ranked as TV's highest-rated syndicated program. By the end of Jeopardy!'s 20th season several weeks later, the show had surpassed Wheel of Fortune in the ratings but Wheel, which is usually paired with Jeopardy! in programming, also benefited from Jennings' streak.
Media appearances and coverage during the streak
Jennings has received a good deal of American media coverage. After his 38th win on Jeopardy!, during the summer break between tapings, Jennings made a guest appearance on Live with Regis and Kelly. There Jennings revealed that he had failed to qualify for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, once hosted by Regis Philbin. During that guest appearance, Jennings said, "Jeopardy! is a man's game... it's not like Millionaire."
Jennings appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman to present Letterman's "Top Ten List" (Top ten ways to irritate Alex Trebek). He appeared again on the program on the night his final show was televised, in addition to interview segments airing that night on local late evening news programming and on Nightline. Barbara Walters selected Jennings as one of the "Ten Most Fascinating People of 2004" for her twelfth annual ABC News special, which aired on December 8, 2004. While on his media tour following his final game, Jennings taped a segment for Sesame Street. TV Guide featured a segment of "The Top Ten TV Moments of 2004", in which Ken Jennings' loss placed third. On December 1, 2004, A&E aired an episode of Biography on Jennings and other Jeopardy! notables, including Frank Spangenberg and Eddie Timanus.
Ultimate Tournament of Champions
On December 28, 2004, Sony announced a 15-week, 75-show Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions. It featured Tournament of Champions, College Championship, and Teen Tournament winners from the show's 21-year run, as well as over 100 five-time champions. Jeopardy!'s executive producer, Harry Friedman, explained:
- "The 2003 rule change, which allows Jeopardy! players to keep playing until they're defeated, raised the question about how other five-time champions might have played under this rule. This tournament is an opportunity to give those past champions another chance to shine."
The field totaled 145 players including Jennings, who, unlike the other competitors, was automatically placed in the finals. The Ultimate Tournament of Champions offered substantial cash prizes; with a grand prize of $2,000,000 to the winner, $500,000 for the first runner-up, and $250,000 for the second runner-up. Guaranteed prize money was offered to all contestants.
In the final round of the Ultimate Tournament, Brad Rutter decisively defeated Jennings and Jerome Vered, with respective final scores of $62,000, $34,599, and $20,600. Jennings won the $500,000 prize for second place, but as a result of the Ultimate Tournament, Rutter temporarily displaced him as the highest overall winner of money on a game show. Jennings has said he is still happy with his second-place finish. (Jennings and Rutter returned to Jeopardy! in February 2011 to challenge IBM's Watson computer, to which they both lost.)
Taking advantage of the notoriety that Jennings's losing Final Jeopardy! answer afforded, H&R Block offered Jennings free tax planning and financial services for the rest of his life. H&R Block senior vice president David Byers estimated that Jennings would owe approximately $1.04 million in taxes on his winnings.
In 2004, Democratic politicians Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid unsuccessfully asked Jennings to run for the United States Senate from Utah. Jennings observed, "that was when I realized the Democratic Party was f@#$ed in '04."
Jennings has written four books. Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs (2006, Villard, ISBN 1-4000-6445-7, trade paperback ISBN 0-8129-7499-9) details his experiences on Jeopardy! and his research into trivia culture conducted after the completion of his run. Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac: 8,888 Questions in 365 Days, a hardcover book (2008, Villard, ISBN 0-345-59997-2), is a compilation of trivia questions—with 3 categories and about 20 questions per day of the year. Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks (2011, Scribner, ISBN 1-4391-6717-6) explores the world of map and geography enthusiasts. Because I said so! is a humorous examination of 'The myths, tales & warnings every generation passes down to its kids' (2012, Scribner, ISBN 978-1-4516-5625-1, ebook ISBN 978-1-4516-5625-5).
Jennings also had a column in Mental Floss magazine called "Six Degrees of Ken Jennings", in which readers submit two wildly different things and he has to connect them in exactly six moves, much in the same vein as the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. The column ran from November 2005; to the September–October 2010 issue.
According to Variety.com, Jennings and television producer Michael Davies teamed up as executive producers on a new game show format for Comedy Central. According to Comedy Central execs, it was planned that Jennings would co-host and participate. The series was planned to premiere late in 2005 or in the first quarter of 2006; as of April 2006, development had stalled, and the show's future remained uncertain. Jennings explained on his website that "Stephen Colbert's show was doing so well in its post-Daily Show spot that Comedy Central decided they weren't in the market for a quiz show anymore." However, as of mid-2006, he was still shopping a potential game show titled, Ken Jennings vs. the Rest of the World.
Jennings appeared on The Colbert Report on September 14, 2006. During the interview, Colbert discussed Jennings's book, Brainiac, and mocked him not knowing the number of pages the book contained. After Colbert coined a word to describe intellectual nerdiness, "poindexterity", Jennings was going back and forth of what is the correct noun for "poindexter." Jennings noted, as he had done earlier that day on NPR's Talk of the Nation, that since his streak, people "seem to have an extra-hard trivia question" in case they run into him.
He also appeared twice on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! program. In his Feb. 25, 2006 appearance on the "Not My Job" segment, he answered all three questions correctly, winning for a listener Carl Kasell's voice on that person's answering machine. Jennings stated, "This is, this is the proudest moment of my game show life."
Entertainment Weekly put his performance on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Answer: A software engineer from Utah, he dominated the quizfest for a record 74 shows in 2004, amassing $2,520,700. Question: Who is Ken Jennings?"
Other game show appearances
Ken Jennings appeared on the first two episodes of the NBC game show 1 vs. 100 on October 13 and 20, 2006 as a mob member. He incorrectly answered the question, "what color is the number 1 space on a standard roulette wheel?" as "black" instead of "red" in his second episode, eliminating him from the game. (He explained that he did not know the answer because his Mormon faith prohibits gambling.) He left the show with $714.29, his share of a $35,000 prize shared among 49 Mob members. Jennings returned to the show for a special "Last Man Standing" episode aired on February 9, 2007. He was eliminated on the final question, which asked which of the three options had been married the most times; he answered King Henry VIII, while the correct answer was Larry King. This episode was the first time Jennings had a chance at a rematch against rival Brad Rutter, who was also part of the mob and was eliminated before Jennings.
In 2007, Jennings was invited to be a contestant on the game show Grand Slam hosted by Dennis Miller and Amanda Byram, also a Sony Pictures production. The show debuted on GSN on August 4, 2007, and featured sixteen former game-show winners in a single-elimination tournament. Jennings, seeded second behind Brad Rutter, won the tournament and became the 2007 Grand Slam Champion after defeating Ogi Ogas (a second-round winner against Rutter) in the finals. He earned $100,000 for his victory.
Jennings was a contestant on an episode of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? that aired on October 10, 2008, which held the possibility of exceeding fellow Jeopardy! winner Brad Rutter's total game show winnings. After winning $500,000, enough to surpass Rutter's total, Jennings chose not to attempt the final $1,000,000 question, which would have deducted $475,000 from his winnings if he missed it. As is customary on the show, Jennings was then shown the question to see what would have happened, and he provided the correct answer. Had he risked his winnings and correctly answered the question, he would have become the show's second $1,000,000 winner.
As of October 31, 2008, Ken is appearing on GSN on Fridays for the trivia game Stump the Master. Home viewers send questions via the GSN website. Four callers are put on hold and Ken selects from one of the categories. The caller for the category he picked comes on the line and reads the question. If Ken does not answer or is incorrect, the caller wins $1,000 or more. Anytime Ken is right, the jackpot is increased by $1,000. All callers are given a small prize, whether or not they participated on the air themselves.
Jennings also appeared on two other Sony Pictures Television game shows, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, as a frequent expert for the lifeline "Ask the Expert" (his appearances were after Sony acquired Millionaire packager 2waytraffic in 2008), and also taped a pilot for the proposed 2009 CBS revival of Sony's The $25,000 Pyramid.
On June 1st, 2013, Ken Jennings made his debut as a panelist on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.
Blog entry misinterpreted as critical of Jeopardy!
Jennings made the news in July 2006 when an article in the New York Post written by Michael Starr was published claiming that Jennings had been critical of Jeopardy! on his blog. Citing statements that Jennings wrote on it, Starr's article focuses on Jennings's "criticism" of the show and host Alex Trebek.
Jennings responded on his personal blog, saying, "[Starr] knows there's no way I was genuinely calling for angry bees and ventriloquist's dummies to be added to the Jeopardy! format. It's a humor piece, and one which gets its laughs from the outrageous non sequiturs it proposes, not the ripeness of its target for criticism." Jennings had already posted a more serious comment defending Trebek that remains on his website.
American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
Jennings won the rookie division of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT) in 2006. In his first time competing, Jennings placed 37th overall. He also served as the award's presenter, becoming the first contestant to present an award to himself. He has not competed in the tournament since.
Jeopardy! Events and Further Tournaments
From February 14–16, 2011, Jeopardy's "IBM Challenge" featured the computer company's Watson against Jennings and Rutter in two matches played over three days. The winner of the competition was Watson, winning $1 million for two charities, while Jennings was second and Rutter was third, receiving $300,000 and $200,000, respectively. Jennings and Rutter each pledged to donate half of their winnings to charity.
This was the first ever man-versus-machine competition in the show's history. At the end of the first episode, in which only the first match's Jeopardy! Round was aired, Rutter was tied with Watson at $5,000, while Jennings was in third with $2,000. After the second episode in which the first game was completed, Jennings remained at third with $4,800 while Rutter at second had $10,400. The competition ended with Watson with $77,147, Jennings with $24,000, and Rutter with $21,600. Underneath his response during the Final Jeopardy! Round, Jennings wrote on his screen "I for one welcome our new computer overlords". Although an exhibition, it was the first time Rutter has been defeated against any human player, although it does not count.
Jennings is slated to return to the lecterns in 2014 as part of the show's Decades Tournament.
Jennings agreed to a deal with Microsoft to promote its discontinued Encarta encyclopedia software. He is also engaged in speaking deals through the Massachusetts-based speakers agency, American Program Bureau. Cingular Wireless (now AT&T) featured Jennings in commercials portraying Jennings as having lots of "friends and family" (coming out of the woodwork, because he is now "stinking rich") in 2005.
University Games produced a Can You Beat Ken? board game, in which players vie against each other and Jennings in an attempt to earn $2.6 million first. Each question in the game was asked to Jennings, and his answers are recorded on the cards.
|Ken Jennings: Watson, Jeopardy and me, the obsolete know-it-all, TED talks|
- ColterJennings attorneys list
- Jennings, Ken (2006). Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs. Random House. ISBN 1-4000-6445-7.
- "About Ken". Ken Jennings. Retrieved 2006-07-15.
- Brainiac’s daughter Ken Jennings. Retrieved on 2006-11-14.
- Stack, Peggy Fletcher; Robert Gehrke (April 10, 2005). "Mormons in D.C. -- Members increasingly influential in Washington scene". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2008-08-28.[dead link]
- Jennings's Democratic affiliation is referred to by The Mormon Democrat. Jennings noted his satisfaction with Democratic electoral victories on his own blog.
- National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC
- ""JEOPARDY!" PREMIERES MILESTONE 20TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON SEPTEMBER 8, 2003: America’s Favorite Quiz Show Launches Season 20 With Many Exciting and Historic "Firsts"" (Press release). King World. 2003-09-04. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2006-11-29.
- Jennings, Ken (2006). Brainiac. Villard. p. 28. ISBN 1-4000-6445-7.
- J! Archive - Show #4657 - Tuesday, November 30, 2004
- Ken Jennings Detailed Statistics
- Paquet, Paul (January 2005). "Backstage with Ken Jennings". TriviaHallofFame.com. Cornerstone Word Company. Retrieved 2006-07-07.
- ""JEOPARDY!" STREAK OVER: Ken Jennings Loses in 75th Game, Takes Home a Record-Setting $2,520,700" (Press release). King World. 2004-11-30. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-03-07.
- Kimberly Speight (August 4, 2004). "'Jeopardy!' Caps Season on Winning Streak". Archived from the original on October 13, 2004. Retrieved 2006-11-29.
- Transcript of Ken Jennings' appearance on Live with Regis and Kelly
- "Q.: "What is H&R Block?" A.: The Company You Turn to for Tax and Financial Assistance" (Press release). H&R Block. 2004-11-30. Retrieved 2006-07-07.
- Roth, Stephen (2004-11-30). "Block offers Jeopardy! champ tax services for life". Kansas City Business Journal (American City Business Journals). Retrieved 2006-07-07.
- "‘Jeopardy’ streak comes to end". MSNBC.com. Associated Press. 2004-12-01. Retrieved 2006-07-07.
- Jennings, Ken (2011-03-03). "IAmA 74-time Jeopardy! champion, Ken Jennings. I will not be answering in the form of a question.". Reddit. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
- "Maphead". C-SPAN Video Library. September 20, 2011. Retrieved February 25, 2012.
- "mental_floss media kit" (PDF) (Press release). Mental Floss LLC. Archived from the original on 2006-07-09. Retrieved 2006-07-20.
- Nov-Dec 2005 table of contents for mental floss magazine. Accessed 2008-10-14.
- Jennings, Ken (December 31, 2010). "Another year over, a new one just begun". ken-jennings.com. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
- Martin, Denise (2005-05-24). "Trivia titan gets series: Comedy, Jennings prep game". Variety. Retrieved 2006-11-29.
- Ken Jennings (2006). "FAQ: Life A.T. (After Trebek)". Retrieved 2006-06-29.
- "The Colbert Report - September 13, 2006: Ken Jennings". ColbertNation.com. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
- Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! : NPR
- Geier, Thom; Jensen, Jeff; Jordan, Tina; Lyons, Margaret; Markovitz, Adam; Nashawaty, Chris; Pastorek, Whitney; Rice, Lynette; Rottenberg, Josh; Schwartz, Missy; Slezak, Michael; Snierson, Dan; Stack, Tim; Stroup, Kate; Tucker, Ken; Vary, Adam B.; Vozick-Levinson, Simon; Ward, Kate (December 11, 2009), "THE 100 Greatest MOVIES, TV SHOWS, ALBUMS, BOOKS, CHARACTERS, SCENES, EPISODES, SONGS, DRESSES, MUSIC VIDEOS, AND TRENDS THAT ENTERTAINED US OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS". Entertainment Weekly. (1079/1080):74-84
- Transcript of 1 vs. 100 episode 2
- Ken Jennings - Blog
- Starr, Michael (2006-07-25). "Gift Horse, Meet Ken Jennings". New York Post. Archived from the original on August 13, 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-25.[dead link]
- "Dear Jeopardy!". Ken Jennings's personal blog. 2006-07-19. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
- "Sense of humor, meet Michael Starr". Ken Jennings's personal blog. 2006-07-25. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
- "Ken Jennings's website - FAQ". Retrieved 2006-07-25.
- "Crossed Up by the K in Connecticut". Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- "PBS NOVA: Smartest Machine on Earth". PBS. February 14, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
- "IBM's "Watson" Computing System to Challenge All Time Greatest Jeopardy! Champions". Jeopardy!. Sony Pictures Digital Inc. 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2010-12-15.
- Markoff, John (December 16, 2010). "On ‘Jeopardy,’ Watson’s a Natural". The New York Times. Retrieved December 16, 2010.
- "My Puny Human Brain". Slate. February 17. Retrieved 18 February 2011.
- American Program Bureau[dead link]
- "Ken Jennings: Watson, Jeopardy and me, the obsolete know-it-all". TED talks. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ken Jennings.|
- Ken Jennings official web site
- Jeopardy! web site
- Jennings' February 2013 TED talk (video), "Watson, Jeopardy and me, the obsolete know-it-all"
- Jennings' Top 2000 Favorite Movies Page
- Ken Jennings at the Internet Movie Database
- 2006 IMNO Interview with Ken Jennings
|All-time Jeopardy! winnings leader
|All-time American game show winnings leader
|Biggest Jeopardy! winners by season
Took place over two seasons
1-37 in 2003-04, 38-74 in 2004-05
|Biggest one-day winners on Jeopardy! by season
Brian Weikle, 2002-2003
Jerome Vered, 1992
$34,000 ($68,000 adjusted)
|Biggest one-day winners on Jeopardy!
Roger Craig, 2010
|Biggest Jeopardy! regular play winnings leader