|Born:||May 23, 1974|
|Occupation:||Host, Contestant, Author|
|Known for:||His appearances on Jeopardy!|
Ken Jennings (also known as The Professor) (born on May 23, 1974) is a game show contestant and host. He is most notable for his record-setting streak of 74 wins on Jeopardy!. He then became the first and longest-running (at six weeks) of the guest hosts of the show following the death of Alex Trebek.
Before the 20th season premiere in 2003, champions had to retire after winning five games. To celebrate the show's 20th season, the producers changed that rule, allowing champions to continue playing until they were defeated.
Jennings' run began during Jeopardy!'s 20th season with the episode aired on June 2, 2004, in which he unseated two-time returning champion Jerry Harvey, and continued into season 21. In that first episode, Jennings' entire winning streak nearly ended before it even began. The Final Jeopardy answer was, "She's the first female track & field athlete to win medals in five different events at a single Olympics." Jennings responded with "Who is Jones?", using only the last name of Marion Jones (who was not stripped of her medals until December 2007). 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 finished in third place, and challenger Julia Lazarus would have won the game.
On June 2, 2004, Ken Jennings's first episode aired. He won the game and proceeded to win all the remaining games during that season. By the end of Season 20, Jennings had accumulated 38 wins. In the process, he broke the single-day winnings record with a $75,000 score in the final game of Season 20.
Jennings returned to begin Season 21. He proceeded to win 36 more games. After the November 29, 2004 show, he had won 74 games for a total of $2,520,700.
- Yellow is non-lock game, Red is eliminated(†: second place, ‡: third place).
|Game No.||Air Date||Final score||Cumulative Winnings||Notes|
|1||June 2, 2004||$37,201||$37,201|
|2||June 3, 2004||$22,000||$59,201|
|3||June 4, 2004||$37,000||$96,201|
|4||June 7, 2004||$30,000||$126,201|
|5||June 8, 2004||$29,799||$156,000|
|6||June 9, 2004||$25,000||$181,000|
|7||June 10, 2004||$50,000||$231,000||Jennings achieved a Coryat Score of $39,200 in this game, which is currently the record for the highest Coryat Score ever. Jennings also broke the record for most money won in regular play, both unadjusted (Tom Walsh, $186,900 - Walsh was also the first ever 7-day champion) and adjusted (Frank Spangenberg, $205,194).|
|8||June 11, 2004||$35,158||$266,158|
|9||June 14, 2004||$25,000||$291,158|
|10||June 15, 2004||$50,000||$341,158|
|11||June 16, 2004||$35,000||$376,158|
|12||June 17, 2004||$34,000||$410,158|
|13||June 18, 2004||$30,000||$440,158|
|14||June 21, 2004||$31,601||$471,759|
|15||June 22, 2004||$15,200||$486,959|
|16||June 23, 2004||$26,000||$512,959|
|17||June 24, 2004||$40,000||$552,959|
|18||June 25, 2004||$48,801||$601,760||At the time, Michael Cudahy’s $44,400 was the record for the highest second-place score ever; coincidentally, the current record of $53,999 was set by Adam Levin in James Holzhauer’s eighteenth game.|
|19||June 28, 2004||$21,000||$622,760|
|20||June 29, 2004||$40,000||$662,760|
|21||June 30, 2004||$35,000||$697,760|
|22||July 1, 2004||$40,000||$737,760|
|23||July 2, 2004||$17,600||$755,360|
|24||July 5, 2004||$19,600||$774,960|
|25||July 6, 2004||$14,000||$788,960|
|26||July 7, 2004||$40,000||$828,960|
|27||July 8, 2004||$40,000||$868,960|
|28||July 9, 2004||$52,000||$920,960||Tied Brian Weikle’s one-day record, set the year before.|
|29||July 12, 2004||$52,000||$972,960||Tied Weikle’s one-day record again.|
|30||July 13, 2004||$32,000||$1,004,960||Had Jennings gotten Final Jeopardy correct, he would have broken the one-day record. He also crossed the $1 million mark in this game, though slower than Holzhauer (14 games) and Matt Amodio and Amy Schneider (28 games each).|
|31||July 14, 2004||$17,500||$1,022,460|
|32||July 15, 2004||$28,000||$1,050,460|
|33||July 16, 2004||$50,000||$1,100,460|
|34||July 19, 2004||$35,000||$1,135,460|
|35||July 20, 2004||$29,200||$1,164,460||Broke Brad Rutter’s record for most money won and would have tied Weikle’s record once again had he gotten Final Jeopardy correct.|
|36||July 21, 2004||$30,000||$1,194,460|
|37||July 22, 2004||$52,000||$1,246,660||Tied Weikle’s one-day record for the third time, to which Alex Trebek theorized that Jennings was doing so for the sole purpose of annoying him.|
|38||July 23, 2004||$75,000||$1,321,660||Jennings set the one-day record ($75,000) as well as the record for highest score going into Final Jeopardy ($51,400). However, this did not break the adjusted record, set at $55,000 by Jack Lechner (12/2/98).|
|39||September 6, 2004||$10,001||$1,331,661||The first game of Season 21. Jennings lost $21,599 in Final Jeopardy, which broke the record for highest amount of money lost; however, once again, this did not break the adjusted record, set at $30,000 also by Lechner's same game (12/2/98).|
|40||September 7, 2004||$21,800||$1,353,461|
|41||September 8, 2004||$27,200||$1,380,461|
|42||September 9, 2004||$21,800||$1,402,461|
|43||September 10, 2004||$30,000||$1,432,461|
|44||September 13, 2004||$45,000||$1,477,461|
|45||September 14, 2004||$40,000||$1,517,461|
|46||September 15, 2004||$37,600||$1,555,061|
|47||September 16, 2004||$30,000||$1,585,061|
|48||September 17, 2004||$50,000||$1,635,061||After this win, he had to wait two weeks due to the 2004 Tournament of Champions.|
|49||October 4, 2004||$29,601||$1,664,462||This was the first regular play game of Season 21 to be taped after the show’s summer hiatus. Now, new contestants got much more practice time with the buzzer, which Jennings nearly fell victim to on his first day back to Jeff Suchard. Luckily, Suchard did not get Final Jeopardy correct, even though he would have finished in second either way as Jennings did get Final correct and wagered enough to cover Suchard’s doubled score.|
Because of Jennings’ loss being spoiled, beginning on this day, Johnny Gilbert’s daily introduction of Jennings only featured how much money he had won up to that point.
|50||October 5, 2004||$35,038||$1,699,700|
|51||October 6, 2004||$38,400||$1,738,100|
|52||October 7, 2004||$40,000||$1,778,100|
|53||October 8, 2004||$30,000||$1,808,100|
|54||October 11, 2004||$35,000||$1,843,100|
|55||October 12, 2004||$35,000||$1,878,100|
|56||October 13, 2004||$28,300||$1,906,400|
|57||October 14, 2004||$29,900||$1,936,300|
|58||October 15, 2004||$40,000||$1,976,300||After this win, he had to wait one week due to the 2004-B Kids Week.|
|59||October 25, 2004||$30,000||$2,006,300|
|60||October 26, 2004||$25,000||$2,031,300|
|61||October 27, 2004||$34,001||$2,065,301|
|62||October 28, 2004||$30,000||$2,095,301|
|63||October 29, 2004||$30,000||$2,125,301||Jennings got his tenth consecutive Final Jeopardy correct.|
|64||November 1, 2004||$26,600||$2,151,901||Competitor Ben Wiles wrote as his Final Jeopardy answer “What is see next podium” and an arrow he drew to point to Jennings’ podium, but instead pointed to Lisa Ellis’ podium. This turned out to be a fortuitous mistake, as Ellis got Final Jeopardy correct while Jennings did not.|
|65||November 3, 2004||$45,099||$2,197,000||Ken breaks Kevin Olmstead's record for most money won on a television game show.|
U.S. presidential election coverage bumped this game's airing by one day. Affiliates with no election coverage aired the "4,000th Episode" special (#4088) on 2004-11-02.
|66||November 4, 2004||$50,000||$2,247,000|
|67||November 5, 2004||$25,600||$2,272,600|
|68||November 6, 2004||$33,201||$2,305,801||U.S. presidential election coverage on 2004-11-02 bumped airdates for games this week by one day, resulting in a Saturday airdate for an original episode.|
|69||November 8, 2004||$19,200||$2,325,001|
|70||November 9, 2004||$30,000||$2,355,001||Originally, Jennings’ loss was scheduled to air today; however, due to numerous online spoilers, the show resorted to putting its then-annual Kids Week and College Championship tournaments in between Jennings’ last several games, hoping that it would mitigate the effects of the spoiler; it did not.|
|71||November 24, 2004||$55,099||$2,410,100|
|72||November 25, 2004||$50,000||$2,460,100|
|73||November 26, 2004||$31,600||$2,491,700|
|74||November 29, 2004||$29,000||$2,520,700|
|75||November 30, 2004||$8,799†||$2,522,700||Nancy Zerg ends his streak.|
Spoilers before his last regular game
During a summer taping, reports from audience members claimed that Jennings had lost during a Season 21 show while trying for his 75th consecutive win. These rumors circulated as the summer and fall of 2004 progressed. But, due to the official forum's no-spoiler policy, the rumor became known as "That Which Must Not Be Mentioned."
The original date for Jennings's loss was November 9, 2004. But, the show's producers tried to mitigate the effects of the spoiler. First, they dubbed out Johnny Gilbert's announcement of the number of games won during games 49 through 73. Second, the show interspersed special weeks into Jennings's run. But fans quickly adjusted, and it became known that "D-Day" would be November 30, 2004.
On November 26, 2004, a Georgia station accidentally aired the Final Jeopardy! round from Jennings's last regular game. Over the weekend, audio clips of that fateful Final Jeopardy! circulated over the internet.
On November 30, 2004, Ken Jennings led challenger Nancy Zerg by $14,400 to $10,000, but lost in Final Jeopardy!. Ken's other challenger, David Hankins, finished Double Jeopardy! at -$2,800 and received $1,000 in third place cash, but wasn't allowed to compete in Final Jeopardy!. The Final Jeopardy! answer in the category of BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY was the following: "Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only 4 months a year." Zerg correctly questioned, "What is H&R Block" and gained $4,401 to move to $14,401. Jennings, but mentioned "What is FedEx?" losing $5,601 and finishing in second place at $8,799. With the $2,000 second-place cash added to his total, he left with a total of $2,522,700.
Tournaments and Events
- On the December 1, 2004 episode of Jeopardy!, Jennings appeared at the beginning for a recap of the game show records he had broken or tied during his streak.
- He won the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions' second-place prize of $500,000, the 2011 IBM challenge second-place prize of $300,000, and the 2014 Battle of the Decades Tournament of Champions second-place prize of $100,000, all three opposite Brad Rutter. His all-time earnings on Jeopardy! total $3,522,700.
- He appeared in the 2019 All-Star Games and split the $300,000 second-place prize with teammates Matt Jackson (13-time winner from 2014) and Monica Thieu (2012 College Championship winner). As before, he was beaten by Brad Rutter, who split the $1 million top prize with teammates David Madden (19-time winner from 2005) and Larissa Kelly (6-time winner from 2008).
- On January 14, 2020, Ken beat Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer in the primetime special Jeopardy: The Greatest of All Time, winning a million dollars. This put him back into the top spot of most money ever won on a game show, edging out Rutter by a mere $70,000.
On November 24, 2020, it was announced that Jennings would be one of the guest hosts of Jeopardy! following Alex's death; his first episode as guest host aired January 11, 2021, and his last one aired February 19, 2021. After working as a special host, he revealed that he did not want to be a regular host.
After that, Mike Richard was selected as an official host at S38, but he resigned as the host due to all kinds of controversies before the airing, so he is serving as an adjunct special host with Mayim Bialik.
In general, the reaction from the public is good, and there are many opinions about what it would be like if Ken was chosen as Alex's successor.
- After his Jeopardy regular games is done, his all-time high of $75,000 was later broken by Roger Craig at $77,000, and James later swept all ten of the top prize money lists. However, as of 2021, his best 74-win streak and highest Coryat score ($39,200) has been maintained for over 17 years, and the champion who came close to his regular-game earning record is James Holzhauer ($2,462,216), and the champion with the longest winning streak since his defeat is Amy Schneider (40 wins).
- After Ken got off, there was a jinx that anyone who won 10 or more consecutive championships would unconditionally fail to win a streak. Then, Emma Boettcher, who defeated James Holzhauer, broke the jinx as he finished runners-up after James at the ToC after winning three straight games, and Jonathan Fisher, who later defeated Matt Amodio, reversed the jinx with 11 wins. Danielle Maurer and Eric Ahasic also have a winning streak, which is gradually breaking this trend.
- However, there is a jinx that has not been broken since Ken, in the case of FJ!, when a challenger who has won 10 or more champions tries to win a streak, there is a pattern called TS or only one challenger in the case of FJ!.
- Coincidentally, the first week of June, when he first aired, is also the time when champions with more than 10 consecutive victories often leave. Julia Collins and five-win champion Dan Feite left on that date, and five years later, James Holzhauer left the next day. Recently, in 2022, Ryan Long left the first week of June.
- He has the most consecutive lock games in all-time (28, 21th game to 48th game).
Other Game Shows
- Jennings was also the central figure in a game show pilot for Comedy Central, Ken Jennings vs. the Rest of the World. But, that pilot wasn't picked up.
- In 2006, Jennings was a member of the mob on 1 vs. 100. He was eliminated when he didn't know what color the number 1 was on a roulette wheel.
- That same year, he hosted a Minnesota School Quiz show called Face-Off Minnesota.
- Jennings was also the champion on another game show in 2007, Grand Slam. He won the $100,000 grand prize.
- He also appeared on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? on October 10, 2008, winning $500,000. Had he gone for the Million Dollar Question, he would've won the million.
- Ken appeared in a 2005 commercial for Allstate featuring actor Dennis Haysbert, proving to him how over 1 million drivers switched to Allstate last year with the question "Would a million people switch to Allstate if it was more expensive?", responding with "What is no way?"
- He also appeared in a 2005 commercial for Cingular Wireless.
- In 2005, University Games released "Can You Beat Ken?"
- On November 14 and 17, 2014, Ken Jennings walked away with $100,000 in Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.
- Ken appeared as the first contestant on the season two premiere episode of 500 Questions, but didn't add anything to his total.
- Ken appeared on GSN's 2019 Best Ever Trivia Show and its successor 2020 Master Minds as one of the regular "Trivia Experts."
- He is co-hosting a revival of The Chase for ABC with Brad Rutter, James Holzhauer, and (as of season 2) Mark Labbett. His nickname is “The Professor.”
Out of the totals Jennings won on Jeopardy!, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, 1 vs. 100, and Grand Slam, he has won an overall total of $5,223,414. He is the top rank for American game show winnings records.
You can say that Jeopardy! is one of the participants who benefited from the change to an unlimited win streak. Without him, the current Jeopardy would not exist. From summer to autumn, he appeared, and he was a person who instilled curiosity about when his winning streak would be broken. In particular, after his departure, David Madden stepped down as the long-term champion, and after 9 years, at least one long-term champion has come out every 1-2 years.
- Jeopardy! (2004, 2011, 2014, 2019-present)
- Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (2008)
- 1 vs. 100 (2006)
- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (2014)
- Cover Story: Game Show Super Contestants (2018)
- Best Ever Trivia Show (2019)
- Master Minds (2020-2021)
- The Chase (2021-)
- However, retry is possible in case of an error in the correct answer, so even if he lose due to a wrong decision, he may have been recruited again.