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Kenneth Wayne "Ken" Jennings III (born May 23, 1974) holds the record for the longest winning streak on the U.S.marker syndicated game show Jeopardy! and, as of October 10, 2008, once again became the all-time leading money winner on American game shows. In 2004, Jennings won 74 Jeopardy! games before he was defeated by challenger Nancy Zerg on his 75th appearance. His total earnings on Jeopardy! are US $3,022,700 ($2,520,700 over his 74 wins, a $2,000 second-place prize in his 75th appearance, and a $500,000 second-place prize in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions).

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 of his experience and explored American trivia history and culture in Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, published in 2006. Jennings also appeared as a member of the mob on the game show 1 vs. 100 in 2006, and in 2007 he was the champion of the US version of Grand Slam.

Biography

Born in Edmonds, Washingtonmarker, Jennings grew up in Seoulmarker, South Koreamarker (1981–1992) and Singaporemarker (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 Universitymarker, where he played on the school's quizbowl team for three and a half years. He graduated from Seoul Foreign Schoolmarker where he completed an International Baccalaureate diploma, and achieved honors at Brigham Young. Jennings attended the University of Washingtonmarker during his freshman year.

Jennings is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served a two-year mission in Madridmarker, Spainmarker from 1993 to 1995.

As reported by The Salt Lake Tribune and other sources, Jennings is a member of the Democratic Party.

Now residing just outside Seattle, Washingtonmarker, Jennings identifies himself as an avid comic book and movie buff 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 Chicagomarker.

During his Jeopardy! winning streak, Jennings was a software engineer for CHG Healthcare, a healthcare-placement firm in Salt Lake Citymarker, Utahmarker.

He and his wife Mindy (née Boam) have a son, Dylan, born in 2003, and a daughter, Caitlin, born in 2006.

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's run, the record winning streak was set by Tom Walsh, who won $186,900 in eight games in January 2004.

Jennings had long prepared for Jeopardy! by competing on BYU's Quiz Bowl Team. Jennings also studied the book How to Get on Jeopardy! and Win by 1996 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions winner Michael Dupee. Jennings's run began during Jeopardy!'s 20th season with the episode aired on Wednesday, June 2, 2004, in which he unseated 2-time returning champion Jerry Harvey, and continued into season 21. Jennings's run was interrupted by the 2004 [[Jeopardy! Kids Week| Kids' Week]], the [[Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions|Tournament of Champions]] (aired from September 20, 2004 through October 1, 2004), and the [[Jeopardy! College Championship|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, which Jennings had not yet been. === End of the streak === On November 30, 2004, Jennings' long reign as ''Jeopardy!'' champion ended when he lost his seventy-fifth game to challenger Nancy Zerg.[http://www.j-archive.com/showgame.php?game_id=62 J! Archive - Show #4657 - Tuesday, November 30, 2004] Jennings responded incorrectly to both Double Jeopardy! Daily Doubles, losing him a combined $10,200 ($5,400 and $4,800 respectively, taking him down to $14,400) because of his high wagers. Due to this, Ken's lead over the second-place contestant (Zerg) heading into Final Jeopardy was not insurmountable, as it had been for 65 of his previous 74 victories.[http://kenjenningsstatistics.blogspot.com Ken Jennings Detailed Statistics] The third contestant, David Hankins, had a negative score and thus did not participate in Final Jeopardy. The Final Jeopardy! category was Business & Industry, and the answer was "Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal [[white-collar worker|white-collar employees]] work only four months a year". Zerg responded correctly, with "What is [[H&R Block]]?". Her wager of $4,401 took her score to $14,401, $1 ahead of Ken Jennings. Jennings responded with "What is [[FedEx]]?", dropping his score by $5,601 to $8,799 and unseating him as ''Jeopardy!'' champion. Jennings' final total, along with his consolation prize for finishing in second place, was $2,522,700. The length of Jennings's ''Jeopardy!'' run (by airing) totaled 182 calendar days, including his first and last appearances. Jennings said in an interview that the loss was "no fluke" and that Zerg was a formidable opponent.{{Citation needed|date=February 2007}} She was defeated the following day, finishing in third place. === Impact of the streak on ''Jeopardy!'' === ''Jeopardy!'' implemented some backstage changes during Jennings's run. Normally players only get a short time of practice with the buzzers; however, more rehearsal time was added so that the new players could get comfortable. Additionally, the person who managed the buzzer system was changed.{{cite web | last = Paquet | first = Paul | authorlink = Paul Paquet | title = Backstage with Ken Jennings | work = TriviaHallofFame.com | publisher = Cornerstone Word Company | month = January | year = 2005 | url = http://www.triviahalloffame.com/kenjennings.htm | accessdate = 2006-07-07 }} On December 1, 2004, the show 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. In the Guinness Book of World Records Ken Jennings appeared in "Most cash on a game show." ==== Ratings impact ==== According to the Nielsen TV National People Meter, ''Jeopardy!'''s ratings were 22% higher during Jennings's 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.{{Cite press release | title="JEOPARDY!" STREAK OVER: Ken Jennings Loses in 75th Game, Takes Home a Record-Setting $2,520,700 | url=http://www.kingworld.com/release/jennings_113004.html | publisher = King World | date=2004-11-30 | accessdate=2007-03-07}} By the end of ''Jeopardy!'''s 20th season several weeks later, the show had surpassed ''[[Wheel of Fortune (US game show)|Wheel of Fortune]]'' in the ratings (the first time any show had displaced ''Wheel'' as the highest rated syndicated television show since 1984{{Citation needed|date=March 2007}}), but ''Wheel'', which is usually paired with ''Jeopardy!'' in programming, also benefited from Jennings's streak.{{cite web | url = http://www.entertainment-news.org/breaking/2376/jeopardy-caps-season-on-winning-streak.html | title = 'Jeopardy!' Caps Season on Winning Streak |author = Kimberly Speight | accessdate = 2006-11-29 |date=August 4, 2004 }} === Media appearances and coverage during the streak === Jennings has received a good deal of American media coverage. After his 31st 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 (US game show)|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''."[http://boards.sonypictures.com/boards/showthread.php?p=182714 Transcript of Ken Jennings's appearance on ''Live with Regis and Kelly''] Jennings appeared on ''[[The Late Show with David Letterman]]'' to present [[David Letterman|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 11 p.m. news programming and on ''[[Nightline (US news program)|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 Network|A&E]] aired an episode of ''[[Biography (television program)|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|''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 a substantial prize, 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 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.

After Jeopardy!

When asked what he intended to do with his streak winnings, Jennings said that he intended to tithe ten percent to his church, donate to public television and National Public Radio, go on a trip to Europe, and invest the rest for his family. Jeopardy! contestants typically receive their winnings approximately 120 days after their last game airs in the form of a check. 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.

Jennings has written two books, both published by the Villard imprint of Random House. The first, Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs (2006, 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. The second, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac: 8,888 Questions in 365 Days, a hardcover book (released in January 2008, ISBN 0-345-59997-2), is a compilation of trivia questions - with 3 categories and about 20 questions per day of the year.

Jennings also has 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 has been written since at least November 2005 and is still being written as of October 2008.

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' 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 stated that after winning on Jeopardy!, he ceased to be a 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."

Other game show appearances

Ken Jennings appeared on the first episode of the NBC game show 1 vs. 100 on October 13, 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 didn't 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 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, in an attempt to top 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 category for the caller he picked comes on the line and reads the question. If Ken doesn't 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 2waytraffic in 2008), and also taped a pilot for the proposed 2009 CBS revival of Sony's The $25,000 Pyramid.

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 there, Starr's article focuses on Jennings' "criticism" of the show and host Alex Trebek.

Jennings responded on his blog saying, "...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.

Records

During his streak, Jennings broke the following records:
Description Current Record Previous Record
Highest American game show winnings total $3,623,414.29** $3,270,102.00 by Brad Rutter
Most consecutive appearances on Jeopardy! 75 episodes (74 wins, 1 loss) 8 episodes (7 wins, 1 loss) by Tom Walsh, January 5–14, 2004
Most consecutive appearances on a syndicated game show 46 episodes (43 wins, 4 ties, 1 loss - more than one game could be played on an episode, and some games were part of two episodes) by Thom McKee on Tic Tac Dough, 1980
Most total appearances on Jeopardy!, including tournaments 78 episodes (including Ultimate Tournament of Champions) 16 episodes by Bob Verini, 1986–2002 (regular season-5x, Tournament of Champions-4x, Super Jeopardy!-3x, Masters Tournament-4x)
Highest total winnings on Jeopardy! in non-tournament play* US$2,522,700 US$184,900 by Tom Walsh, January 5–13, 2004

US$102,597 (adjusted to $205,194) by Frank Spangenberg, January 9–15, 1990 (prior to increase in clue value)
Highest total winnings in one game of Jeopardy! US$75,000 (game 38) US$52,000 by Brian Weikle, April 14, 2003 (Jennings intentionally tied this record three times before he broke it)

US$34,000 (adjusted to $68,000) by Jerome Vered, May 21, 1992 (prior to 2001 increase in clue value)
Highest 5-game total on Jeopardy!, consecutive US$221,200 (games 34–38) US$154,200 by Tom Walsh (games 3–7), January 7–13, 2004US$102,597 (adjusted to $205,194) by Frank Spangenberg, January 9–15, 1990 (prior to increase in clue value)
Highest 5-game total on Jeopardy!, best 5 games US$286,099 (games 28, 29, 37, 38, and 71)
*Not included in these totals is a $2,000 consolation prize Jennings and Walsh each received for finishing in second place at the end of their respective runs. Spangenberg only received $75,000 of his winnings due to an earnings cap in effect at the time; the balance went to charity.

**Jennings has an overall game-show winnings total of $3,623,414.29, including $714.29 in winnings from 1 vs 100, where he was a one of 49 members of the mob on the October 20, 2006 episode which split $35,000 in winnings when a contestant answered a question incorrectly, $100,000 from his appearance on GSN's Grand Slam, in which he finished first, and $500,000 from his appearance on the October 10, 2008 episode of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?


He also tied the following records:
Description Current Record
Most consecutive appearances on a game show 75 episodes by Ian Lygo on 100%, 1998*
Most opponents defeated on a game show 150 by Ian Lygo on 100%, 1998**


The following records, having been set by Ken Jennings, have now been broken by others:

Description Current Record Previous Record
Highest total earnings on Jeopardy! US$3,255,102 by Brad Rutter, May 25, 2005 (Does not include value of two 2000 Chevrolet Camaro coupes he won as a five-time champion.) US$2,522,700 by Ken Jennings
Highest 5-game total on Jeopardy!, first 5 games (unadjusted) US$179,797 by Larissa Kelly, May 26, 2008 US$156,000 by Ken Jennings
*Not included in Jennings's total $500,000 he earned at the same time as Rutter earned $2,000,000 in the Ultimate Tournament of Champions to set the new record.
Jennings was not eligible for the 2006 Tournament of Champions. By accepting a bye into the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, Jennings was guaranteed $250,000. This bye also required that he give up his right to play in the 2006 Tournament of Champions. Rutter's total of $3,255,102 includes $55,102 in his five days and $3,000,000 in special tournament play, but does not include his two Chevrolet Camaros he won on the game.

Loss on Jeopardy! and final statistics

In a rumor disclosed on Wednesday, September 8, 2004, two sources who were at the taping on September 7, 2004 reported that Jennings had lost on his 75th episode, taped the day before, with total winnings at around $2.5 million. (Jeopardy! tapes five shows per day.) This incident was reported by TV Week and the Associated Press, appearing in hundreds of newspapers across the United Statesmarker. A few days later, another rumor spread giving out an incorrect first name of the contestant who had beaten him. Despite this, Jeopardy! refused to comment.

Endorsements

Jennings’ success has resulted in him being a popular individual amongst corporations looking for public endorsers.

Jennings agreed to a deal with Microsoft to promote its 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 also appeared on commercials for Allstate Insurance. Also starring Dennis Haysbert, the advertisements parody a typical Final Jeopardy! situation, and parody Ken's usual style of guessing at answers by having him answer the question in a humorous, over-the-top inquisitive fashion. In October 2008, Jennings began appearing in television ads for TriviaMania.com.

See also



References

  1. J! Archive Ken Jennings player page
  2. ColterJennings attorneys list
  3. Jennings' Democratic affiliation is referred to by The Hedgehog Blog and The Mormon Democrat. Jennings noted his satisfaction with Democratic electoral victories on his own blog.
  4. National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC
  5. Brainiac’s daughter Ken Jennings. Retrieved on 2006-11-14.
  6. Tom Walsh game 8 on the JEOPARCHIVE!
  7. Nov-Dec 2005 table of contents for mental floss magazine. Accessed 2008-10-14.
  8. Sept-Oct 2008 table of contents for mental floss magazine. Accessed 2008-10-14.
  9. http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=35&agg=0&prgDate=02-25-2006&view=storyview
  10. Transcript of 1 vs. 100 episode 2
  11. [1]
  12. Some Ken Jennings News. September 9, 2004 Retrieved on January 20, 2007.
  13. American Program Bureau


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