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Ken Jennings
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Jennings in 2007
Kenneth Wayne Jennings III

(1974-05-23) May 23, 1974 (age 50)
Alma mater Brigham Young University (BA, BS)
  • Game show contestant
  • game show host
  • author
  • podcaster
Years active 2004–present
Known for
  • Holding the record for all-time American game show winnings
  • Having the longest Jeopardy! winning streak
  • Hosting Jeopardy! and Celebrity Jeopardy!
Mindy Boam
(m. 2000)
Children 2

Kenneth Wayne Jennings III (born May 23, 1974) is an American game show host, author, and former game show contestant. He is the highest-earning American game show contestant, having won money on five different game shows, including $4,522,700 on the U.S. game show Jeopardy!. From 2021 to 2023, Jennings and Mayim Bialik alternated as hosts of that show, as well as Celebrity Jeopardy! In 2023, Jennings received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Host for a Game Show. In December 2023, Jennings was announced as Jeopardy!’s permanent main host.

Jennings holds the record for the longest winning streak on Jeopardy! with 74 consecutive wins. He also holds the record for the highest average correct responses per game in Jeopardy! history (for those contestants with at least 300 correct responses) with 35.9 during his original run (no other contestant has exceeded 30) and 33.1 overall, including tournaments and special events. In 2004, Jennings won 74 consecutive Jeopardy! games before he was defeated by challenger Nancy Zerg in his 75th appearance. Jennings' total earnings on Jeopardy! are $4,522,700, 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 (2005); a $300,000 second-place prize in Jeopardy!'s IBM Challenge (2011), when he lost to the Watson computer but became the first person to beat third-place finisher Brad Rutter; a $100,000 second-place prize in the Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades (2014); a $100,000 second-place prize (his share of his team's $300,000 prize) in the Jeopardy! All-Star Games (2019); and a $1,000,000 first-place prize in Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time (2020).

During his first run of Jeopardy! appearances, Jennings earned the record for the highest American game show winnings. His total was surpassed by Rutter, who defeated Jennings in the finals of the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions, adding $2 million to Rutter's existing Jeopardy! winnings. Jennings regained the record after appearances on several other game shows, culminating with his results on an October 2008 appearance on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, though Rutter retained the record for highest Jeopardy! winnings and once again passed Jennings' total after his victory in the Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades tournament. In 2020, he once again faced off with and won against Rutter, as well as James Holzhauer, in a special primetime series, Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time.

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.

Early life

Kenneth Wayne Jennings III was born on May 23, 1974, in Edmonds, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. His father was a lawyer employed overseas, and Jennings spent 15 years growing up in South Korea and Singapore.

Upon returning to the United States, Jennings attended the University of Washington. Following two years as a volunteer missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he was assigned to serve in Madrid, Spain, Jennings transferred to Brigham Young University in 1996. One of his roommates there was author Brandon Sanderson. He also played on the school's quizbowl team, at one point serving as captain, and graduated in 2000 with a double major in English and computer science.


Streak on Jeopardy!

Before 2003, Jeopardy! contestants were limited to five consecutive wins. At the beginning of the show's 20th 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.

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 instead. Jennings' run was interrupted by the off-season break (July until September), 2004 Kids' Week, the Tournament of Champions (aired from September 20, 2004, through October 1, 2004), the 2004 United States presidential election (aired on Tuesday, November 2, 2004, pushing his weeks of episodes to air from Wednesday to Saturday) and the College Championship (aired from November 10, 2004, to November 23, 2004). As a result, he went the entire five months without a loss. Jennings did not participate in the Tournament of Champions, as invitations are extended only to champions (4 wins or more) who have been defeated (with the exception of the winner[s] of the College Championship).

End of the streak

On November 30, 2004, Jennings' reign as Jeopardy! champion ended when he lost his 75th 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 the Double Jeopardy! round.

The Final Jeopardy! category was Business & Industry, and the clue was, "Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year." Jennings appeared perplexed during the time allowed to write a response, while Zerg finished her response quickly. 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. After his response was revealed to be incorrect, the audience audibly gasped, and Zerg appeared to be shocked after realizing that she won. Jennings was awarded $2,000 for his second-place finish, which gave him a final total of $2,522,700 for his Jeopardy! run. Zerg, whom Jennings called a "formidable opponent", finished in third place on the next show. The audience gave a standing ovation in honor of both contestants, and Alex Trebek called Zerg a "giant killer" as Jennings embraced her.

It took a span of 182 calendar days to broadcast Jennings' 75 matches. His losing episode can be seen on the 2005 DVD release of Jeopardy!: An Inside Look at America's Favorite Quiz Show, released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Effect of the streak

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. At one point, announcer Johnny Gilbert stopped announcing Jennings' total wins during the show's opening.

On December 1, 2004, the day after his defeat, Jennings made 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.

According to the Nielsen TV National People Meter, Jeopardy!'s ratings were 22 percent 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 sister program Wheel of Fortune in the ratings, though Wheel still benefited from the streak in markets where Jeopardy! is its lead-in in the common scheduling tactic for both shows.

Jeopardy! tournaments

Ken Jennings
Jennings in 2005

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 game shows. Jennings has said that he is still happy with his second-place finish.

From February 14–16, 2011, Jeopardy's "IBM Challenge" featured the company's Watson against Jennings and Rutter in two matches played over three days, the first man-versus-machine competition in the show's history. The winner of the competition was Watson, winning $1,000,000 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. 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. Below his response during the Final Jeopardy! round, Jennings wrote on his screen "I for one welcome our new computer overlords." It was the first time Rutter had been defeated against any human player, although the defeat is not on Rutter's Jeopardy! official record, as the competition was deemed an exhibition. Jennings wrote about playing against Watson for Slate.

In 2014, Jeopardy! aired a special five-week Jeopardy! Battle of the Decades tournament. Jennings made it to the finals along with Brad Rutter and Roger Craig. Jennings placed second, winning a $100,000 prize, and Rutter won first place, securing a $1,000,000 prize.

In the 2019 Jeopardy! All-Star Games, with 18 former champions, Jennings was one of six captains, choosing 2015 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions runner-up Matt Jackson and 2012 Jeopardy! College Champion Monica Thieu (who coincidentally eliminated Jennings in a 2016 episode of 500 Questions) to complete his three-person "Team Ken." Team Ken finished second to the team captained by Rutter, with Jennings winning $100,000, one-third of the $300,000 second-place prize. This brought his lifetime Jeopardy!-related winnings to $3,522,700.

In January 2020, ABC aired the Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time tournament between Jennings, Rutter, and James Holzhauer. Jennings won the championship to be crowned with the "Greatest of All Time" title and a first-place prize of $1,000,000.

Jeopardy! staff

Consulting producer (2020–2022)

In September 2020, Jennings signed on as a consulting producer of Jeopardy! for the show's 37th season, a job that included reading on-air categories, which ended in the months following host Alex Trebek's death later in the season. Jennings held this role until the start of the show's 39th season.

Host (2021–present)

On October 29, 2020, Alex Trebek taped his final episode of Jeopardy!. Contingency plans were made for him to miss the next taping, scheduled for November 9-10, 2020, as he planned to have a surgery. Supervising producers Lisa Broffman and Rock Schmidt had named Ken Jennings the interim host for the taping and Jennings had a final conversation with Trebek days before the rehearsal was set to commence. The rehearsal was scheduled for November 8, 2020, but was subsequently cancelled when Schmidt gave the staff the news that Trebek had died that day from stage four pancreatic cancer.

On November 23, 2020, following Alex Trebek's death, it was announced that Jennings would host Jeopardy! in the first of a series of guest hosts. His episodes aired from January 11 to February 19, 2021.

In September 2021, following Mike Richards' departure early in the show's 38th season after various controversies came to light, it was announced that Jennings, along with actress Mayim Bialik, would host the show for the remainder of the season, with Jennings hosting duties exclusive to the daily syndicated series.

In July 2022, it was announced that Jennings, along with Bialik, would split hosting duties full-time beginning with the show's 39th season. In October 2022, Jennings appeared as a Clue Giver in the category "A Long Run on TV with Ken Jennings" during the Triple Jeopardy! round on the third episode of Celebrity Jeopardy! on ABC.

In January 2023, it was announced that Jennings would host Jeopardy! Masters, a primetime tournament featuring six recent notable Jeopardy! champions competing against each other in a "Champions League-style" format, on ABC. The program premiered on May 8, 2023. Following Bialik's withdrawal from Jeopardy! on May 11, 2023 due to the 2023 Hollywood labor disputes, the last 20 episodes of season 39 were hosted by Jennings. Five days later, it was announced that Jennings would host the second season of Celebrity Jeopardy!. In September of that year, Jennings received a nomination for Outstanding Host For A Game Show at the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards. In the wake of Bialik's departure, Jennings became the permanent sole host of Jeopardy! starting with the 40th season.

Outside Jeopardy!

Ken Jennings close-up
Jennings in 2008

Taking advantage of the notoriety of Jennings' losing Final Jeopardy! answer, 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 owed about $1.04 million in taxes on his winnings. BBDO created an advertisement for FedEx in the USA Today newspaper three days after his final game, stating "There's only one time FedEx has ever been the wrong answer" and congratulating Jennings for his streak.

In a 2011 Reddit AMA, Jennings recalled how in 2004 the Democratic politicians Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid unsuccessfully asked Jennings to run for the United States Senate from Utah. He commented, "That was when I realized the Democratic Party was f@#$ed in '04".

Jennings has written several books. Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs details his experiences on Jeopardy! and his research into trivia culture conducted after the completion of his run. Ken Jennings' Trivia Almanac: 8,888 Questions in 365 Days, a hardcover book, is a compilation of trivia questions—with three categories and about 20 questions per day of the year. Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks 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". He also has written five books for his children's series, Junior Genius Guides.

Jennings also had a column in Mental Floss magazine called "Six Degrees of Ken Jennings", where readers submitted two wildly different things that Jennings had to connect in exactly six steps, in the style of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. The column ran from November 2005 to the September–October 2010 issue.

According to Variety, 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." 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 13, 2006. During the interview, Colbert discussed Jennings' book, Brainiac, and mocked him for not knowing the number of pages in the book. After Colbert coined a word to describe intellectual nerdiness, "poindexterity", Jennings deliberated what the correct noun for "poindexter" was. 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.

Jennings also appeared twice on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! program. In his February 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 home answering machine. Jennings said, "This is the proudest moment of my game-show life." On June 1, 2013, he made his debut as a panelist on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. Jennings won the rookie division of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in 2006.

Jennings has written and edited literature and mythology questions for the National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT), a quiz bowl organization. He has read questions as a moderator at the 2005, 2006, and 2009 NAQT High School National Championship Tournaments in Chicago. Jennings had a weekly trivia column, Kennections, in Parade magazine. In it, five questions were posed whose answers were connected to a mystery topic, which the readers had to guess. Parade ceased the quiz in early 2015, and removed links to archived quizzes in March 2015. Kennections now appears in the online version of Mental Floss magazine.

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?"

Jennings narrated the audiobook version of Alex Trebek's autobiography, The Answer Is.... His rendition was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album at the 63rd Grammy Awards.

Other game show appearances

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. Jennings left the show with $714.29, his share of a $35,000 prize shared among 49 mob members. He 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 three people had been married the most times; Jennings answered King Henry VIII, while the correct answer was Larry King. It 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. It debuted on Game Show Network (GSN) on August 4, 2007, and featured 16 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 Rutter's total game show winnings. After winning $500,000, enough to surpass Rutter's total, Jennings chose not to attempt the million dollar question, which, if answered incorrectly, would've resulted in him losing $475,000 and leaving with $25,000. As is customary on the show, Jennings was then shown the question to see what would have happened, and he ultimately provided the correct answer. Jennings would have become the show's second million dollar winner had he decided to risk it.

From 2008 to 2009, Jennings appeared on GSN on Fridays for the trivia game Stump the Master, where home viewers submitted questions via the GSN website. Four callers were put on hold and Jennings selected from one of the categories. The caller for the category he picked came on the line and read the question. If Jennings didn't answer or was incorrect, the caller won $1,000 or more. When Jennings was right, the jackpot was increased by $1,000. All callers were given a small prize whether they participated on-air or not.

Ken Jennings 2019
Jennings in 2019

Jennings has appeared on multiple episodes of Doug Loves Movies, hosted by Doug Benson, and has won a few times. He 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", and also taped a pilot for the proposed 2009 CBS revival of Pyramid, titled Million Dollar Pyramid.

Jennings appeared on Millionaire in 2014 as a contestant during Guinness World Records Edition themed week, where he won $100,000 after deciding to walk away on his $250,000 question. If he had gone for it, Jennings would have been right and would have won $250,000.

Jennings appeared on the second-season premiere of 500 Questions on May 26, 2016 and was eliminated on the fourth question by winter 2012 college champion Monica Thieu, leaving with no winnings. Jennings later teamed up with Thieu, along with Matt Jackson, in the Jeopardy! All-Star Games in 2019.

Jennings appeared on an episode of @midnight aired May 15, 2017, during the fourth season, which he won. As a result, Jennings served as the funniest person on the internet for May 16, 2017.

An announcement in April 2019 named Jennings as one of eight recurring "Trivia Experts" for the new Game Show Network program Best Ever Trivia Show, hosted by Sherri Shepherd. The show premiered at 4:00 p.m. ET on June 10, 2019. Jennings was also one of the six trivia experts on Best Ever's successor, Master Minds, which premiered at 4:00 p.m. ET on April 6, 2020, with Brooke Burns as the host.

In November 2020, it was announced that Jennings would be one of the three chasers on the ABC revival of The Chase, hosted by Sara Haines with Rutter and Holzhauer as the other chasers, joined by Mark Labbett in season 2. Jennings left after the second season. In May 2023, he competed against Mayim Bialik and Vanna White on an episode of Celebrity Wheel of Fortune. Jennings won $72,800 for the Equal Justice Initiative.

Tuesday trivia emails

Every Tuesday, beginning on July 4, 2006, Jennings sent out an email containing seven questions. The seventh, a question asking what several items have in common, was designed to be Google-resistant. Subscribers responded with the answers to all seven questions and the results are maintained on a scoreboard on Jennings' blog. Every 10 weeks, the respondent with the most seventh questions correct was awarded a signed copy of his newest book. After 800 quizzes, as of November 16, 2021, due to an ever-increasing amount of commitments related to Jeopardy!, book tours, and simply starting to run out of material for the seventh question, Jennings decided to discontinue this email.

Omnibus podcast

On September 7, 2017, HowStuffWorks unveiled a new show entitled Omnibus, co-hosted by Jennings and John Roderick, frontman of the indie-rock band The Long Winters. They pick topics they fear might be lost to history and discuss them.

LearnedLeague and online trivia

Jennings has been an active member of the trivia app FleetWit, regularly playing in the live trivia races. As of March 2018, on average, he had answered 89 percent of questions correctly and has won over $2,000.

Jennings competed regularly in LearnedLeague under the name "JenningsK". His last active season was LL85 (May 2020), where he played in the A Rundle of the Laguna league and finished the season in 5th place.


Jennings agreed to a deal with Microsoft to promote its Encarta encyclopedia software (which was later discontinued). He is also engaged in speaking deals through the Massachusetts-based speakers' agency American Program Bureau. In 2005, Cingular Wireless (now AT&T) featured Jennings in commercials portraying him as having lots of "friends and family" (coming out of the woodwork once he began winning on Jeopardy!).

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, both correct and incorrect, are recorded on the cards.

Personal life

Jennings and his wife, Mindy, have two children. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During his Jeopardy! winning streak, Jennings lived in Salt Lake City and was a software engineer for CHG Healthcare Services, a healthcare-placement firm in Holladay, Utah. He and his family later moved to Seattle. His youngest sister was adopted from Korea when his family lived there.


On March 3, 2020, the Washington State Legislature approved Senate Resolution 8704, congratulating Jennings for his achievements on game shows.


Year Title Role Notes
2013 Marie Self Episode: Meredith Baxter & Michael Gross
2017 The Simpsons Ken Jennings (voice)
Episode: The Caper Chase
2022 Call Me Kat Self Episode: Call Me Ken Jennings
2022-2023 The $100,000 Pyramid Self - Celebrity Player Episode: Ken Jennings vs Ross Mathews and RuPaul vs Carson Kressley
Episode: Deon Cole vs D'arcy Carden and Ken Jennings vs Mario Cantone
2022–present Celebrity Jeopardy! Self - Clue Giver Episode: Quarterfinal #3: Constance Wu, Ike Barinholtz and Jalen Rose
Self - Host Season 2
2023 Celebrity Wheel of Fortune Self - Celebrity Contestant Episode: Vanna White, Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik
Jeopardy! Masters Self - Host 10 episodes

See also

  • List of notable Jeopardy! contestants
  • Strategies and skills of Jeopardy! champions
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