HomeEntertainment‘Jeopardy’: Alex Trebek Once Explained How Record-Holder Ken Jennings Was the ‘Perfect Contestant’

‘Jeopardy’: Alex Trebek Once Explained How Record-Holder Ken Jennings Was the ‘Perfect Contestant’

by Josh Lanier
(Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)

Alex Trebek knows what makes a good Jeopardy! contestant. He should after hosting more than 8,200 episodes. And out of all of them, he believed Ken Jennings was the “perfect contestant.”

Jennings won 74 episodes of Jeopardy! in a row in 2004. It is more than twice as many as anyone else in the show’s history. Trebek, who died in October, said Jennings made the game exciting. He wasn’t the only one who noticed, either. Even David Letterman was cracking jokes about how much time Jennings and Trebek were spending together.

“I spent more time with Ken Jennings than I did with my wife at that period,” Trebek joked to the Television Academy Foundation. “We were together for four and a half months.”

Looking back, it’s easy to see why Jennings was so good at Jeopardy!. He has quick thumb and quicker wit, but Trebek said he noticed right away that the now 46-year-old was something special.

“It was a marvelous time,” Trebek said of the win streak. “Ken was the perfect contestant. He was bright, he understood the game, knew how to play, he understood the nuances, knew how to wager, and he was funny. Perfect, perfect contestant. We’ve had contestants since then be just as entertaining but they weren’t able to sustain the way Ken was. They’d win 10 games, 15 games, 19 games, but no one, I don’t think anyone will ever come along and win 74 games in a row.”

And they haven’t. Since then, the next highest win streak is James Holzhauer with 32 in 2019. Interestingly, Jennings isn’t the all-time money winner on the show. That honor goes to Brad Rutter won took home more than $4.9 million on the show. Jennings won $4.3 million, according to the Jeopardy! Hall of Fame.

No, Ken Jennings Doesn’t Know Everything

To be clear, Ken Jennings is good at trivia, but he doesn’t know everything. The former Jeopardy! champion and fill-in host recently tweeted a copy of an email he received from a fan asking a bizarre question.

The person wanted Jennings to clear up something. What was the Kansas City Royals television schedule in their area? Oh, they live about 30 miles north of Kansas City, if that helps. They thought Jennings could clear up “if any of the [Royals] games will be on TV this year.”

Jennings is clearly a smart guy. But Google still exists for your highly specific questions.

“You guest-host Jeopardy for a few weeks and people just assume you can answer anything,” Jennings joked in his response.

I wonder if Alex Trebek got emails like that all the time?