‘Jeopardy!’: Why Ken Jennings Wrote His Name on the Podium in a Different, Unique Way Every Show

by Matthew Wilson

Former “Jeopardy!” contestant and guest host Ken Jennings certainly didn’t want the audience to forget his name when he was on the show. During his historic 2004 run, his various name doodles almost stole the show.

Jennings changed the way he wrote his name each time appeared on the show. Rather than a simple signature, Jennings put some effort into the way he wrote his name. Fans quickly latched onto Jennings’ various signatures.

“This was an accident. Obviously, I had no idea I was going to be on ‘Jeopardy!’ 75 times,” Jennings wrote on his website. “I would have been ecstatic with just a win or two. On a whim, I decided to switch up my name in the second show, as a shout-out to family members who had suggested various ways I should write my name on the podium.”

Jennings copied logos like “Star Trek” and Microsoft for his signature. He wrote his name diagonally, with block letters, and as if they were Scrabble pieces as well. The contestant came up with a lot of different spins on the formula during the games.

Ken Jennings Invents New Signatures

But Jennings soon regretted his creative flourish for a very obvious reason. He didn’t plan to stay on the show for 70-plus consecutive games. The contestant soon found himself a little creatively bankrupt. After all, there are only so many ways you can write “Ken” before you start to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Jennings would spend his time in between tapings inventing new spins on his signature.

“I soon came to regret this little whim. There are only so many ways you can write a name like “Ken.” It’s only three letters. Before each taping, I’d be in the greenroom frantically trying to invent new “Ken” fonts on a cocktail napkin,” Jennings wrote. “And some of my wilder typographical ideas would get vetoed by the show’s producers. The Man doesn’t want you writing your name backward or in Cyrillic on the ‘Jeopardy!’ podium. That’s how he keeps you down.”

Jennings would win more consecutive matches than anyone else in the show’s history. It’s a record that’s never been broken. But he also later inspired other contestants to think outside of the box creatively. Who wants a boring signature when you can bold? Later contestant James Holzhauer also made some creative flourishes of his own, perhaps inspired by Jennings’ run at the game.