Back when Ken Jennings earned the title of first ever “Greatest of All Time” player on Jeopardy!, it seemed he and late host Alex Trebek were the faces of trivia shows. Since his first appearance on the gameshow, Jennings won 74 games and racked up millions of dollars. It seems only natural that the famous and well-received contestant now works on the show behind the scenes.
How he got there is a funny story.
Jennings Is Another Type of ‘First’ for ‘Jeopardy!’
Besides becoming the first G.O.A.T. contestant the show has seen, Jennings found himself breaking ground in a different aspect of the show, too. In an interview with TV Insider, the former contestant shared the story of how he became a part of the Jeopardy! staff.
According to Jennings, after he hung up his hat from the game he was “feeling my age a little bit.” Jennings saw his newly won title as the perfect way to exit the show “gracefully.” However, fate had another idea in store on the last day of the G.O.A.T. tournament.
“I got a call from the Jeopardy! executive producer and he said, ‘Hey, in 20 years on the show, I’ve never called a contestant before. But, we’ve been talking and if you’re actually retired, would you want to come work for the show?'” Jennings recalled.
Of course, the former reigning champion excitedly accepted the offer.
“I didn’t have to think for a second because the only sad thing about retiring from Jeopardy would be not being part of my favorite show anymore. That’s the thing about Jeopardy. It’s kind of in the fabric of our lives. They have good memories of watching it. People plan their evenings around it. And I knew I would miss that, so I said, ‘Yes, in a heartbeat.'”
From G.O.A.T. to G.A.
Now a part of the Jeopardy! team, Jennings fulfills the role as goodwill ambassador and show consultant.
“It’s a really great gig, being a goodwill ambassador for a show that already has so much goodwill, it’s not a tough lift at all,” Jennings said. “Just consulting on clues [contestants] and game board material. I show up myself on the game board sometimes, reading clues. I just love that I’m still part of the Jeopardy! world. I really would’ve missed it.”
Now that he can no longer answer the questions alongside other contestants, it’s easy to think Jennings would miss playing the game. However, the show’s goodwill ambassador expressed that he’s content in his new position behind the scenes.
“If you’re on that show 70 whatever times, I got to say, when you hear that music or you’re in a bar, and you hear Trebek’s voice on the TV, it’s not a relaxing feeling anymore. You kind of feel like, ‘Oh, shoot, I’m back at work,'” Jennings explained.