Ken Jennings probably wishes he could turn back time. On June 2, 2004, Jennings, a baby-faced computer engineer, began a record-breaking 74-day streak on the long-running TV game show, Jeopardy. Jennings’ six-month run on the show included 2,700 correctly answered questions and netted him more than $2.5 million dollars until his reign ended with an incorrect answer on the Final Jeopardy question: “Most of this firm’s 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year.”
Jennings response was, “What is Fed Ex,” but the correct answer was “What is H&R Block?” That wrong entry ended Jennings’ streak on Day 75 when he lost to contestant Nancy Zerg, according to the New York Times.
“As it turned out, if you’re gonna lose on Jeopardy!, lose on the corporate question, because I got sponsorship offers from H&R Block and FedEx,” Jennings later told USA Today.
Back on June 2, 2004, Ken Jennings started his Jeopardy streak with the question: “A short section at the end of a book.” The answer was, “What is an epilogue?” According to Decider, Ken’s first Final Jeopardy, in the category The 2000 Olympics, was “She’s the first female track & field athlete to win medals in 5 different events at a single Olympics.” Answer: Marion Jones, who was later stripped of those medals due to a doping scandal.
While Ken Jennings can never be stripped of his Jeopardy title, 13 years later he could be in jeopardy of losing some of the deals that have come his way since his heyday on the TV game show. Ken’s Jeopardy fame landed him many offers, but he didn’t quit his job as a computer programmer until he got his first book deal.
“I didn’t wanna be one of these lottery winners that goes in and tells the boss, ‘Screw you, I’m outta here,’ and then two days later after sitting at home they’re like ‘Can I have my job back?'” Ken told USA Today in 2013.
In addition to his book deal, Jennings also landed a voice role on The Simpsons, a weekly column about obscure world destinations for Condé Nast Traveler, a trivia puzzle gig for Parade magazine, his own board game, and a slew of subsequent game show appearances on Grand Slam, 1 vs. 100, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and 500 Questions. Jennings even returned to the show that made him famous to play in the Decades tournament in 2014.
Unfortunately, one career Ken Jennings hasn’t mastered is comedian. While his Twitter feed is peppered with salty commentary, one of Ken’s most recent tweets targeted first son, Barron Trump. Jennings’ attempt at humor in the aftermath of the controversial photo comedian Kathy Griffin posted of a beheaded Donald Trump did not have people laughing. Ken Jennings posted the comment after it was revealed that Barron, 11, saw Griffin’s photo while watching the news and believed it was real.
“Barron Trump saw a very long necktie on a heap of expired deli meat in a dumpster,” Ken wrote. “He thought it was his dad & his little heart is breaking.”
Barron Trump saw a very long necktie on a heap of expired deli meat in a dumpster. He thought it was his dad & his little heart is breaking
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) May 31, 2017
Ken Jennings later explained that his joke did not mock Barron, but instead “mocks using him for political cover.”
The joke doesn't mock Barron. It mocks using him for political cover…and specifically this amazing tweet: https://t.co/7odxkVq0Cj
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) May 31, 2017
Ironically, Ken Jennings has a lucrative children’s book deal with Simon & Schuster in which he has published a series titled Junior Genius Guides. In the aftermath of Ken’s controversial Trump tweet, Simon & Schuster’s Instagram page was flooded with comments asking the book giant to “drop Jennings.” The publishing giant has not yet commented on its author’s online antics.
It's officially the start of @bookexpo–the biggest trade show in the country for publishers, book sellers, and bibliophiles of all kind. The conference kicked off today with panels and discussions on the industry, but the real fun starts tomorrow when the exhibition hall opens. Our team has spent the last few days unpacking boxes and setting up the Simon & Schuster booth, and we are almost ready to unveil! What do you think? #BookExpo . . . Follow us on social media as we share photos and videos from Book Expo over the next few days so you can check out the show for yourself!
Thirteen years after he became a household name for his Jeopardy streak, Ken Jennings is smart enough to know that his social media platform means everything he does will be scrutinized. When asked a few years ago by The Week if he considers himself a comedian, Jennings turned to social media to give his final answer: “Twitter makes you a comedian in the same way that digital cameras make you a photographer,” he said.
You can see Ken Jennings’ losing Jeopardy question in the video below.
[Featured Image by Jeopardy Productions via Getty Images]