Inside Jeopardy! Star Ken Jennings’ Life

Jeopardy! announced on Monday that they will resume production of the game show at the end of the month. Instead of naming a replacement for the show’s beloved and longtime host Alex Trebeck, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer two weeks prior, the show’s executives have decided to use a series of guest hosts as they resume filming episodes set to air in 2021. The first of those guest hosts will be top winning contestant and fan favorite, Ken Jennings.

An official Jeopardy! tweet announcing Jennings as interim host posted Monday read, “We will resume production on 11/30 with a series of interim guest hosts from the Jeopardy! family – starting with Ken Jennings. Additional guest hosts to be announced.” The tweet also featured a heartfelt quote from the quiz show’s executive producer Mike Richards, stating, “Alex believed in the importance of Jeopardy! and always said that he wanted the show to go on after him. We will honor his legacy by continuing to produce the game he loved.”

Surprisingly, Twitter isn’t particularly keen on the first guest host of Jeopardy!, citing Jennings penchant for overtly political and in some cases crass statements on social media, he’s certainly stepping into shoes that are nearly impossible to fill (via Business Insider). But, who is the game show champ and trivia master famous for winning 74 straight Jeopardy! matches in a row? (Pun totally intended.)

Ken Jennings has a quiz show past

According to his official website, Ken Jennings was born in Seattle in 1974, but raised overseas in both Korea and Singapore. He returned to the States to attend college at the University of Washington and after a 2-year Mormon mission in Madrid, Spain, he transferred to Brigham Young University.

It was there that Jennings not only met his wife Mindy, but became captain of the school’s quiz bowl team. He was so good, he began writing and editing questions for National Academic Quiz Tournaments, a company that organizes quiz competitions for colleges and high schools nationwide. Who knew a penchant for trivia would result in such a lucrative career?

Jennings graduated BYU and got married in 2000. The couple moved to Seattle where he started work at a software company and according to an interview with Lifehacker, enjoyed life as a young couple just starting a family. But life changed drastically for the Jennings’ in 2004 when he got the call to be a contestant on Jeopardy! The now 46-year-old explained, “I was a perfectly happy suburban dad and computer programmer back in 2004, the year I turned thirty. I was not expecting to win on Jeopardy! for six months straight and start a new career as a writer and professional know-it-all.”

Ken Jennings' success on Jeopardy! has turned into a lucrative career

In addition to the $2,520,700 Ken Jennings won during his history making sweep on Jeopardy!, his sudden fame was the catalyst for him to expand his brand (via Entertainment Weekly and Jennings’ website). He has since written four books, and a series of trivia books for kids, and has even hosted a few game shows on GSN including Stump the Master and Clued In. He has even turned to acting in a variety of commercials for brands like FedEx and IBM, just to name a few.

Most recently in January, he took on fellow Jeopardy! greats James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter to win the “Greatest of All Time” tournament which, as reported by the New York Times, earned him another cool $1 million.

Celebrity Net Worth estimates that Jennings’ decision to go on Jeopardy! was a good one. He’s now worth a whopping $4 million, and with the new interim hosting gig, plus the added exposure that is sure to come from it, he’s likely to continue earning simply for being as he calls himself, “a professional know-it-all.”

It's unlikely that Ken Jennings will become the permanent host of Jeopardy! if Twitter has anything to say about it

Ken Jennings might want to consider hiring a PR firm to clean up his reputation a bit if he hopes to secure his temporary Jeopardy! hosting job into something a bit more permanent. After the show’s formal announcement on Twitter, the backlash regarding some of his past social media behavior was brought to light, and it’s not something he should be proud of.

In September of 2014, Ken Jennings decided to take to twitter and post, “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.” The highly insensitive and discriminatory post received huge backlash, but the Jeopardy! champ refused to take it down.

One Twitter user reposted the tweet after the news of Jennings’ getting the first guest hosting spot with the sarcastic comment, “I can’t think of anyone better to carry on Alex’s legacy than someone who would tweet this.” And he wasn’t the only one feeling the same way. Another commenter wrote, “The only way I’ll accept Ken Jennings as the next host of Jeopardy! is if it was Alex’s dying wish. Otherwise, there’s hundreds of better choices.”

Hopefully, Ken Jennings will at least think before he tweets now that the eyes of the world are on him again, but his decision not to apologize or take down the horrible post is certainly head scratching at the very least.

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