After 74-game Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings’ 2004 win, his life changed dramatically. Not only could he not go anywhere without being recognized, he’s flabbergasted at the extent of his quiz show notoriety.
Here’s what the Jeopardy! champ had to say.
Ken Jennings on fame
In his 2006 book, Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, Jennings described his shock – and a bit of horror – at seeing how quickly his long-running win on the quiz show had afforded him fame and a weird familiarity with strangers on the street.
The father of two began his run on the quiz show in June 2004. As he wrote in his book, “When I break the million-dollar mark in mid-July…I’m on every morning show I’ve ever heard of and some I haven’t, not to mention the front page of USA Today and the last-page essay in Time. In the snarky New York Times, I’m “the most annoying man in game show history.”
To the Times’ assessment of him, Jennings writes, “‘Worse than Charles Nelson Reilly?,’ I silently wonder, as I cry into my pillow that night.”
Jennings rides the fame wave onto Leno and Letterman
As he continued in his historic time on Jeopardy!, Jennings wrote, “within a ten-day period, I guest on both Leno and Letterman. It doesn’t let up. As the year goes on, I’m one of Barbara Walters’ Ten Most Fascinating People of 2004 (it must have been a slow year).”
The quiz show champ related the utterly weird items he began finding on the Internet about himself.
“My wife discovers how many Ken Jennings fan sites seem to be run by giggly teenage girls. I’m flattered but mostly bewildered when Jennings/ Trebek “slash” fiction (stories fantasizing about same-sex genre characters finally throwing caution to the winds and getting it on) appears on the Internet. The more politically minded settle for Jennings/Trebek `04 stickers on their car bumpers.”
Finally, Jennings notes an entirely different Ken Jennings in an entirely different state receiving constant calls for him.
“A Salt Lake City sign painter named Ken R. Jennings, no relation, who made the mistake of having a listed phone number, starts to tire of the boxes of crank letters and all the middle-of-the-night phone calls: ‘Is Ken Jennings there?’ ‘No! He ran off with Vanna White!,’ he finally answers one late-night caller, slamming the phone down.”
Jennings is simply part of ‘Jeopardy!’ now
The 46-year-old is now on staff at Jeopardy! He’ll be reading categories, assisting with contestant outreach, and serving as a general ambassador for the show.
“Though I’ve played my last round of JEOPARDY! as a contestant, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to remain involved with my favorite show,” Jennings said. “I’m still in on all the action, but I don’t have to worry about phrasing things in the form of a question anymore.”
Jennings’ fame has come full circle with his new employment on the long-running game show. Whether fans find him annoying or not, the champ is here to stay.
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