Ken Jennings


February 8, 2011

Ed wants to know:

I have a question I’d like to ask, if I may. When Alex tells you the category for Final Jeopardy when you make your wager but before the question, are you also able to write “What is” to begin your answer? Or do you have to wait until you get the question to begin? It seems like that would be a few seconds longer to think if you’re having a difficult time with the answer.

During the commercial break before Final Jeopardy, the show stops tape so that the contestants have all the time they need to make their wagers. Once wagers are locked in, contestants are instructed to write the correct question word (“Who” or “What,” depending) on their panels. (No “is”/”are”/”was”/”were” though! No hints on era or number are forthcoming.)

It’s true that this gives you more time to think/write once the clue is revealed and the music starts, but I think the real rationale behind the rule is to keep a nervous contestant from accidentally omitting the “who” or “what” in Final Jeopardy. I’m hazy on the details, but I believe that at least once in the early Trebek days (before contestants were instructed to pre-write the question phrasing) someone lost a game despite a correct Final Jeopardy answer because they didn’t PIITFOAQ. (This acronym, pronounced “pit-folk,” is how in-the-know Jeopardy! types abbreviate “phrase it in the form of a question.”) To avoid another audience-aggravating event of that kind, they started prompting for the “Who” and “What” off-camera.

Oh, just kidding about PIITFOAQ. But I wish that was a word.

Grainne is from the UK, where appearently people can be named “Grainne.”

I wondered if you could help me at all. I am trying to find out more about a gameshow called Runaway which I believe you starred in? I just wanted to find out more about it in general. For instance what network made it? Who produced it? How long it ran for etc… I hope you can help as I have read that you were the official Chaser on the show.

I’d never heard of Runaway when I received this email, which led to more head-scratching than you’d find in an early-’80s Head & Shoulders ad. Finally a Google search turned up this remnant of a long-fixed bit of Wikipedia vandalism.

I’m afraid there was no US pilot of the British game show The Chase, at least not one starring Jon Bon Jovi as the host and myself as the bounty hunter type.

But wouldn’t it be a better world if there had been? That sounds awesome.

A correspondent named William submits the following story:

I was on the subway in San Francisco yesterday and overheard four teenage girls talking in extremely excited tones about the upcoming match between Watson and yourself. One was explaining to the other loudly that they had made a computer for the sole purpose of playing Jeopardy. And that the computer would be matched up against those really good Jeopardy players. “Ken Jennings?” one girl interjected. “YES!” said the other.

You are a teen idol.

It’s true. Check out the sizzling poster of me in Tiger Beat this month. Watson’s spread in Popular Mechanics PALES IN COMPARATIVE HOTNESS!

Posted by Ken at 11:33 am