Breaking News
More () »

Ken Jennings, Jeopardy! co-host, visits Grand Rapids as part of university lecture series

'The Seabiscuit of geekdom' himself visited Calvin University as part of a lecture series, sharing an inside look into his success on the quiz show Jeopardy!

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — American game show royalty, Ken Jennings, traveled to Grand Rapids early Monday afternoon to share some insight on how to become a champion contestant.  

And the answer is probably not what you're thinking. 

Instead of knowing a lot about a little, Jennings argues the advantages of being a generalist.

Sure, you can be an expert on medieval history, cell biology, or pro-wrestling from the 80s, but if you aren't interested in learning anything else, Jennings says that's where you'll miss out.

"You have to be interested in just about everything and most people aren't. Most people specialize. For whatever reason, I've always been pretty omnivorous. I'm just curious about anything, no matter what the topic," Jennings said.

Jennings says in order to succeed on quiz shows like Jeopardy!, where he holds the GOAT title for the most consecutive wins (74 games) and the highest winnings during regular season play ($2,520,700), you have to be able to produce answers on just about everything. 

In town for Calvin University's January Series, Jennings gave a talk titled And The Answer Is: Why is it Better to Be a Generalist?

Credit: Evan Linnert

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he joked with the crowd in his opening message. 

"It's such a rare treat for a Mormon guy to be invited to an evangelical forum," Jennings said drawing in some laughs. 

You'd think after years of participating in the show and now sharing hosting duties with Mayim Balik, he'd get a little tired of it. 

That's not the case, and he still watches at home. 

"My wife is actually a really big fan. She'll watch the show and often I'll come in and be like, 'Wait, why are you watching Jeopardy!?' Because I feel like I just got home from work and then she's watching work, you know?" Jennings shared. 

"The funniest thing I noticed about watching Jeopardy! has been like if I'm watching a game where I'm playing, a clue will come up and as I watch the show at home, I won't know it. Then I'll see TV Ken from the past get it right. And I'll think, wait, how did he do that? Like I don't know that but somehow in-game contestant Ken was able to come up with it. The brain is a funny thing."

13 ON YOUR SIDE asked Jennings how he handles getting a question wrong. 

"It's not rare at all for a contestant to be wrong on Jeopardy. It's probably happened to me hundreds of times maybe more than anyone. Like Babe Ruth had a record number of strikeouts, too. The contestant coordinators always tell the contestants to think about Taylor Swift. Shake it off," 

"I'm sure it's the same thing football coaches do. Except they're not Swifties. They don't mention Taylor probably. You've just got to leave the mistake behind because you'll probably think about the next clue, right?"

Asked what he wanted attendees to take away from his speechhe hoped his conversation could spark curiosity. 

"Help people remember that it's actually easy to learn. It's easy to learn stuff. You can be learning wherever you are listening to a podcast, looking at a billboard and having a conversation with a new person. You could be learning something new almost every hour of the day. And it's a shame not to. That's what builds us as people," Jennings said.

Calvin's January Series has four more speakers scheduled for the rest of the week. 

You can check out a list on their website here

Credit: Evan Linnert
Ken Jennings speaks onstage at Calvin University as part of The January Series.

Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.

Have a news tip? Email news@13onyourside.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Before You Leave, Check This Out