10 of the Most Memorable Moments on ‘Jeopardy!’
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“Jeopardy!” hit the airwaves in its current format in 1984. It’s tough to pick out only 10 memorable moments since the show has had so many of them. From funny contestants to Alex Trebek’s breakout humor, to shocking finishes and intense tournaments, ”Jeopardy!” has provided some terrific entertainment and nail-biting games over the years. Relive some of this iconic game show’s best moments for a laugh or two.
Ken Jennings: ‘What Is a Hoe?’ (2004)
Ken Jennings is the contestant most synonymous with ”Jeopardy!,” having won 74 games and over $2 million. He was so prolific on the show that he could have his own list of top 10 moments. In this particular case, the category was “Tool Time” and the question was, “This term for a long-handled gardening tool can also mean an immoral pleasure seeker.” Jennings buzzed in and answered, “What is a hoe?” Trebek quipped, “Is that what they teach you in school in Utah?” The correct answer was, of course, “What is a rake?”
Trebek Says ‘Kebert Xela,’ Stays in This Dimension (2007)
In an episode of “Family Guy,” Adam West is on “Jeopardy!” and sends Trebek to the fifth dimension by saying his name backward. In the real game, in 2007, returning champ Jared Cohen was in the final round with only $1. Knowing that he couldn’t win the game, he answered, “What is Kebert Xela?” Trebek recognized his own name backward, which led to this exchange:
Cohen: I heard that sends you back to another dimension.
Trebek: Sends me back where?
Cohen: To another dimension.
Trebek: To another dimension. Yes, I will go back to another dimension as soon as we deal with the other players.
Contestant Alex Hovan won the game, and Trebek closed the show with, “Alex will get to relax for the weekend while I go off to that other dimension.”
Three-Way Tie (2007)
Up until this point, there had never been a three-way tie that didn’t include scores of zero at the end of Final Jeopardy. But on March 16, 2007, returning champion Scott Weiss figured out his wager to tie the score if both of his competitors bet all of their money and ended up with the correct answer during Final Jeopardy, which they did. All three contestants finished with $16,000, and all three returned for the next show, which was won by Jamey Kirby.
Tournament of Champions, Final Game (1998)
As luck would have it, two of the contestants in this final episode of the 1998 TOC were humorists. Bob Harris was a political humorist, while Kim Worth was a stand-up comedian. The third contestant, Dan Melia, had a commanding lead throughout the game. Harris started the game with no score, a result of losing it all the day before in Final Jeopardy. Trebek gave him a bit of a pep talk, and Harris quipped, “I don’t need your pity!” The banter continued, with Trebek joining in, throughout the game. Melia won the tournament quite handily, while Harris ended up with only $1. But the tournament was memorable because both Harris and Worth went into the final game determined to have a good time, even if they knew they couldn’t win.
Alex Trebek Shaves His Mustache (2004 and 2014)
You wouldn’t think that a small cosmetic change on the part of the host would cause an uproar, but in 2004 that’s exactly what happened. When Trebek shaved his signature mustache, fans went into a tizzy. In 2007, Trebek wore a fake mustache for the second half of the April Fool’s Day show, which sent fans running to find out if it was real or not.
In 2014, Trebek’s mustache returned for several weeks, causing a fairly strong fan reaction. Viewers even voted on Twitter as to whether it should stay or go. In November, however, Trebek once again showed up clean-shaven.
Ken Jennings Loses Game No. 75 to Nancy Zerg (2004)
Those who kept watching each week as Ken Jennings kept on winning game after game wondered how it would all end. Would Jennings go down in a blaze of glory, being beaten by thousands of dollars? Would he become overconfident and wager too much? As it happened, it came down to a question that many were able to figure out but eluded the “Jeopardy!” champion. The question was, “Most of this firm’s 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year.” Jennings was in the lead going into the final round but answered, “What is FedEx?” The correct answer was H&R Block, which contestant Nancy Zerg answered correctly. Zerg’s wager was just enough to beat Jennings, ending his run as the greatest “Jeopardy!” contestant ever.
Brad Rutter Wins the Ultimate Tournament of Champions (2005)
The “Jeopardy!” Ultimate Tournament of Champions was a huge undertaking that brought in almost 150 past champions and lasted 15 weeks. Jennings got an automatic pass to the finals based on his record-setting streak, where he faced Brad Rutter and Jerome Vered. Rutter had previously won five regular “Jeopardy!” games, a Tournament of Champions and a special Million Dollar Masters Tournament. His winnings on “Jeopardy!” total $3,255,102, including the $2 million he received as the Ultimate Tournament of Champions winner.
Contestant Ben Wiles Tries the Copycat Approach (2004)
Another one from the Jennings era. Jennings had won 63 games by this point, and during Final Jeopardy, opponent Ben Wiles didn’t have a clue what the correct answer was. Instead of taking a stab in the dark at the answer, he wrote, “What is see next podium,” with an arrow pointing toward Jennings. Making this move even funnier was the fact that the arrow ended up pointing toward third contestant Lisa Ellis when shown on the blue screen, and Ellis had the correct answer … while Jennings did not.
Pat Sajak Hosts ‘Jeopardy!’ (1997)
On April Fool’s Day 1997, Pat Sajak and Trebek swapped shows for the day. Sajak held his own on “Jeopardy!” and seemed to have a lot of fun with it. Trebek was also quite good on ”Wheel of Fortune,” but it was a relief to see him back on “Jeopardy!” in the next episode.
Trebek Takes the Stage Without Trousers (2005)
This moment was never shown on air, but was included in a special “inside look” “Jeopardy!” DVD and the video clip can be found on YouTube. Before the final game of the Ultimate Tournament of Champions, Trebek came on stage wearing his usual suit, but sans trousers. He said that to alleviate the tension of the game, the contestants had asked that they all play without pants, and then asked that a camera goes behind the podiums to ensure that the contestants were complying. Of course, Rutter, Jennings, and Vered were all wearing their pants, prompting Trebek to silently turn around and exit the stage. There was plenty of laughter from the contestants and the live audience.
Bonus Moment: The Battle of the Decades
“Jeopardy’s” Battle of the Decades was a fantastic tournament that brought back contestants from the first 30 seasons of the show (in its current format). It was great to catch up with players that viewers hadn’t seen in years and watch all of them play once again. In the end, the finalists were Jennings, Rutter, and Roger Craig, and the ultimate winner was Rutter, which came as no real surprise to anyone.