Trivial Interviews
11:41 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Overheard In The Green Room: Ken Jenning's Kryptonite

Ken Jennings.
Credit Flickr Photo/Phil Konstantin

In 2011, you were chosen as one of the two humans to be play against IBM's Watson supercomputer. What was it like playing against a robot?

It was a little unnerving, you know, you would see out of the corner of your eye that you were not playing with a fellow Jeopardy!-loving human. It was a flat screen TV connected to a room full of servers, and you could hear it's little robotic thumb clicking on the buzzer. Losing to a machine, I remember this feeling of obsolescence -- the one thing I'm actually good at, and now, all it took was IBM throwing tens of millions of dollars and 3,000 processor cords at the problem and now they don't need me anymore!

So, do you think robots will replace people on Jeopardy! in 50 years?

I remember people on the show asking Trebek that and he said, 'Look, cars have been able to go faster than human runners for 100 years but we still have the Olympics.' So I think Jeopardy! will still go on; we'll just have to make sure that people aren't, you know, juicing, like using x-rays or some kind of microchip in the brain.

You've won Jeopardy! 74 times and compiled a trivia almanac with 8,888 questions and answers. So what do you not know about? What is your trivia kryptonite?

Anything with a mullet, I guess, is my trivia kryptonite.

It would be smarter not to reveal this in an interview but I actually learned this while I was on Jeopardy! For whatever reason that summer they kept having categories on ice hockey and country music, and I soon learned, ice hockey and country music are not necessarily my strengths.

All right, let's see if we can find more weak links in your armor. Rate the following subjects and your knowledge of them on a 1-5 scale:

Medieval Flemish Architecture?

Oh you know, probably above average, I'd say a solid three.

Entomology? I was a big insect collector as a kid; I'd say I am a four on entomology.

Tort Law? My dad and both my brothers are lawyers, and I am the black sheep of my family for not being a lawyer. So I'd say in my family, I'm like a two at Tort law.

But compared to the average person?

(shrugs) Oh, well, five or six, 10, 100.

You have no kryptonite! Ok, how about the theme song to Perfect Strangers?

Oh, would you want me to sing it? "Sometimes the world looks perfect, nothing to rearrange. Sometimes you just, get a feeling like you need some kind of change."

(He proceeds to sing the entire theme song word for word.)

The Hittites?

The Hittites. Not really a fan. Maybe a three.

Mayan Numerology?

Well, they were wrong right? Their numerology has not worked out so well since we're all still here. I would say, until last year I was more of a two on Mayan numerology. But, you know, with all the Internet memes about it that got me up to a three, maybe a 3.5.

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