Ever since his groundbreaking 74-game Jeopardy! winning streak back in 2004, Ken Jennings has solidified himself as pop culture's walking encyclopedia. Ken's smarts and charm earned him loads of money (a whopping $2.5 million to be exact), and it won him cherished host Alex Trebek's respect. Though Alex is no longer with us, we're sure he's looking down at Ken, happy to see him hosting Jeopardy! on the days Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory) isn't taking over.
Ken Jennings — who also holds the title of being the highest-earning American game show contestant — has accumulated a slew of nicknames since skyrocketing to fame and standing at Alex's podium. From "the GOAT" — which he earned after winning Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time in 2020 — to "the Seabiscuit of Geekdom" and ”The Professor," Ken is kicking butt and taking names, literally. So, where did the nickname "The Professor" come from?
How did Ken Jennings get the nickname "The Professor"?
Ken Jennings — a former software engineer and quiz bowl team captain — got his nickname "The Professor" while on the American version of The Chase, which was revived in January 2021. Hosted by The View's Sara Haines, the fast-paced game show, in a nutshell, features contestants who attempt to make big bucks by challenging gameshow champs (like Ken Jennings) — aka the chasers.
The American revival saw Jeopardy! smarties James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings, and Brad Rutter take on the role of the chasers. The contestants aim to correctly answer as many questions as possible within a 60-second timespan, hoping to outdo the chasers. The brainy clan of chasers is what separates them from fruitful cash winnings.
In June 2021, the ABC show welcomed aboard quiz genius Mark "The Beast" Labbett — who's been a chaser on several versions of The Chase. And just like the Beast, the other chasers, too, are honored with nicknames.
At the start of each suspenseful episode, Sarah introduces each of the chasers by their given nicknames. James Holzhauer has been deemed "The High Roller," Brad Rutter is "The Buzzsaw," and, as mentioned, the legendary Ken Jennings is "The Professor."
“I don’t mind being ‘The Professor,' though it’s stolen valor," Ken stated in 2020, according to The Seattle Times. Yes, we will clarify, Ken has never been an actual professor.
Sara Haines explained why she feels this version of The Chase has a different, almost warmer quality to it. “The unique angle we have with this reincarnation is people come in with established admiration, relationships and knowledge of these three guys,” she said, per the outlet.
As for the boys' dynamic on The Chase, well, they seem to be having a blast. “I think all of us bring our own spins to the thing,” professional sports gambler James Holzhauer relayed of the ABC revival's first season, according to the outlet. “Ken is a nicer guy than either Brad or I seem to be and you get the sense that he feels really bad when he has to eliminate the contestants. I did not have this problem, shall we say,” he continued.
“The ‘dad joke’ quotient with Ken was either excellent or terrible, depending on your stance," Brad Rutter chimed in.
He's paternal, he's got the wrinkliest brain of anyone we know, he's Ken "The Professor" Jennings.
New episodes of Jeopardy! air weeknights at 7 p.m. EST on ABC.