Matt Amodio has already made his name known to Jeopardy! fans with a somewhat annoying answering style, but whatever he’s doing behind the contestant’s podium is clearly working. Amodio won his 17th straight game on Thursday’s broadcast, becoming the third highest earner in the show’s regular season history.
That $547,600 (and counting) didn’t come easy, though, as the PhD student did plenty of research to prepare for his run including studying TMZ for gossip and potential celebrity questions. Watching Jeopardy! is also on that list, of course, and in an interview with Vulture, Amodio explained how big a fan he is of the show and his family tradition of watching while growing up. Interestingly, he said he’s a huge fan of a man he’s now chasing in the record books: Jeopardy! GOAT Ken Jennings:
I was a huge Ken Jennings fan. It was like a sporting event. If there was gear, I would’ve bought gear and a big foam finger to root him on from my living room. I’m a huge Ken fan. Need to say that again.
The interview with Amodio is very fun, and he admits that all this attention has been interesting to say the least. But he also addressed his habit of saying “what’s” to preface every answer, rather than a “who is” or “what is” that contestants usually say to be grammatically correct. That habit, and the reaction to it online, actually made the show clarify its rules to make sure people know Amodio’s not getting special treatment. And the Jeopardy! champ merely said he was trying to keep things as simple as possible to calm his nerves on stage:
I’ve never been on television before, so the one thing I was very concerned about going in was … however calm and collected I am now in my personal life, I might go on Jeopardy! and forget what my name is. I don’t know if I’m gonna have stage fright. I went in trying to think about what moving parts I can eliminate that I just don’t have to worry about. One less thing to go wrong. That was the reasoning behind the “what’s.”
I knew the show accepted that response as okay. Through watching I knew what the rules were, so I devised a plan within the rules to keep me from messing up. That motivated a lot of my strategizing going in. What can I do to make my life easier at that moment? Once that moment starts, who knows what is going to happen.
While that habit may be driving some fans crazy, it’s a pretty astute point about eliminating any potential barriers to performance on the show. While many players study the host’s clue delivery and practice on makeshift signaling devices, small things can get people off their game on the show, including the bright lights of the stage and the grueling filming schedule. While Amodio said energy drinks have been key to his run, so, too, has his preparation across a variety of methods. It’s all working for him here, and that success just might mean others replicate his style when they take the stage in the future.