The People Vs. Ken Jennings

What is: Never Tweet?

Author, Twitter personality, comedian, podcast host and Jeopardy! Greatest Of All Time champion Ken Jennings closed out the unpredictable energy of 2020 when he apologized for some terrible jokes he made on Twitter years ago. The tweets surfaced again because he’s now the first in a series of guest hosts for Jeopardy! this month after longtime host Alex Trebek died in 2020 from pancreatic cancer.

“Hey, I just wanted to own up to the fact that over the years on Twitter, I’ve definitely tweeted some unartful and insensitive things. Sometimes they worked as jokes in my head and I was dismayed to see how they read on screen,” his tweet thread began.

The tweets Jennings referenced include punchlines about date rape and jokes about disabled people and people with autism.

Jennings’ apology tweet resulted in many members of the trivia community calling him out as insincere and opportunistic for apologizing right before the Jeopardy! gig was about to start, and many people started sharing the #BoycottJeopardy hashtag on Twitter.

But it’s not just a Twitter mob canceling Ken Jennings. he’s also getting canceled by conservatives who don’t like his political views and jabs at Republicans, and he’s getting canceled by those who think the trivia show capitulated to the “woke” Internet when Jennings apologized. Apparently, Jeopardy! is a show everyone of all political ideals can agree upon, and #BoycottJeopardy is a unifying force for people who think Jennings didn’t apologize enough and for people who hate that he apologized at all.

The Ken Jennings Discourse was dying down for a bit until John Roderick, Jennings’ Omnibus podcast cohost, posted a tweet thread of his own on Jan. 2. This thread involved Roderick, who was doing a jigsaw puzzle; his 9-year-old daughter, who was hungry; a can of beans; and a can opener. Roderick, in more than a dozen tweets, relayed the story of how he made his daughter figure out how to use a can opener for six hours (roughly 13 Jeopardy! episodes) until she could open a can of beans for their dinner. The Internet did what the Internet does, and christened Roderick “Bean Dad” and ratioed him to hell and back for his parenting skills.

Soon, Roderick’s old tweets surfaced, many of which are anti-Semitic.

Again, the same thing happened with Roderick. Liberals were angry with him about his questionable parenting skills and harmful jokes; conservatives were mad at him because of his association with Jennings. Roderick then deleted his Twitter account.

Jennings came to Roderick’s defense with a Daily Double, first by joking about the situation: “Extremely jealous and annoyed that my podcast co-host is going to be a dictionary entry and I never will.” Then he supported Roderick’s parenting in a follow-up tweet: “If this reassures anyone, I personally know John to be (a) a loving and attentive dad who (b) tells heightened-for-effect stories about his own irascibility on like ten podcasts a week. This site is so dumb.”

Ken Jennings
Ken Jennings: GOAT or goat?

Now, people are calling for Jeopardy! showrunners to take Jennings out of the running for a possible full-time hosting gig because of his association with Bean Dad, and the internet is canceling Bean Dad because of his association with Jennings.

Twitter is dumb, and we should never tweet, but this Jeopardy! war is an unprecedented turn for the franchise. Sure, Jennings was never everyone’s cup of tea. Like wrestling, every good game of Jeopardy! has a good hero-heel dynamic–some fans loved to hate gambler James Holzhauer, who appears this week on The Chase with Jennings.

But the trivia show was always thought to be something everyone could agree upon. Now, it seems the only thing Jeopardy! fans agree on is that they don’t want Ken Jennings.

 

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Jake Harris

Jake Harris is a Texas-based journalist whose writing about pop culture and entertainment has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Nashville Scene and more. You can find more of his writings at jakeharrisbog.com or through his pop culture newsletter, Jacob's Letter.

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