Lost in the hullabaloo of “Jeopardy!” announcing this week that it will go with two hosts is the fact that current champion Matt Amodio is rapidly becoming one of the game’s all-time greats.
On Thursday’s episode, he became the third-highest winner in the show’s history, earning a total of $547,600 in regular season play, trailing two titans of the game, James Holzhauer ($2,462,216) and Ken Jennings ($2,520,700).
Amodio, a computer science Ph.D. student at Yale University, has now won 17 consecutive games. His aggressive style of play has certainly resonated with viewers. Though he has confused fans with his penchant for saying “What is ... ?” for every answer, Amodio seems to be enjoying his moment as well.
“How surreal is it dude,” one person asked him on Twitter.
“I have no words... just unbelievable!” he responded.
“Been having a lot of fun watching your run Matt! But you are KILLING me with these Daily Double wagers,” someone else tweeted.
“Sorry!” he replied.
Amodio’s run may be obscured by the fact that a successor to Alex Trebek was picked this week when “Jeopardy!” executive producer Mike Richards and actor Mayim Bialik were named the new hosts. Jennings chimed in on the fact that Amodio’s accomplishments may be lost in the shuffle.
“This guy is the Jeopardy! story no one is following,” the show's all-time record-holder tweeted earlier this week.
Amodio says he’s already far exceeded any goal he had as a contestant.
“I wanted to win one game,” he told New York magazine in an interview published Thursday just before his 17th win aired.
“Being on the show is a tremendous accomplishment, and I don’t want to denigrate that at all. But once you win, you’re a ‘Jeopardy!’ champion. You can call yourself a ‘“Jeopardy!” champion.’ Not a ‘“Jeopardy!” participant.’ That’s something nobody can take away from you.
“You might lose the next game, or you might lose 71 games later if you’re Ken Jennings. You’re going to lose eventually. But that never takes away from the descriptor.”
Amodio may be on a roll, but he said there is one category that is kryptonite for him.
“Anything that has ever been published in TMZ in the last 10 years. Pop culture in general,” he told New York magazine. “I did my best. Thankfully, if there’s one thing the internet has information on, it’s celebrities.”
Amodio immersed himself in that world of celebrities, even though it’s not one he fully understands.
“I’m naturally a curious person, which helps, but I still went in very skeptical. ‘This is gonna be miserable every second I spend on TMZ reading about these people.’ But as I learned more, I was able to appreciate the nuances of things and started asking questions,” he said.
“I would read about Brad Pitt and how he was married to Jennifer Aniston before Angelina Jolie. ‘How did that end?’ Well, that was an interesting outcome. I found myself interested in the answers to these questions more than I thought I would be. I went down Wikipedia pages for a lot of awards shows and then went down the rabbit holes of links.”