24 ;e Costco Connection AUGUST 2014
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 23
come true, just to walk around Mr. Hooper’s
store and to go up through Oscar’s trashcan.”
He has taken full advantage of the window of opportunity Jeopardy! opened.
“Jeopardy! let me do what I want every day,”
he says, “and that’s amazing.”
For Ken Jennings, trivia is anything but
In our digital editions
Click here to watch Ken Jennings’
74th consecutive Jeopardy! win.
(See page 12
The answer is … Seattle,
Korea and Singapore
“Where did I grow up?” Jennings replies.
“Is that correct? Am I supposed to refer to
myself in the third person? Where did Ken
Jennings grow up?”
Asked what aspect of his upbringing led
to his thirst for knowledge,
him for game-show immortality,
of it was just
smart, gabby parents. My dad’s a lawyer;
my mom’s a librarian. They read a lot; they
read to me every night.” They also watched
game shows after dinner.
He also attributes his curiosity to living
overseas, while his father worked for companies in Korea and Singapore. “It just makes
you curious about the whole world and it
gives you a way to file stuff,” he says. “To this
day, I still file stuff geographically, like, ‘Oh,
Vienna, I was there once already.’ ‘Houston.
I’ve been to that airport.’ That’s how my
In Korea, there was only one English-language television channel, “so there was no
choice about what to watch,” he says. “And
every day after school the Army TV station
put on Jeopardy! I, and all my friends, ran
home to watch Jeopardy! in force.”
“I was the insufferable kid who could get
by on less work,” he adds. “By the way, I have
that kid now. I have an 11-year-old who’s
exactly like me, and it’s super-annoying.”
The answer is … Brainiac, Ken
Jennings’s Trivia Almanac,
Maphead and Because I Said So!
“What are Ken Jennings’ four books for
grown-ups?” Jennings asks.
Despite being financially well off after his
game-show successes, Jennings continued
working as a computer programmer but harbored ambitions to write. His celebrity helped
open doors and he finally sold his first book:
Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious,
Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs
(Random House, 2006; not available at
Costco). That’s when he left computer programming behind.
Besides the books for adults, he has written a series of books for kids, the Junior Genius
Taking tests Researching
MUCH OF KEN JENNINGS’ preparation
for game shows and writing his books
consists of extensive research.
But research isn’t just for books
or game shows. For any time
you’re looking for information
for a variety of needs, he
offers these tips.
; Wikipedia is surprisingly accurate. Start your
research there; it’s where
hundreds of factual battles
are being fought every
; Eventually, you’ll
need to go offline. The real
research is in books and magazines
that might not be free online. You’re
going to have to actually find a library
with books, if they have that
; Work forward,
not backward. Have a
point of view, but don’t
get your big idea first
and then try to scrape
together evidence. Try to
defend your idea, then
argue against it. See which
one you believe.
; Trust no one. Get a
second opinion on every fact.
Every source, no matter how
good, will have mistakes.—SF
Guides, each one on an individual topic, such
as mythology, maps and geography, and presidents. As a matter of fact, he rushed home
from this interview to work on one about
ancient Egypt. He has also written columns for
various magazines, participated in other game
shows and even created one of his own.
You’ll also find him on an iTune app,
Trivia Death Match with Ken Jennings, where
you can challenge him based on speed and
accuracy. He has appeared on Late Night with
David Letterman twice (once to deliver
Letterman’s Top Ten list on Ways to Irritate
Alex Trebek), Live with Regis and Kelly and
Nightline, and was named one of Barbara
Walter’s Ten Most Fascinating People of 2004.
But his favorite appearance was on a TV show
from his youth—Sesame Street.
“I got to go on Sesame Street right after
Jeopardy!, and that was a childhood dream
KEN JENNINGS OFFERS these tips for
preparing for, and taking, tests.
; Don’t cram. Try short daily study
sessions for a couple of weeks instead
of pulling an all-nighter right before the
; Don’t trust your first
instincts. Don’t be afraid to
go back and change an
answer; do not be afraid of
that. Studies show that most
corrections are for the good.
; Try to have fun. Think
of the test as a puzzle to solve.
For a lot of people who test badly,
it’s all anxiety. ManyJeopardy!
contestants freeze up, like deer in
headlights. I was always just trying
to have a good time.
; Let go of the outcome. Don’t
think about the grade as you’re taking
the test. You’re playing a game.
; Make it interesting. Mnemonic
devices work. If you’re studying
something boring, like dates, make
up a story or goofy mental picture
to help you remember—the
dumber the better. On Jeopardy!, I
had to cram on cocktails the way
other people study Shakespeare,
because I don’t drink. What’s a
sidecar? Brandy, orange
liqueur and lemon. So I picture a motorcycle with an
orange and lemon in the sidecar.
They have little helmets on. See, 10
years later, I still remember.—SF
You’ll find Ken Jennings’
Junior Genius Guides
at your local Costco.