8 Most Awkward On-Air "Jeopardy!" Moments
Over the years, the show has had several uncomfortable answers, exchanges, and interviews.
Even though Jeopardy! follows a tried and true format, on-air mistakes and awkward missteps do still occur. These are often the result of contestants' on-screen jitters or production errors, but no matter the cause, they're downright uncomfortable to watch. In fact, there are certain cringe-inducing exchanges and responses that have now gone down in infamy. We've compiled a list of the most memorable ones here, so read on for the eight most awkward on-air Jeopardy! moments, and see how many you remember.
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The final Final Jeopardy! player
During a 2015 episode of Jeopardy, Kristin Sausville was left to play Final Jeopardy! on her own, as depicted in a clip featured on Inside Edition. Both of her fellow contestants were "in the red" after Double Jeopardy!, making them ineligible to play the final round.
"It's you all by yourself Kristin—I think you're gonna win the game," then-host Alex Trebek joked.
Sausville actually answered the final question incorrectly, but because there was no one to compete against, she went on to become a two-day champion. After her victory aired, she tweeted about the experience, writing, "Always sad when someone can't play Final. Even when I benefit. Seriously. #Jeopardy."
Ken Jennings' raunchy response
Even the best of the best slip up on occasion, and Jeopardy! legend Ken Jennings is no exception. During a 2004 game, Jennings selected the $200 clue from the "Tool Time" category, which read, "This term for a long-handled gardening tool can also mean an immoral pleasure seeker."
Buzzing in first, Jennings responded, "What is a hoe?" Trebek quickly said no, but Jennings smiled after the answer, and both the audience and his fellow contestants couldn't control their laughter.
"Whoa, they teach you that in school in Utah, huh?" Trebek asked Jennings before another contestant buzzed in with the correct answer: a rake.
In Dec. 2022, Jennings addressed the response, alleging that he wants that $200 back.
"TikTok has apparently just discovered this and is delighted," Jennings said in a clip posted on the social media app. "Yeah, why didn't I get it right? … I still think I was shafted, quite frankly. I think I'm owed $200 and maybe the writers should get a pool together."
He continued, "I think the idea is the clue says it's 'an immoral pleasure seeker' and we don't want to characterize all hoes that way," he said. "Rakes, apparently, we're okay with that aspersion on their character."
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Record-setting triple stumpers
The current season of Jeopardy! has had its fair share of awkward moments, but one episode was particularly uncomfortable to watch in its entirety.
During the June 7 game, returning champion Suresh Krishnan faced off against Kristine Rembach and Collette Lee, but the competition was less than fierce. According to The U.S. Sun, there were 23 triple stumpers, which is the term used when none of the three contestants give the correct response.
"One thing not so great about this game—and actually Kristine and Collette joked about it in the post-game chat—they were really hoping that they wouldn't go viral for leaving so much money on the board," Foss said, again highlighting the 23 triple stumpers. "This has to be a record … and it's something we never like to see."
Wolf Blitzer's unfortunate game
The Jeopardy! fandom was buzzing in Sept. 2009 when CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer competed on Celebrity Jeopardy!, responding with incorrect answers to question after question.
During the infamous episode, the well-known journalist was blown out of the water by comedian Andy Richter. At the end of Double Jeopardy!, Blizter was deep in the red, with negative $4,600. It became even more awkward, as Blitzer had to be awarded $5,600—bringing him back up to $1,000—just so he could compete in Final Jeopardy! (Because winnings go to charity, all Celebrity Jeopardy! contestants compete in the last round.)
Among his more cringeworthy flubs, Blitzer incorrectly guessed "Jerusalem" instead of "Bethlehem" as the place where both Jesus and King David hailed from, and "crash" in response to a clue asking about a "5-letter word that refers to an economic crash and the fear-driven rush to sell."
In the comment section of the video compiling Blitzer's incorrect responses, one fan wrote, "This made me laugh unreasonably hard."
Another added, "Alex should just say 'no' whenever Wolf clicks in."
Fans were up in arms during the High School Reunion Tournament earlier this year. While host Mayim Bialik was speaking at the beginning of the March 8 episode, the cameras panned to the three contestants, where their final dollar amounts for the day were clearly displayed.
Although this didn't spoil the entire competition—the two-day tournament concluded the following day, on March 9—it didn't make the editing mistake any less awkward.
"Definitely wondered for a minute if I had slept through Wednesday or something!" one viewer tweeted.
Again, production responded in the aftermath. "Right off the bat, apologies to the entire audience," executive producer Michael Davies said during a March 13 episode of Inside Jeopardy! "We totally blew it at the top of the show. We made a horrible error, where we revealed the final scores at the end in the opening cutaway shot during Mayim's monologue."
Davies continued by saying that the show takes mistakes seriously, with promises to avoid similar mishaps in the future.
During a 2015 Jeopardy! episode, things got a little odd when contestant Tom Imler buzzed in with an incorrect answer. In response to a clue that read, "In common law, the age of this, signaling adulthood, is presumed to be 14 in boys and 12 in girls."
Imler buzzed in with "the age of consent." The correct answer was "puberty."
The blunder sparked outrage online—and some serious allegations about Imler. Speaking with the New York Daily News, Imler condemned the claims as "127,000 percent untrue."
He added, "I was just astounded at how fast it exploded. It was the wrong answer to a poorly worded question."
Diana Ross is how old?
Poor Diana Ross was the subject of multiple awkward moments in 2022. During an episode last March, two contestants, Karen Johnson and Finn Corrigan, responded with Ross as their answer to a Final Jeopardy! clue that read: "In 2021 at the age of 95, this singer achieved a Guinness World Record for the oldest person to release an album of new material."
In 2021, Ross was 77. (The correct response was Tony Bennett.)
"Miss Ross is gonna be mad that they thought she was 95 yrs. old….LOL," a viewer wrote on YouTube, while another added, "It's funny trying to imagine Diana Ross sitting at home watching Jeopardy and seeing this."
Both Johnson and Corrigan apologized to Ross via Twitter, but unfortunately, Ross had her age overestimated yet again three months later. As Us Weekly reported, another player guessed that Ross was 90 in July 2022.
This time, the clue asked about Ross' age directly: "Your standard phonograph record until the 1950s, or the age Diana Ross turned in 2022." Still, the contestant was off by more than a decade, as Ross was 78.
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Trebek's demeaning diss
The interview portion of Jeopardy! is known for being a more lighthearted part of the show—and Trebek memorably engaged in banter with the contestants. But in 2016, the late host made librarian Susan Cole feel a bit awkward.
"Your favorite type of music is something I've never heard of, but it doesn't sound like fun," Trebek said when approaching Cole. The contestant then went on to describe the "nerdcore hip hop" genre.
"[Nerdcore is] rapping about the things they love," Cole said. "Video games, science-fiction, having a hard time meeting romantic partners. It's really catchy and fun."
But Trebek clapped back at nerdcore fans. "Losers, in other words," the host said, leaving Cole laughing and at a loss for words. The host then conceded that he was just "teasing" the contestant.