The 6 Most Controversial "Jeopardy!" Contestants of All Time
Love them or hate them, these six players caused a stir during their time on (and off) the show.
As one of the longest-running game shows in television history, Jeopardy! has had a staggering number of contestants—almost 60 years' worth, to be exact. With so many different vibes and approaches among them, it's not surprising that some players have ruffled viewers' feathers more than others. From polarizing playing styles to off-putting attitudes, these six Jeopardy! contestants are an ongoing subject of debate among the show's devoted fanbase. Read on to find out why they're considered to be the most controversial of all time.
During the current season of Jeopardy!, viewers met Yogesh Raut, who held a three-episode winning streak from Jan. 11 to Jan. 16. Fans were quick to call him out for his apparent lack of sportsmanship when he didn't clap for Katie Palumbo after she dethroned him, as well as his "smug and arrogant" behavior during the game.
While some were on Raut's team, others were happy to see him go. However, that certainly wasn't the last we heard from the contestant. Raut took to Facebook to air his grievances about Jeopardy! as a whole, calling the game "a glorified reality show" that shouldn't be considered "the Olympics of quizzing."
Raut continued to post for the next few days, further stoking the fire with fans.
"'Jeopardy!' is a fun TV show but putting it on a pedestal is an objectively bad thing," Raut wrote. "It's bad for the future of quizzing. It's bad for women and POC [people of color] who want to be treated with the same levels of dignity as their White male counterparts."
Raut's rant even got a response from Jeopardy! legend James Holzhauer, who said that Raut should get "a lifetime ban" from the game as a result.
Eleven-day champ Arthur Chu is best known for his controversial playing style. In 2014, Jeopardy! viewers were infuriated by his tendency to "hunt for the Daily Doubles"—breaking up the typical (and beloved) normal rhythm of the game. Of course, that has now become a much more popular tactic.
Chu has been dubbed "the most hated champion," thanks in large part to his social media use. When his episodes aired (Jeopardy! is pre-taped), he would live-tweet throughout the show, retweeting critiques and positive responses to his gameplay, Bustle reported.
Chu spoke out on his role as a "Jeopardy! villain" in an op-ed for The Washington Post, where he spoke on his disdain for the continually changing hosts in the wake of Alex Trebek's death.
"Some of the names people called me online stung, but in the end I couldn't be mad; I'd been a fan since I was a child, too, and I knew how it felt to have something you love change unexpectedly," Chu wrote.
Some contestants are controversial because people feel so strongly one way or the other. Buzzy Cohen—who won a total of nine games in 2016 and claimed the trophy in the 2017 Tournament of Champions—was one of those Jeopardy! players.
Cohen's celebrations were polarizing, as were his cheeky Final Jeopardy! answers, which he addressed directly to the host. Instead of giving the correct response, on two separate occasions, Cohen wrote, "What is see you tomorrow, Trebek," and "Who is, you aren't rid of me yet, Trebek."
"Has there ever been a more punchable @Jeopardy champion than Buzzy Cohen?" a viewer tweeted in May 2016, with others waiting anxiously for his defeat.
"Someone better beat Buzzy Cohen on #Jeopardy today," a Twitter user wrote on May 23, 2016. "I don't want that smug face on my TV anymore."
The jury may have been out on whether Cohen was adored or abhorred, but he came out on top in the end. Just last week, Jeopardy! producers announced that Cohen is hosting a new podcast, This is Jeopardy!…America's Favorite Quiz Show, after co-hosting Inside Jeopardy! with producer Sarah Foss.
In 2016, Cohen addressed the divergent opinions about him in a piece for Thrillist.
"Anyone who wins a couple games and shows a little personality on Jeopardy! is divisive. And Twitter is divisive," Cohen wrote. "People try to post the strongest opinions for attention and that's how you get attention. People won't retweet 'Buzzy seems like an OK guy and is a really good player.' Instead it's 'I want to punch Buzzy Cohen in the face,' or 'I want to marry Buzzy Cohen.'"
Another controversial Jeopardy! character is Jake DeArruda, who was critiqued for his on-stage behavior earlier this year.
The three-day champ, who is just 23, would make faces and what some considered arrogant gestures throughout the game—and would even interrupt host Ken Jennings, TV Insider reported. Twitter was flooded with less-than-kind critiques of DeArruda's expressions, with some calling him annoying and even insufferable.
Foss and Cohen actually stepped in to discuss DeArruda's behavior and the backlash on the Inside Jeopardy! podcast in February, calling attention to his age.
"I've heard from a lot of people this past week who want to talk to me about Jake, positive, negative, somewhere in between," Cohen said on the podcast. "And I think that when you're a smart person, you get up on that stage, especially when you're young … and I'm not one to judge how someone wants to play this game and how they want to be on the stage."
Foss stressed the need to be compassionate online, as contestants "are just people who are coming on the show they love and doing it the best way they know how to do it." The producer also added that the contestant's friends attested to his kindness and "he certainly was that way to us in the study when he was here."
DeArruda wasn't too fazed either, posting a photo where he's been "showered" in champagne on Twitter. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to drown out the haters," he tweeted.
Another Jeopardy! contestant who's been dubbed the "most annoying" is Matt Amodio, who won a whopping 38 consecutive games in 2021.
Once again, fans had problems with Amodio's gameplay, particularly the way he would answer questions. For every clue, regardless of whether it was a person, place, or thing, Amodio would precede his answer with "what is," as opposed to "who is," Decider reported.
If he landed on a Daily Double, he also wouldn't use the typical phrasing and "make it a true Daily Double" when risking all of his winnings. Instead, he would just say his total amount.
"Is Matt the most annoying contestant ever? Is it so hard to say 'who is'? or 'make it a true daily double'?" a viewer tweeted in July 2021.
"Without a doubt the most annoying contestant ever. he should be penalized every time he refers to a person as a what," another fan wrote.
But some came to Amodio's defense, clarifying that the rules don't require responses to be "grammatically correct" in terms of the who is/what is structure.
"The rules say your response must be in the form of a question," a Twitter user wrote in response to critiques about Amodio's answering style. "The rules do not require your response to be grammatically correct. I know that won't change your opinions, but I'm just telling you the facts."
Another predicted that Amodio would be around for a while, advising other viewers that they "better get used to and get over hearing What's."
Amodio also responded to critics and said that the negativity didn't really affect him. "I get a lot of 'what's Matt' and I think they're trying to be mean, but I've just kind of taken it on my own. So, it feeds me. I like it," he said during a Q&A video posted on Jeopardy!'s YouTube channel.
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Right above Amodio in terms of highest winnings during regular-season play is James Holzhauer—and he's a polarizing Jeopardy! contestant in his own right. A professional sports better in real life, Holzhauer took a different approach to the game, tending to go big whenever he would land on a Daily Double.
When he wanted to go all in, Holzhauer would push his hands forward, as if he were betting all of his chips on a poker table. Many viewers were in awe of his trivia prowess, but Variety suggested that he was "a more advanced player, a perfect one," who made Jeopardy! boring to watch.
Holzhauer would also bounce around from category to category, disrupting the typical strategy that devoted viewers cherish, not unlike Chu. Beyond that, he was known to leave little notes alongside his Final Jeopardy! responses, similar to Cohen.
On top of everything else, Holzhauer was later critical of production—although many agreed with his statements.
In 2021, Holzhauer spoke out against ousted Jeopardy! producer Mike Richards, TV Insider reported. Richards' departure came after controversial comments he made in 2013 and 2014 resurfaced, along with additional claims of workplace discrimination and a lawsuit accusing him of wrongful termination and retaliation.
In response to Richards' dismissal, Holzhauer tweeted on Aug. 31, 2021, "Do I think Mike Richards's podcast comments were appropriate for polite society? No. But did he deserve the benefit of the doubt for the job he did running Jeopardy? Also no." His next tweet included a GIF from The Wizard of Oz of the song "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead."
As for Holzhauer's snarky tweet about Raut, he later insinuated that was sarcasm, as he, too, isn't afraid of speaking out against Jeopardy! higher-ups.