Matt Amodio Talks Winning Streak, Ken Jennings and Most Stressful Jeopardy! Moment
Matt Amodio’s historic Jeopardy! run has been chock-full of runaway games, hefty Daily Double wagers, and very few Final Jeopardy! misses. With an impressive 19-game total of $642,601, he currently ranks third for highest winnings during regular-season play.
While Matt describes himself as having watched “every episode” of Jeopardy!, his record-breaking streak has exceeded his wildest expectations. We recently caught up with the champ to discuss his success, gameplay strategy and what makes him tick in everyday life. Check out the full transcript of the interview below:
Jeopardy!: How did you end up on Jeopardy!?
Matt: So, I like Jeopardy! I’ve seen, I think, every episode in my lifetime and I nonetheless didn’t think I would be good enough to be on the show. My dad said, “Take the Anytime Test. If nothing worse can happen then you won’t get on, so just give it a try.” I said, “Fine I’ll do it for you.” And I got a call, and then I got another call, and now I’m here and I just can’t believe it.
What’s your best advice for success on Jeopardy!?
Read. That’s the best advice I could give anybody. Read if you find it mildly interesting, read more about it. If you don’t find it mildly interesting, read more about it. You just need to know more and then you will find that interesting too.
What’s your favorite pizza topping?
Plain cheese. It may sound boring, but don’t knock it till you try it.
Do you collect anything?
I do not collect anything. I collect open space as an act of rebellion against my hoarder of a father.
If you had a time machine where would you travel?
I would travel to earlier in the 1900’s and no earlier, because of hygiene and technology that I could not live without.
Do you have a favorite Halloween costume?
I famously did not enjoy Halloween at all and the only time I dressed up was when I was nine and I put on my baseball uniform from little league. That was my compromise with my parents that I would do it.
Do you recommend taking the Anytime Test?
Yes, I think that people out there have a ton of knowledge but probably a lot of self doubt too and they’re holding themselves back. I just have to encourage them, go for it, bet on yourself, give it a try.
How does it feel to be in the Jeopardy! record books?
I can’t believe it. It still doesn’t make sense. I expect to look at the record book and still see everybody else’s name but mine. It will never fit in for me.
How has it been seeing the reaction to your streak?
It’s been a bit much both playing and seeing reactions to the games that are airing and I’ve just been trying to compartmentalize all of that. People have been very nice. I didn’t know the internet could also be nice. People have been very nice and so I’ve appreciated that.
Have you heard from any celebrities?
I got a tweet, which I will count, from Ken Jennings. I have not heard from him personally but he acknowledged my existence on Twitter and I melted to the ground as soon as I saw that. There’s nobody I respect in the Jeopardy! community, but probably the world, as Ken Jennings and so that was just a treat.
What have been some of the most surprising fan reactions?
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.
How did you prepare for Season 38?
Some decompression. I had so much energy coiled up I wanted to kind of relax a little bit. But, I also read more because you never know when the next thing you find online is going to be asked and so I just try to absorb every bit of information that I can.
Did you buy new clothes for the show?
No, I’m a little bit superstitious about that. I’m worried about acquiring a new wardrobe and then boom—it all ends just like that and I’m never going to be able to wear those clothes again.
If you could have walk-up music, what song would you choose?
It would absolutely be Crazy Train because I think the contrast between one of my favorite songs and my personality would just be too much to resist.
What was the most stressful part of last season?
Uhh, all of them, beginning to end. No, I think that the Final Jeopardy!s where I bet a lot of money because I know the odds are in favor, but sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. They’re always stressful.
What was the most fun part about last season?
I loved answering all of the obscure questions. The more obscure it is the better feeling I get when I get it right. I just try to imagine all the people at home going, ‘How did you know that?’... Trust me I’m also saying, ‘How did I know that?’
What were your expectations coming into last season?
I was hoping for one win but I’ve never been on a stage under pressure like that so I was pretty much expecting to go in and forget everything I know including my name, how much money I have at the moment, to say “what is,” certainly. So, just to win the one game and to be able to call myself a Jeopardy! Champion was always my goal. More has come and I’m happy for it but that moment when I won the first one is still always dear to my heart.
Why do you answer every clue with “what’s?”
So, I know the rules of Jeopardy!. I have watched a lot of Jeopardy! And I have seen rulings on individual questions here and there. So, I have known from experience what is acceptable and what is not. I went about the approach of saying the fewer things to think about, the better. If you have a moving part, that moving part can go wrong and so I found the simplest, most repeatable approach I could and went with it.