‘Jeopardy!’ Champion Matt Amodio on His ‘Annoying’ Quirk and LeVar Burton as Host

Matt Amodio Jeopardy Champion
CBS/YouTube

Current Jeopardy! champion Matt Amodio shows no signs of slowing down, despite some fans’ frustration with his “annoying” quirk. The Ph.D. student from New Haven, Connecticut, has racked up $291,200 after eight games, making him one of the top 10 highest-winning Jeopardy! champions ever.

Amodio has received praise for his impressive run so far, but he’s also attracted attention for answering “what is” for every response, regardless of whether the answer is a person or a thing. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Amodio said he had no intention of annoying anybody or disrespecting the show in any way.

“I guess I just want to say that I hope nobody’s offended by it,” he said. “I do hear some people say that it’s disrespectful to the game, and I would counter that if there was a Jeopardy! fan club ranking, I think I would have a strong case to be number one Jeopardy! fan. I live and breathe the show, I love every aspect of it, and so I’m definitely not doing it out of any disrespect or undermining of the show.”

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Despite being a Jeopardy! super fan, Amodio reveals that he only decided to try out for the show because of his dad. “I was only reluctantly trying out because I didn’t think I would make it, and even if I did make it, I wouldn’t be very good,” Amodio told EW. “I only tried out at the behest of my dad, who insisted, as any parent would, ‘My son is awesome. He would do so well.’ And so I said ‘Fine, I’ll do it for you.'”

Amodio also spoke highly of last week’s guest-host LeVar Burton, a man who has made no secret of his desire to become Jeopardy‘s permanent host. “He just exudes a calmness and a coolness to him that I envy as a person,” Amodio said. “And he was incredibly gracious. He clearly wanted to do well, and I think the fact that he wants to be selected as the permanent host is incredibly obvious because of how much care he put into it.”

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He continued: “He’s been an icon for me personally ever since I was a kid; Reading Rainbow was a staple for me. I’m not a Star Trek person, but my brother is, and he really wanted to send me with every meme quote that I could possibly get to say in front of him. I held my tongue; I’m sure he gets enough of that. But I was floored by the experience. I had high expectations going in just because of the legend he is, and he met them. I’ll never forget it.”

Jeopardy!, Season 37, Weekdays, Check your local listings