As an avid Jeopardy! viewer, one gets to see all kinds of odd ducks from the farthest corners of these United States. We have grown accustomed to Alex Trebek’s beautifully stilted intros — “Darlene from Akron, Ohio, I hear you have an unusual collection of old keys?” — and untraditional trivia geniuses. But there’s something deeply fascinating about the show’s newest phenomenon, Matt Jackson.
A paralegal based in Washington, D.C, the 23-year-old Jackson (he auditioned when he was 22) has won just over $230,000 in eight appearances on the show, virtually destroying the competition each time. Nobody else comes close.
The contestant has also provided the show with its most slow-building smile, which begins in a frown at the top of his introduction and crawls into a grin. He has repeated this, without fail, at the opening of each episode.
As each smile concludes its journey, Jackson holds up the number of shows he has logged in his streak.
He doesn’t do witty banter, and cheeky questions from Trebek are often met with a stern look and a tilt of the head, as if to say, You are wasting my time, Host Man, let us move along so I can take more of your money.
The self-proclaimed son of a Jewish liberal mother and a black conservative father told Trebek he prepared for the show by listening to the Hamilton soundtrack and repeating “I’m not throwing away my shot” over and over. Far from humble, Jackson doesn’t hide his satisfaction with a particularly impressive answer, and has even created a mini-catchphrase that he delivers with panache.
If it has been a while since you’ve tuned into the game show, these next episodes would be a good time to reacquaint yourself. Jackson, as Trebek suggested in Tuesday’s episode, might just be the one to break Ken Jennings’s 74-game streak.