The 9 Most Controversial “Jeopardy!” Contestants of All Time


Jeopardy!, one of the longest-running game programs in television history, has had an incredible number of contestants—nearly 60 years’ worth, to be exact.

With so many different attitudes and methods, it’s no surprise that certain players have irritated spectators more than others.

From controversial playing styles to off-putting attitudes, these nine Jeopardy contestants have sparked heated debate among the show’s ardent fans.

Continue reading to discover why they are regarded as the 9 most controversial “Jeopardy!” contestants of all time

1. Jake De Arruda

Jeopardy!, ABC

Another contentious Jeopardy! character is Jake DeArruda, who was chastised for his on-stage antics in 2023.

The three-day champion, who was only 23 at the time, would make faces and make what some saw as arrogant gestures during the game, even interrupting host Ken Jennings, according to TV Insider.

Twitter was swamped with negative comments about DeArruda’s expressions, with some labeling him “annoying” and even “insufferable.”

On the Inside Jeopardy! podcast in February 2023, Foss and Cohen addressed DeArruda’s behavior and response, emphasizing his age.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people this past week who want to talk to me about Jake, positive or negative, somewhere in between,” Cohen stated in the podcast.

“And I think that when you’re smart, you step up on that platform, especially when you’re young. And I’m not one to pass judgment on how someone wants to play this game or perform on stage.”

Foss emphasized the importance of compassion online, saying that participants “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 stated that the contestant’s acquaintances had attested to his compassion, and “he certainly was that way to us in the study when he was here.”

DeArruda was unconcerned, uploading a selfie of himself “showered” in champagne on Twitter. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to drown out the haters,” he wrote on Twitter.

2. Arthur Chu

ABC, YouTube

Arthur Chu, the 11-day champion, is well known for his controversial playing style. In 2014, Jeopardy! spectators were enraged by his penchant to “hunt for the Daily Doubles,” which disrupted the game’s usual (and adored) pace. Of fact, this has become a far more prevalent strategy.

Chu has been labeled “the most hated champion,” owing in large part to his social media presence. When his episodes aired (Jeopardy! is pre-taped), he would live-tweet throughout the show, retweeting criticism and good feedback on his skills, according to Bustle.

Chu came out about his role as a “Jeopardy! villain” in an op-ed for The Washington Post, where he expressed his displeasure with the show’s constantly shifting hosts following the death of Alex Trebek.

“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 said.

3. Lauren Ashby

ABC, YouTube

Laura Ashby, a two-time champion, may not have lasted long on Jeopardy!, but she left an impression on fans. Her voice inflection, rather than her beliefs or attractiveness, sparked interest.

Ashby was trending on Twitter with the hashtag #JeopardyLaura, and fans couldn’t get over her distinctive lilt.

According to a Forbes article from 2015, Ashby was receiving criticism, including being dubbed the “most annoying Jeopardy! contestant ever.”

A five-second clip of Ashby’s gameplay released on YouTube received over 100 comments, with many spectators expressing their disgust and annoyance. One observer described her voice as “like nails on a chalkboard,” while others thought she sounded like a Valley Girl.

“It’s hard to explain what she did with her voice, but it was painful. “I recall the local radio stations even mentioning it,” a Redditor remarked in response to a discussion on “disruptive behavior” by Jeopardy! players.

Some were more compassionate, with one Redditor noting that Ashby’s appearance on the show “really brought out some of the worst in people.”

They said, “It makes me sad to be reminded of how awful folks were to her.”

4. Buzzy Cohen

Bravo, Gettyimages

Some contestants are contentious because individuals have strong feelings one way or another. Buzzy Cohen, who won nine games in 2016 and won the 2017 Tournament of Champions, was one of those Jeopardy! contestants.

Cohen’s celebrations sparked controversy, as did his cheeky Final Jeopardy! answers, which he addressed directly to the host. Instead of responding correctly, Cohen wrote on two consecutive occasions, “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, while others expressed their eagerness for his elimination.

“Someone better beat Buzzy Cohen on #Jeopardy today,” a Twitter user remarked on May 23, 2016. “I don’t want that smug face on my TV anymore.”

Others, however, expressed their love. “Latest celebrity crush: Buzzy Cohen, reigning Jeopardy champion,” one fan tweeted, while another added, “I have an increasingly serious crush on Buzzy Cohen.”

The jury was out on whether Cohen was adored or despised, but he ultimately triumphed. He now hosts the podcast This is Jeopardy! The Story of America’s Favorite Quiz Show, following his co-hosting of Inside Jeopardy! with producer Sarah Foss.

In a 2016 Thrillist piece, Cohen addressed the disparities in public perception of him.

“Anyone who wins a few rounds and has personality on Jeopardy! is controversial.

“And Twitter is divisive,” Cohen added. “People attempt to submit the strongest opinions in order to gain attention, and this is how you obtain it. People won’t retweet ‘Buzzy looks 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.'”


5. Yogesh Raut

Jeopardy, Facebook

During Season 39 of Jeopardy!, audiences met Yogesh Raut, who had a three-episode winning streak between January 11 and January 16. Fans chastised him for his apparent lack of sportsmanship when he failed to clap for Katie Palumbo after she dethroned him, as well as his “smug and arrogant” manner during the game.

While some supported Raut, others welcomed his departure. However, that was far from the last we heard from the contestant. Raut took to Facebook to express his dissatisfaction with Jeopardy! as a whole, calling the game “a glorified reality show” that should not be deemed “the Olympics of quizzing.”

Raut continued to publish for the next few days, fueling the flames among supporters.

“‘Jeopardy!’ is a fun TV show but putting it on a pedestal is an objectively bad thing,” remarked Raut. “It’s horrible for the future of quizzes. It’s detrimental to women and [people of color] who expect to be treated with the same dignity as their White male counterparts.”

Raut’s rant elicited a response from Jeopardy! icon James Holzhauer, who joked that Raut should be banned from the game for “a lifetime.”

Raut has already apologized for insulting fans, but his unsettling behavior was highlighted again during the 2024 Jeopardy! Masters competition. Fans claimed that the second-place finisher was once again “smug” and had an unsportsmanlike attitude.

6. Austin Rogers

ABC, YouTube

Viewers have also been divided on Austin Rogers. Rogers won 12 games of Jeopardy! in 2017, and he most recently reached the quarterfinals of the 2024 Invitational Tournament.

While he excelled at trivia, he was also noted for his attitude, hair, and on-screen humor. Rogers’ unusual approach won over some viewers and made him go viral on social media, while other Jeopardy! fans had a different perspective. A 2017 headline in The Washington Post even referred to him as a contestant whom “some people love to hate.”
“He just has an annoying personality [in my opinion],” a Redditor remarked in a thread exploring people’s feelings about Rogers. “He appears to be the type of guy who, in a one-on-one conversation, would continually try to outwit you and demonstrate his intelligence. Sure, the guy is educated, but there’s something to be said about modesty.

Rogers undoubtedly grabbed the internet by storm, but some viewers remain steadfastly in his camp. “There are two types of people in this world: people who like #austinonjeopardy and people who don’t matter,” says a post on X from September 2017.

Rogers, for his part, wasn’t bothered by the criticism, but he didn’t like his “quirky” moniker.

“Quit calling me ‘quirky’! Why am I eccentric? “There are so many more words in English,” he told in 2017. “Look, there’s a pretty stale and firmly conservative—not in a political sense—Jeopardy following! When the natural state of things is disrupted, people behave as if gravity has failed. They’re very into it. I understand it’s enjoyable, but lighten up a little. “It is a game show.”

7. Matt Amodio

Eric McCandless, GettyImages

Another Jeopardy! The “most annoying” contestant is Matt Amodio, who won 38 consecutive games in 2021.

Fans once again complained about Amodio’s gameplay, notably how he answered queries. Amodio would answer every hint with “what is,” rather than “who is,” according to Decider.

If he landed on a Daily Double, he wouldn’t utilize the traditional language of “make it a true Daily Double” while betting his whole earnings. Instead, he would just state his total sum.

“Is Matt the most obnoxious competitor ever? Is it that difficult to say ‘who is’? Or’make it a true daily double’?” A viewer tweeted in July 2021.

“Absolutely the most obnoxious contestant ever. “He should be punished every time he refers to someone as a what,” another fan said.

However, several defended Amodio, pointing out that the guidelines do not require responses to be “grammatically correct” in terms of the who is/what is framework.

“The rules say your response must be in the form of a question,” a Twitter user replied to criticisms of Amodio’s answering style. The rules do not require that your response be grammatically perfect. I understand that won’t change your mind, but I’m simply giving you the facts.”

Another expectation is that Amodio will be there for a while, telling other viewers to “better get used to and get over hearing What’s.” This turned out to be true, as Amodio finished sixth in the 2024 Jeopardy! Masters.

Amodio also responded to critics, saying that the vitriol didn’t bother him. “I get a lot of ‘what’s Matt’ questions, and I believe they’re trying to be cruel, but I’ve just kind of accepted it on my own. So it feeds me. “I like it,” he stated in a Q&A video released on the Jeopardy! YouTube page.

8. James Holzhauer

David Becker, Gettyimages

James Holzhauer, a contentious Jeopardy! participant, ranks just above Amodio in terms of highest winnings during regular-season play. Holzhauer, a professional sports player in real life, approached the game differently, preferring to go big if he landed on a Daily Double.

When he was ready to go all in, Holzhauer would press his hands forward as if he were wagering all of his chips on a poker table. Many spectators were impressed with his trivia skills, while Variety claimed that he was “a more advanced player, a perfect one,” who made Jeopardy! uninteresting to watch.

Holzhauer, like Chu, would jump from category to category, breaking the traditional strategy that loyal viewers value. Aside from that, he was known to add short notes beside his Final Jeopardy! responses, much like Cohen.

In addition to everything else, Holzhauer later criticized production, albeit many fans agreed with his remarks.

Holzhauer spoke out in 2021 against Mike Richards, the former Jeopardy! producer, according to TV Insider. Richards resigned after controversial remarks he made in 2013 and 2014 surfaced, coupled with charges of employment discrimination and a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination and retaliation.

In response to Richards’ dismissal, Holzhauer tweeted on August 31, 2021, “Do I believe Mike Richards’ podcast statements were appropriate for polite society?

No. But did he get the benefit of the doubt for his work running Jeopardy? Also, no. His next tweet featured a GIF from The Wizard of Oz’s song “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead.”

Regarding Holzhauer’s caustic remark regarding Raut, he later clarified that it was sarcasm, as he, too, isn’t scared to speak up against Jeopardy! higher-ups.

9. Mattea Roach

ABC, YouTube

Mattea Roach is a more recent breakout talent, having won 23 straight games in 2022. However, Roach, who now utilizes they/them pronouns, has also faced criticism for their gaming. Viewers criticized Roach’s hand movements, notably the rotation of their wrists.

“My wrist has gotten fan mail. If anything, my wrist received a great deal of hate mail. Many people did not like it,” Roach remarked in a 2022 interview with Vulture, which also emphasized their “divisiveness.””

Other Jeopardy! fans criticized some of Roach’s reported side talk during gameplay.

“[They] commented on [their] incorrect replies aloud while the next individual attempted to ring in. “Extremely annoying,” one Redditor commented in a thread about the Vulture interview.

Another claimed that after replying wrongly to a clue, Roach would shift focus and “keep talking.”

“This could be done purposely to distract the other participant, whose turn it is now to attempt the clue. It is disrespectful to the other contestants and the game itself to maintain a steady stream of talk,” the Redditor said.

However, Roach had a response to these allegations as well.

“The wildest reactions I observed were individuals wondering if I was doing it to distract the competitors. I looked at the other contenders to see if they had a Daily Double or were sharing experiences. “During the game, I was only looking at the board,” they told Vulture, saying that you don’t have time to play “weird mind games” during the tournament.

Roach continued, “I would never intentionally distract another player because it is so unsportsmanlike. I’d want to believe it didn’t have that influence. If production detected it, I believe I would have been advised to tone it down.”

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