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Ken Jennings guest hosting Jeopardy! on the one-year anniversary of Alex Trebek’s death


Ken Jennings guest hosted Jeopardy! Monday, which marked the one-year anniversary of Alex Trebek’s November 8, 2020 death at 80 from pancreatic cancer.

The Edmonds, Washington native, 47, chat with USA Today on Monday about his experiences with the game show in the year that followed the passing of the iconic host.

Jennings, who won 74 games in a row to capture the show’s record for longest winning streak, is returning to the popular game show for a three-week hosting stint that is his first appearance on the show since this past February.

The latest: Ken Jennings, 47, guest hosted Jeopardy! Monday, which marked the one-year anniversary of Alex Trebek’s November 8, 2020 death at 80 from pancreatic cancer 

Jennings told the outlet that he has experienced ‘every possible emotion now’ in terms of the show, which has had a tumultuous year in the wake of Trebek’s passing, as more than a dozen show alums and stars auditioned for the hosting job. 

Executive producer Mike Richards got the hosting position but stepped down this past August amid the discovery of inflammatory remarks he had made on a podcast in 2014.

Jennings told the outlet that producers, looking to protect him, did not tell him that Monday’s episode was taped with the intent to air on the anniversary of Trebek’s death.

‘They didn’t want to put that in my head,’ he said. ‘So I was not told until after that it was the November 8 show.’

The show has had a tumultuous year in the wake of Trebek's passing, as more than a dozen show alums and stars auditioned for the hosting job

The show has had a tumultuous year in the wake of Trebek’s passing, as more than a dozen show alums and stars auditioned for the hosting job

Jennings said of hosting, 'Every time I'm up there, I'm doing Alex. Not just because he perfected it, but because that's the only way I've ever seen it done'

Jennings said of hosting, ‘Every time I’m up there, I’m doing Alex. Not just because he perfected it, but because that’s the only way I’ve ever seen it done’

Asked about his return to hosting, Jennings said, ‘You would like to say just like getting back on a bike, but it’s a very tricky job.

‘The mechanics of hosting Jeopardy! are daunting. There’s a lot going on at once, and Alex made it all look so easy. But I can tell you firsthand, it’s not easy.’

He said that he ‘felt rusty’ when coming back in September to tape the episodes for his three-week stint.

‘I hope I don’t look rusty, but honestly it was just such a delight to be back on that stage,’ he said, adding that he ‘was just terrified’ taping shows in 2020 following Trebek’s death.

‘Alex had just barely passed, and really no one else had hosted the show since 1974; like, literally, in my lifetime,’ he said. ‘I knew that it was going to be a very difficult task … much less the idea that you’re trying to step into the shoes of Alex Trebek, which is impossible. This time, we’re kind of a year removed or more from all that, so I’ve had every possible emotion now related to Jeopardy!’

Jennings said that he wore ‘Alex’s cuff links’ that Trebek’s wife Jean had left for him, while taping the shows.

Jennings is returning to the popular game show for a three-week hosting stint that is his first appearance on the show since this past February

Jennings is returning to the popular game show for a three-week hosting stint that is his first appearance on the show since this past February 

He said of Trebek: ‘You can’t stand on that stage and say those things without thinking about him. Every time I’m up there, I’m doing Alex. Not just because he perfected it, but because that’s the only way I’ve ever seen it done.’

Jennings said that he and Mayim Bialik, 45, are slated to rotate hosting duties in the short term, and praised her work at the lectern.

He said that Bialik’s episodes have ‘kind of a fresh and authentic feeling, like somebody just kind of discovering Jeopardy! which is not what you’re gonna see from me; I hear Alex’s voice in my head every time I’m out there.’

Asked if he wants to be named permanent host, Jennings said, ‘I am really enjoying hosting, just because Jeopardy! means so much to me, but right now, all I’m thinking about is how the show is doing as a workplace, as a TV institution.’

He added, ‘If my country called upon me to host Jeopardy! I would happily do my patriotic duty. That show is my first love. I, even as a little kid, I would run home from school every day to watch. It’s just a big part of who I am and the person I became, even before I was on the show.

‘So it’s just enormously flattering to be in the mix. And I feel like the show is in good hands, at this point, no matter what happens. You’re not going to see me in the papers talking about how important it is that I ended up hosting. I would love it, but I honestly feel like, deep down, Jeopardy! is going to be OK either way.’



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