‘Jeopardy!’ Host Ken Jennings Opens Up About the Pressure of Following in Alex Trebek’s Footsteps

by Craig Garrett

Alex Trebek quietly left a decades-long legacy on Jeopardy!, one that new hosts Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik struggle to live up to. Before his death in 2020, fans of the show took for granted all the ways that Trebek made hosting look easy. Trebek had effortless wit and pacing. He also had impressive math skills. These qualities weren’t truly appreciated by fans until there was someone other than Trebek as host. Bialik and Jennings have both admitted just how difficult it is to fill his shoes as hosts of the show.

The iconic game show has a large following that is very devoted. It’s not easy for Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik to come in after Alex Trebek spent 37 years hosting. The recently announced permanent hosts opened up about the pressure of the job on the Inside Jeopardy! podcast. Bialik told Jennings how intensely she feels she needs to get everything correct.

“I don’t know if it’s like this for you, but I feel like if I make a mistake, even if we can go back and edit it, it feels very embarrassing,” the Blossom star explained. “I think people are like, ‘Oh, she’s a celebrity,’ or, ‘Oh, she’s got a PhD. She shouldn’t make simple math errors.’ But sometimes I do, and it’s very stressful!”

Ken Jennings compares hosting Jeopardy! to being a sportscaster

Mayim Bialik recalled that there are so many moving parts to consider while trying to move the game forward. Meanwhile at the same time giving each hint and response its appropriate weight. All of these actions must be done while listening to the producers’ instructions in her ear. Jennings compared the job to that of a sportscaster, arguing they must not only represent the players while steering the game but also interpret the action for viewers at home. When surrounded by so much intellect, Jennings said it’s especially demeaning when he makes a stupid mistake.

“Smart contestant, smart audience, and then on the toss to commercial, I, like, say my name wrong or something, and I’m like, ‘What is even happening?'”

Alex Trebek’s death has undoubtedly touched both co-hosts, but Ken Jennings is indisputably a major part of the show’s history. In the 2020 GOAT Tournament, he defeated Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer to become the Greatest of All Time champion, with 74 consecutive victories in a row. That is a point that Mayim Bialik is well aware of. “When it comes to being here, I think especially because of the legacy,” she explained. “The legacy of Alex, and the legacy of Ken — you know, it’s a lot of pressure.”

Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik will return for the 39th season of the show on September 12th.