‘Jeopardy!’ Teases LeVar Burton Stint Behind Lectern: ‘He’s Hosting for a Cause Close to His Heart’

by Josh Lanier

LeVar Burton will spend the week trying to prove to Jeopardy! fans that he can be Alex Trebek’s successor. But regardless of his performance, he’ll also be raising money for a charity that means a lot to him. And it’s fitting considering one of his past jobs.

Every Jeopardy! guest host chooses a charity to spotlight during their tenure behind the hosts’ lectern. The show matches the contestants’ winnings during that time and donates the equivalent amount. Burton chose Reading is Fundamental, a literacy non-profit that gives free books and reading resources to kids. The former Reading Rainbow host has spent his lifetime trying to get children to read. So, it seems like the perfect choice for him.

Jeopardy! spotlighted Levar Burton’s turn at the podium and named his charity of choice on Instagram.

Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts passed the baton to Burton after hosting all last week. She raised $164,410 for Be The Match, a medical charity that helps patients needing blood, bone marrow, and stem cell transplants find matching donors.

Burton is one of the most anticipated guest hosts of the season. He’s been lobbying producers publicly and privately since Alex Trebek died late last year of pancreatic cancer. He said he is the perfect replacement, and he feels a calling to host the show.

“It’s difficult to explain, but there’s something inside me that says this makes sense. I feel like this is what I’m supposed to do,” Burton told the New York Times. “I have been watching Jeopardy! more or less every night of my life since Art Fleming was host.”

Jeopardy! fans are also behind him. More than 200,000 have signed an online petition asking that Burton get the highly coveted job.

Burton Said It Took Time to Settle in at ‘Jeopardy!’

Alex Trebek hosted the popular game show for 37 years before his death. He set the gold standard for trivia show hosts. So, LeVar Burton said trying to live up to that right away is a fool’s errand. But he tried anyway, and his performance suffered, he told the Associated Press. He said it was his wife who told him he wasn’t Alex Trebek, and that he needed to be himself on stage.

“I’ve jumped out of airplanes. I’ve walked over hot coals. This was a real challenge,” Burton says. “First of all, because (‘Jeopardy!’) is singular in the culture and what it means to people as a part of their daily lives. And the fact that there are only two hosts who have ever stood in that spot. The pressure, the natural tendency was to want to live up to Alex’s example, his legacy. I had, like all of the hosts, one day of rehearsal, and the following day I shot five episodes of Jeopardy! I came backstage after taping the first episode and I said to Stephanie, ‘Well, how did I do?’ She said, ‘ehhh.’ Now, this is a woman who loves me enough to tell me the truth. She said it wasn’t me.”

Burton said the entire day was stressful and difficult, and he was “petrified” the entire time. Though, looking back, he said he still thinks he’d make the perfect host for the show.