Ken Jennings took the stage for his first episode as “Jeopardy!” guest host on Monday — but before starting the game, he gave a heartfelt speech about late host Alex Trebek.
“Welcome to ‘Jeopardy!’ Sharing this stage with Alex Trebek was one of the greatest honors of my life,” Jennings began. “Not many things in life are perfect, but Alex did this job pretty much perfectly for more than 36 years, and it was even better up close. We were dazzled by his intelligence, his charm, his grace really. There’s no other word for it.”
He got a little emotional as he continued: “Like all ‘Jeopardy!’ fans, I miss Alex very much, and I thank him for everything he did for all of us. Let’s be totally clear — no one will ever replace the great Alex Trebek. But we can honor him by playing the game he loved.”
Watch the clip below.
Ken Jennings steps up to the lectern today as our first guest host – but not before honoring Alex. pic.twitter.com/uOzQ3UfqmN
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) January 12, 2021
And with that, Jennings introduced the first “Jeopardy!” contestants of the post-Trebek era: Jim Gilligan, the assistant professor from New York who won the game on Trebek’s last-ever episode as host, which aired on Friday; Tanay Kothari, a business operations associate from Oakland, California; and Julia Shear Kushner, a lawyer from Long Beach, California.
Trebek lost a battle with pancreatic cancer on Nov. 8. He was 80 years old.
Jennings, who became the king of “Jeopardy!” after winning the “Greatest of All Time” tournament last January, has been filling in as interim host of the game show, with Katie Couric set to take over next.
The show has not yet named an official successor to take over as perminant host.