‘Jeopardy!’ Host Ken Jennings Recalls His Last Talk With Alex Trebek

Although Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik are splitting hosting duties for the foreseeable future, “Jeopardy!” fans have been vocal about their wish to see Ken take over for late host Alex Trebek full-time after his long history with the show.

In 2004, the trivia guru won 74 games in a row, a record that has not even come close to being broken despite season 38’s plethora of super champs. Through his lengthy tenure on the trivia game show, Ken developed a close relationship with the game show host, which led him not only to be involved in the show as a consulting producer, but as a hosting replacement even before Alex passed away.

Ken Jennings Was Supposed To Step In As ‘Jeopardy!’ Host Even Before Alex Trebek Passed Away!

Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings on the set of Call Me Kat
Instagram | Mayim Bialik

As it turns out, Ken met with Alex even before he died to talk about taking over as “Jeopardy!” host on a temporary basis. The fan-favorite game show host was candid with his fans about his struggle with pancreatic cancer, one he would eventually succumb to on November 8, 2020, at the age of 80.

In October 2022, Ken sat down with Vulture to share the last conversation he had with Alex only the weekend before he passed away. In the interview, Ken said that he had been called in by the studio to rehearse some games and noted that Alex’s voice was “notably weaker” than it had been in the past.

Ken Jennings at the ABC Television's Winter Press Tour 2020 - Arrivals

“I was scheduled to come into the studio to rehearse for some games,” Ken said at the time. “Even if Alex bounced back as he had before, he wanted somebody to fill in for him for a little while.”

“A producer set up a call, and his voice was notably weaker than we’d ever heard it on the air, which really struck me at first,” he added. “It was a tough moment. But once you got over the timbre of the voice, he was still very much Alex.”

Ken Reveals The Thing That ‘Broke’ Him In His Last Conversation With Alex Trebek

Jeopardy! stage with Ken Jennings
Instagram / jeopardy

The former software engineer later appeared on “Jeopardy!” after his run in numerous specials, including the “Greatest of All Time” tournament, where he was declared the victor. As a result, he developed a strong relationship with Alex and even told him that he’d take a bullet for him!

“The thing that stuck with me is he thanked me for coming in to fill in for him. That just broke me,” Ken Jennings told Vulture. “I said, ‘Alex, are you kidding? We should be thanking you. I’d take a bullet for you, Alex. I’m happy to help.’ Of course, I didn’t know that he would be gone within 36 hours.”

Ken Jennings at ABC Television's TCA Winter Press Tour 2020

Even though fans now know him as the co-host of “Jeopardy!”, Ken revealed that it was actually Alex’s idea to be a consulting producer on the show and appear in video clues long before he took the stage as host.

In September 2022, Ken recalled the conversation he had with Alex to the Washington Post. “He said, ‘Hey, we’ve been talking, and if you’re serious about being retired from Jeopardy!, would you want to come aboard? Like, move to the front office?’ That was nice, because I was kind of already missing the show.”

Ken Made Sure To Pay Tribute To Alex From His Very First Episode

Alex Trebek on the Jeopardy! stage
Instagram / jeopardy

The “Jeopardy!” stage has now been renamed the Alex Trebek Stage in his honor and Ken Jennings wasted no time in paying tribute to the last host.

During his first time stepping on to the stage as “Jeopardy!” host, Ken paid tribute to Alex at the very beginning of the episode, calling it “one of the greatest honors of my life.”

Alex Trebek on Jeopardy!
Instagram / jeopardy

“Thank you everyone — welcome to Jeopardy!,” Ken began. “You know, sharing the stage with Alex Trebek was one of the greatest honors of my life. 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 continued. “Like all Jeopardy! fans, I miss Alex very much. I thank him for everything he did for all of us … No one will ever replace the great Alex Trebek.”

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