Jennings delivered a short but impassioned speech about Trebek’s significance to him and “Jeopardy!” fans, and even got a little teary-eyed.
“You know, sharing this 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,” Jennings said. “We were dazzled by his intelligence, his charm, his grace – really, there’s no other word for it.”
As the first guest host since Trebek’s death, Jennings acknowledged that no one can do the job better than Trebek, but suggested that continuing to play the game is a way to honor him.
“Like all ‘Jeopardy!’ fans, I miss Alex very much, and I thank him for everything he did for all of us,” Jennings said. “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.”
Trebek’s final episode as host aired on Jan. 8. The legendary host died on Nov. 8 at the age of 80.
In a recent interview with Variety, Jennings discussed stepping into Trebek’s shoes as the first “Jeopardy!” guest host.
“I join with the audience in not wanting to see me or any other guest host out there, because in a perfect world, that would be Alex every night, that’s who I want to see,” Jennings said. “But it’s a show with a huge fanbase that counts on it every night as a ritual, it’s a show Alex wanted to make sure outlived him. So I’m not thrilled about it, but I’m happy to do my part for my country and my game show and fill in as long as they need somebody in the chair, but it’s a tough transition.”
Watch the full 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