Watch: Ken Jennings Recalls Final Conversation With Alex Trebek
What is pressure?
That's what Ken Jennings was feeling when tasked with taking over Jeopardy! hosting duties temporarily following the death of the show's longtime host, Alex Trebek. The beloved 80 year old passed away on Nov. 8 after battling stage four pancreatic cancer.
After Trebek's final shows, taped before his death, air this week, Jennings—famously a Jeopardy! champion himself—is slated to take over as interim host, followed by other guest hosts from within the show family.
"I don't think I've been more nervous in my life," Jennings told E!'s Scott Tweedie. "The Chase is a cakewalk compared to having to host Jeopardy! just because it's nerve-wracking to know the legacy and the size of the shoes you're filling."
Just two months after Trebek's passing, his absence in the world is strongly felt. "Just to be frank," he continued, "nobody wants me there. I don't want me there. We all want to see Alex there for 100 years in a perfect world and, you know, I really just wanted to do the best I could so as not to let him down and Jeopardy! viewers down, so I felt a lot of pressure."
Fortunately, Jennings was able to have one last conversation with the game show great shortly before his death. "I actually talked to him on the phone the same weekend he passed," he recalled to Tweedie. "We had talked about the possibility of me guest hosting for him at some point and he was so sweet. He was thanking me very genuinely for helping out and I was like, 'Alex, you gave us 37 years.We should be thanking you. It's the least I could do.'"
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As for how Trebek might have scored Jennings' performance, the latter does not expect to be at the top of the class just yet.
"Alex took his job very seriously and I don't believe he would be grading me on a curve," Jennings quipped. "I think he would have some serious words on stuff I needed to work on—hopefully a C+."
The Chase premieres January 7th on ABC.