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Watch Ken Jennings’ Emotional Tribute to Alex Trebek In First Guest Host Appearance

Jennings said, “No one will ever replace the great Alex Trebek. But we can honor him by playing the game he loved."

For the first time in over 30 years, Jeopardy! has a new host. Former contestant Ken Jennings made his first appearance as guest host of the legendary game show this week after Alex Trebek’s tragic passing in November after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Jennings started out the episode, and his tenure, with a heartfelt and fitting tribute to Trebek that will get all Jeopardy! fans a little emotional. 

On Monday, Jan. 11, Jennings said, “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.” He continued, “We were dazzled by his intelligence, charm, his grace… Like all ‘Jeopardy!’ fans, I miss Alex very much and I thank him for everything he did for all of us,” choking up as he gave the message. He ended by saying, “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.”

As a former contestant who holds the record for most wins in Jeopardy! history, it must feel particularly surreal for Jennings to return to the show as a guest host rather than a player. And he even kept a “good luck charm” in his pocket during the taping. He shared in a Twitter post, “A friend gave me this piece of quiz show history: an audience ticket to Alex’s very first Jeopardy! pilot from 1983. (“ALEX TREBEK! DOOR PRIZES!”)  I kept it in my pocket while guest-hosting Jeopardy! this week, as a good luck charm.”

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Jeopardy! is still in the process of determining who will be the new permanent host of the show. After Jennings’ episodes as interim host, Katie Couric, who has occasionally taped clues for the show, is set to guest host. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is also tapped as a guest host. While no one could ever replace Alex Trebek, we’re glad that Jennings and others “can honor him by playing the game he loved.”