Mayim Bialik And Ken Jennings On Making Silly Jeopardy Mistakes And The 'Pressure' Of Following Alex Trebek

Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings host Jeopardy!
(Image credit: CBS Media Ventures)

Alex Trebek is an icon for a reason. Before his death from pancreatic cancer in 2020, Jeopardy! fans took for granted the myriad ways that Trebek made hosting look easy. The pacing of the game, the tone of the host’s responses, and the crazy amount of math that’s required are all factors fans rarely paid much attention to until there was someone other than Trebek behind the lectern. Nobody is more willing to admit just how hard a job hosting Jeopardy! really is than Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings, and they opened up about the pressure they feel in following Trebek.

Jeopardy! is such a revered game show, and its fanbase is extremely passionate. It’s definitely not an easy situation for Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik to have stepped into after Alex Trebek’s impressive 37-season stint. The newly announced permanent Jeopardy! hosts opened up on the Inside Jeopardy! podcast about the intensity of the job, with the Call Me Kat actress telling Jennings how much pressure she puts on herself to get everything right. Bialik said: 

I don’t know if it’s like this for you, but I feel like if I make a mistake, even if we can go back and edit it, it feels very embarrassing, because I think people are like, ‘Oh, she’s a celebrity,’ or, ‘Oh, she’s got a PhD. She shouldn’t make simple math errors.’ But sometimes I do, and it’s very stressful!

Mayim Bialik said there are so many moving pieces, with trying to move the game along but still give each clue and response its fair weight — all while listening to the producers’ instructions in her ear. 

Ken Jennings empathized, comparing the gig to being a sportscaster, saying they have to not only serve the players as part of leading the game, but also to interpret the action for the viewers at home. Especially with the amount of intelligence he’s surrounded by, Jennings said it’s especially humiliating when he makes a silly mistake:

Smart contestant, smart audience, and then on the toss to commercial, I, like, say my name wrong or something, and I’m like, 'What is even happening?'

Both co-hosts may be starkly aware of Alex Trebek’s legacy, but Ken Jennings is inarguably a major part of Jeopardy!’s lore as well. He won the title of Greatest of All Time in the 2020 GOAT Tournament against Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer and is one of Jeopardy!’s biggest winners, holding the record for most consecutive games won with 74. That fact is definitely not lost on Mayim Bialik, who said: 

When it comes to being here, I think especially because of the legacy — the legacy of Alex, and the legacy of Ken — you know, it’s a lot of pressure.

The Big Bang Theory alum certainly seems to feel the intensity of the situation, but that only shows how much she cares about her role and how much she respects the history of the game show and its loyal fans. The same goes for Ken Jennings, who said even when he was a contestant watching Alex Trebek up close, he had no idea everything the host was juggling. 

There will be plenty of opportunities to see both hosts in action with Jeopardy!’s upcoming 39th season, which Ken Jennings will kick off on Monday, September 12. The GOAT will also lead the Second Chance Tournament (starting October 17) and the Tournament of Champions (premiering October 31 with big changes to its format). Mayim Bialik, meanwhile, will host Celebrity Jeopardy!, which premieres at 8 p.m. ET Sunday, September 25, on ABC. Check out our 2022 TV Schedule for more premiere dates. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.