In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Ken Jennings reflected on the improbable trajectory that brought him to where he stands today, behind the “Jeopardy!” lectern where Alex Trebek stood for 36 years.

“Jennings, 48, often thinks about life’s funny timing,” wrote Emily Yahr of The Washington Post. “If he had not gone on a road trip with a friend to try out for ‘Jeopardy!’ right around when the show lifted its limit of five games, he never would have stunned the world by reeling off 74 wins in a row, never would have won about $2.5 million, never would have become a celebrity instead of living the alternate version of his life, in which he envisions himself as ‘a mildly unhappy Salt Lake City computer programmer.’

“And he really never would have predicted that he would one day replace the legendary Alex Trebek.”

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In The Washington Post profile that explores Jennings’ rise to “Jeopardy!” stardom — first as a record-setting contestant and now as a co-host — Jennings credited his upbringing as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in helping him stay balanced amid the fame and fortune. He even cited a scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants, which reads, “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.”

“He appeared on more game shows and wrote books and was careful with his finances, driving the same Toyota Corolla for multiple years after winning millions because, well, it ran just fine,” Yahr wrote for The Washington Post.

“I had this very kind of strong pioneer-era Western ethos of like, wealth is not just immoral, but it is a little bit unseemly,” Jennings said.

Visit The Washington Post for the full story.

This image released by ABC shows contestant Ken Jennings with a trophy on “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time.”
This image released by ABC shows contestant Ken Jennings with a trophy on “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time.” | Eric McCandless, ABC via Associated Press

Ken Jennings called being the host of ‘Jeopardy!’ a ‘dream job’

Not long after winning the “Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time” tournament in 2020, Jennings told the Deseret News that hosting the show would “absolutely” be “a dream job.”

“What a great job,” he said. “But I really can’t even think about anybody but (Trebek) hosting the show. He’s a hero to America’s nerds. I’m not emotionally prepared for turning on the TV and seeing anybody who’s not Alex Trebek — whether it’s me or not — hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ I’m just not ready to consider that yet.

“I hope he hosts for 100 years.”

Roughly seven months later, Trebek died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 80. Jennings had the trying job of being the first person to guest host the beloved quiz show.

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“To him, Alex was not just a host — they had become friends,” Jim Gilligan, the final “Jeopardy!” champion under Trebek and the first returning champion under Jennings, previously told the Deseret News. “And then to step into that role on a national stage and try to do the job, I can’t imagine that’s easy. So I have great respect for him to be doing that and to carry on as another tribute to Alex, really.” 

A string of 15 guest hosts — ranging from Katie Couric to Aaron Rodgers to LeVar Burton to Dr. Oz — came after Jennings. And then, finally, in July of this year — more than a year and a half after Trebek’s death — “Jeopardy!” made the official announcement: Jennings and Mayim Bialik would serve as the show’s permanent co-hosts.

Late “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek chats with “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” contestants James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.
Late “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek chats with “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” contestants James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. | ABC

Ken Jennings on hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ this season

Jennings recently reflected on his debut as an official co-host of “Jeopardy!” In an interview with “Good Morning America,” he shared his emotional reaction to walking out to a live studio audience at the start of the new season — the first live audience since the start of the pandemic.

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“That first game of this season, I walked out and people just went bonkers and I just started to cry,” he told “Good Morning America.” “This game means so much to people. And there was just this visceral wave of love and energy. I’ll be thinking about that for the rest of my life.”

Jennings is currently hosting the highly anticipated “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions, and will host the show through December, the Deseret News reported. Bialik will then take over as host in January.