Jennings paid tribute to Trebek just after he walked out on stage. “Sharing this stage with Alex Trebek was one of the greatest honors of my life,” he said.
“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, his charm, his grace — really, there’s no other word for it.”
“Like all Jeopardy! fans, I miss Alex, very much,” said Jennings with a quavering voice. “And I thank him for everything he did for all of us,” he added.
“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,” he concluded. Jennings then introduced the night’s contestants and began the show.
Watch Jennings’ statement below.
Ken Jennings steps up to the lectern today as our first guest host – but not before honoring Alex. pic.twitter.com/uOzQ3UfqmN
Last week, Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards told Deadline, “Ken stepped in and did a great job for us as a guest host. We will have a series of guest hosts throughout the spring.”
Richards would not discuss names, but Katie Couric is believed to be on the list, as reported by the Los Angeles Times last week.
A permanent new host won’t be named before spring, Richards said.
“We are going to take our time and talk to a lot of people, have some people guest host and see what our fans think as well,” said Richards.
On Friday the show ran its own tribute to Trebek after the show’s credits. You can watch that below.