It’s no surprise that Katie Couric was nervous before her Jeopardy! gig, given that she would be the first woman to ever host the show. Her two-week stint started on International Women’s Day on Monday, March 8.
"The last thing I wanted to do was come here and mess it up and embarrass the show, embarrass the people behind the scenes, and they just wouldn’t let me, which I was so grateful for," Couric said in her Jeopardy! interview.
"I started watching it religiously," the TV personality explained before her two weeks on the show, paying closer attention to how the late Alex Trebek changed categories and phrased clues before she gave it a go herself.
"I loved the show, I loved Alex Trebek and I was so inspired by him — especially by his courage toward the end of his life," Couric said. "And it’s just such an American institution, and the opportunity to play a small part in the continuation of the show was something I just didn’t want to pass up."
"Welcome to Jeopardy! everyone. It is such a thrill to be here guest-hosting a show I've watched and loved for years, and of course a real honor to help out as all of us recover from the loss of the truly irreplaceable Alex Trebek," Couric began her first slot.
"To be the first woman on a show that stands for excellence and intelligence and integrity is a real honor for me," Couric noted in her interview. "I think for a while girls would get to a certain age and they would sort of hold back because they didn’t want to be seen as too aggressive or pushy or smarter than the boys.
"But I think society has really changed, and we’re championing and celebrating smart girls and women," she added. "Be a sponge, be a lifelong learner and be proud of your intelligence and your knowledge. It’s such a gift, and share it with the world."
The 64-year-old will match the cumulative winnings of the contestants during her two-week period on Jeopardy! in a donation to Stand Up To Cancer, which is an organization she co-founded in 2008 after her husband, Jay Monahan, died from colon cancer at age 42. Couric's sister, Emily, died from pancreatic cancer — which is the same cancer Trebek died from in November.
Couric and her late husband used to watch the show together, and he would get the answers right more often than she did. "It would make me so mad," she recalled. "At the same time, I thought it was so hot."
Couric will host Jeopardy! from March 8-19 after she took over from executive producer Mike Richards. The first guest host was Jeopardy! "Greatest of All Time" winner Ken Jennings, who hosted for six weeks.
Dr. Mehment Oz will follow Couric’s time on the show from March 22-April 2 before Aaron Rodgers will step in for two weeks starting on April 5. Anderson Cooper, Savannah Guthrie, Dr. Sanjay Gupa, Mayim Bialik and Bill Whitaker are also slated to host Jeopardy!.