This week, Buzzy Cohen returns to ‘Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions’ — but this time, he’s hosting.
Buzzy’s back! In the spring of 2016, Buzzy Cohen captivated Jeopardy audiences when he went on a nine game winning streak. By the end of his run, he had racked in over $164,000, the nickname “Mr. Personality” from host, Alex Trebek, and a legion of fans who loved his approach to the game. This week, Buzzy joins the roster of guest hosts of the iconic game show after the passing of Trebek, taking over at the podium for the 2021 Tournament of Champions. For Buzzy, it’s like coming home.
“My wife always says, when I get on that stage, that’s my happy place,” Buzzy shared with HollywoodLife.com EXCLUSIVELY as we chatted before the tournament kicked off on Monday, May 17. Buzzy, who won the Tournament of Champions in 2017, is the seventh personality to step in as host and the second former winner. (Ken Jennings kicked off the rotation on January 4, 2021.) Being a former winner of the tournament certainly prepared Buzzy for this big moment.
“I would argue that I have probably, with the exception of maybe Ken Jennings, watched more Jeopardy than any of the other guest hosts,” Buzzy explained. “A huge part of preparing to be on the show is watching a ton of Jeopardy, so that definitely gives me a huge edge.” Indeed, an edge he would certainly need, considering that these champion contestants are the last to have won on the show while Alex was still hosting. “[These contestants] knew what the best of the best was,” Buzzy added.
When Alex Trebek passed on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, fans were truly devastated to lose the devoted host of 37 years. His legacy has been honored since his passing with a tribute at the end of every episode of Jeopardy, and for contestants like Buzzy, it’s incredibly important to keep Alex’s memory alive. “He was such a special guy,” Buzzy shared. “He was always rooting for the contestants and he also was really committed to the integrity of the show.” That commitment is still felt by many, including Buzzy, who really felt it when he first returned to the Sony stage where Jeopardy is filmed. “It was really quite overwhelming,” Buzzy shared, “to be in his green room, standing at his lectern. During the first tape day, during lunch, the set was empty and I just walked out and really tried to drink in the moment of being there again, and just tried to connect with him.”
“I wish I’d had more opportunities to have talked about my connection with Alex on the programs,” he added. “But I had my moments; I put a few Easter Eggs in there for the diehard fans to let them know I’m thinking about Alex.”
It’s clear that Buzzy’s still as huge of a fan of the franchise as he was when he first competed in 2016. With that said, perhaps no group has been more vocal about who should permanently replace the beloved Alex Trebek as the host of Jeopardy than the fans. The proof is in the fervent petitions to get LeVar Burton added to the guest host rotation and the equally vocal protests against Dr. Oz being a co-host last March. When asked, Buzzy believes the producers of the show will ultimately do what’s right for the legacy of Jeopardy with their pick.
“What I would say is, there’s more to being the host of Jeopardy than popularity,” Buzzy explained. “ I also think that Jeopardy would be remiss to not look at culture in general and find a person who won’t just be of this moment, but kind of take Jeopardy into the future.”
“It’s about who can keep the quality of the show up,” he added. “It always sounds like a cushy job, right? But I think it was Katie Couric who said, ‘This is way harder than my day job.’ And it is; it’s hosting and competing. Those days are intense. The preparation for it is intense and fast. And so, you’ve got to have somebody who’s really willing to commit…I don’t think that Jeopardy should put their head in the sand about what is happening in the country and what the fans are looking for from a host, but I also don’t think that they need to be beholden to kind of whatever the Jeopardy subreddit is demanding.”
So then, it begs the question: Is Buzzy the right man for the job permanently? Without question, he is eager to be offered the opportunity, is ready to give it 100% , and as the youngest personality to be asked to host, he could give the role “steadiness and longevity,” as he put it.
But more than that, what’s clear when talking to him, is the reverence he has for Jeopardy. “My dream was to get on the show. I’m a lifelong fan. I love this show. And I think that you need to love it, right? Plus, the way that I have studied this game and studied the intricacies of it really, I think, puts me a step ahead of a lot of the other folks … And that was part of Alex’s magic too. He could feel it when the game was fun or exciting. He didn’t need to be told. He would just say, ‘Wow, what a game we’ve got going on here!’”
“I can’t really can’t put into words the joy I get from that stage,” Buzzy added. “From that game, being any part of it, even just being in the audience, the few times I’ve gone to watch a taping. And to be able to really devote my life to something that I love that much, it would be a dream come true.”
Jeopardy! 2021 Tournament of Champions airs from May 17 to 28 on ABC.