How did Aaron Rodgers prepare for his two-week run as “Jeopardy!” guest host?
Even though Rodgers has watched hundreds of episodes and was a celebrity contestant in 2015, he went back to the film.
Rodgers announced in January that he would be a guest host as the show found ways to replace host Alex Trebek, who died of cancer at age 80 on Nov. 8. Rodgers said the two weeks of episodes were taped over two days in February. The first episode airs Monday in syndication.
“I watched hours and hours and hours of episodes,” Rodgers said in a phone interview Friday. “Luckily Netflix has a few seasons, and I went back to DVR. But I had to watch from a different perspective — from Alex’s perspective. I couldn’t watch it as a fan anymore.
“I took pages and pages and pages of notes. I wrote down every affirmative that he said to any type of clue. I wrote down how he would respond if they didn’t get it right. I wrote down beat points of the show. I wrote down all the different ways he would take it to break. I wrote down the stuff that he said coming out of break. Literally, I studied for this like no other. I wanted to absolutely just crush it.”
And it sounds as if Rodgers wowed the “Jeopardy!” executives.
The first day was a practice session, and Rodgers said he could tell right way that “they weren’t ready for me.”
“I know they didn’t expect what I was about to bring, but I was just so prepared,” Rodgers said. “I was so ready. So we get into the first game, the first run-through, there’s 30 questions in a Jeopardy round, and after the first 15 questions, we go to break. They say it in your earpiece, ‘Take it to break.’ So I take it to break, and there was a pause, and I think everyone was like, ‘Whoa, OK, this guy kind of knows what he’s doing here.’
“One of the head producers said as much. She was like, ‘I’m just so appreciative of your approach.’ And my whole thing was I felt like the best way to honor Alex’s memory was to be so dialed in and so ready, and that’s the approach I took. So I was ready to rock and roll.”
Rodgers quickly discovered that, as the host, he could see on his podium monitor what the contestants write for their Final Jeopardy questions. Rodgers couldn’t reveal too much, but he teased what he believes will be a “viral moment” from the first episode.
“Just wait until you see the first show and what the returning champion wrote, and then think about me standing at the podium watching — and this will make sense when you see what he wrote — and I’m watching him write this down,” Rodgers said. “For about 25 seconds, I’m watching him write this, and he thinks about the answer and says ‘F— it,’ basically, ‘I’m going to write this answer,’ which, probably one of the viral moments of my two weeks will be his response, which is taking a shot at something that happened to us late in the season.
“But it was unbelievable as the host, I’m watching him and going, ‘I can’t believe I’m watching him write this.’ It was pretty amazing.”
Rodgers said some of the best moments were hanging out with the crew on set. It reminded him of sitting around the locker room and talking to Packers employees who have been around for years.
“So many of the people that work on the show have been lifers,” Rodgers said. “There’s so many of them who have been there 25-plus years. Alex was 36 years, I believe. The head writer, Billy [Wisse], was there for 31 years. Lisa [Broffman], one of the producers, has been there, I think, 30 years. The makeup ladies are amazing and have been there like 27 and 29 years. That was fun to hear the stories.
“It’s like at the stadium, where being an older guy you kind of gravitate toward guys like [equipment staffers] Red Batty and T-Bone [Tom Bakken], [retired athletic trainer] Pepper Burruss and [current trainer] Kurt Fielding. They have the stories that are the history of the franchise. Same thing on ‘Jeopardy!’ Just hearing the backstories of what used to happen on set with Alex and what he was like off set.”
Rodgers’ stint as guest host came in the midst of plenty of questions about whether this could be his last year with the Packers. Were there any answers to that question on the show or since?
Said Rodgers: “Not really. I don’t know that I have any updates or anything.”