Ken Jennings talks “intense” ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ semifinals

ABC/Eric McCandless

Celebrity Jeopardy! returns this week with the first of the semifinal rounds, featuring Ghost’s Utkarsh Ambudkar, Oscar winner Mira Sorvino and Abbot Elementary’s Lisa Ann Walter.

Early rounds of the show felt a little looser than what you’d see on syndicated Jeopardy!, and host Ken Jennings says the fact that the contestants are used to being in front of a camera may have something to do with it.

“I know firsthand being a Jeopardy! contestant is stressful. It’s not as relaxing a show as it appears,” he tells ABC Audio. “The thing about Celebrity Jeopardy! is those are three people who are already extremely comfortable on camera. Depending on the show, maybe a little too comfortable.”

But now that we are in the semis, Jennings says things are bound to get more competitive.

“It’s not just three people who are a good sport that night and had a fun charity they wanted to play for,” he shares. “On some level, I think they’re the three that really wanted to win. So you’re gonna see that head to head. The games do get more competitive. They do get more intense.”

Jennings acknowledges that part of the appeal of Celebrity Jeopardy! is seeing how smart, or not smart, a star may be, which is why he has a lot of respect for those who participate. 

“It’s a famously difficult quiz show and they’re putting themselves out there,” he explains. “So I really admire the ones who are strong players because you can tell, obviously, these people are either, you know, incredibly intelligent or very big fans of the show or in most cases, both.” 

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