Mayim Bialik: ‘Yes, I Want to Host Jeopardy! Full-Time’


Given that you’re a neuroscientist, I felt like you were an authority and knew everything you were talking about, even though it took a lot of work and prep. 

No, I definitely don’t know everything. No, no. There’s a fine line, because you don’t want to make it seem like you wish the contestants had known all the answers. You can’t come off arrogant. I’ll be honest, there are different standards for women in that role than men. You have to also be conscious of that.

You’ve said that former executive producer Mike Richards helped train you during your guest-hosting week that aired in May. Did you ever get the impression when you were working with him that he also wanted the host job?

No, I had no idea. I went in with my head down. I do what’s in front of me, and that’s just how I did it. I was basically relying on my 15-year-old, who’s the one who told me I should guest-host Jeopardy!. I was relying on him telling me what the internet said.

When Sony Pictures Television announced the news that you and Mike would be hosting, they said, “We are thrilled to begin the next chapter of America’s Favorite Quiz Show with Mike hosting our daily show and Mayim hosting new versions of Jeopardy!” Many felt that the arrangement—and announcement—was unfair because, once again, a white male was being hired in the main role and a woman was in second position. What did you make of their announcement?

What I can say is that there’s a lot more to all of these conversations than the public gets to know, and there’s no component of saving face that’s been part of this decision. Obviously people don’t have to believe me, but yeah.

Less than two weeks after Mike Richards was named permanent Jeopardy! host, he stepped down when a report came out in The Ringer that he had made disparaging remarks about women and Jews in old episodes of his podcast. Given how vocal you are about what Judaism means to you, what was that like when you found out about his comments? How did that affect you?

I think not commenting is the safest thing to do. In his capacity as producer, I, of course, still had to work with him and speak with him and interact with him [when that report came out]. But that’s because I’m a head-down kind of person, meaning I had to continue to work in the capacity that I did until he was no longer the person literally in my ear.

Have you talked to him since he left the show completely? 

I’m not going to tell you any content of what that was, but yeah.

So tell me, how has this last month been for you? Because even though you’re keeping your head down, Jeopardy! has never been in the news quite like this.

It’s definitely been stressful, but I don’t want to come off as someone who’s like, “This has been so hard for me and my family.” Because it really hasn’t. Yeah, the press that the court of public opinion has sort of engaged in has been challenging. It’s been challenging especially because I used to be the kind of person to defend myself vociferously when people said things about me that were blatantly untrue. But what I’ve learned is that it’s best not to engage. 

There were a lot of untrue things said about me. Many by publications that I previously grew up reading and believing in, so that’s definitely been challenging. Also, the person who I’m in a relationship with [Bialik’s podcast cohost, Jonathan Cohen] was having hip-replacement surgery as all this was going down. So when Mike Richards stepped down as host, I got that call in a hospital waiting room while my boyfriend was having surgery. I mention that because I’ve also been filming my podcast during this whole time that all the Jeopardy! stuff’s been going on. It’s been a lot of juggling and a very, very strange time because there’s been a lot up in the air.

When you mentioned that publications you grew up reading were reporting things that were untrue about you, what were they saying?

Just people casting aspersions on my vaccine status, which I’ve been completely open about—my children being vaccinated, us all being vaccinated against COVID. Things like that. Those things are in particular hurtful because they’re untrue. Also things like being accused of being anti-feminist because I support breastfeeding. That’s just crazy. 

So getting back to the hosting question: If you had been offered the nationally syndicated gig originally, would you have wanted to do it, given your already full schedule with Call Me Kat, the podcast, etc.?

The only other time in my life that I’ve said, “There’s no better job than with this,” was when I was on The Big Bang Theory, and it was ending. People were like, “Do you want it to end?” And I said, “No. There’s no other job that’s been better than this.” But I have to say, the use of my brain and my skill set feels best suited by this job on Jeopardy! It is a dream job. I think it’s a dream job for anyone, but especially for someone who is trained first as a performer and then as a science communicator. It’s a dream. It’s not just like, “Of course I want the job.” It’s a special, special experience to be given this opportunity at all. Even for the two days that I originally did. That being said, the amount of schedule juggling which I’m currently doing right now is maddening. It takes a lot of humans and a lot of calendars and a lot of figuring out. So would I like to believe that it could have been done then? Sure. But there’s also a lot of other pieces that I wasn’t part of knowing about.

When does Call Me Kat go back into production? 

We will film 18 episodes starting at the end of September through the end of March, but we have hiatus week every two or three weeks. Essentially every week that I have off, my children will be sharing it with Jeopardy!

After Mike Richards stepped down as host and then lost the executive-producer job, what were those conversations like about having you fill in? 

From the hospital waiting room, I said to my agent, “Please ask [the Jeopardy! producing team] how we can help.” That’s literally what I said. I don’t want to seem opportunistic, but I’m part of this family now. So I literally said, “How can I help?” I think we went to them before they came to us, to be honest. I stepped in, as I said, at a personally really difficult time, as my partner was rehabilitating. And then the next week I went in for three days [to start filming episodes of Jeopardy!]. It’s just been…every three days, something changes. At that time Mike was still producing. So then that was the next phase, and then we had a week off; in that time he was no longer producing. That’s when Michael Davies came in [as interim executive producer]. Then I went in last week…and it was the first time that I had been there with Michael Davies. So we’re still in this phase. Nothing interesting seems to have happened in the last few days, except Sony issued a press release saying [Ken Jennings and I would be hosting through the end of the year].

What was the atmosphere been like since then on the Jeopardy! stage? Have things calmed down?

The people who work on that show, most of them have been there for decades. My job is to make everyone feel like it’s business as usual. That’s what we’ve done. We have five episodes to film every day, and those are long days. It’s my job to be as seamless as possible and not be noticeable. Whether that’s the pattern of my blazer, or the number of mistakes that I make that we need to do pickups for—that’s what kind of job this is. I don’t feel any of the drama when I’m there, and I would like to think that’s hopefully what I can offer: that I don’t read the news. In some cases, that’s a detriment, because I don’t always know what’s going on. But I’m not checking Twitter on my way in to see who thinks should be on Jeopardy! that day. I go to work, and I do my job. 


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