Burton, whose long-awaited one-week stint hosting the iconic game show begins tonight, agrees that hosting Jeopardy! requires using different parts of your brain while also having to be patient. "You aren’t just the interlocutor as the host of Jeopardy!, you’re judge and jury," Burton tells GQ. "You have to respond in the moment. You are the arbiter of right and wrong, so you can’t afford to drop your focus for a nanosecond. You really have to be fully-engaged at all times, and it moves so fast. It’s really some of the scariest sh*t I’ve ever done." Burton adds that "the whole purpose of the host is to create the most ideal competitive environment and experience for the players as possible. It’s not about you, it’s about the game and the players who are playing it at that moment. So you really need to be able to take a step back and just be part of the mechanism—the delivery system for the experience the players have. Because it’s absolutely serious to them. This is real money we’re talking about based on their ability to answer these questions in a timely fashion. The buzzer is a huge part of this strategy that a lot of people don’t know about. Your buzzer game has to really be on point, otherwise you’ll buzz in too soon and get locked out. There’s a lot that goes into it and it’s absolutely for real. Contestants take it seriously and the host has to be able to facilitate all of that."
Why LeVar Burton's quest to host Jeopardy! feels so meaningful: "When the public considers the next Jeopardy! host, it’s easy to see a link between the public persona of Burton and that of Alex Trebek," says Aja Romano. "They’re both purveyors of erudite wisdom, education, and general positivity. Burton’s role as Reading Rainbow’s host also situates him within a collective of PBS show hosts whose wholesome positive energy and sage curiosity are unblemished in the cultural consciousness. Alongside 'happy little cloud' painter Bob Ross and kindly cardigan-wearing neighbor Fred Rogers, the gentle mentorship Burton delivered from afar to countless kids over the decades made him a trusted figure. All three men have become culturally revered and lavished with nostalgic veneration."
LeVar Burton explains why he feels his whole career has prepared him to host Jeopardy!: "I've watched the show with my family all of my life," he tells Esquire. "I feel like America has a relationship with this show. We all feel that it's very personal, our relationship with the show or our relationship with Alex. I think we all have a vested stake in what happens with the show next because we're all invested. We watch every night. Everything that I’m about is in the same vein as Jeopardy!. The idea of education being a value or a principle, and that education should be available to everyone. We take that nightly quiz and test ourselves against those champions, and we play the game as a nation every night. The things that I’ve done in terms of using the medium of television to do more than simply entertain—bringing a little more to the table to educate, inform, enlighten, uplift… Jeopardy! does those things too. Jeopardy! is definitely a bright spot in the nation's consciousness."
Yvette Nicole Brown has been LeVar Burton's biggest cheerleader on social media: Brown used her Twitter platform to criticize Jeopardy! producers for not giving Burton a shot among the first waves of guest-hosts. She also used Twitter to criticize some guest-hosts, like Ken Jennings, who had to apologize for past insensitive tweets. “There’s a few with ego problems who do not have the spirit of Mr. Trebek,” says Brown. “I feel like if there’s anyone worthy to stand in that man’s shoes, it’s LeVar Burton.”