‘Jeopardy!’ champ Mattea Roach announces who should be host

Who is: the best host?

Mattea Roach, who sprung to “Jeopardy!” stardom by becoming the first Gen Z megachampion, has cast her vote for who should be the show’s permanent host between Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings. She’s also weighing in on criticism she’s received about the way she plays the game.

“I would say Ken because of his history with the show,” the 23-year-old contestant from Toronto told Vulture of her pick to replace longtime host Alex Trebek, who died in 2020. “As a contestant, there’s something really special about being onstage with the greatest player of all time. Someone who understands in a very visceral way what it’s like to be in your position.

“Mayim is fantastic, but she doesn’t have that same experience,” Roach concluded.

Mattea Roach (center) has weighed in on who she thinks should become the permanent "Jeopardy!" host: Mayim Bialik (left) or Ken Jennings (right).
Mattea Roach (center) has weighed in on who she thinks should become the permanent “Jeopardy!” host: Mayim Bialik (left) or Ken Jennings (right).
“Jeopardy!”; AP

Because of Roach’s unique facial expressions and thinking aloud during the game show, devout “Jeopardy!” fans have also speculated that she’s doing that to distract other contestants.

“The notion of my comments being distracting either to the viewers or the players, I was like, ‘Huh?’ You don’t have time to think about weird mind games,” she said. “I would never want to be deliberately distracting another player because it’s so unsportsmanlike. I like to think it didn’t have that impact.”

People, according to Roach, have deemed her strategy too casual and have said, “She’s playing the same way she’d play along while at home on the couch.”

Mattea Roach on Jeopardy
Roach rose to megachampion status after 22 consecutive wins.

“I remember saying to a friend, ‘I’m not going to court. I’m not going to a job interview. I’m going to a game show,’” she said. “Yes, it’s intellectual and that’s one of the most special things about it. But I respected the institution by playing the game really well. I’m enjoying myself a lot and that’s why I played the game that way.”

Roach has now made history in the show’s Hall of Fame after winning 22 consecutive games — making her the fifth-best player in history.

But even as an esteemed champion, her “strategy was bad,” she still admitted.

“I probably should’ve played a lot more strategically,” she added, saying she played with a “risk aversion” tactic. “I would describe my strategy as loss minimization rather than gain maximization. I was never somebody who would buzz in on clues and then think of the answer.”

But clearly something is working. She’s won $534,984 in prize money, which she will be putting toward her student loan payments.

“I’m going to continue to be really boring with money,” she said. “Most of it I’m going to sit on for a couple of years, and hopefully when I’m more settled in the longer term, I imagine it’ll help me buy a house.”

matthea roach
Roach said that her competing techniques aren’t meant to distract other contestants — it’s just how she thinks.

Her on-screen behavior, which has brought her both wins and negativity, is something she attributes to her youthful age, admitting she plays “quite different than what’s been seen before” from past contestants.

“Anytime you have a generational shift of new people coming of age, conversations happen about how they’re shifting professional norms. It’s not entirely negative,” she said, adding that something new or different will take time to get used to. “But a critical conversation about how I present myself on the show alludes to the fact that the way I behave is somehow unprofessional or not respecting the institution.”

As valiant as her efforts are, she still has to defend her abilities online, even taking to Twitter to debunk viewer critiques.

“Many have made note of my colorful facial expressions while playing Jeopardy,” she tweeted last week, along with a photo of her younger self at a spelling bee. “Here is proof that I come by it honestly/have been making weird faces for a long time!”

In fact, her colorful expressions and gestures have attracted fans, too. While they have received more hate than love, she revealed to the Vulture that her “her wrist has received fan mail.”

“There’s a lot of queer people specifically who have been fans of the way I move my hands and body,” said Roach, who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. “It’s not something I thought about at the time I was tapping, but it’s fun to see the support from that community.”

Regardless of how she’s perceived or plays the game, there’s one thing of which Roach is certain: She just wants to have fun.

“My experience taping the show is some of the most fun I’ve had in my entire life,” she gushed. “When I was actually onstage, I was having the time of my life. I didn’t play differently as my run went along. I was already making side comments and being animated in my first game.”


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