'Jeopardy!': The unexpected way Buzzy Cohen prepared to host the Tournament of Champions

Making a winning appearance as the host of Jeopardy! isn't all about memorizing the periodic table and the correct pronunciation of all the world capitals. At least it wasn't for Buzzy Cohen.

The former Jeopardy! champion — whose real name is Austin David Cohen — worked on his body as well as his mind in the lead up to the two-week Tournament of Champions, which he won in 2017, after winning $165,000 on the show in 2016.

"I prepared very intensely. Like a lot of people, I hadn’t really been doing that much activity during the COVID-19 pandemic," he said in an on-camera interview with the show. "So I started working out to get my stamina up. I know how long these tape days are and how focused and attentive the host really needs to be. You're reading clues, you're directing traffic, you're refereeing, you're giving color commentary. So you've gotta be really focused and have your stamina up."

The show's executive producer, Mike Richards, told USA Today that he believes Cohen is "the only one that actually physically trained his body" for the guest-hosting gig. Journalist Katie Couric, NFL quarterback Aaron Rogers, former Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings and Richards himself are among those who have stood at the podium in the months since the death of Alex Trebek, who had hosted the show since 1984, last November. 

Richards explained that the show's filming schedule is intense.

"Five episodes a day, that's a lot of time in the studio," Richards said. "You never take a breath. I think people will be surprised at how [Cohen] takes it pretty seriously. He really delivers as a host."

In addition to his workouts, Cohen said he accepted plenty of help from crew members working on the show about reading the clues and "all the other little things that look effortless when Alex Trebek would do it, but actually are really hard to do."

Cohen's debut episodes as host also mark the return of the Tournament of Champions. The fan-favorite event is usually held annually, but it's been 18 months since the last one because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When it's over, Jeopardy! will continue trying out potential hosts: Joe Buck, LeVar Burton, David Faber, Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos are on deck for the final episodes of the season.

Cohen made it clear that he hopes to be back one day and would take the permanent job as host "in a heartbeat."

"I'd love to be the host of this show that I've loved since I was, like, 9 years old and is such a part of who I am," he said.

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