Alex Trebek passed away on Sunday after a long battle with stage four pancreatic cancer. The Jeopardy! host, who revealed his diagnosis in March 2019, was 80.
Trebek spent the 36 years on the series as “the man with all the answers.” He quickly became famous for his calm demeanor and wry humor from behind the podium. Aside from his own personality, Trebek said, “I think what makes Jeopardy! special is that, among all the quiz and game shows out there, ours tends to reward and encourage learning.”
He continued his hosting duties throughout treatment with his usual wit and charm. In a clip that aired just last week, Trebek shared an emotional moment with a contestant who said he learned English by watching the show every day.
Tributes from fans, former contestants, and friends have been pouring in for the beloved game show host.
Ken Jennings, who holds the record for longest winning streak on Jeopardy!, described Trebek as “a lovely and deeply decent man.”
Fellow TV presenter Ryan Seacrest shared how many of us felt tuning into Trebek’s show each day, saying he “was like a family member who I watched every night.”
Fans have also been remembering classic moments from Trebek’s time on the show. Many called back to the heartfelt moment a contestant used his Final Jeopardy! answer to show Trebek how much we all cared for him, just a few months after the host had revealed his cancer diagnosis.
Although he was known for his stoic nature, Trebek was clearly a bit choked up as he read the message:
Trebek was also known for his sense of humor, like the time he decided to break the tension during a heated battle between Jeopardy! champions by walking out onto the stage without any pants:
Or the time he was baffled by the complete lack of any football knowledge in all three contestants during a game:
Trebek’s unflappable personality also led to a famous parody version of himself on Saturday Night Live. The sketches featured Will Ferrell as Alex, who would typically be teased by Sean Connery and Burt Reynolds (played by Darrell Hammond and Norm Macdonald) until his easy-going attitude finally snapped. In a 2012 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Trebek proved to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing, saying, “Every [Jeopardy!] taping, somebody in the audience says ‘How do you feel about the Will Ferrell impression of you on SNL?’ And I say the same thing every time: I love it.”
He even appeared on Ferrell’s final episode of SNL, which you can see at the end of the clip below:
Born George Alex Trebek on July 22, 1940, in Ontario, Canada, the legendary game show host grew up in a bilingual home, speaking both French and English. After graduating from the University of Ottawa, Trebek got his first taste of hosting while working on a Canadian program called Music Hop in 1963. He followed that with several other hosting gigs in Canada before uprooting to Los Angeles in the 1970s. It wasn’t until 1984 that he took over as the host of Jeopardy! and made it the iconic series we know today.
Over the course of his career, Trebek earned five Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the Guinness World Record for Most Game Show Episodes hosted by the Same Presenter. In 1991, he made history as the first person to host three American game shows at the same time. Most recently, Trebek was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada in 2017 for his “iconic achievements in television and for his promotion of learning, notably as a champion for geographical literacy.”
Trebek often gave back to his alma mater, the University of Ottawa, including a $5 million donation to fund the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue, which aims to “expose students to a wide range of diverse views, through speeches, public panels, events, and lectures by University of Ottawa researchers, senior government officials, and guest speakers from around the world.” He and the Jeopardy! crew also joined the United Service Organization (USO) in 1995 and traveled to several military bases throughout the world to boost morale for the troops over the years.
When asked to describe his perfect day, Trebek said it consists of fixing things around the house (without help, of course) and watching Turner Classic Movies. One of his many “Trebekisms” speaks volumes to his kind nature: “It’s far easier to be nice to people than to be mean, with far greater rewards.”
He is survived by his wife, Jean, and two adult children, Emily and Matthew. Our thoughts are with his loved ones and fans as we continue to mourn this heartbreaking loss.