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Arts & Entertainment What is…: Alex Trebek

What is…: Alex Trebek

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Alex Trebek, the host of the famous American game show ‘Jeopardy!’, died from stage four pancreatic cancer on Nov. 8. In the wake of his death, many have paid tribute to their beloved game show host.

Trebek initially announced his diagnosis during March 2019. He explained that he would not step down from hosting the show, but instead receive treatment while off set. Trebek’s personality spoke for itself as he maintained his sense of humor despite the situation.

“I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease,” Trebek said. “Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host ‘Jeopardy!’ for three more years!”

‘Jeopardy!’s’ official social media announced that 80-year-old Trebek passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and friends. Trebek spent 36 years as ‘Jeopardy!’s’ host, beginning his stint in the studio in 1984 and ending it 10 days before his death. ‘Jeopardy!’ executive producer Mike Richards said they plan to honor Trebek’s wish of airing his remaining 35 episodes as they were shot until Dec. 25. 

Fans of the show supported Trebek up until the very end. On the Nov. 19 Tournament of Champions show, filmed a few months after Trebek’s announcement, a contestant of the show, Dhruv Gaur, wrote “We love you, Alex” as his final answer. This caused Trebek to be emotional and utter an appreciative “thank you”. After Trebek’s death, viewers donated over $55,000 to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Over the summer, ‘Jeopardy!’s’ production crew set up a small studio in Trebek’s home so he could record introductions to old episodes of the show. In a phone interview, Trebek described the immense pain he was in the day of filming those introductions. However, as soon as he stepped in front of the camera, something changed.

“Oddly enough, when we started taping I suddenly started to regain my strength,” Trebek said. “It’s the strangest thing. It is some kind of an elixir.”

Johnny Gilbert, the announcer for ‘Jeopardy!’, mentioned to The New York Times that, even on Trebek’s worst days of treatments, he could still walk on stage, greet the audience and focus himself.

“Once I introduce him on that stage, he is Alex Trebek,” said Gilbert. “You can tell that that’s what he’s living for.”

Trebek, a Canadian native, landed his first broadcast job as a radio announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, where he worked for 12 years. He moved to the U.S. in 1973 and got his big break as the host of ‘The Wizard of Odds’. After that, Trebek moved to host NBC’s ‘High Rollers’ and, eventually, began hosting ‘Jeopardy!’.

Over the course of his career, Trebek won many awards, such as six Emmys for Best Game Show Host, a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 and an Outstanding Game Show Host award in 2019. Trebek also hosted two other shows, ‘Classic Concentration’ and ‘To Tell the Truth’, in addition to ‘Jeopardy!’, making him the first American game show host to work on three shows simultaneously.

Towards the end of his life, Trebek wrote and published his best-selling memoir, ‘The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life’. Released in July 2020, Trebek donated all the proceeds from the book to charity. When Trebek passed, it happened almost exactly how he envisioned it in his book.

“I’ll be perfectly content if that’s how my story ends. Sitting on the swing. With the woman I love. My soulmate. And our two wonderful children nearby,” Trebek wrote. “I’ll sit there for a while, and then maybe the four of us will go for a walk. Each day trying to walk a little farther than the last. We’ll take things one step at a time, one day at a time. In fact, I think I’ll go sit in the swing for a bit right now.”

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