Since Alex Trebek began hosting Jeopardy! in 1984, family time has involved the phrase, “the answer is.” Trebek joined Jeopardy! when Merv Griffin revived the show in 1984. He went on to become a cultural icon, known as much for his droll sense of humor as his perfectly coifed mustache. To state our answer in the form of a question, “who was Alex Trebek?” Here are the facts, and some are stranger than fiction, including the reason he once said goodbye to his mustache for 13 years!
He Once Bought A Mountain To Build A House
Proving no task is too small, Alex Trebek once bought a piece of a mountain for $1.5 million just so he could build a house on top of it. Asked about the ambitious task, he remarked, “We’ll have to cut the top off of the mountain to make a pad, but that’s the kind of thing I enjoy doing.”
Before building a home on a mountain, Trebek lived in another home he built on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. Basically, he loves hosting Jeopardy! and he loves building things. He truly was a man of simple pleasures.
His First Hosting Gig Was In Canada In 1963
Alex Trebek might be best known as the host of Jeopardy! but that doesn’t mean it’s the only show he’s ever hosted. In 1963, Trebek hosted Music Hop in Canada. Three years later he took the reigns of Reach For The Top, a high school quiz show.
Until Jeopardy! came calling in 1984, Trebek bounced around the hosting word. Do you remember The Wizard of Odds? We don’t either. He also hosted seven other shows until he filmed a pilot for the revival of America’s favorite game show.
Trebek Cursed Like A Sailor On Set
Alex Trebek carried himself like a noble professional with contestants when the cameras were rolling, but when they stopped, he can’t help but curse. If you’ve been lucky enough to see a behind-the-scenes “blooper reel” of Trebek then you know what we’re talking about.
Filming an advertisement for Phone Jeopardy!, Trebek is seen drinking and cursing every time he messes up a line. Watching from home, you’d never assume this was what was going on behind the scenes!
Candy And Soda Were His Favorite Foods
Looking fit and healthy into his 70s, it would be easy to assume Alex Trebek watched his diet like a hawk. The truth couldn’t be more wrong. He once admitted that his breakfast of choice used to be a Snickers bar and a Diet Pepsi.
Then, after a nutritionist told him to stop, he mixed it up, “I stopped eating Snickers and Diet Pepsi, and I replaced them with Milky Ways and Diet Cokes, so you’re not going to catch me eating properly in the mornings.”
The World Was Shocked When He Shaved His ‘Stache
In 2001, Alex Trebek nearly caused global panic when he decided to shave his signature mustache without warning. He decided on a whim and shaved in between filming shows. When he stepped back into the spotlight, everyone was stunned.
When his first mustache free show aired, the nation lost its mind, ” it got so much press, I couldn’t believe it. The wars with Iraq or whatever at that time and people are all in a stew over my mustache.” To be fair, it was a great lip piece. In 2014, the mustache returned, again on a whim, after a 13-year vacation.
Who Needs Pants? Trebek Didn’t For One Special Episode
During the Tournament of Champions one year, the contestants were so nervous they agreed to compete on Jeopardy! without wearing pants. In a show of solidarity, Alex Trebek agreed to host the show that same way. When the cameras rolled, and Trebek walked on stage, his pants were nowhere to be seen.
Moments later, Trebek had cameras go behind the contestants, only to learn all of them were wearing pants. He quickly ran off-screen to grab his. When he returned, pants on, the show carried on as if nothing awkward had just happened.
If You Stole His Stuff He Would Come After You
One of the worst things that can happen to a person on vacation is when someone sneaks into your hotel room and steals your stuff. When this happened to Alex Trebek in 2011, he took justice into his own hands, chasing down the thief and getting his stuff back.
In the process of chasing down the thief, Trebek blew out his Achilles tendon. The real lesson here is that Trebek was a light sleeper. He said he woke up in the middle of the night while the thief was ruffling through his things.
He Prefered Eugene Levy’s Impersonation To Will Ferrell
Alex Trebek didn’t take himself too seriously and loved that he has been parodied by comedians worldwide. In the United States, Will Ferrell’s Saturday Night Live impersonation is far and away the best known. A Canada native, Trebek preferred the impression done by SCTV alumni Eugene Levy.
To most audiences, Levy is best known as Jim’s Dad in the American Pie movie franchise. To Canadians, he was first known as a sketch comedian on Dave Thomas’ SCTV. Trebek said he feels Levy’s is more accurate to his own mannerisms.
Trebek Made $10 Million For Two Days Of Work A Week
When Alex Trebek signed his last contract with the producers of Jeopardy! it was for $10 million a year. That’s a lot of dough for two days of work a week! The show airs five nights a week, but that doesn’t mean it’s filmed daily.
Between filming episodes in a day, Trebek would go backstage and change suits. Remember, when he shaved his mustache, he did it between filming episodes, not after waking up refreshed one morning. His two days of work ran about 12 hours each. It’s okay to be jealous.
He Broke A Guinness World Record In 2014
Alex Trebek was presented with a huge honor in 2014, breaking Bob Barker’s Guinness World Record for TV game show episodes hosted. Just how many episodes of Jeopardy! did Trebek have to get through to earn the distinction? In the form of a question, “what is 6,289?”
As we’ve already said, Trebek began hosting the iconic show in 1984 and was behind the podium ever since. He only took a hiatus once, and that was because of a medical emergency.
A Brain Clot Sidelined Trebek In 2018
In January 2018, it was announced that Alex Trebek needed to have brain surgery to fix a subdermal hematoma. That blood cot was the result of a bad fall he took in December. Trebek described the medical emergency as a “slight medical problem” to help ease the minds of his fans.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, however, the blood clot was actually, “among the deadliest of all head injuries.” Two days after successful surgery, Trebek was able to go home and recover. And because he had just filmed several episodes of Jeopardy! he was able to return to hosting duties without a break in production.
His Battle With Pancreatic Cancer
In March 2019, Alex Trebek let the world know that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. This type of cancer has a low survival rate, but Trebek assured his fans that he was intent on beating the odds.
Keeping the reveal of the news as light-hearted as possible, Trebek joked that he needed to win because he still had three years left on his contract. After finishing filming the 35th season of Jeopardy, Trebek said he would focus solely on his treatment and recovery.
Opening Up On ‘Sunday Morning’
In May of 2019, Trebek appeared on CBS News Sunday Morning. He opened up about his cancer and how he was dealing with it. Trebek revealed that he’d received his diagnosis after phenom James Holzhauer had made his debut on the show. He also told viewers that he’d experienced a lot of pain while taping Jeopardy!. “This got really bad,” he shared. “I was on the floor writhing in pain. It went from a 3 to an 11. And it happened three or four times that day while we were taping. So, that was a little rough on me.”
Trebek still had an amazing sense of humor, however, and joked about his new hairpiece. “This is not the real me. We have the summer months off. So hopefully, my own hair will grow back. ‘Cause I like my own hair!”
Trebek Passes Away At 80 Years Old
After a tough battle against stage 4 pancreatic cancer, the beloved Jeopardy! host passed away on November 8, 2020 at the age of 80. Trebek passed away on a Sunday morning, announced by the official Jeopardy! Twitter account.
Fans mourned the loss of Trebek as word spread. Although suffering from an immense amount of pain due to cancer, Trebek kept his humor and good spirit up until his final day of life, and that’s something that his fans can hold onto.
He Owned 100 Suits
To maintain the illusion of time passing while filming Jeopardy! Alex Trebek has a sizable wardrobe. He claimed to own over 100 suits, more than enough to get him through a few months of filming without having to do laundry!
What’s most surprising about that statement is that he owned the suits. Typically, the wardrobe is provided by the production company. Maybe he kept his personal suit collection at home, then, ready for any occasion he needs to look his best without people saying, “didn’t you wear that last time?”
He Was The First Person To Host Three Game Shows At The Same Time
Only having to work two days a week on Jeopardy! had its advantages. One such advantage is being able to host multiple shows as long as they film on different days. This is exactly what Alex Trebek did in 1991, becoming the first person to host three American game shows at the same time.
History was made when Trebek took over hosting duties on, To Tell the Truth, after Lynn Swann left. Aside from Jeopardy! his other show was Classic Concentration on NBC. Shortly after Trebek took over for Swann, To Tell the Truth, was canceled by the network.
Trebek Loved Watching Himself Unless The Lakers Are On
Alex Trebek was a huge Los Angeles Lakers fan. He watched the team religiously during the season, making sure to never miss a shot. And when the Lakers weren’t on, his favorite activity became watching himself host Jeopardy! which doesn’t sound weird or narcissistic at all.
We wonder with how technology has advanced, just how much Jeopardy! Alex Trebek really watched. In theory, he could stream it online 24/7 if he chose to. Of course, we know he didn’t. Not if the Lakers were on or he was building a new house, at least.
He Majored In Philosophy Because Classes Were In The Morning
Alex Trebek attended the University of Ottawa but apparently had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. He knew he needed a job to pay for his tuition though, and the best jobs started in the afternoon. With that in mind, Trebek chose the major with the most morning classes: Philosophy.
Able to get his degree in the morning and work in the evenings was perfect for Trebek. He must have liked the program! Since becoming a major celebrity, Trebek has donated generously to the University and held a “Distinguished Lecture Series” there in 2016.
He Gave Up Hockey After Shaving His Mustache
This one is probably a coincidence, but Alex Trebek said he gave up playing hockey after shaving his mustache. A longtime hockey fan, he still watched the sport but didn’t play anymore. We think that the workout was no longer worth the effort, but maybe getting rid of the ‘stache destroyed his source of power.
Whatever the case, he still loved hockey. Trebek even said if he ever left Jeopardy! he thought the announcer for the Los Angeles Kings should take over as host.
He Produced The First Three Episodes Of Jeopardy! Himself
From 1984 until 1987, Alex Trebek did more than host Jeopardy! He also produced it. This meant he wasn’t working two days a week and only 24 hours. He was probably working more than five days a week and definitely more than 40 hours! He only stopped producing the game show when the opportunity came to host the second one.
That second show, of course, was Classic Concentration. Trebek pulled double hosting duty until 1991 when it became triple hosting duty. By the end of 1991, both To Tell the Truth and Classic Concentration were canceled.
The X-Files Cast Trebek As A Man In Black
Did you know that Alex Trebek guest-starred in one of the most famous episodes of The X-Files? “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” is the season three episode of the science fiction classic about an author questioning Mulder and Scully about an alien investigation for his new book.
In the second half of the episode, Mulder is confronted by two men in black, one played by Jesse Ventura and the other by Alex Trebek. Credited as “Man in Black 2” the role is one of the only speaking roles where Trebek wasn’t playing himself.
He Once Scared A Little Girl Talking About Dead Pets
While filming a special week of Jeopardy! in DC in 2012, Alex Trebek took a break from filming to let the audience ask him questions. Near the end of the period, a little girl asked him if he had any pets. He said he had a dog, then told everyone about the pets he used to have and how they all died.
One of his old dogs, named Spammer, was eaten by a coyote. The little girl was left in shock. Trebek wasn’t sorry about being honest, either, “I couldn’t understand why there was that big reaction at the end. The coyote ate Spammer. It didn’t bother Willie [his other dog].”
He Wrote An Autobiography
In July of 2020, Trebek revealed that his cancer treatment was going better than expected. “In fact, during the break from the studio, I even wrote a book that will be coming out July 21st,” he said, speaking about his autobiography The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life.
“I’ve been continuing my treatment and it is paying off though it does fatigue me a great deal. My numbers are good. I’m feeling great.” He also added that he can’t wait to return to the studio.
He Once Owned A Winery In California
If you ever drank Creston Wine before 2002, then you enjoyed the brand while it was under the ownership of Alex Trebek. He invested in the winery in 1986 and helped run the company until 2001 when a virus wiped out the vineyard’s grapes.
With nothing growing and no interest in replanting, Trebek and the other investors put the property up for sale. After the sale, one of the investors said it wasn’t a “fire sale” but a choice by the investors to go “in different directions.”
He Hosted the “National Geographic Bee” For 25 Years
In 2013, Alex Trebek stepped down as the host of the National Geographic Bee. The tournament tests the country’s brightest students on their knowledge of the world. Trebek called it quits as host so that he could travel the world more, maybe inspired after talking about lavish locales for so long.
Trebek was somber when speaking about his tough decision to leave the tournament, “It’s going to be like leaving a family because we have become a lot like a family over the past quarter-century.”
He Framed A Bounced Check From A Failed Game Show
You can’t say Alex Trebek took himself too seriously. One of his most prized possessions is a reminder of past failure. Hanging in his house or office (we’re not sure which), Trebek had a framed check for $49,000 from a failed game show he once hosted.
The failed gig happened in the ’80s and was likely Pitfall, a Canadian production that ran for one season. When the production company went bankrupt in 1982 they were unable to pay several staff members, including Trebek.
Alan Thicke Gave Him His Big Break
In 1973, fellow Canadian Alan Thicke called Alex Trebek with a job offer. The Wizard of Odds brought Trebek stateside and introduced him to a brand new audience. The show was canceled one year later, but Trebek had no plans to give up on his dreams.
Trebek transitioned from The Wizard of Odds to High Rollers, Double Dare, and The $128,000 Question before finally finding stability with Jeopardy! In some cases, Trebek even hosted multiple shows at the same time, with some forcing him to commute between Canada and the United States.
Trebek Came Up With Tournament Themes For Jeopardy!
If you’ve ever wondered where Jeopardy! gets its ideas for its special tournament, the answer is Alex Trebek. From the “Teen Tournament” to the “Tournament of Champions,” the man with the mustache is responsible for creating these special game show events.
The “Teen Tournament” first aired in 1987, three years into Trebek’s hosting duties. It has run at least once every season since. The only exception is the 23rd season when the tournament was held twice.
He Almost Became A Priest
As a young boy, Alex Trebek didn’t think he was going to become a game show host. He had dreams of becoming a priest. His mind was changed one year as a teenager after visiting a Trappist monastery.
According to the game show icon, “I took a vow of not only poverty but of silence. And I’m not one to keep my big mouth shut. I enjoy talking.” We’d say he made the right choice. The world seems to love the sounds of his voice just as much as he does.
He Refused To Answer A Question On Another Game Show
During Regis Philbin’s last show as host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, he called Alex Trebek to help answer a question. Trebek refused to answer, saying he didn’t want to have his intelligence tested.
Don’t worry, Alex, we’d never question your intelligence! Of course, it would have been fun to see Trebek accept the challenge and prove just how much he learned as host of America’s most popular quiz show.
He Was The First Choice To Host Jeopardy!
When Merv Griffin was looking for a host to revive Jeopardy! in 1984, he had the perfect host in mind. Alex Trebek was the super producers’ first choice to host the revamped game show. We guess he has good instincts.
Griffin fell in love with Alex Trebek as a host when he subbed for Chuck Woolery on Wheel of Fortune before Pat Sajak took over. When Trebek flew auditioned for Jeopardy! he was given the job on the spot.
His Real Name Was George
Alex Trebek was not really “Alex Trebek”. His birth name was George Trebek. So where does the Alex part come in? Alexander is his middle name. Let’s be honest though, Alex Trebek sounds better than George Trebek.
Not that George Trebek is a bad name; it’s just not a great Hollywood name. Do you know many stars in Hollywood don’t go by their real names? Did you know Michael Keaton is really named Michael Douglas?
He And Pat Sajak Switched Places Once
On April Fools Day in 1997, Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak switched game shows. Trebek took the reigns of Wheel of Fortune. In place of Vanna White, Trebek chose Sajak’s wife as his co-host.
Sajak and Vanna White appeared as contestants on the show, donating their winnings to the American Cancer Society and the Boy Scouts of America. Sajak’s episode of Jeopardy! aired the same day, and he was forced to host the show without the comfort of his regular co-host.
He Spoke 17 Different Languages
Actually, the number changes with each interview, but by some estimations, Alex Trebek could speak 17 different languages. In one interview he claimed he could only speak English and French fluently but could get by speaking five languages.
We guess to host Jeopardy! you have to be pretty smart! Trebek is also an avid traveler, so knowing enough of certain languages to get by is logical. Imagine how much money he would have to spend on translators otherwise!
He Didn’t Write Down Notes Between Clues
To the naked eye, it looked like Alex Trebek writes down notes on the card he carries with himself. The truth is he really crossed off clues so he didn’t read the wrong one on accident. He wasn’t writing down facts for trivia at all!
We think this is pretty cool. It’s not a big thing, but one of those little things that makes a big difference. Just think how unwatchable the show would be if Trebek had to scramble to read the next clue without messing up.
He Used To Breed Horses
Jeopardy! only films two days a week, leaving Alex Trebek a lot of time for other things. One of his interests that he developed through the years is breeding horses. Like his winery, Trebek owned an operation called Creston Farms to take his hobby to the extreme.
In 2005, however, Trebek sold Creston Farms to Dwain Davis, an investment banker looking to get into breeding. Dwain renamed the farm Windfall Farms and has kept is still in business today in Paso Robles, California.
He Included A Jeopardy! Joke In His Wedding Vows
Alex Trebek made sure to lighten the mood at his first wedding by including a Jeopardy! joke into his vows. Standing in front of Jean Currivan at the altar, Trebek responded by saying, “the answer is yes” instead of “I do.”
Currivan was Trebek’s second wife. They married in 1990 and stayed together up until Trebek’s passing in 2020. Impressive for a Hollywood marriage! Trebek’s first marriage was to Elaine Kares. Their nuptials lasted seven years.
He Once Bought A House For Its Tennis Court
When you’re rich you do weird things. Alex Trebek is no different, one time buying a house just so he could use its tennis court. The purchase was made in the ’90s and we’re sure he has no regrets.
At some point, Trebek began renting the house out, most famously to Pete and Carol Rose. When they moved in, the plumbing and electricity were shot and they demanded Trebek fix the problem. Knowing how handy he is with tools, we’re assuming he did.
He Ran With The Olympic Torch In 1996
In 1996, the Olympics were held in Atlanta and needed people to help carry it there. When the torch arrived in Jacksonville, Florida, Alex Trebek became its bearer. That’s a pretty amazing honor for one of the world’s premier sporting events.
The 1996 Summer Olympics cost the United States an estimated $4.1 billion. That number more than doubled the $1.8 billion the 1988 Olympics in Los Angeles cost! We don’t even want to know what the 2026 World Cup is going to cost (the United States is hosting).
He Appeared On Family Feud Once
On Richard Dawson’s last episode of Family Feud, Alex Trebek made an appearance, but not as a guest. Don’t forget, Trebek didn’t compete. Instead, he came on the show to say goodbye to the legendary host.
More importantly, he thanked Richard Dawson for always keeping Trebek’s name in the air, even when he was off it. The respect really shows you how tight-knit of a community game show has.
He Appeared On The Final Episode Of The Colbert Show
When Stephen Colbert left Comedy Central to CBS, he asked Alex Trebek to help send him off. He was introduced as “the one with all the answers” and greeted Colbert as he drove off in a sleigh driven by Abraham Lincoln and Santa Claus.
The appearance wasn’t the only time Trebek parodied himself. He guest-starred on a number of scripted shows as himself, including Hot In Cleveland and How I Met Your Mother. The latter show was fond of making fun of Canada and its culture during its eight-year run.
He Was A Big Supporter Of The Military
Alex Trebek felt very strongly about supporting the troops overseas. He was so passionate about it, in fact, that he became involved with the USO in 1995. Along with the crew from Jeopardy! Trebek has traveled to military installations around the world to meet the troops.
Of course, he was not looking to say hello. Trebek used the trips to scout new contestants for the show. Is there a better way to pay back our heroes than by giving them a chance to win thousands of dollars on their return home?