Alex Trebek would’ve turned 81 today. Here’s a look back at what he said about politics, swearing and cancer (2023)

Alex Trebek was the beloved face of “Jeopardy!” for 36 years. The longtime host of “Jeopardy!” continued to lead the show even as he underwent treatment for pancreatic cancer.

In his memoir “The Answer is ... Reflections on My Life,” published a few months before his death on Nov. 8, 2020, the host went far beyond the quiz show to bring fans into his personal life — including his political views, his history with swearing and how he handled his cancer diagnosis.

To celebrate Trebek, who would’ve turned 81 on July 22, 2021, here are 12 anecdotes from that memoir.

Note: This story originally ran in September 2020 and has been updated to reflect Trebek’s 81st birthday.

He dropped out of military school

Trebek grew up relatively poor. His father, a Ukrainian immigrant, was a chef at a hotel in the mining town of Sudbury, Ontario. After high school, Trebek applied for a military program that would pay for his college. He was accepted and sent to the Royal Canadian Air Force military academy college in Quebec.

He lasted three days.

Following two days of getting hazed by senior cadets, the final straw came when they were going to cut Trebek’s hair — “I had a good head of hair,” Trebek writes.

After getting berated by an officer —“If you don’t have the guts to stick this out, you’re not the kind of person we want in our military” — Trebek called his dad and told him he was coming home.

At the train station, Trebek’s dad gave him a hug.

“Don’t worry, Sonny,” Trebek recalls his dad saying. “Everything will be all right.”

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His favorite movie is ...

Trebek loves movies about father-son relationships. Which is why “How Green Was My Valley” is his favorite film. The 1941 movie reminds him of his own father.

“He was not an educated man. He was not particularly bright. He was just all heart. He didn’t understand nuances of caring. He just poured out his love for me,” Trebek writes. “It didn’t matter what I did, I was never a disappointment to him.”

Graduation advice

After dropping out of military school, Trebek went back to his high school for grade 13 — a transition year similar to the first year of college.

Growing up, Trebek was a good student, but he was mainly known for joking around in class. One teacher, however, recognized his potential. At graduation, that teacher told Trebek: “Alex, you’ve had a good year. Do me a favor. Never lose your love of life.”

Those words have stuck with Trebek ever since.

He’s never late

In eighth grade, Trebek got a job as a bellhop at the hotel where his dad worked. Before his first day, he went on an end-of-school-year trip with his class. He was so tired that he woke up at 11 the next morning — three hours after his shift started.

That day, he vowed never to be late to anything again.

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“If I’m not where I need to be 10 minutes early, I consider myself late,” he writes. “It’s a sign of respect for the job —that you want to do it well and not leave anything to chance.”


You’d never guess it from his appearance on “Jeopardy!” but Trebek swears — though not as much as he did in his earlier days.

As he explains in his book, it was intentional.Entering the world of broadcasting, Trebek didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs. The “Jeopardy!” host said this made it hard for people to let their guard down, out of fear they’d be judged.

“I needed a vice,” he writes. “And so I decided to add more salt to my language. … But it didn’t help me become one of the guys. It just made me look like a jerk. My bad.”


“Jeopardy!” largely steers clear of politics — Trebek said he’ll get fan mail from Republicans thinking he’s a Democrat and vice versa.

Trebek actually identifies as an independent.

“I vote for the person I feel is best suited to deal with the problems at the time. Modern politics pits us against one another,” he writes. “It forces us to choose a side and has convinced us that our side is right and the other side is wrong. … There is no room for compromise. That’s unfortunate. Because most of the great accomplishments of the world have not been made by people who were certain.”

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His soulmate

Trebek considers his second wife, Jean, to be his soulmate (he remains on good terms with his first wife and his stepdaughter from that marriage). The couple got married in 1990 and have two kids together. There’s a 24-year age difference between them, and Trebek recalled how after their engagement, his soon-to-be father-in-law told him: “I guess I won’t be calling you ‘son.’”

“With Jean it just happened. … I wasn’t looking for love,” Trebek writes. “But with Jean, I recognized at a gut level that here was someone who was going to complete me as a human being.”

A hairpiece

Trebek’s chemotherapy treatment has led to hair loss. But the “Jeopardy!” host was already wearing a hairpiece even before his cancer diagnosis in 2019.

He started wearing a hairpiece in early 2018, after falling and banging his head on his bathtub. Trebek had to have surgery to remove blood clots from his brain — which left a row of stitches on either side of his scalp.

Based on his staff’s reactions, he decided it would be best to cover it up.

“In my case the hairpiece makes me look better than my real hair,” he writes. “I probably should’ve started wearing it a long time ago.”

Cancer diagnosis

Since his cancer diagnosis in March 2019, Trebek has often thought of “Jeopardy!” contestant Cindy Stowell, who had stage 4 colon cancer during her six-game run on the show in 2016. Stowell died just a week before her games aired — prior to that, the show sent her a DVD so she’d be able to watch herself.

“I admire how she didn’t want to make a big deal about her illness,” Trebek writes. “And how she didn’t let it keep her from achieving her dreams.”

Trebek said he sometimes regrets going public with his diagnosis because he feels like people now look to him for reassurance and strength and he doesn’t want to let them down.

“The longer I’ve lived with the cancer, the more my definition of toughness has changed,” he writes. “I used to think not crying meant you were tough. Now I think crying means you’re tough. It means you’re strong enough to be honest and vulnerable. It means you’re not pretending.”

Alex Trebek would’ve turned 81 today. Here’s a look back at what he said about politics, swearing and cancer (3)

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He’s optimistic

Trebek says he has the “will to survive,” although there are days when the pain and depression is so debilitating that his optimism disappears. He also doesn’t like using the terms “battling” and “fighting” when it comes to cancer, because it implies there are winners and losers.

“You get treatment and you get better. Or you don’t. And neither outcome is an indication of your strength as a person,” he writes. “Yet I still believe in the will to live. I believe in positivity. I believe in optimism. I believe in hope, and I certainly believe in the power of prayer.”

Trebek also said that “Jeopardy!” invigorates him. Some days, he struggles to make it to the production meeting, or in between taping episodes he’ll be in a great deal of pain. But the minute he walks out onto the set, he feels like himself.

He’s thought about retiring

Trebek loves “Jeopardy!” but he’ll leave the show if he can’t successfully host anymore. Being 80 and going through cancer treatments, Trebek said the job can be physically and mentally demanding. It’s not as easy to read the clues and it’s harder to concentrate for long periods of time.

“You can have … slip-ups in casual conversation with friends. But you can’t get away with that as the host of ‘Jeopardy!’ Whenever it gets to that point, I’ll walk away,” he writes. “And ‘Jeopardy!’ will be just fine. It doesn’t matter who’s the host. … I think ‘Jeopardy!’ can go on forever.”

I’m not afraid of dying. One thing they’re not going to say at my funeral as part of the eulogy is, ‘He was taken from us too soon.’ … I’ve lived a good, full life. — Alex Trebek
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Trebek also said he’s come to terms with his illness and is grateful for the life he’s led.

“I’m not afraid of dying,” he writes. “One thing they’re not going to say at my funeral as part of the eulogy is, ‘He was taken from us too soon.’ … I’ve lived a good, full life.”


What was Alex Trebek's catchphrase? ›

"Take your job seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously." "It's very important in life to know when to shut up. You should not be afraid of silence."

What were Alex Trebek's final words? ›

And in its final moments it shows Trebek through signing off through the decades, repeatedly saying, "So long, everybody."

Who will host Jeopardy in 2022? ›

After an arduous search, Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik will officially share hosting duties on Jeopardy! for the upcoming 39th season of America's favorite quiz show, according to TVLine.

What did Pat Sajak say about Alex Trebek death? ›

Alex Trebek's courage, grace and strength inspired millions and awed those of us who knew him,” Sajak wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted. “A tremendous loss for his family, friends, co-workers and countless viewers. I was honored to be a friend and a part of his professional family for all these years.

How do you answer the phrase Jeopardy? ›

| Credit: Jeopardy Productions, Inc. The rules go on to explain that "all contestant responses to an answer must be phrased in the form of a question," but there aren't any grammar specificities. Adding, "Jeopardy doesn't require that the response is grammatically correct," continues the statement.

How do Jeopardy contestants answer? ›

The rules state, "...all contestant responses to an answer must be phrased in the form of a question." It's that simple. Jeopardy! doesn't require that the response is grammatically correct.

How far ahead are the Jeopardy shows taped? ›

Because the show does not air live—Jeopardy! records a week's worth of games on each of 46 tape days scattered throughout the year—most players have to wait about two months between when their game records and when it airs.

What's the longest Jeopardy streak? ›

For other people named Ken Jennings, see Ken Jennings (disambiguation).
  • Kenneth Wayne Jennings III (born May 23, 1974) is an American game show contestant turned host and author. ...
  • He holds the record for the longest winning streak on Jeopardy! with 74 consecutive wins.

Who is the Final Jeopardy host? ›

announces both Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik as its permanent hosts. The "Daily Double" hosting will continue. "Jeopardy!" announced Wednesday that Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik will remain as the beloved quiz show's permanent hosts, ahead of its 39th season, which begins taping in early August and returns in September ...

Who will host Jeopardy in 2023? ›

Meanwhile, Bialik will host “Celebrity Jeopardy!” on ABC in prime time, and take over for Jennings in January 2023. She will also host new tournaments, and the “Jeopardy! National College Championship,” at least so long as she is able to balance her time starring on the Fox sitcom “Call Me Kat.”

Will Ken Jennings be the permanent host of Jeopardy? ›

On Monday night, Ken Jennings—the winningest contestant in Jeopardy! history—will finally step behind the lectern of the Alex Trebek Stage as an official permanent host.

Is Mayim Bialik the permanent host of Jeopardy now? ›

It's official: Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings are the permanent hosts of Jeopardy.

Are Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek friends? ›

Pat Sajak will always respect and admire his late friend Alex Trebek. While appearing on a recent episode of PEOPLE (the TV Show!), the Wheel of Fortune star remembered the late Jeopardy!

What did Vanna White say about Alex Trebek? ›

host's professionalism and legacy. "I knew Alex for almost 40 years, and he's just been a good friend," White shared with ET's Kevin Frazier on Wednesday. "Through the years, I have gotten to know his wife and his kids and he is just part of the family."

Did Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak switch? ›

' Host Alex Trebek Once Swapped Jobs With Pat Sajak And It Confused Fans. We can't imagine what the last 40 years of television would have been like without Jeopardy!

Do Jeopardy contestants get a study guide? ›

Question: Do Jeopardy Contestants Get a Study Guide? Answer: No. Jeopardy only provides contestants with the Prep Center and practice tests on their website.

What happens if two Jeopardy contestants are negative? ›

In the standard tournament finals format, contestants who finish Double Jeopardy! with a $0 or negative score on either day do not play Final Jeopardy! that day. Their score for that leg is recorded as $0.

What happens if you don't answer a question on Jeopardy? ›

3. If a contestant gives a response to a non-Daily Double clue in the Jeopardy! round that is not in the form of a question, the host will give them a reminder.

Do Jeopardy winners keep money? ›

If you win, you keep all the money you've earned. Not only does the winner earn the title of Jeopardy! Champion for life, but they take home the total amount of money that they finished the episode with.

How do Jeopardy winners get paid? ›

In fact, since 2002, every person who has competed on the show has walked away with some compensation. The winner keeps their score and brings it to the next episode, the second-place contestant walks away with $2,000, and the third-place player gets $1,000.

What happens if you tie on Jeopardy? ›

In the case of a tie, the host gives the contestants a tie-breaking clue. The tied contestants have to race to answer the question. The first contestant to answer correctly wins the game and walks away with their winnings. No additional money is offered for getting the tiebreaker question right.

What's the lowest amount ever won on Jeopardy? ›

What's the lowest dollar amount that someone has ever won a game of Jeopardy! with? In 1993, Darryl Scott won with only $1. Cheng Lor and 1,511 others like this.

Why do Jeopardy contestants look to their left? ›

As the host finds and reads clues during a rapid-fire game, the podiums have a small visual clue to help them keep track of who picks the next clue. A little white light in the lower-left corner helps the host figure out who answered the last clue correctly.

How many games of Jeopardy are filmed in one day? ›

champion, shared the grueling behind-the-scenes filming schedule and his tips to get through the show successfully. In an exclusive interview with The Sun, the bartender and New York native said the Jeopardy! production crew films a full week, or five episodes, over the course of just one day.

What is Jeopardy James IQ? ›

“I think I really had to work hard to chase this dream for myself.” Asked via email what his IQ is, Holzhauer replied: “I think 158.

What is Jennings IQ? ›

Ken Jennings allegedly has an IQ of 175, which is very high, at the genius level of human intelligence.

What is the maximum amount of money you can win on Jeopardy? ›

The highest score a contestant can earn on the Jeopardy Game Show is $566,400. And answering a true daily double question correctly brings the earnings to $35,600. And answering two true daily double questions correctly quadruples the earnings to $283,200.

Why did Jeopardy change hosts? ›

It was viewed in part as an effort to placate fans who complained that the succession of guest hosts seemed like a publicity stunt and that the job was Richards' all along. But Richards was quickly gone from the show following a report of his past unguarded and offensive comments on a podcast.

How much does Mayim Bialik make per show? ›

She had the recurring role of neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler. In addition, she starred as the love interest for Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons. With her recurring role, she made roughly $45,000 per episode. Mayim earned $200,000 per episode for most of the midseason, around $4.5 million per season.

Why is Mayim not hosting Jeopardy? ›

I'll take two hosts for $1,000. Jeopardy has settled its hosting question by simply not choosing. Instead, both Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik will continue splitting the hosting duties in the ongoing quest to find a successor to the late Alex Trebek.

Who is Mayim Bialik's partner? ›

Why does Jeopardy have 2 hosts? ›

The rationale for two hosts, he explained, was the show's rapidly expanding brand, which includes a “Celebrity Jeopardy!” spinoff and a Second Chance tournament that invites standout contestants back to compete.

Is Matt Amodio back on Jeopardy? ›

“Jeopardy!” has announced that Amodio will return to the show for its “Tournament of Champions.”

Who will host Jeopardy season 39? ›

Jennings will host from September's Season 39 premiere through December, during which time Bialik will host a run of prime-time “Celebrity Jeopardy!” specials on ABC. Bialik, who will still star in the Fox sitcom “Call Me Kat,” is set to take over for Jennings in January.

When did Jeopardy start? ›

What is the age of Ken Jennings? ›

Where is Jeopardy filmed? ›

Jeopardy airs via syndication

The show is taped at Sony Pictures Studios' Stage 10 in Culver City, Los Angeles. Staege 10 was dedicated to former host Alex Trebek in 2021 after his death in 2020.

Does Jeopardy take a summer break? ›

Jeopardy! is taking its annual summer vacation during the month of August. Season 39 kicks off on September 12. Fans can look forward to Luigi de Guzman being invited back as the returning champion.

What nationality is Mayim Bialik? ›

Who is the richest game show host? ›

1. Merv Griffin. Though Merv Griffin is best known for hosting his long-running talk show as well as for creating game shows — most notably "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" – he did host a few in his day.

Who was the first host of Jeopardy? ›

Arthur Fleming Fazzin (May 1, 1924 – April 25, 1995) was an American actor and television host. He hosted the first version of the television game show Jeopardy!, which aired on NBC from 1964 until 1975 and again from 1978 to 1979. New York City, U.S.

How old is Sajak on Wheel of Fortune? ›

Who is Vanna White's husband? ›

How long has Alex Trebek hosted Jeopardy? ›

Alex Trebek began hosting Jeopardy! in 1984, the year that the syndicated version of America's Favorite Quiz Show® debuted. He became one of television's most enduring and iconic figures, engaging millions of viewers worldwide with his impeccable delivery of “answers and questions.”

Did Alex Trebek ever do Wheel of Fortune? ›

Pat Sajak hosted Jeopardy! and Trebek hosted Wheel of Fortune with Sajak's wife, Lesly, as Trebek's co-host.

How long has Pat Sajak been on Jeopardy? ›

Patrick Leonard "Pat" Sajak (b. October 26, 1946) is currently the host of Jeopardy's sister show Wheel of Fortune. He competed on Celebrity Jeopardy! for the show's 10th and 26th seasons.

What game shows did Alex Trebek host? ›

Alex Trebek (born George Alexander Trebek on July 22, 1940, in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada; died November 8, 2020 in Los Angeles, California) was the host of Jeopardy!, in syndication from 1984 until his death in 2020.

Did Alex Trebek say goodbye? ›

Always our inspiration,” a card read, as it has for every episode since Trebek's death. Trebek didn't film a goodbye message, but on this past Monday night's episode, he started off the show with an unexpected speech.

Who was on Alex Trebek's last show? ›

His death on Nov. 8 came just 10 days after he taped the episode that was broadcast yesterday. The last three contestants to meet and work with Trebek for the episode were returning champion Yoshie Hill and new players Cliff Chang and Jim Gilligan.

Who was Alex Trebek's wife? ›

Alex Trebek

Who are Alex Trebek's children? ›

Alex Trebek

What was the last episode of Jeopardy with Alex Trebek? ›

What was the last episode of Jeopardy that Alex Trebek hosted? ›

Alex Trebek's last episode of Jeopardy will air on January 8, bringing the beloved host's tenure on the iconic game show to an end after more than three decades. Trebek was filming in the Jeopardy studio through late October, not long before his death at age 80 on November 8.

Who was the first host of Jeopardy? ›

Arthur Fleming Fazzin (May 1, 1924 – April 25, 1995) was an American actor and television host. He hosted the first version of the television game show Jeopardy!, which aired on NBC from 1964 until 1975 and again from 1978 to 1979. New York City, U.S.

Will Johnny Gilbert retire? ›

Gilbert himself has no plans to retire, even though he's been working in the show business since he was a teenager. Last year, he was hesitant to continue voicing the show after the loss of his longtime colleague.

Where was Jeopardy filmed? ›

The show is taped at Sony Pictures Studios' Stage 10 in Culver City, Los Angeles.

Where is Alex Trebek's grave? ›

According to the Jeopardy! host's death certificate, which was obtained by The Blast, Trebek was cremated, and his wife of 30 years was able to take his ashes home. His final resting place is listed on the certificate as their Studio City, California, home.

Where is Alex Trebek estate sale? ›

' host Alex Trebek, which is open to the public for four days at the Studio City residence where he lived for nearly three decades. The sale, which opened Thursday, continues through the weekend at the scenic Fryman Canyon area property that Trebek bought in 1991 in Los Angeles' Studio City.

What was Alex Trebek's net worth? ›

Alex Trebek was a Canadian-born American game show host who had a net worth of $75 million at the time of his death. He was best known for his role as host of the syndicated game show "Jeopardy!". He hosted the show from 1984 until his death in November 2020.

Is host of Jeopardy married? ›

Personal life. Bialik married Michael Stone on August 31, 2003, in a Victorian-themed ceremony that included traditional Jewish wedding customs. They have two sons together.

What game shows did Alex Trebek host before Jeopardy? ›

After university, Trebek worked for the CBC, covering national news and special events for radio and television. He made his American television debut in 1973 as the host of NBC's game show “Wizard of Odds,” and after several other hosting roles, he became the host of Jeopardy!

Does Alex Trebek have an adopted daughter? ›

He was 80. According to the TODAY show, Alex Trebek adopted Nicky when he was married to his first wife, Elaine, whom he divorced in 1981. He went on to have two more children with his second wife, Jean Trebek.

What does Alex Trebeks daughter do? ›

Alex Trebek


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