24 Intriguing Facts About Alex Trebek

Kyle Climans

Answer: The iconic TV personality who’s hosted Jeopardy for over three decades.

Who is Alex Trebek?

If there has ever been a more consistent and long-lasting game show host in our time than Alex Trebek, we have no idea who they are. For decades now, Trebek has been a genial presence on television, challenging us to know the answers to various topics of trivia. Who among us has never watched at least one episode of Jeopardy? But, it would be foolish to assume that Jeopardy is all that there is to Trebek’s long legacy. We were all saddened to hear about his recent diagnosis, and so what better time is there to show him our appreciation? Read on to learn more about the face of TV trivia.

1. Origins

George Alexander Trebek was born in Sudbury, Ontario on July 22, 1940. That’s right, the game show legend is a Canuck.

2. Point for Endurance

In 2014, Trebek broke Bob Barker’s record for hosting more episodes of the same gameshow program than anyone else in history. Trebek took the top spot after hosting 6,829 episodes of Jeopardy, and given that he’s been hosting the show since then (as of 2019), that’s going to be a hard record for anyone to beat!

3. Truly Canadian

Trebek spent his youth raised in a completely bilingual household. His father was a Ukrainian immigrant who worked as a chef in Ontario while his mother was a French-Canadian from Ontario, so he learned to speak French alongside English.

4. Flying South

Although he was born in Canada, Trebek moved to the US in 1973 and has lived there ever since. He got his American citizenship in 1998.

5. Good Old U of O

Trebek studied at the University of Ottawa, where he graduated in 1961 with a degree in Philosophy. In 2015, the university honored Trebek, by then a celebrated television host and benefactor to his alma mater, by naming its alumni hall after him.

6. Call it a Paid Internship!

Trebek was first hired to host Jeopardy after he temporarily called to step in for Wheel of Fortune host Chuck Woolery, who had come down sick. Merv Griffin and Bob Murphy, the men behind Jeopardy, were convinced of Trebek’s worth when they saw his stint on Woolery’s show, so they virtually hired him on the spot. He started on Jeopardy in 1984 and has hosted ever since.

7. The Simpler Days

The first job that Trebek had as a television host came in 1963 when he appeared on the Canadian music program known as Music Hop. In a format taken from American Bandstand, Trebek would welcome musicians onto the show before they would perform songs for dancing teenagers. Trebek would only host the first season of the show before he was replaced by a disc jockey named Dave Mickie.

8. A Cheap Amazing Race, Then?

Trebek also hosted a short-lived Canadian game show called Strategy, which aired in 1969. Couples would make their way through a maze, hoping to reach the center, while answering questions along the way. They could also foil other couples by setting booby traps or blocking their routes. Honestly, we’re surprised that this only lasted one season!

9. Inauspicious Start

Trebek’s first hosting job for an American show came in 1973 when he moved south. The show was titled The Wizard of Odds and it was produced by fellow Canadian Alan Thicke. It involved asking contestants questions about statistics. The show ran for a year on NBC until it was dropped after one season. With Trebek and Thicke at the helm, the only question is: how did it possibly fail?

10. How do You Pronounce “Aboot” in French?

Trebek’s bilingualism paid off in 1978 when he hosted a bilingual edition of the Canadian high school quiz show Reach for the Top. Just to keep it completely fair, Trebek also hosted the French-Canadian equivalent, Génies en herbe. This show was sort of a predecessor for Jeopardy, where students were required to buzz in and answer obscure trivia questions.

11. No Thanks

As a youth, Trebek actually considered becoming a priest. However, after he spent a summer staying in a Trappist monastery, he changed his mind about that kind of career.

12. My Side Job

For years, Trebek owned a ranch in Creston, California. Spanning 700 acres, Trebek used the ranch to raise thoroughbred racehorses. He kept this ranch until he sold it in 2008.

13. Hey, That’s Me!

As you can imagine, Trebek has made a whole second career out of playing himself (sometimes satirically) on a variety of shows for children and adults. Among his credits are Arthur, Magic School Bus, Cheers, The Golden Girls, The Simpsons, Beverly Hills 90210, and Orange is the New Black.

14. Family Man

Trebek has been married twice in his life, as of 2019. He was married to Elaine Callei from 1974 until 1981, while he has been married to Jean Currivan since 1990. Currivan and Trebek have two children together.

Alex Trebek FactsGetty Images

15. Pass on the Flame

During the lead-up to the 1996 Olympics, Trebek was involved in the running of the Olympic torch to Atlanta. He carried the torch when it reached Jacksonville, Florida.

16. Access-Friendly Show

In 1999, Jeopardy welcomed its first blind contestant, Eddie Timanus. Adjustments were made to the show to put Timanus on an even playing field with his fellow contestants. Timanus won five games in a row, becoming a champion of the show. For his own efforts in accommodating Timanus, Trebek was praised by the American Foundation for the Blind in 2001.

Alex Trebek FactsJeopardy!, Columbia TriStar Television

17. Charitable Man

Trebek has been known for his philanthropy, particularly where the environment is concerned. In 1998, Trebek donated 74 acres of open land to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. In case you’re curious, the land was located in the Hollywood Hills and was valued at more than $2 million at the time.

18. My Bad!

In the 2018 debate for the Pennsylvania governorship, Trebek acted as a moderator. However, things took a turn when Trebek eschewed the traditional format of a governmental debate, and instead tried to organize it into a conversational, casual sort of meeting, during which Trebek ended up speaking nearly half the time. After being heavily criticized for his hijacking of the debate, Trebek offered an apology “to the people of Pennsylvania, a state I dearly love.”

19. Four of a Kind

Trebek is one of only four people to host shows in both Canada and the United States. The other three people who hold this honor are Geoff Edwards, Jim Perry, and Howie Mandel.

20. We All Start Somewhere

During Trebek’s post-secondary education, he found work with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (better known as the CBC). According to the man himself, Trebek would work evening shifts, filling in for regular announcers until he got his own position reading national news. Trebek would cover many different topics as a CBC news reader, particularly sports-related.

Alex Trebek FactsShutterstock

21. From One Host to Another

Fans of The Colbert Report will remember that Trebek played a role during that show’s finale. While Colbert left the studio in a sleigh, he greeted Trebek on the way out.

22. Can’t Knock Me Down

On March 6, 2019, Trebek announced that he was suffering from stage IV pancreatic cancer. Trebek has made it clear that he intends to fight this cancer as best he can, while continuing to host Jeopardy! for as long as he’s able.

23. He Said What?!

One rare example of controversy in Trebek’s career came on May 19, 2016. At the time, Jeopardy was doing a week-long special series titled “Power Play.” The contestants were made up of politicians, journalists and the like. One particular episode, featuring CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, Republican politician Michael Steele, and war correspondent Lara Logan. The episode was declared by some to be the “worst episode” in the history of the show, partly because of the incredible lack of knowledge displayed by these people, but also because of an incident during Trebek’s small talk with the contestants. When it came time to speak with Lara Logan, he bluntly brought up an incident in 2011 when she was violently sexually assaulted while reporting in Egypt. Trebek was criticized on social media following the episode’s airing, accusing him of tactlessness.

24. Stop, Thief!

During the early hours of July 27, 2011, a female burglar broke into Trebek’s San Francisco hotel room. Trebek gave chase when the burglar fled, but ended up breaking his leg in the process. In case you’re curious, they did catch the burglar soon after the incident. So at least there’s that!

Sources1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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