Maybe the worst part about missing a question on Jeopardy! was the way Alex Trebek delivered the correct answer, mildly scolding the contestant with a tone Trebek himself called “You've disappointed Daddy.” It was also, he admitted, one of “How can you not get this? This is not rocket science."
Trebek died Sunday at age 80. He had announced in March of 2019 that he had Stage IV pancreatic cancer.
The much-beloved quiz show host could come across as stuffy and professorial, but he also had a delightfully silly side. In 2005, he walked on stage to start a Tournament of Champions in a beguiling blazer and tie — and no pants.
"I was informed backstage a few minutes ago that our three contestants … wanted to relieve some of the tension, and they said, ‘We must do the program without trousers,'” he told the audience, and then asked for a shot of the contestants doing the same. Of course, the three male contenders — as surprised as everyone else — were properly clothed, and Trebek, poised and unruffled, exited to retrieve the remainder of his wardrobe.
Though his name was synonymous with Jeopardy!, given his more than 35 years on the job, he was actually the second host, taking over from Art Fleming when the show went into daily syndication in 1984. And from 1987 to 1991, he simultaneously hosted Jeopardy! and Classic Concentration. Previously, he had hosted The Wizard of Odds and another game show in his native Canada, where he grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, wanting to be a journalist. (He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998.)
Trebek was a natural from the beginning — winning the first of his six Emmy awards in 1989 — and garnering legions of fans. They took note of the comings and goings of his mustache (he shaved it off in 2001, and grew it back in 2014), and loved his stilted banter with contestants as they shared their autobiographical, and often awkward, backstories ("I dressed as broccoli").