Alex Trebek Explains What Jeopardy Contestants Drive Him Nuts

jeopardy alex trebek

Once someone has been doing a particular for nearly 35 years, they tend to pick up on details that others might not necessarily pay attention to, and those details aren't always embraced. Specifically here, we're talking about Jeopardy! host and TV legend Alex Trebek, who has led thousands upon thousands of contestants through television's most popular quiz show. He obviously knows what he likes and doesn't like, and he recently revealed he's a bit bothered by the board behavior from champions like Austin Rogers and Arthur Chu.

With regard to the players you mentioned, they all have great, outgoing personalities, and I loved that. What bothers me is when contestants jump all over the board even after the Daily Doubles have been dealt with. Why are they doing that? They're doing themselves a disservice. When the show's writers construct categories they do it so that there's a flow in terms of difficulty, and if you jump to the bottom of the category you may get a clue that would be easier to understand if you'd begun at the top of the category and saw how the clues worked. I like there to be order on the show, but as the impartial host I accept disorder.

Alex Trebek has seemingly seen all the eccentric things that players showcase on the Jeopardy! stage, from hammering the buzzer button with fervor to refusing to use verbal shorthand when choosing categories with long-winded names. (Do they not realize this show is timed?) But it sounds like one of the most irksome things someone can do in Trebek's presence is flagrantly ignore the strategic way the clues are crafted for each category.

I may not have a lot of things in common with Alex Trebek -- yes, even beyond not having an endless array of fanciful ties -- but we are in full agreement on that point there. Even in games where a clue that's chosen out of order will directly exhibit the category's follow-the-leader element, some contestants will continue to hop about willy nilly. It's one thing to try and track down the Daily Doubles, but when those are gone, what's with the leaping Larry behavior?

Granted, the esteemed host may actually have tons of perfectly penned notebooks filled with virulent jeremiads laying out his contestant quibbles in full. But he brought up the board-hopping issue during an interview with Vulture after being asked about the "natural order" of Jeopardy! in the face of non-intuitive choices from contestants like Austin Rogers and Buzzy Cohen. Trebek must have been mentally stunted by Arthur Chu, who'd seemingly implanted a "Shuffle" option in his brain.

Some contestants clearly think there's a big advantage to this move, and Alex brought up the first person to shake things up in that way, the fan-favorite Chuck Forrest. Back in 1985, Forrest was setting records for Jeopardy! wins using the soon-to-be-named "Forrest Bounce." He ended up winning the Tournament of Champions (though Trebek claimed he wasn't a champion that year), and competed in later special tournaments such as the Million Dollar Masters and the Battle of the Decades, to name a few.

So while those choices may get on Alex Trebek's nerves, they can clearly help pad someone's wallet. Of the other aforementioned players: Austin Rogers was Season 34's biggest winner, coming in third in the Season 34 Tournament of Champions; Arthur Chu was the second runner-up during his Tournament and is the sixth highest-earning Jeopardy! champion in non-tournament play; and Buzzy Cohen won last year's Tournament.

For what it's worth, Alex also takes slight issue with people who don't bring more awareness when making wagers for Daily Doubles.

I have been disappointed when contestants made conservative wagers because they don't realize the obvious. And that is, if a clue is in the second box from the top, it's going to be easier than a clue at the bottom of the category. So if you've landed on what should be an easier Daily Double clue, why not take a chance? But I try not to influence contestants' wagers.

Understandably, most of the contestants who like to bounce around the board are also very smart wagerers for Daily Doubles, and those big payoffs led to many of the various champions' wins. So there's a lesson to be learned here. Basically, it's "Don't aggravate Alex Trebek," because that's just rude.

Jeopardy! airs in syndication every weekday, so check your local listings to see when and where it's playing in your neck of the woods. In the meantime, our fall TV premiere schedule and our midseason premiere schedule will help everyone choose what to watch during the holidays and beyond.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.