Alex Trebek has been a mustachioed icon for years, the host of the popular and long-running series Jeopardy!. He’s been witty but dry and even elusive to the contestants who have appeared on the series over the years, presumably so as not to get too chummy with those who win one or even the elusive 5+ episodes the show allows these days.
Ken Jennings has won the most episodes of Jeopardy! at 74 consecutive wins, the most since the series got rid of the 5-game cap. Due to only interacting with the man while filming TV, he’s not an Alex Trebek expert, but he’s the closest thing we’ve got to one, and following the news from Trebek himself that he is facing pancreatic cancer, Jennings penned a thoughtful tribute about the “elusive” host, giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the star of the show. He said:
But when the cameras stop rolling, Alex is a looser, even goofy presence. He takes studio audience questions at every break, sometimes slipping into funny accents or even bits of soft-shoe. He still has the slight testiness, the dry imitation hauteur you can see when he spars with contestants in the interviews, but he’s gracious and candid and self-deprecating. The audience eats it up.
In a piece penned over at the New York Times, Ken Jennings reflected on the Alex Trebek the world sees on TV and the Alex Trebek he got to see in glimpses during his time on the show (and his subsequent All-Stars returns.)
But two generations of youngsters have now grown up on his clipped syllables. College students and retirees alike plan their evenings around his reassuring presence. He takes it seriously, being the face of “Jeopardy!,” the voice of facts in a post-fact world. I’ve seen him with the beaming tourists who sit in his studio audiences and the awe-struck, bookish kids for whom he was the host of the National Geographic Bee for 25 years. He knows how much he means to people, and I hope it gives him comfort that so many people are pulling for him now.
Ken Jennings has reflected on a man who has become synonymous with Jeopardy! over the years, who has made a very full career of pronouncing people and places correctly. The rumor for years had been that Alex Trebek, now in his late seventies, might be close to retiring. That rumor started going around when Alex Trebek was approaching the 30-year mark on Jeopardy, and rumbles have continued to occur as Trebek dealt with health scares.
However, just a few months ago the longtime Jeopardy! host renewed his contract with the series though 2022, which meant we all felt like we would get to see plenty more from Alex Trebek, whatever facial hair he chooses, in the time to come. The TV mainstay has vowed to fight his Stage IV pancreatic cancer and to continue to remain on the show through the end of this contract.
The facts are stark. Only a small percent of Stage IV pancreatic cancer patients live for five years after being diagnosed. But Alex Trebek seems ready and willing to fight and he has a whole slew of supporters backing him. He'll continue working as he fights the good fight against cancer and hopefully updating the audience on his progress.
Ken Jennings may not truly "know" Alex Trebek, nor does the audience watching at home, but there are millions of people certainly, thoughtfully and emotionally rooting for the man during this health battle.