Alex Trebek to me, was first and foremost a beacon of curiosity. After every game of Jeopardy! I watched, I found myself growing increasingly more interested in the world around me. Everyone has a Jeopardy! story, so I’ll spare you mine, but I will say that without a host like Alex Trebek, we all wouldn’t have that beautiful shared experience— each of us sitting in our living room, entranced by the blue glow of the game board, shouting answers in the form of questions at him, and rarely, if ever, being correct.
But what went on behind the game, and what in the world made Alex Trebek the entrancing host that he was? That’s what I began to wonder this weekend, after it was announced that he passed away Sunday morning. Thankfully, for her new book, Answers in the Form of Questions: A Definitive History and Insider’s Guide to Jeopardy!, Claire McNear spent countless hours immersing herself in the world of Jeopardy!,” a world she calls, “the pinnacle of the trivia world.” We talked about Trebek and the future of the game.
Answers in the Form of Questions
“I was fortunate enough to get to meet Trebek and interview him in his dressing room in 2019,” she said. “That day they were filming the panel of the greatest of all time, and even though Brad Rutter, Ken Jennings, and James Holzhauer were all there, Trebek was just the center of gravity.”
When I asked her about what she thought made him the great host he was, she laughed. “I think he showed it through how much enjoyment he got out of Jeopardy! but also, how much he prepared for it. Even though it takes just 22 minutes to film an episode, people don’t realize that he’s back there marking off boards and keeping track and pacing the game, not just reading cards. He’d show up to the studio at 6AM and have a dictionary, making diacritical annotations because it was so important to him that he honor the game and pronounce the words exactly right.
Inevitably, the future of Jeopardy! came up. What will that look like? She said, “Trebek was always the first to say that Jeopardy! would go on long after him.”
And while that to most of us, doesn’t seem possible, McNear believes it will. “But I mean, how can you not be compared to him?”
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