“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek has died at the age of 80.
The Emmy-winning television host was battling pancreatic cancer after being diagnosed at Stage 4 in March 2019.
The show confirmed the longtime host’s death in a tweet on Sunday that said he “passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends.”
Trebek was born George Alex Trebek on July 22, 1940, in Sudbury, Canada. As a teenager, he went to boarding school in Ottawa, Canada for three years.
Trebek’s broadcast career began when he attended Ottawa College. During his senior year, he got an offer to be a permanent member of the staff at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. To afford his education, Trebek attended classes in the daytime and worked at CBC from 6 p.m. to midnight, covering news, weather, and sports at the CBC radio station.
After graduating with a philosophy degree in 1961, he started working for CBC’s TV station.
“I don’t know if you’d call me a natural,” Trebek said during a 2007 interview with Barrie Nedler for the Television Academy. “I enjoyed it, I wasn’t too intimidated by it, and I wanted to have fun, and I did.”
He hosted several Canadian game shows throughout the ’60s and ’70s, like “Vacation Time,” “Music Hop,” and “Reach for the Top.”
As a staff announcer in Toronto, Trebek was also the host of a daily afternoon show, which consisted of performances, interviews, and monologues, similar to the format of late-night TV. In 1973, Trebek made his American TV debut as the host of “The Wizard of Odds,” an NBC game show that lasted until 1974.
Upon the series’ cancellation, Trebek went back to Canada to host another game show called “High Rollers.” He went on to host several other shows, like “Double Dare” and “Battlestars.”
“I love acquiring knowledge, even useless knowledge,” Trebek said to Nedler of hosting trivia-based game shows. “People say, ‘What good is a philosophy degree in broadcasting?’ I don’t know what good it is. Hopefully, it has taught me some valuable lessons about my place in the universe.”
He added: “But aside from that, do I use it on a daily basis as the host of ‘Jeopardy!,’ as the host of ‘Concentration,’ or ‘Wizard of Odds,’ or some of the other shows — ‘High Rollers’ — that I’ve done over the years? No. I don’t know if it has or not and I really don’t care, doesn’t matter to me. It has helped me to become the person that I am, and I don’t quantify the influence it has had on my life.”
His part on the show earned Trebek Daytime Emmy Awards for outstanding game show host in 1989, 1990, 2003, 2006, and 2008. In addition, Trebek was honored with the lifetime achievement award at the 2011 Daytime Emmys.
“We are a show that comes into your home every day that doesn’t disturb you,” Trebek said in 2007. “It’s the kind of program you can watch with every member of your family. There’s something for kids, there’s something for the grandparents in terms of clues, everyone can play. You can spend a half hour together without feeling you have to flee the room to watch your own show.”
In 1990, Trebek married Jean Currivan and welcomed two children with her, a daughter named Emily and a son named Matthew. Prior to that, he was married to Elaine Callei from 1974 to 1981.
“Fatherhood? I love it,” Trebek told Esquire in 2003. “It introduced an element of fear into my life. When you’re a bachelor, you don’t give a s–t. You can do anything. But when you become a father, you get scared about everything.”
Trebek’s accolades continued in the 2000s
In addition to a star in Hollywood, Trebek was given one in his home country of Canada as part of their Walk of Fame. In 2012, “Jeopardy!” was presented with the prestigious Peabody Award.
In 2014, Trebek was awarded the Guinness World Record for the most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter, surpassing Bob Barker’s previous record for “Price Is Right.”
The success of “Jeopardy!” also resulted in the show being parodied, most notably on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” In a segment known as “Celebrity Jeopardy!,” actor Will Ferrell portrayed Trebek.
“I love them,” Trebek said of the parodies. “It means you’ve arrived. If you do a takeoff of somebody, it’s a sign that you believe your audience will immediately recognize who you’re poking fun at. And if that’s the case, that means there must be a lot of people who have watched your show over the years or are watching now, so they know immediately what the reference is.”
Trebek also guest-starred on various TV shows, including “How I Met Your Mother,” “Cheers,” “Orange Is the New Black,” and “The Golden Girls.”
In December 2007, he suffered a minor heart attack at his Los Angeles, California home. Trebek experienced another one five years later.
Speaking to People in 2012, the host said that there was a blockage in one of his arteries.
“My body cleared the blockage itself,” he said. “My heart seems to heal, so that speaks well for my future.”
Trebek also ruptured his Achilles tendon in 2011 after “chasing a burglar down the hall” at the hotel he was staying at. In 2015, he revealed that he got a full knee replacement and therefore had to perform his “Jeopardy!” hosting duties while seated during the show.
In October 2017, Trebek fell and was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, a condition that results in blood clots or a pool of blood forming between a person’s skull and their brain. Following his diagnosis, he underwent brain surgery, took a hiatus from “Jeopardy!” while recovering, then returned to host the show.
“Just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer,” he said in a video. “Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working.”
Trebek also said that he planned “to beat the low survival rate statistics” because he renewed his “Jeopardy!” contract in October 2018 and signed on to continue hosting through 2022.
“Under the terms of my contract, I have to host ‘Jeopardy!’ for three more years,” he said. “So help me. Keep the faith, and we’ll win. We’ll get it done.”
Trebek reflected on his cancer diagnosis in March 2020 in a video, a year after he first revealed it.
“There were some good days, but a lot of not so good days,” he said. “I joke with friends that the cancer won’t kill me, the chemo will.”
Trebek also said that he had low moments that “made me wonder if it was really worth fighting on.”
“But I brushed that aside quickly because that would have been a massive betrayal — a betrayal of my wife and soulmate Jean, who has given her all to help me survive,” he added. “It would have been a betrayal of other cancer patients who have looked to me as an inspiration and a cheerleader of sorts of the value of living and hope.”
Trebek continued: “And it certainly would have been a betrayal of my faith in God and the millions of prayers that have been said on my behalf.”
In April 2020, Trebek revealed that he was working on a memoir titled “The Answer Is …,” inspired by his career and personal journey.
“You are there to make these players relaxed enough that they can demonstrate their skills,” he said. “They’re the stars of the show. They’re the ones that the viewers are interested in seeing. You’re going to be there five days a week, every week. They can get tired of you if you come on too strong, so lay back, put the emphasis on the players, and if you do that properly, the viewers will look on you as a good guy.”
Alex Trebek is survived by wife Jean Currivan Trebek, daughter Emily Trebek, and son Matthew Trebek.