WWhat was it about Alex Trebek? For over 35 years, a dry mind Peril! the host has shone in salons across America with a simple but precious purpose: to celebrate knowledge to know it. In doing so, he became something of a father figure – a fool with a dry sense of humor who for 30 minutes every week, really wanted us to remember our European history.
On Sunday Peril! announced that Trebek was dead after a long public battle with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old and had been open about his grueling health issues. Despite this, he filmed 35 new episodes in the week before his death. (The final episode is slated to air on Christmas.) It didn’t take long after Trebek’s death for the tributes to start pouring in, as Peril! players and fans alike remembered her indelible impression on the culture and the enigmatic personality that helped nurture it.
“He was on your side, you know?” former Peril! champion Buzzy Cohen told the Daily Beast. “He wasn’t trying to increase the pressure; he wasn’t trying to fool you. He wanted you to get it.
Trebek’s on-air personality was always somewhat paradoxical, as if a perpetually wrinkled brow had managed to manifest both sensitivity and a sense of humor. He wanted the show to be all about contestants, Cohen said, and had a demanding eye. (“If a clue was written in a funky way, it would insist writers improve it.”) Even though Trebek became a union legend, we got a sense of the idiosyncratic depths that lay beneath the perfectly ironed suits. .
Arthur Chu remembers a moment that reshaped his understanding of Trebek forever. “Alex Trebek once told us a story about how he wasn’t really a trivia guy himself in his youth and was, in fact, a hockey player,” Chu wrote to The Daily. Beast. “And that’s one of the problems of playing Peril! Hadn’t there been a chance to express your frustration when the game went wrong with a ‘good, hard, check-in in the tables’.
“I’ve never been able to watch the show the same way since,” Chu wrote.
Edited by Trebek Peril! blossomed into a ubiquitous union phenomenon – a cerebral counterpart to its more colorful and less thoughtful older brother, Wheel of Fortune, But with the felted gravitas of NPR.
Perhaps it was fitting that he was hosting a know-it-all-focused show, Trebek himself remained somewhat unknowable – at least to those of us who watched him onscreen. But the players who met him in person all touched on a common theme: Despite all this academic severity, Alex Trebek loved to have fun.
Those who have spent decades watching Peril! certainly witnessed Trebek’s humorous streak. Buzzy Cohen made it stand out when he debuted on the quiz show in 2016 – and tore fans apart with his shoulder-brushing and hair-brushing antics. One of the champion’s best and most controversial maneuvers: not betting anything on Final Jeopardy so he could emulate Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery from Saturday Night Live with sassy responses instead. (Example: “Who haven’t you got rid of me yet, Trebek?”)
After his first sarcastic response, Cohen remembers checking in with Trebek to make sure he knew it was just a joke. “He was like, ‘No, that’s great; I love it, ”Cohen said. “I think he loved participating in the joke.”
Trebek even found a way to expand the bit. In 2018, when Cohen walked into the studio audience with a friend, he brought the wrestling belt his wife made for Hannukah for him to show off to producers. But Trebek had an even better idea: to pan the show’s cameras to Cohen in the audience and sarcastically present him as the most “erased”. Peril! champion. “That,” Cohen insists, “that was it.
There was also the 2017 Tournament of Champions, where Cohen, Austin Rogers, and Alan Lin replaced the show’s usual, traditional smile and wave presentations with coordinated pantomime – and Trebek joined in without missing a beat. beat. “He just saw it on the monitor and immediately jumped on it and wanted to have fun with us,” Cohen said.
“Sometimes it’s a bit difficult for people to do both,” Cohen added. “You’ve got the pranksters who can’t just focus and play the game – or you’ve got people who, you know, treat it like the foreign service exam.”
Having said that, Trebek had no problem putting people in their shoes when he saw fit. Canadians may be the nicest in the American imagination, but Trebek has never shied away from gently dazzling contestants when they missed some type of question. For example: remember that time he mercilessly roasted a trio of nerds for being collectively unable to answer a single athletic question?
This perk, like Trebek’s humor, apparently became more pronounced after the cameras were turned off. Colby Burnett, PA professor of expressive history and winner of the 2013 Tournament of Champions, looks back fondly on the time Trebek stopped him completely in one sentence.
“I had answered a question about cheese,” Burnett wrote in an email. “Alex casually remarked, ‘There’s a Colby cheese!’ Having been ridiculed for this coincidence throughout my childhood, I threw away guns, pointing at him, sarcastically declaring, “Never heard that before, Alex!” A withered look from her ended that moment.
During commercial breaks, as Trebek and the production team chatted with the studio audience and answered questions, “Someone asked about candidate etiquette,” Burnett wrote. “He softly spoke three directives, the third glancing over his shoulder, looking at me directly: ‘And you are * not * to approach the host.’ ‘
“And that was it.”
Burnett compared Trebek’s behavior to Peril! to his as an educator. Like Cohen, he emphasized that Trebek’s main goal is for his competitors to succeed – “by encouraging them if they do well and / or chastising them lightly if they hesitate, while maintaining a constant sense of professionalism.”
Either way – his dignified, scholastic manner or his stature as America’s cheesy godfather (grandfather? Uncle?) – Trebek’s impact is as immeasurable as it is undeniable. And for the hopeful candidates, many of whom had grown up watching him, Trebek’s approval was his own honor. Just ask David Madden, who recorded his first episode in December 2004.
“He’s a different person who learns he has one, maybe two years left to live and keeps coming to work every day he can.“
Madden was 23 when he first competed, a fact he shared with Trebek when asked. After recording a series of five episodes in one day –Peril!typical production clip of –“Alex looked straight into the camera and said, “The kid is good!” Madden recalls in an email. “I have often thought that I would use this as my epitaph one day; it doesn’t get much better than being complimented by Alex on national television.
Among other things, the past two decades have brought with them increasingly toxic public discourse. And although courageous figures like Cohen and Rogers have been credited with ushering in some sort of Peril! A rebirth among millennials in recent years, this medium also feels crucial to understanding the show’s popularity in recent years – and Trebek’s broader legacy. In an age when even basic facts are the subject of political debate, there is something heartwarming about a brain show that, for three consecutive decades, has chosen substance over style – knowledge over style. flash.
It was Trebek who set that tone, and Trebek who carried it out for as long as he could. As Burnett said in his email, “He’s a different person who learns he has one, maybe two years left to live and keeps coming to work every day he can.”
Our culture often focuses on those who go through hardships like these to continue doing important work – an inclination that at times overlooks humanity and the worth of others whose physical limitations simply cannot meet the needs of others. such ambitions. But the most remarkable thing in Trebek’s public battle with cancer has never been his persistence; that was the frankness with which he approached it.
Talk with Hello america Last May, Trebek explained the emotional toll of his cancer battle: “I’ve had kidney stones, I’ve had ruptured discs, so I’m used to dealing with pain,” he says. “But what I’m not used to dealing with are these flare-ups that suddenly arise out of deep, deep sadness. And it brings tears to my eyes.
“Chemo affects people in different ways, and people need to understand that,” he added. “There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘Hey, I’m really depressed today and I don’t know why. Why am I crying today? … I come in and sit down, joke with the nurses and stand there for an hour and a half while they inject me with this stuff. Then I go home and have a good day. Then the next day for no reason that I can understand, it turns south on me. But it is okay.”
In a recent and moving column on how Peril! Helped him through his long-standing depression, Cohen captured the unique impact of seeing a figure like Trebek describe his depression so clearly. “His frankness and straightforward, straightforward manner opened a door for all of us,” Cohen wrote. “Trebek always seemed to have the answers, and his vulnerability about his mental health normalized these struggles for the rest of us.
This honesty was just one more example of Trebek’s grace – as a performer, a public figure, and a human being. He can be Peril!The series’ second host after the original show’s announcer, Art Fleming, but his reboot eclipsed his ancestor and became a phenomenon in its own right. He might have been unknowable to all of us, but he also knew how to make us feel as we knew it. Cohen put it better: “He went to Peril!, and Peril! stood up to him.