Longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek, adored by generations of trivia mavens who instinctively shout out questions to answers, died on Sunday following his battle with cancer.
The official “Jeopardy!” Twitter account confirmed the news. He was 80.
Trebek stunned fans of the high-minded game show last year, announcing he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Trebek said in a video posted to YouTube he would try to finish out this season of “Jeopardy!” despite being diagnosed with the terrible disease that inflicts 56,700 Americans each year.
Days after the announcement, Trebek addressed “Jeopardy!” fans again, telling them he was overwhelmed by the support he had received.
“Hi everyone, I just want to take a few moments to say thanks to the — believe it or not — hundreds of thousands of people who have sent in tweets, texts, emails, cards, and letters wishing me well following my recent health announcement,” Trebek said.
“Now obviously, I won’t be able to respond to all of you individually but I did want you to know that I do read everything I receive and I am thankful for the kind words, the prayers, and the advice you have offered, and I’m extremely touched by the warmth you have expressed in your comments to me.”
The iconic game show host added: “I’m a lucky guy.”
Trebek would give updates to fans about his treatment, offering his audience good news through periodic video updates posted to the “Jeopardy!” social media accounts. But in a New York Times interview in July ahead of his memoir’s release, Trebek was candid about the toll the disease took on him.
The game show host told the Times that if his course of treatment at the time didn’t work, he planned on stopping treatment altogether.
“Yesterday morning my wife came to me and said, ‘How are you feeling?’ And I said, ‘I feel like I want to die.’ It was that bad,” he told The New York Times. “There comes a time where you have to make a decision as to whether you want to continue with such a low quality of life, or whether you want to just ease yourself into the next level. It doesn’t bother me in the least.”
Just days earlier, he told fans that his treatment was going well and that he was hopeful they would soon be able to film new episodes of “Jeopardy!” in a studio again. Trebek said his “numbers are good” and that he was feeling great.
Trebek had been the face of “Jeopardy!” since 1984. In October 2018, Trebek renewed his contract with Sony Pictures Television to continue as host of the quiz show through 2022.
He’s best known for his calm demeanor on the show and gentle-yet-cutting manner in which he tells contestants they’ve answered incorrectly.
Trebek regularly tells players, “No, I’m sorry. We were looking for … ” or will pick out one small syllable of mispronunciation that will render a question incorrect, making the difference of plus or minus $200 to $2,000.
Trebek has won five daytime Emmy Awards and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2011.
Trebek’s erudite air also made him ripe for satiric mockery, most famously by “Saturday Night Live” actor Will Ferrell, whose take on the “Jeopardy!” host was a huge fan favorite throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Ferrell’s Trebek would usually become flustered by an over-the-top crude take of Sean Connery, played by Darrell Hammond, in an “SNL” version on “Celebrity Jeopardy!”
The host said he found those spoofs funny and to be a compliment.
“It doesn’t bother me. If they’re spoofing you, poking fun at you or mentioning you it’s because you’re part of American pop culture, and that’s a good thing, I think,” Trebek told The New York Post in October, 2017.
“People are very polite. Nobody comes up to me or tries to insult me or test me to see if I’m as smart as I appear on TV, although that did happen quite a bit in the first couple of years, and for some reason that ended. I guess I’ve become such a part of their daily lives (that) they just take it for granted that I’m fairly well-read, fairly smart, and there’s no need to test me on that.”
George Alexander Trebek was born on July 22, 1940, in Sudbury, Ontario, to chef George Edward Trebek and Lucille Lagacé.
Trebek graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in philosophy before setting off on a brief career in news.
He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, covering national news and special events for both radio and television arms of the national public broadcaster.
Trebek eventually became host of Canadian game shows such as “Reach for the Top” and “Strategy.”
Then in 1973, Trebek moved south of the border and became host of NBC game show, “The Wizard of Odds.”
Even though that show had a short run, Trebek kept on landing gigs, with CBS’s “Double Dare” in 1976-77 and NBC’s “High Rollers” from 1978-1980 and NBC’s “Battlestars” from 1981-1983.
His big break came in 1984 when legendary TV host and producer Merv Griffin brought back “Jeopardy!,” which he originally created in 1964 and ran on NBC until 1975.
Griffin brought a new “Jeopardy!” to air and tabbed Trebek as its host, with Sony Pictures Television doing the syndication. This second incarnation of “Jeopardy!” premiered on Sept. 10, 1984 and it’s run for more than 7,000 episodes.
In a 2003 interview on “Larry King Weekend,” Griffin said he picked Trebek on the advice of his friend, Lucille Ball, and mother.
“He (Trebek) was in from Canada and he’d done a number of game shows in Canada and he came in and he just — he did it,” Griffin explained. “In a way he’s charming. He’s professorial. He looks like he knows and he does.”
In 2016, TV Guide ranked “Jeopardy!” as the 45th greatest show in small-screen history, just behind “NYPD Blue” and one spot ahead of “Barney Miller.”
Trebek, who has a star on both the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Canadian Walk of Fame, was named in 2017 an officer of the Order of Canada, his native country’s second-highest civilian honor.
The Los Angeles resident Trebek is survived by his wife Jean and their two adult children, Emily, a real estate developer, and Matthew, the owner of OSO, a Mexican restaurant, and Lucille’s, a restaurant/bar, both in New York City.