Trebek at the 71st Annual Peabody Awards Luncheon in 2012
George Alexander Trebek
July 22, 1940
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
|Alma mater||University of Ottawa|
|Occupation||Television personality, game show host, actor|
|Awards||Order of Canada|
George Alexander TrebekOC (; born July 22, 1940) is a Canadian-American television personality. He has been the host of the syndicated game show Jeopardy! since it was revived in 1984, and has also hosted a number of other game shows, including The Wizard of Odds, Double Dare, High Rollers, Battlestars, Classic Concentration, and To Tell the Truth. Trebek is contracted to host Jeopardy! until 2022. Trebek has also made appearances in numerous television series, in which he usually played himself. A native of Canada, he became a naturalized American citizen in 1998.
Trebek was born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, on July 22, 1940, the son of George Edward Trebek, a chef who had emigrated from Ukraine as a child, and Lucille Lagacé (born April 14, 1921), a Franco-Ontarian. He grew up in a bilingual French-English household. Trebek's first job was when he was 13; he was a bellhop at the hotel where his father worked as a chef.
Trebek attended Sudbury High School, now Sudbury Secondary School and then attended the University of Ottawa. Trebek graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in philosophy in 1961. While a university student, he was a member of the English Debating Society. At the time, he was interested in a career in broadcast news, and before completing his degree, Trebek began his career in 1961 working for the CBC. According to Trebek, "I went to school in the mornings and worked at nights; I did everything, at one time replacing every announcer in every possible job". He would eventually read the national news and cover a wide range of special events for the CBC's radio and television divisions, including curling and horse racing.
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Trebek's first hosting job was on a Canadian music program called Music Hop in 1963. In 1966 he hosted a high school quiz show called Reach for the Top. From 1967 to 1970 he was a host for the CBC, introducing classical music programs including performances by Glenn Gould. For one or two seasons he hosted a weekly skating program. Starting in spring 1969, Trebek also hosted Strategy which aired on week days.
In 1973, he moved to the United States and worked for NBC as host of a new game show, The Wizard of Odds. A year later Trebek hosted the popular Merrill Heatter-Bob Quigley game show, High Rollers, which had two incarnations on NBC (1974-76 and 1978-80), and an accompanying syndicated season (1975-76). In between stints as host of High Rollers, Trebek hosted the short-lived CBS game show Double Dare (not to be confused with the 1986 Nickelodeon game show of the same name). Double Dare turned out to be his only game show with the CBS network (he returned to CBS in 1994 to host Pillsbury Bake-Off until 1998), and the first show he hosted for what was then Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions, as well as the second season of the syndicated series The $128,000 Question, which was recorded in Toronto.
Since the second incarnation of High Rollers premiered while The $128,000 Question was still airing and taping episodes, Trebek became one of two hosts to emcee shows in both the United States and Canada, joining Jim Perry, who was hosting Definition and Headline Hunters in Canada and Card Sharks, which, coincidentally, premiered the same day as High Rollers in 1978 in the United States. Trebek's francophone side was put on display in 1978, in a special bilingual edition of Reach for the Top and its Radio-Canada equivalent, Génies en herbe. In this show Trebek alternated smoothly between French and English throughout.
Like other hosts of the day, Trebek made several guest appearances as a panelist or player on other shows. One of his guest appearances was on a special week of NBC's Card Sharks, in 1980. He and several other game show hosts (Allen Ludden, Bill Cullen, Wink Martindale, Jack Clark, Gene Rayburn, and Jim Lange) competed in a week-long round robin tournament for charity. Trebek won the tournament, defeating Cullen in the finals. Trebek also appeared as a celebrity teammate on the NBC game show The Magnificent Marble Machine in 1975, and the Tom Kennedy-hosted NBC word game To Say the Least in 1978. Both of those shows were produced by Merrill Heatter-Bob Quigley Productions, which also produced High Rollers, the show Trebek was hosting during both of those guest appearances. Trebek also was a contestant on Celebrity Bowling in 1976, teamed with Jim McKrell. The duo won their match against Dick Gautier and Scatman Crothers.
After High Rollers was cancelled in 1980, Trebek moved on to Battlestars for NBC. The series debuted in October 1981, and was cancelled in April 1982 after only six months on the air. In September 1981 Trebek took the helm of the syndicated Pitfall, which taped in Vancouver and forced him to commute, as he had done while hosting High Rollers and The $128,000 Question in 1978. Pitfall was cancelled after its production company, Catalena Productions, went bankrupt. As a result, he was never paid for that series. After both series ended, Trebek hosted a revival of Battlestars called The New Battlestars that ended after thirteen weeks, then shot a series of pilots for other series for producers Merrill Heatter, for whom he had worked hosting High Rollers and Battlestars, and Merv Griffin. The Heatter pilots were Malcolm, an NBC-ordered pilot featuring Trebek with an animated character as his co-host, and Lucky Numbers, an attempt at a revival of High Rollers that failed to sell. For Griffin, he shot two pilots for a revival of Jeopardy! when original host Art Fleming (a friend of Trebek's) declined to return to the role due to creative differences. This revival sold; Trebek began hosting the revival in 1984 and has hosted ever since.
In 1987, while still hosting Jeopardy!, Trebek returned to daytime television as host of NBC's Classic Concentration his second show for Mark Goodson. He hosted both shows simultaneously until September 20, 1991, when Classic Concentration aired its final first-run episode (NBC would air repeats until 1993). In 1991 Trebek made broadcast history by becoming the first person to host three American game shows at the same time, earning this distinction on February 4, 1991, when he took over for Lynn Swann as host of NBC's To Tell the Truth, also for Goodson-Todman, which he hosted until the end of the series' run on May 31, 1991.
In 1994, Trebek returned to the CBS network for the first time since hosting Double Dare to host the Pillsbury Bake-Off, which he hosted until 1998.
Trebek was a guest star in season 3 of The X-Files, playing one of two "Men in Black" (human agents charged with the supervision of extraterrestrial lifeforms on Earth, hiding their existence from other humans) opposite Jesse Ventura, in the episode Jose Chung's From Outer Space, which first aired on April 12, 1996.
Trebek and Pat Sajak, host of Wheel of Fortune, traded places on April Fools' Day 1997. Pat Sajak hosted Jeopardy! and Alex Trebek hosted Wheel of Fortune with Sajak's wife, Lesly, as Trebek's co-host. Sajak and Wheel of Fortune co-host Vanna White played contestants at the wheel, with winnings going toward charities.
Trebek appeared on Celebrity Poker Showdown in 2005. He came in second place in his qualifying game, losing to Cheryl Hines. On May 9, 2008, Trebek was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. On the program, he discussed his 24-year career as the host of Jeopardy!. Revisiting Kimmel in 2011, he talked about the IBM Challenge on Jeopardy!.
Trebek also appears in many commercials for Colonial Penn Life Insurance, of which he is a "compensated endorser", and he reprised his role as host of To Tell the Truth in a 2010 advertisement for DirecTV.
On the December 18, 2014 series-finale episode of The Colbert Report, Trebek (introduced as "the one with all the answers") greets Colbert as he boards a sleigh driven by Santa Claus and Abraham Lincoln and leaves the studio for the last time.
On June 24, 2018, Trebek returned as a panelist on the ABC revival of To Tell the Truth.
On October 1, 2018, Trebek moderated the only debate in the Pennsylvania governor's race. According to news outlets, he wanted to change the flow of the debate to be more conversational instead of the more traditional format. He dominated the debate and talked for 41% of it, often talking about himself without giving candidates time to discuss important political issues. He also made surprising and unprovoked remarks regarding the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. Trebek later apologized for his performance, stating that he was "naive" and "misunderstood" the role of a moderator. "I offer my sincere apologies to the people of Pennsylvania, a state I dearly love," he said.
Trebek married businesswoman Elaine Callei in 1974. The couple had no children and divorced in 1981. In 1990, he married Jean Currivan, a real estate project manager from New York. They have two children, Matthew and Emily.
Trebek became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1998.
In late 2001 during Jeopardy!s 18th season, Trebek shaved the mustache that he had worn for over 30 years. He wore a fake mustache for the first half of the April 1, 2008, episode as an April Fools' joke. In summer 2014, Trebek regrew the mustache for the 31st season of Jeopardy!, only to shave it off again a month into the season. Trebek grew out a full beard at the beginning of the 2018 season, shaving it down to a goatee for the second episode, and a mustache by the second week.
On January 30, 2004, Trebek escaped major injury after falling asleep behind the wheel of his pick-up truck while driving alone on a rural road in the Central Coast town of Templeton, California, returning from a family home in Lake Nacimiento. The truck sideswiped a string of mailboxes, flew 45 feet over an embankment, and came to rest against a utility pole in a ditch. Trebek was not cited for the accident and returned to work taping Jeopardy! the following Tuesday, just four days after the accident.
Trebek owned and managed a 700-acre (280 ha) ranch near Paso Robles in Creston, California, known as Creston Farms, where he bred and trained thoroughbred race horses. Trebek's colt, Reba's Gold, is the stakes-winning son of Slew o' Gold. Trebek sold the operation in 2008 and the property is now an event center called Windfall Farms.
On December 11, 2007, Trebek suffered a minor heart attack in his home, but returned to work as scheduled in January. He injured an Achilles tendon, requiring six weeks in a cast, while chasing a burglar who had entered his San Francisco hotel room on July 27, 2011. He suffered a mild heart attack on June 23, 2012, but returned to work in July.
On December 15, 2017, over the winter break of Jeopardy! taping, Trebek was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after reportedly experiencing complications from a fall in October of that year. The incident resulted in a subdural hematoma. Trebek underwent surgery to remove blood clots from his brain the following day. On January 4, 2018, the verified Twitter account of Jeopardy! announced that Trebek had been suffering from the fall. Trebek required a short medical leave and returned to regular hosting duty in mid-January 2018.
In 2018, while being interviewed by Harvey Levin on Fox News, Trebek floated the idea of retirement, saying the odds of him leaving Jeopardy! in 2020 were 50/50 "and a little less". He added that he might continue if he is "not making too many mistakes" but would make an "intelligent decision" as to when he should give up the emcee role. In October that year, he signed a new contract to continue as host through 2022, stating in January 2019 that although he was beginning to slow down due to his age, the show's work schedule, consisting of 46 taping sessions each year, was still manageable.
On March 6, 2019, Trebek announced that he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. In a prepared video announcement of the diagnosis, Trebek noted that his prognosis was poor but that he would aggressively fight the cancer in hopes of beating the odds and would continue hosting Jeopardy! for as long as he was able, joking that his contract obligated him to do so for three more years. Trebek updated the situation in May 2019, stating that he was responding exceptionally well to treatment and that some of the tumors had shrunk to half their previously observed size; he credited the prayers and well-wishes of his fans for the better-than-usual results. He will undergo several more rounds of chemotherapy in hopes of pushing the cancer into full remission. Trebek hoped to beat the odds as only 3% of patients with stage 4 pancreatic cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Trebek finished chemotherapy treatments in time to resume taping of the show in August 2019. The following month, Trebek gave an update in which he said his belief that he was done with chemotherapy was premature and "overoptimistic", noting that his numbers "went south, dramatically and quickly" after immunotherapy, and expects to undergo more chemotherapy treatments.
Trebek hosts the annual The Great Canadian Geography Challenge in Canada and previously hosted the National Geographic Bee in the United States. He hosted the National Geographic Bee until 2013. Active with World Vision Canada, a charitable organization, he has travelled to many developing countries with World Vision projects, taping reports on the group's efforts on behalf of children around the world.
Trebek and the entire Jeopardy! crew became involved with the United Service Organizations in 1995 and have appeared on several military bases throughout the world, both in an attempt to find contestants and as a morale booster for the troops.
In 2016, Trebek donated $5 million to the University of Ottawa to fund the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue, the objective of which is "to expose students to a wide range of diverse views, through speeches, public panels, events and lectures by University of Ottawa researchers, senior government officials and guests speakers from around the world." Trebek's gifts to the university, which at the time totaled $7.5 million, also fund a Distinguished Speaker Series, which has included a presentation by Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee, introduced by Trebek. In 2017, Trebek funded the Alex Trebek Leadership Award at the University of Ottawa, an annual $10,000 award to a summa cum laude graduate who has also demonstrated community leadership.
In addition to awards for Jeopardy!, Trebek has received a great deal of recognition. In March 2006, it was announced that he would receive a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto. He is the second game show host to be inducted (the first being Monty Hall of Let's Make a Deal and the third being Howie Mandel of Deal or No Deal). His star is located on King Street West near those of the Crazy Canucks and Eugene Levy.
Trebek has been awarded six Outstanding Game Show Host Emmy Awards (1989, 1990, 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2019), and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (located at 6501 Hollywood Boulevard, near those for Ann-Margret and Vincent Price).
On November 4, 2010, Trebek received the Royal Canadian Geographical Society's Gold Medal for his contribution to geographic education and the popular study of geography. Previous recipients of this award include the author and anthropologist Wade Davis (2009), Peter Gzowski (1997), and Mary May Simon (1998).
As of June 13, 2014, Trebek has held a Guinness World Record for "the most gameshow episodes hosted by the same presenter (same program)" for having hosted 6,829 episodes of Jeopardy!, overtaking previous record holder Bob Barker. On May 4, 2015, Trebek's alma mater, the University of Ottawa, named its alumni hall in his honour, as a benefactor to the university.
On June 30, 2017, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada by then Governor General David Johnston for "his iconic achievements in television and for his promotion of learning, notably as a champion for geographical literacy."
Trebeck turns 72 on July 22.
Now, jump ahead about 20 years... my father is still a chef, and he's getting feelings of nostalgia for the Old Country. He would like to go back and visit Ukraine.
I'm sure there were as many heartwarming stories as there were wacky adventures associated with the carrying of the torch. I carried it in Florida.
I got you beat. When I fell asleep at the wheel, my pickup flew 45 feet.
I'm an independent. I'm not ultraconservative. I'm not ultraliberal either. I told Sean Hannity once: "I'm a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. I want to help people, but I'm not necessarily eager to pay for it."
| Host of High Rollers
Wink Martindale in 1987
| Host of To Tell the Truth
John O'Hurley in 2000
| Host of Concentration
Art Fleming 1964-1975, 1978-79
| Host of Jeopardy!