Alex Trebek took his role as Jeopardy! host seriously, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t have laughs.
Brad Rutter, one of the show’s biggest winners, recalled the late host’s infamous prank during the show’s 2005 “Ultimate Tournament of Champions.” He reminisced as Trebek’s final Jeopardy! show airs on Friday — two months after the iconic game show host died from pancreatic cancer.
“We were so nervous, we were just all pale as a ghost,” Rutter, now a star of ABC’s game show The Chase, said in an interview with Philadelphia radio station 98.1 WOGL.
To “cut the tension,” Rutter and his opponents Ken Jennings and Jerome Vered were feeling, one of them quipped that they should participate in the competition without pants on.
It was just a silly joke that they moved on from, not realizing “that our mics were live and Alex heard us,” Rutter said.
So when show announcer Johnny Gilbert did his famous introduction for Trebek, calling him to set, the host had a laugh with the competitors and “came out with no pants on,” Rutter recalled.
The always dapper Trebek otherwise had on a suit, which made for a funny visual. After the laughs, the host returned backstage to finish dressing before continuing.
Rutter talked about how contestants on the show, which Trebek hosted for nearly 37 years, are “not allowed to talk about much,” as it is a competition. However, “I was lucky enough to be on the show so often,” winning almost $5 million and a spot in Jeopardy!’s Hall of Fame, “that I got to know Alex a little.”
He said having that personal connection to Trebek, he got to see his sense of humor “even more so in person than you would see on the show.”
Initially, the show planned to continue airing Trebek’s episodes, with the final one airing on Dec. 25. However, they changed the plan, instead airing some specials — “Alex’s Favorite Episodes Around the World” — and his final episode airs Friday.
No successor has been announced, but some guest hosts are lined up. Jennings, who holds the record for most wins on the show, will step in — despite some bad press lately. His episodes are scheduled to air starting Jan. 11.
It was announced this week that Katie Couric will also guest host for a week.
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