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Cohen, 36, knows a thing or two about competing and the nervousness that comes with it: He won nearly $165,000 in 2016, won the 2017 tournament, and returned as a team captain for an all-star event in 2019.
But that's nothing compared to the awe he felt meeting legendary host Alex Trebek, who died in November at 80 and coined the nickname "Mr. Personality" for Cohen because of his on-set antics.
"I have one really special memory from onstage and one really special memory offstage," Cohen recalls in a recent interview. "The special memory onstage was during our Tournament of Champions in 2017. Me and the other two finalists had kind of decided on our own to coordinate a little thing during the intro," where each did the robot dance.
"We didn't tell anybody. We were just having fun. So we did the robot, and he came out walking like a robot," as the contestants mimicked "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."
"He said, 'I'm dealing with three monkeys, you know.' And he was," Cohen says.
"He loved having fun, and every opportunity he had to do a funny voice or ham it up a little bit, he took. But he was also so respectful of the show and the contestants. And for me, what that moment really was (giving) him such license to show this other side of himself, and to have fun during our tournament."
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The offstage moment came after the all-star tournament in 2019, which aired just days before Trebek revealed his pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
"We had this big party. It was really special, and my young daughter, who at the time was 5, got to come. And for her, Alex Trebek was the biggest star in the world, because we don't watch a lot of TV in our house. But we watch 'Jeopardy!' So this was the person she knew from television and she saw him. She ran up to him and he just wrapped her in this big bear hug and was just so sweet with her and then they had this really special moment where they were just connecting," Cohen recalls.
"It was amazing to see, and he was just so happy and so into it with her. And then he's kind of trying to sneak out of the party a little bit later, and she saw him and just ran to him." She "had to get one more hug in, and as a fan, as someone who grew up in awe of him as well, to see my daughter have this connection with him was just so amazing."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Jeopardy!': How Buzzy Cohen's daughter got extra hug from Alex Trebek