Former 'Jeopardy!' champ Buzzy Cohen shares fondest memory with Alex Trebek

·4 min read

To multi-time "Jeopardy!" champ Buzzy Cohen, Alex Trebek was so much more than an incredible host and became a "Mr. Rogers-type character for everyone."

"I think Alex's genius was he made the contestants the center of the show. It wasn't about the show or the game or anything, and you felt like when you were on the stage or when you were watching that he was really rooting for the contestants, and everyone at home was sort of playing along and being a contestant themselves, and so you knew that Alex in some way was rooting for you," Cohen told "Good Morning America" the day after Trebek passed away. "And I think that's part of why everyone felt so connected to him."

Trebek died at 80 in his home early Sunday in Los Angeles surrounded by family and friends after a nearly two-year long battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He hosted the popular quiz show for 37 years, and won over generations of fans through his quick wit and warmth.

"Even when he'd tease you about a wrong answer, it was the way a teacher would be like, 'Come on, you should have known that, right?' So I think in a way he kind of became this Mr. Rogers-type character for everyone at home -- who we knew wanted us to succeed," Cohen explained.

The 2017 Tournament of Champions winner and captain of the 35th-anniversary All-Stars also recalled a side of Trebek that "we didn't see as much of on the show" -- his "great sense of humor."

"When you got to be in the studio with him, he was just so funny and so warm and we're all -- everyone who got to meet him -- is really better for it," Cohen said.

PHOTO: Host of 'Jeopardy!' Alex Trebek attends a press conference, Jan. 13, 2011,, in Yorktown Heights, New York. (Ben Hider/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Host of 'Jeopardy!' Alex Trebek attends a press conference, Jan. 13, 2011,, in Yorktown Heights, New York. (Ben Hider/Getty Images, FILE)

In a time when TV and culture slowly but surely assigned value to style over substance, Cohen said Trebek "really championed knowing the right answer [and] not being able to B.S. your way through it."

"He used to say on set, 'Are you the kind of person who shouts out the answers from home or are you a liar?' Because we all do it," Cohen said with a laugh.

Trebek's fans adored and respected his tenor, expertise and integrity, which Cohen said was something the legendary host understood and worked hard to maintain.

"He knew how important he was to the fans, he really respected the trust that he had earned by being the guy with the answer," Cohen said. "I think coming forward himself, saying in his own voice that he was facing something, that had kind of a tough outlook, a really tough outlook, and told us as much but told us he was going to fight and he sure did."

Trebek continued to tape future episodes of the show while fighting his cancer battle and regularly shared updates about how he was doing.

"I'm just really thankful that he continued to live with so much integrity," Cohen added.

His fondest memory of Trebek was a sweet moment that his daughter shared with him at a party after taping had wrapped on the 35th-anniversary show.

"At that time she wasn't really watching TV, but of course we watched ['Jeopardy!'] every night, so Alex trebek was the biggest star in the world and he was on her TV every night," Cohen said. "She ran up to him and gave him the biggest hug, and he was so excited and just wrapped her in his arms."

He added that Trebek "wrapped her in his arms like she was his granddaughter and later in the evening, he was kind of trying to sneak out the side, and she saw him from across the whole party and just ran after him and was like, 'I'm going to get one more hug.'"

"Just knowing that she got to have that connection with him and that's something that we can all share in -- hopefully his memory will continue to be a blessing for all of us," Cohen concluded.

Former 'Jeopardy!' champ Buzzy Cohen shares fondest memory with Alex Trebek originally appeared on

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