2020 has taken another icon from us. Beloved Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, whose witty demeanor made the game show a must-see since 1984, has succumbed to his ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80.
A spokesperson for the game show told TMZ, who first reported his death, “Jeopardy is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends.”
Trebek had been battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer since announcing the news back in March 2019. He immediately started chemo after the diagnosis, but made no plans to retire and continued hosting his game show.
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He was born George Alex Trebek on July 22, 1940, in Sudbury, Canada.
Trebek’s broadcasting career began when he attended Ottawa College. During his senior year, he received an offer to join as a permanent member of the staff at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. To pay for college, Trebek attended classes in the daytime and worked at CBC from 6 p.m. to midnight, covering news, weather, and sports at the CBC radio station.
After graduating with a philosophy degree in 1961, he started working for CBC’s TV station.
“I don’t know if you’d call me a natural,” Trebek said during a 2007 interview with Barrie Nedler for the Television Academy. “I enjoyed it, I wasn’t too intimidated by it, and I wanted to have fun, and I did.”
Trebek then began hosting several Canadian game shows throughout the ’60s and ’70s, like Vacation Time, Music Hop, and Reach for the Top.
Trebek was also the host of a daily afternoon show, which consisted of performances, interviews, and monologues, similar to the format of late-night TV.
In 1973, he would finally make his American TV debut as the host of The Wizard of Odds, an NBC game show that lasted until 1974. As short as that stint was, it would lead to work on a variety of game shows … including High Rollers and even Wheel of Fortune, replacing Chuck Woolery briefly.
When the Jeopardy! gig — a revival of the old show — came up in 1984, the man who became known for his curly hair and ‘stache got the call.
Trebek’s wit and warmth, helped Jeopardy! grow in the ratings over the decades, as well as becoming a part of pop culture. The show has been parodied on everything from The Simpsons to SNL.
After Trebek’s initial diagnosis, there were several ups and downs for him. In May 2019, he announced his tumors had shrunk more than 50 percent, but he was forced to begin another round of chemotherapy a few months later.
Still, he maintained positive and very candid.
In October, he vowed to keep hosting the show “as long as my skills do not diminish” but also admitted that he was “nearing the end of that life.” In November, he filmed a global public service announcement for World Pancreatic Day, saying, “I wish I had known sooner that the persistent stomach pain that I experienced prior to my diagnosis was a symptom of pancreatic cancer.”
In July 2020, just before his 80th birthday, Trebek said he was undergoing experimental treatments but would not continue seeking treatment if the current round failed. He also published a memoir, The Answer Is …: Reflections on My Life, and donated proceeds to charity.
The show’s executive producer, Mike Richards, told TMZ, “Working beside him for the past year and a half as he heroically continued to host “Jeopardy!” was an incredible honor. His belief in the importance of the show and his willingness to push himself to perform at the highest level was the most inspiring demonstration of courage I have ever seen.”
Jeopardy! says Trebek, who was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2017 for his iconic achievements, hosted episodes will air through December 25th. His last day taping in studio was October 29.
Trebek is survived by his wife Jean Currivan and two children Matthew and Emily.