George Alexander Trebek, television host, human rights spokesperson, journalist (born 22 July 1940 in Sudbury, ON). Alex Trebek is a pop culture icon, best known as the long-time host of the TV game show Jeopardy! He began his broadcasting career at the CBC, where he hosted the music variety program Music Hop (1963–64) and the popular teen quiz show Reach for the Top (1966–73). He has won five Daytime Emmy Awards from 27 nominations for Outstanding Game Show Host, and holds the Guinness World Record for the most game shows hosted by the same presenter. He has received a Peabody Award, and several lifetime achievement and hall of fame honours, including stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.

Early Years

The son of a French Canadian mother and a Ukrainian immigrant father who worked as a hotel chef, Trebek attended Jesuit schools until the age of 12, when he went to boarding school at the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Ottawa. Fluent in both English and French, he studied philosophy at the University of Ottawa, working part-time at CBC Radio to help pay his tuition.

CBC Career

Upon graduating with a BA in 1961, he accepted a full-time position as a staff announcer at the CBC in Ottawa, providing news, weather and sports reports on the regional radio and television broadcasts. He then transferred to Toronto and worked as a national staff announcer. Noted for his poise, composure and improvisational skills, he began hosting a wide range of programs and special events, including Music Hop (1963–64), the country’s first live teen music show, and Reach for the Top (1966–73), a highly popular quiz show that tested bright high school students on their knowledge of geography, history and politics.

Jeopardy!

In 1973, Trebek was lured to the US by fellow Canadian Alan Thicke to host the NBC game show The Wizard of Odds (1973–74). It was short-lived but led to Trebek’s work on such game shows as CBS’s Double Dare (1976–77) and The $128,000 Question (1977–78), and NBC’s The New High Rollers (1979–80).

In 1984, Trebek became the host of Jeopardy!, a trivia game show that had been syndicated throughout North America since 1964. The show's unique format — contestants are presented general trivia in the form of clues framed as answers, and must phrase their responses as questions — delighted mainstream audiences and was watched by 15 to 20 million people five nights a week during its peak popularity.

Trebek was also the producer of Jeopardy! from 1984 to 1987, and is credited with devising separate tournaments for different age and skill levels (teens, college students, celebrities, etc.). Concurrent to Jeopardy!, he hosted three seasons of the NBC game show Classic Concentration (1988–91), and in 1991 he became the first person to host three American game shows at the same time when he hosted the second half of the last season of NBC’s To Tell the Truth.

He is co-author of The Jeopardy! Book: The Answers, the Questions, the Facts and the Stories of the Greatest Game Show in History (1990). In June 2014, Trebek set a Guinness World Record title for hosting 6,829 episodes of Jeopardy! — the most game shows hosted by the same presenter, surpassing the previous record holder, Bob Barker of The Price is Right (1972–2013).

Pop Culture Profile

Possessing a sly sense of humour and a sometimes prickly temperament, the charismatic and intellectual Trebek has proven fond of self-parody. He has appeared as himself in more than 70 films and TV series, including NBC’s Cheers (1990), The Golden Girls (1992) and Seinfeld (1996); FOX TV’s Beverly Hills, 90210 (1995), The X Files (1996) and The Simpsons (1997, 2012); CBS’s How I Met Your Mother (2010, 2013) and Hot in Cleveland (2014); and the feature films White Men Can't Jump (1992), Short Cuts (1993), Charlie’s Angels (2000) and The Bucket List (2007).

His persona has also been parodied by Eugene Levy on CBC’s SCTV, and by Will Ferrell on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

Charity Work

Trebek has travelled the world and appeared in numerous television specials as a spokesperson for the relief and development organization World Vision. He adopted a village in Zambia, where he has built a school, homes for teachers and a medical facility. He has served on the boards of the National Geographic Society Education Foundation and the National Advisory Council for the Literary Volunteers of America. He has also supported the USO and Smile Train, an organization that helps children with cleft palettes.

Personal Life

Trebek became a naturalized US citizen in 1998. He caused a minor uproar among his fans when he shaved his trademark moustache in 2001, and made headlines in 2004 when he fell asleep at the wheel while driving near a thoroughbred ranch he owned and managed in Creston, California. His truck wiped out a row of mailboxes, sailed over an embankment and landed in a ditch. He escaped without injury, and was not charged or ticketed for the incident.

In July 2011, while in San Francisco to host the National Geographic World Championship, he snapped an Achilles tendon while chasing a woman who stole money from his hotel room. He suffered heart attacks in 2007 and 2012, returning to Jeopardy! each time after taking about a month off to recover.

Honours

Trebek carried the Olympic torch in Jacksonville, Florida, prior to the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1998, he received the Bob Hope Entertainment Award for his work in more than a dozen tours with the USO. He has also received medals from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (see Canadian Geographic) and the US National Geographic Society for his contribution to the study of geography as host of national geography competitions in Canada and the US.

In 2011, he was honoured at the Daytime Emmy Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his long career in television. In 2013, he was ranked No. 8 in a Reader’s Digest poll of the 100 most trusted people in America.

Awards

Outstanding Game Show Host, Daytime Emmy Awards (1989)

Outstanding Game Show Host, Daytime Emmy Awards (1990)

Bob Hope Entertainment Award, USO (1998)

Inductee, Hollywood Walk of Fame (1999)

Inductee, California Broadcaster’s Association Hall of Fame (1999)

Outstanding Game Show Host, Daytime Emmy Awards (2003)

Outstanding Game Show Host, Daytime Emmy Awards (2006)

Inductee, Canada’s Walk of Fame (2006)

Outstanding Game Show Host, Daytime Emmy Awards (2008)

Gold Medal, Royal Canadian Geographical Society (2010)

Lifetime Achievement Award, Daytime Emmy Awards (2011)

Peabody Award, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia (2012)

Alexander Graham Bell Medal, National Geographic Society (2013)

Giant of Broadcasting, Library of American Broadcasting (2013)

Inductee, Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame (2013)

Writings

Alex Trebek and Peter Barsocchini, The Jeopardy! Book: The Answers, the Questions, the Facts and the Stories of the Greatest Game Show in History (Harper Perennial, 1990).