‘Jeopardy!’: Alex Trebek Gave an Impromptu Speech About COVID-19 That Made the Crew Erupt With Applause

The end of an era. Alex Trebek’s last episode of Jeopardy! aired on Friday, Jan. 9. Before the episode aired, the show released its tribute video for the beloved host on social media. Captioned “Simply the best,” the video was a montage of some of Trebek’s funniest moments on the show over the last 36 years.

Trebek died on Nov. 8, 2020, of pancreatic cancer. The Emmy winning host had intended on recording his own farewell, but he died before he could. What ended up being one of his final inspiring messages aired on Monday, Jan. 4, and it was a message promoting unity during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Alex Trebek Jeopardy
Alex Trebek of ‘Jeopardy!’ | Amanda Edwards / Stringer

Alex Trebek’s last ‘Jeopardy!’ episodes aired from Jan. 4 to Jan. 8

Trebek’s last day of filming was Oct. 29. His final episode was originally set to air on Christmas Day, but that plan was changed. Former contestant Ken Jennings was named the interim host on Dec. 8, and with that announcement came confirmation that Trebek’s final shows would start airing Monday, Jan. 8.

The tributes for Trebek started rolling in on Jan. 8. The show’s previously released montage aired at the end of the episode, Trebek’s daughter, Nicky, posted in honor of her father on Instagram, and past contestants also shared kinds words about the TV star. But Trebek’s own goodbye was never made.

The late host told Michael Strahan in a January 2020 interview that he knew what he would say in his farewell.

“What I would do on that day is tell the director, ‘Time the show down to leave me 30 seconds at the end. That’s all I want,’” he said. “I will say my goodbyes and I will tell people, ‘Don’t ask me who’s going to replace me because I have no say whatsoever. But I’m sure that if you give them the same love and attention and respect that you have shown me … then they will be a success and the show will continue being a success. And until we meet again, God bless you and goodbye.’”

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Alex Trebek’s impromptu speech about ‘togetherness’ during the pandemic served as his ‘Jeopardy!’ farewell

According to The Wrap, Trebek’s death came so suddenly that the show didn’t have the chance to record the goodbye message he dreamed of. Instead, his unexpected comments about the coronavirus pandemic ended up being one of his final messages for viewers.

“You’ll recall that about a month ago, I asked all of you to take a moment to give thanks for all of the blessings that you enjoy in your lives,” he said in the Jan. 4 episode. “Now, today, a different kind of message. This is the season of giving. I know you want to be generous with your family, your friends, your loved ones.”

“But today, I’d like you to go one step further,” Trebek continued. “I’d like you to open up your hands and open up your hearts to those who are still suffering because of COVID-19. People who are suffering through no fault of their own. We’re trying to build a gentler, kinder society, and if we all pitch in—just a little bit—we’re gonna get there.”

Jeopardy! executive producer Mike told Today that the crew was incredibly moved by his words.

“In this very special, unbelievable final week, he comes out and gives a talk about the importance of togetherness and sticking together and that the world is struggling but that we have to get through it together,” Richards said. “We had chills. There are specific moments in Jeopardy! when you clap, and then there are moments when you are quiet. There’s not that many people in the studio because of COVID, and we all burst into applause. We were so moved that we had to applaud.”