‘Jeopardy!’: Alex Trebek On His ‘You’ve Disappointed Daddy’ Tone Of Voice

If you’re at all familiar with game show Jeopardy!, you know that, at times, show host Alex Trebek can at times have a parental, chastising way about him when contestants aren’t doing well in a category. Or even worse, when all three contestants have failed to score competently in a game.

Alex Trebek in 'Jeopardy!'
Alex Trebek in ‘Jeopardy!’ | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The television personality provided some insight about what he acknowledges can be a “disappointed father” tone he uses on the players.

Trebek on his, at times, reproachful tone of voice

Speaking to Vulture in 2018, Trebek spoke on what he knows can come across as a tone of voice that’s reproving, disappointed, and surprised at a lack of knowledge on the part of the players. In one example, Trebek took issue with contestants’ getting stumped by a football clue.

“The gaps in people’s knowledge never cease to amaze me. And on occasion, all three players have the same gap. But football? America’s game?”

Asked if he deliberately takes on a pedantic tone of voice, Trebek admitted that he, indeed, does it on purpose and relishes it.

“Yes, [the tone of voice] is conscious. Not that it’s preplanned — it’s a reaction — but I know that ‘You’ve disappointed daddy’ is a tone I’m striking. It’s also, ‘How can you not get this? This is not rocket science.’ ”

Alex Trebek handles contestant interviews like a boss

Easily either the most awkward or the most interesting part of Jeopardy!, the contestant interviews right after the show’s first commercial break are vastly entertaining. Players have been known to choke, unable to properly banter with Trebek, or they might also go into excruciating detail about a hobby or vacation. Either way, the Canadian-born Trebek handles the chats effortlessly.

One of the show’s past contestant coordinators, Robert James, told NPR in 2011 about the questions players are asked by staff after they land a spot on the show. Questions including “What is the one mistake that no one will let you forget?,” “What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?,” “What are some brushes with greatness and secret ambitions you’ve had?,” and “Why did you want to be on Jeopardy?”

James said at the time, “On the tape day, my biggest responsibility is getting them ready for their stories. . . People tell me that this is the scariest part — this chat thing! But the thing is, Alex is so good at his job, he will bail you out no matter what.”

Trebek is under contract with ‘Jeopardy!’ until 2022

Diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in 2019, the 79-year-old’s future with the show seemed bleak. Against the predictions of many in the industry, Trebek soldiered on through cancer treatments and just recently announced he had reached the one-year anniversary survival rate after his initial diagnosis.

Alex Trebek updates viewers on reaching his one-year pancreatic cancer milestone

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“The one year survival rate for stage four pancreatic cancer patients is 18 percent,” Trebek said in a Mar. 2020 statement. “I’m very happy to report that I have just reached that marker. I joked with friends that the cancer won’t kill me, the chemo treatments will.

He continued, saying that the temptation was great for him to simply give up in despair. But he saw that kind of thinking as a betrayal of sorts.

“It would’ve been a betrayal,” he said, “of other cancer patients who have looked to me as an inspiration and a cheerleader of sorts of the value of living and hope. And it would certainly have been a betrayal of my faith in God and the millions of prayers that had been said on my behalf.”