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Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek has enjoyed incredible success on the game show since he began hosting the quiz show in 1984.

Alex Trebek of 'Jeopardy!'
Alex Trebek of ‘Jeopardy!’ | E. Charbonneau/ WireImage for Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

The 79-year-old finally explained what he believes is the secret to Jeopardy!‘s success.

A philosopher takes a crack at figuring out the appeal of ‘Jeopardy!’

Shaun Young, a professor at the University of Toronto who wrote a book titled Jeopardy! and Philosophy: What is Knowledge in the Form of a Question?, spoke with Inside Hook about what makes the legendary game show work and why millions of viewers keep returning to it night after night.

“I think one of the primary ones is that it allows people to engage in a competition of intellect, from the comfort of their own home, their own living room, sitting on the couch,” Young said. “They can compete with the people who are actually competing on the show . . . And I think there’s probably an element in many of us, if not all of us, about testing our own level of knowledge and intellect.”

‘Jeopardy!’ didn’t take off right away in the ratings

Johnny Gilbert, the “voice of Jeopardy!” who announces Alex Trebek’s entrance at the beginning of each broadcast, says on the game show’s website that the show at first saw modest ratings but soon enough, it took off. The 95-year-old Gilbert has been the show’s announcer since 1984.

“We all knew it was a good show,” Gilbert said, “but whether people would buy it or not, we didn’t know. The audience just kept building and building and building…until it was being renewed for one year, and for two years, and three years at a time. It just grew.”

There’s clearly something about watching the show and getting one answer right and then another and another. It’s an addictive fusion of fun and facts.

Alex Trebek on why ‘Jeopardy!’ is more than a hit; it’s a habit

Speaking with Hollywood Outbreak in Mar. 2020, Trebek described the reason for the show’s juggernaut status in his own way. The Canadian native, after all, has been at the helm of the program since 1984, and can authoritatively shed light on what has made it a cultural icon.


‘Jeopardy!’ Aired Ken Jennings’ First Winning Game From 2004 and The First Answer Made Jaws Drop

“Americans are competitive,” Trebek said. “They want to see how bright they are compared to the bright contestants they see on our program. They test themselves at home, they play along, they use ballpoint pens as signaling devices.”

“Even though they don’t come up with the majority of the correct responses in any half hour, if they come up with five or six, it makes them feel good. And there’s nothing better than watching television and feeling good.”