Being a contestant on Jeopardy! means interacting with longtime host, Alex Trebek. An icon of the classic game show, the 79-year-old is a pop culture fixture known for serving up clues and categories to eager contestants. It’s no wonder players get starstruck meeting Trebek after watching him on the show for years.
For Jeopardy! champion Arthur Chu, one particular moment “humanized” the TV personality. Keep reading to find out what happened during Chu’s time on the game show that made Trebek more relatable.
Alex Trebek is in his 36th year of hosting ‘Jeopardy!’
Born in Canada, Trebek is a game show legend. Every Jeopardy! episode, audiences welcome Trebek into their homes, often as they’ve done for decades. Trebek’s time as the host of Jeopardy! began in 1984 and he’s still going strong. Although he’s not the first person to host the show, he’s forever connected with it thanks to his years of hosting.
Arthur Chu says seeing Alex Trebek backstage ‘humanized’ him
After his controversial stint on Jeopardy! ended in 2014, Chu spoke with The A.V. Club. During the interview, Chu recalled a moment when Trebek became more relatable. It started with shattering the illusion of Trebek “walking out from behind the game board.”
“I always thought there was a hallway back there that led to his dressing room or something. But there isn’t. It’s just a wall back there, so he is just standing there waiting for his cue to walk in,” Chu said.
He continued, saying from his vantage point he could see Trebek doing something he’d done as an actor; wait for the signal to head to the stage.
“From where I was standing I could watch him peering around the corner waiting for a stagehand to give him the cue,” Chu said. “It looked exactly like every time I’ve been on stage in a theater production watching the cast members getting ready to take their entrance.”
That behind-the-scenes moment made Trebek relatable.
“That image has stayed with me a long time. That humanized him for me,” Chu said.
A simple moment with a big impact. After years of watching the show, contestants learn even though Trebek is a star he’s still a real person with a job to do.
He doesn’t know whether or not Alex Trebek likes him or hates him
Asked to describe Trebek, Chu explained contestants didn’t “get that much time to hang out” with him. He went on to say he had no idea whether or not the game show host liked or disliked him.
“Honestly, Alex could have loathed me. He could have hated my guts and there’s no way I would have been able to tell,” Chu said.
He continued, saying Trebek’s all about presenting his game show-ready self.
“He is the most cordial, self-possessed person, and the façade of being Alex Trebek, genial game show host, doesn’t ever break,” Chu said.
Although he does relax a little when there’s a break between taping episodes but it’s always a “routine.”
“He does let his hair down a little bit when the cameras aren’t rolling,” he said. Telling what Chu describes as “verging-on-off-color bawdy stories to the audience,” Trebek “endears people to him.”
After years of manning the quiz board, Trebek has his pre-show routine down and when the cameras are on him, he knows exactly what to do. However, as Chu learned during the behind-the-scenes moment he witnessed, Trebek might be a legendary game show host but he’s still doing the same things everyone else does when they take the stage.