‘Jeopardy!’ Champ Ken Jennings’ Moving Tribute to the Late Alex Trebek: ‘He Always Made It Look Easy’
Trebek died this week from pancreatic cancer that was diagnosed in an advanced stage in 2019.
The show’s Greatest Of All Time contestant, who got to know the host well ever since his impressive 2004 appearance on the show, has composed a touching, humorous, and emotional tribute to Alex Trebek.
Alex Trebek’s death this week
While Trebek had been dealing with pancreatic cancer since last year, he looked well and gave little indication to viewers of the struggle he had been facing of late. His family announced his death on Sunday Nov. 8.
The show’s executive producer, Mike Richards, stated this week, “This is an enormous loss for the Jeopardy! staff, crew and all of Alex’s millions of fans. He was a legend of the industry that we were all lucky to watch night after night for 37 years.
“Working beside him for the past year and a half as he heroically continued to host Jeopardy! was an incredible honor. His belief in the importance of the show and his willingness to push himself to perform at the highest level was the most inspiring demonstration of courage I have ever seen. His constant desire to learn, his kindness, and his professionalism will be with all of us forever.”
Jennings is the show’s winningest contestant, thanks to snagging the Greatest of All Time tournament televised in January this year. His 74-game run on the program in 2004 brought the show much-needed viewership and publicity. In the end, the Washington-state born Jennings won over $2 million.
Speaking with ABC News that year, Jennings said, “When the streak finally ended, there was sort of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I was relieved to finally know how the story came out, and on the other hand, I was a little bit sad ’cause it’s fun to play Jeopardy!”
And, in February this year, he told Interview that it had “just been the most delightful part of the whole thing that it was always legitimately my favorite show. Just to win once was good enough, you know? I felt like, ‘Now I’m good. No matter what else happens, I died a Jeopardy! champion.’”
Jennings’ tribute to Alex Trebek
This week, the father of two contributed a column for online magazine Time, reflecting on Alex Trebek, the man he met while a contestant and with whom he eventually became good friends.
Jennings was recently hired by the program in a Consulting Producer capacity. He also was tapped by Trebek to narrate portions of the audiobook version of his 2020 memoir, The Answer Is…
As the former contestant expressed, Trebek “always made it look easy. And despite that daunting job description, he was never introduced, as Art Fleming had been in the 1960s, as “the star of Jeopardy!” At Alex’s own insistence, he was always just “the host of Jeopardy!” The star of the show, he always maintained, was the game itself.”
The Canadian-born host, Jennings wrote, got to hear all the praise and affection too many only hear after their deaths. And he was genuinely moved by fans’ expressions of kindness and concern.
“Hundreds of thousands of people sent messages of love and support. He was surprised, and touched,” Jennings said. “‘Most people don’t get to hear all that nice stuff during their lifetime,’ [Trebek] told me. “‘Their families hear it after they go.’ He meant so much to people, and he had no idea. Towards the end, he finally got the chance to see it firsthand.”