‘Jeopardy!’: Inside Alex Trebek’s Pre-Show Routine

This. Is. Jeopardy!

When those words are uttered at the start of the classic game show, viewers watching at home know it’s time for Alex Trebek to dish out trivia to eager contestants. But what happens before cameras start rolling? How does the longtime host prepare for the program?

Keep reading to find out what Trebek does to get ready for taping Jeopardy! and what types of questions he typically needs clarification on from the show’s writing staff.

He’s been hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ since 1984

Alex Trebek at the 'Jeopardy!' Season 28 premiere in 2011
Alex Trebek at the Jeopardy! Season 28 premiere in 2011 | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

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Hosting Jeopardy! for decades, Trebek’s had plenty of time to get used to the ebb and flow of taping the game show. His days as the host of Jeopardy! began in 1984. And he’s not the first to head up the program.

When he signed on to Jeopardy!, Trebek took over from former host Art Fleming who manned the quiz board in earlier versions. By the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Trebek and Jeopardy! had become a pop culture fixture complete with a Saturday Night Live spoof.

Alex Trebek starts his days ‘very early’ when taping ‘Jeopardy!’

The award-winning host has a set schedule when it comes to taping Jeopardy! episodes. In a 2019 interview with Vulture, Jeopardy! head writer Michelle Loud opened up about Trebek’s pre-show routine. Like other TV personalities, Trebek’s day starts early. 

“He comes in on the mornings of tape days very early, at around six, and reads the paper and answers mail and does things like that,” Loud said. 

According to the official Jeopardy! website, Trebek gets up at 5:15 am to be at the studio by 6 am on days when the show’s being taped. So for Trebek, that means 46 days a year he’s up and out the door on his way to Culver City, Calif., in the early hours of the morning. 

When he arrives at the studio, Trebek gets ready for his day. First, he catches up on the news and does a crossword puzzle. Then he signs autographs any anything fans sent him in the mail. Not long after he’s familiarizing himself with the games that are going to be taped that day. 

‘He does his homework’, head writer says

In the same interview, Loud explained Trebek takes it upon himself to learn about the clues and categories of the games that are going to be filmed. The games are delivered to him by head writer, Billy Wisse. 

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“He reads them over, and if there are things he doesn’t know how to pronounce, he looks it up himself,” she said. “If he can’t find it, he asks us to help him.”

What about the stuff he doesn’t know so much about? He asks.

“If there are things he’s not as familiar with — current pop culture, typically — he may ask us about it,” Loud said with a laugh. “But he knows a lot. He’s very sharp, he does his homework, and he’s self-sustaining.”

Alex Trebek has clues rewritten if they are ‘a little awkward’

Sometimes when Trebek wants a clue worded differently, he hands it back to the writing staff who reworks it for him before taping. But, according to Loud, that doesn’t happen too often. 

“Occasionally he’ll ask for a clue to be rewritten slightly because it sounds a little awkward to him,” she said. “But he typically doesn’t have too many notes for us.” 

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The team of writers at Jeopardy! Are responsible for producing clues and categories for every single episode of the game show. With the help of researchers, they make sure the information they are presenting is accurate. They also confirm each clue only has one correct answer. 

Because Trebek’s been hosting Jeopardy! for decades, he appears effortless on camera but according to Loud, it requires a lot more work behind the scenes.  

“He really makes his job look so easy that I think sometimes people don’t appreciate how good he is,” she said. “Hosting this show is much, much harder than you think.”

When Trebek’s all prepped, taping begins on one of five episodes for the day. And when that’s all done, he heads home.

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