‘Jeopardy!’: Ken Jennings Says Reason Contestants Can’t ‘Hang Out’ With Alex Trebek Is ‘Not Because He’s Snooty’

Sure, Jeopardy! is all about players testing their trivia knowledge but it also means being in the presence of Alex Trebek. Unfortunately for contestants, they don’t get to spend much time chatting it up with the longtime game show host. Keep reading to learn why players and the TV personality don’t talk much during tapings of the award-winning program.

Contestants can’t ‘hang out’ with Alex Trebek because he knows all the answers, Ken Jennings says

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The release of Trebek’s memoir, The Answer Is …: Reflections On My Life, on July 21, 2020, has stirred up details about both his hosting gig and his personal life. Even though Trebek didn’t have as much time to churn out his book as he would’ve liked, his memoir isn’t lacking in amusing anecdotes. One of them is why he doesn’t talk to Jeopardy! contestants very much.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the 80-year-old only chats with players on commercial breaks. It’s not because filming five shows two days a week leaves little time for conversation, it’s because he wants to follow the rules. 

A legend in the world of Jeopardy! is Ken Jennings. He famously won 74 games in a row, and as a result, got to know Trebek. When it came time to narrate the audio version of his memoir, the Canadian-born TV personality tapped Jennings. 

Per the LA Times, Jennings says the game show host doesn’t mingle with contestants “not because he’s snooty.” 

“The reason why you can’t hang out with Alex is not because he’s snooty — it’s because he’s read all the answers and isn’t allowed to fraternize,” Jennings said. 

Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings on 'Jeopardy!'
Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings on ‘Jeopardy!’ | Jeopardy Productions via Getty Images

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He continued, saying Trebek is much more laid back when he’s not hosting the show. 

“It’s always funny to see him in non-Jeopardy! settings where he doesn’t have the Perry Ellis set and he’s wearing dad jeans and a bomber jacket,” Jennings said. “In real life, he could not be more down-to-earth and less like his fussy Will Ferrell stage persona.”

The ‘Jeopardy!’ host chats with contestants during the game show’s small talk segment

Watch any episode of Jeopardy! and see players having a conversation with Trebek between rounds. The small talk segment is a staple on the award-winning program. It may look like a light-hearted way for Trebek and the viewers at home to learn more about the contestants but it requires a lot of work beforehand. 

Jeopardy! staffers send contestants a list of questions to answer before their episode is taped. And when they get to the show, players are instructed to not give yes or no answers. 

‘Jeopardy!’ champions find small talk segment challenging

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Making repeat appearances on Jeopardy! is surely exciting for contestants but it also means having to come up with interesting facts about yourself. According to champion Arthur Chu, the small talk segment is among the most challenging parts of the game

“Having to think of something on the fly, something interesting to say while you just won a game of Jeopardy! and you’re soaked in sweat and you’re ready to go out there and try to win another game—that is one of the most difficult things you can do on the show,” he said. 

Fellow Jeopardy! champion Julia Collins, who won 20 games in a row, upped the ante calling it “probably the hardest thing” about being on the show. 

Not to mention, when they’re answering questions and trying to say something interesting, contestants are talking to Trebek, someone most have watched on TV for years.

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