‘Jeopardy!’: 2 of the Meanest Things Alex Trebek’s Ever Said to Contestants

Alex Trebek has his fair share of shady moments chatting with Jeopardy! competitors. Hosting the classic game show since 1984, Trebek is an icon. The 79-year-old dishes out trivia to contestants and fans playing along at home but sometimes he serves up sass too. Keep reading to discover two times the TV personality’s been mean to contestants.

1. Alex Trebek jokes a contestant is sleeping during the show

Alex Trebek attends a 'Jeopardy!' press conference
Alex Trebek attends a Jeopardy! press conference | Ben Hider/Getty Images

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During a May 2020 episode of the program, Trebek didn’t hold back. Introducing the contestants for the Teachers Tournament, Trebek called out high school math teacher Jong Ho Kim for appearing to be asleep, according to the Chicago Tribune. Kim seemed to be startled to hear his name called which elicited a comment from the host. 

“Didn’t mean to wake you up there, Jong Ho,” Trebek said. 

It’s not the meanest comment he’s ever said on the show but it’s definitely awkward. The moment didn’t throw Kim off his game. He went on to correctly answer both “Daily Double” clues and win the game. Trebek even remarked he played “brilliantly.” 

2. He calls a ‘Jeopardy!’ player ‘weird’

The conversations Trebek has with contestants are a staple on the game show. Players share a little bit more about themselves and get to chat with the iconic host. While the talks usually go by without incident, sometimes things can get, well, uncomfortable. According to Yahoo Lifestyle, Trebek once called out a contestant for being “a little bit weird.” 

In a May 2018 episode of the program, Jeopardy! champion Lisa Mueller told Trebek she grew up writing to TV shows and celebrities as a kid. She recalled a time when she wrote a letter to Big Bird saying, “My third favorite color is yellow, just like you are.”

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Sesame Street didn’t take the comment kindly, thinking of it more like a subtle dig. Mueller also said on one of the letters she drew bunnies. At that point, Trebek looked at the audience and asked, “You get the feeling that our current champion is a little weird?” 

But wait, there’s more. Mueller couldn’t believe Trebek’s comment and it showed on her face.

“Oh, give me the look?” Trebek said. “You disrespected Big Bird. You’re lucky to be here,” he told Mueller.

Later on in the episode, Trebek relayed to the audience that Mueller told him she planned on writing him “a very long letter” after the show. Yikes! 

His ‘you’ve disappointed daddy’ voice is a ‘conscious’ move 

Fans have pointed out over the years Trebek sometimes adopts a disappointed, reproachful tone of voice with players. He’s not easily impressed and he doesn’t try to hide it.

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The way he addresses contestants has become so noticeable that the Canadian-American once talked about his “you’ve disappointed daddy” tone of voice in an interview. He explained it’s an intentional move from him.

“Yes, [the tone of voice] is conscious, he told Vulture in 2018. “Not that it’s preplanned — it’s a reaction — but I know that ‘You’ve disappointed daddy’ is a tone I’m striking. It’s also, ‘How can you not get this? This is not rocket science.’”

Clearly, Trebek’s not afraid to let contestants know how he feels.

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