By Katie Bertussi
This Canadian-born pop culture icon charms an audience of over 25 million people every night, makes an annual salary of $10 million, and holds the Guinness World Record as the longest-running television game show host in history.
If you are familiar with Jeopardy!’s reverse question-answer format, you just may have guessed: Who is Alex Trebek? But how did Trebek, a Canadian, become the host of one of the greatest American television shows in history, and who is Alex Trebek behind the screen? Let’s have a look at Trebek for $500.
Born on July 22, 1940 in Sudbury, Ontario, Alex Trebek launched his unlikely career as a game show host in 1966, after having graduated from The University of Ottawa in 1961 with a degree in philosophy. During the five year period between graduating and game show hosting, Trebek decided to pursue a career in journalism, gaining a positive reputation for his calm, conversational approach as a newscaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1966, Trebek landed his first job as game show host on Reach for the Top, a Canadian competition for teams of high school students. Finding game show hosting to be a much more lucrative career, Trebek sought out similar success and fame in Hollywood, moving to the United States in 1973. Hosting a variety of short-lived game shows, it was not until 1984 that Trebek would be approached by Wheel of Fortune creator Merv Griffin and become long-time television host of Jeopardy!.
Filming five episodes a day, forty-six days per season, a day in the life of Alex Trebek is much more complex than television magic portrays. On a normal day of filming, Trebek arrives at Sony Pictures Studios’ Stage Ten in Culver City, California at six o’clock in the morning. Around 7:30, Trebek reviews the scripts for all five shows that will be filmed that day and after some morning meetings and a visit with hair and makeup, he begins filming the first show by 11:15. During commercial breaks, Alex Trebek engages in a question-and-answer session with the audience, and between each episode, Trebek changes suits so it will translate to a new day on screen. After a busy day, Trebek leaves the studio around 4:15, spending much of his free time reading books, watching Turner Classics, and working hard as his family’s designated handyman.
Alex Trebek is the father of two children, Emily and Matthew, and has been married to his wife Jean Currivan for over twenty-eight years. His father, George Trebek, was a Ukrainian immigrant, while his ninety-seven-year-old mother Lucille Lagacé is of French-Canadian and Native American origins. Trebek has also volunteered for World Visions and Smile Train, two organizations designed to help children around the world, the latter of which provides surgery for underprivileged children with facial malformations such as cleft lips and palettes.
Trebek’s iconic role on Jeopardy! has earned him many prestigious awards, including five Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show Host, the highly distinguished Bob Hope Entertainment award, and in 1999, Trebek joined the stars of American entertainment on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Fittingly, because of his Canadian origins, Trebek was lucky enough to also be inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2006; he is one of very few entertainers to be represented in both Hollywood and Canada.
While retirement may be lurking in the horizon, Trebek says he intends to continue hosting Jeopardy! as long as he enjoys it. For now, Trebek wittingly remarks, “I’m curious about everything. Even subjects that don’t interest me,” and it is precisely this hunger for knowledge that keeps him going.