It had become a weird sort of canon in Alex Trebek’s career that he was TV’s Mr. Nice Guy — the unimpeachably friendly face of a cherished institution.
By all accounts, Trebek, who died at 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, was a truly kind soul off camera. He was always generous with his time and energy, they say. Always more interested in others. But when the tape was rolling, he could be an absolute prick. And it was awesome.
Qualified for Jeopardy! on Trebek’s watch? Congratulations! Better rack your brain for an interesting anecdote, or he’d eviscerate your boring mess on national television, in front of your friends and family, sometimes with just a glance. The man was an artist.
Were you famous? Playing for charity? That didn’t protect you. Here’s Trebek repeatedly giving Wolf Blitzer the business during the CNN host’s infamous $40,000 loss to comedian Andy Richter:
Notice how Trebek inflected his “no.” He always had several gears of “no” on deck, for every type of response, ranging from “This is incorrect, but a reasonable guess,” all the way to “I can’t believe you’re this goddamn stupid.” Like a true master, Trebek could convey either of those sentiments with the same single word.
None of this is to mention the wrath contestants would incur if they dared mispronounce a word in French. Trebek, a proud Canadian, would make sure to properly enunciate each syllable, as if performing clean-up duty for whatever butchered word had been uttered on his stage.
And make no mistake, it was his stage. Trivia jockeys be damned, it was Trebek’s show. He will be missed.