‘Jeopardy!’: Did Alex Trebek Enjoy Being Portrayed by Will Ferrell on SNL?

by John Jamison

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. So what does a beloved game show host think about being portrayed by a late-night sketch comedy star? If you had asked Alex Trebek, he’d tell you he loved it.

The real question for Alex was: Who portrayed him best?

Will Ferrell and Alex Trebek are two of the biggest personalities television ever created. Ferrell’s hilarious characters on “Saturday Night Live” made him a household name. In contrast, Trebek’s straightforward demeanor as a knowledgeable and charming host on “Jeopardy!” endeared him to a massive audience.

In the mid-1990s, “SNL” debuted a sketch series that saw Will Ferrell playing a knock-off version of Alex Trebek during a game of ” Celebrity Jeopardy!” in which the contestants were all funny versions of movie stars like Burt Reynolds and Sean Connery.

Alex Trebek Loved the Comedic Portrayals of ‘Jeopardy!’

Trebek was a big fan of the sketches. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, he said “I loved them.”

He was adamant, however, that despite the popularity of the “SNL” sketch, it was in fact Eugene Levy who really nailed the impersonation. Levy is Canadian like Trebek and starred on the Canadian sketch series “Second City Television.” He played a character called “Alex Trebel” and did it so well that Trebek told him to use the real name instead.

Trebek said that Eugene Levy played the part “better than Will Ferrell. He looked the part too. He had the dark hair and he had the black mustache.”

Trebek still appreciated the “Saturday Night Live” Ferrell rendition, however. With the late game show host going on to describe what these kinds of portrayals meant to him overall.

“It means you’ve arrived. If you do a take-off of somebody, it is a sign that you believe your audience will immediately recognize who you’re poking fun at. And if that’s the case, that means there must be a lot of people who have watched your show over the years or are watching now. So, they know immediately what the reference is.”

Even though this interview took place years ago, and Trebek himself isn’t around any longer, references to “Jeopardy!” are unmistakable. Comedic portrayals such as Will Ferrell’s on “SNL” and Eugene Levy’s on “SCTV” helped to cement Alex Trebek’s legacy as one of the most recognizable game show hosts of all time.