‘Jeopardy!’: Alex Trebek Explained How No Contestant Walks Away with ‘Nothing’ in 1994 Interview

by John Jamison

“Jeopardy!” is a bottom-line show. Either you answer correctly and earn money. Or you answer incorrectly and have money taken away. And for a long time, the show was not particularly forgiving to the second and third-place finishers. But even though the winning contestant was the only one who took home money, Alex Trebek insisted that none of them left completely empty-handed.

Since 2002, “Jeopardy!” has been generous enough to give $2,000 to the second-place finisher and $1,000 to third place. Obviously, the winner has always received whatever amount they were able to rack up on the show. But these consolation payments for second and third place haven’t always been a thing.

Before the consolation payments were introduced, Alex Trebek did an interview with Paul Pepper on KOMU-TV. The year was 1994, and the two talked about everything “Jeopardy!,” including what happened to contestants who lost on the show.

“They’ll have a great experience. They’ll have been on ‘Jeopardy!’ A half-hour on television, seen by 20 some million people for their half-hour. And hopefully, it’ll be a great experience,” Trebek said.

Would you be satisfied with that? It’s no $2,000, but can you really put a price on that type of exposure? That’s what Alex Trebek meant when he said that no one walked away from the show with nothing. You’d be able to tell your “Jeopardy!” story for years to come.

You’d get to pull up the footage at family gatherings and brag to all your friends about how you met Alex Trebek. That’s a form of payment in itself. Though we will say, post-2002 contestants, get the best of both worlds.

The Hilarious Story of a ‘Jeopardy!’ Contestant Who Almost Walked Away with Nothing

During the interview, Alex Trebek told a story about a contestant who performed horribly on the show. She didn’t win any money. But when she went home, she threw a party so everyone could watch her appearance on national TV. Unfortunately, her local market aired something else in place of “Jeopardy!” and she was crushed.

It was almost as if she didn’t even get to claim the experience.

“And boy was she ticked, even though she hadn’t done well on the program. She goes ‘I’ve got all these people coming over to my house. They preempted my show.’ She was so upset,” Trebek said. “I talked to her for a while. I managed to calm her down. And we sent her a tape. And I said ‘why don’t you have a nice party, an evening party, invite all your friends over and show them the tape.'”

She nearly had nothing to show for all of her time and effort. Thankfully, Alex was a nice guy, and the lady got her own personal copy of the episode.