Alex Trebek created a firestorm when he decided to shave his mustache. But the Jeopardy! host said he never understood why. He hated all the attention he got for simply changing his facial hair. And he had a brash — but funny — comment for anyone who made a fuss over the change.
For much of Jeopardy!’s early run, Trebek’s mustache was part of his mystique. Will Ferrell always drew big laughs when he’d don a big, bushy mustache to play the quiz show host on Saturday Night Live. But in 2001 Trebek decided he was done with facial hair. And — on a whim — shaved his face in between taping episodes of the show without telling the show’s producers.
“And it got so much press, I couldn’t believe it,” he told the New Republic in 2014. “The wars with Iraq or whatever at that time, and people are all in a stew over my mustache. I have one response: Get a life.”
Trebek died in October of pancreatic cancer. He was 80.
The game show icon said he didn’t realize his facial hair was of such national concern. He didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. In fact, he didn’t think about it at all, really.
He told The Archive of American Television that he just did it.
“On tape day, we were about to tape our fifth show. And I went into the makeup room … sat in the chair … and said ‘I’m gonna shave my mustache,’” the Jeopardy! host recalled. “So I shaved half of it. Then I shaved the other half and walked out, and I’m not sure everybody noticed immediately.”
He tried out several different looks over the intervening years. And each time he’d change his facial hair, fans and the press would freak out.
Alex Trebek’s Son Cried Over His Dad’s New Look
Alex Trebek began to realize how important his mustache was to his look when he went home that night. He recounted what happened to The Archive of American Television.
“I stood in the doorway and I said ‘hi guys’… We talked for a few minutes. For a few minutes more, and a few minutes more. They didn’t even notice,” he said.
“I had to say ‘do you notice anything different about dad today?’ Then (my wife) Jean said ‘oh my God, you shaved your mustache!’” Trebek said.
His son Matthew Trebek couldn’t handle the change. He was 11 at the time.
“Matthew started to cry,” he recalled. “You do not mess with your children’s lives in that way.”