‘Jeopardy!’: How Alex Trebek Would Pick and Research Questions

by Emily Morgan

For 34 years, the late Alex Trebek hosted the beloved game show “Jeopardy!” During his tenure on the show, Trebek had a significant role in researching and picking topics for episodes. 

Head writer Michele Loud revealed some categories Trebek enjoyed during his time as host. 

Before Trebek passed away in November, Loud shared that Trebek would often arrive on set bright and early in preparation for taping, according to Cheat Sheet.

“He comes in on the mornings of tape days very early, at around six, and reads the paper and answers mail and does things like that,” the head writer revealed. “And at 7:30 he’s given the set of five games we’re taping that day. He reads them over, and if there are things he doesn’t know how to pronounce, he looks it up himself. If he can’t find it, he asks us to help him.”

Even though Alex Trebek knew about a variety of subjects, there were a few questions he had to brush up on before filming. 

Alex Trebek Did ‘His Homework’ Before Taping ‘Jeopardy!’

“If there are things he’s not as familiar with — current pop culture, typically — he may ask us about it,” Loud said with a laugh, adding that the subjects he’s not well-versed on are rare. “He knows a lot. He’s very sharp, he does his homework, and he’s self-sustaining. Occasionally he’ll ask for a clue to be rewritten slightly because it sounds a little awkward to him. But he typically doesn’t have too many notes for us.”

Loud also revealed that even though the writers could come up with several ideas for clues, there were times when they couldn’t fit them into the show. 

“Sometimes you find a great fact and you simply can’t source it,” she admitted. “If you just can’t find it, then unfortunately a great fact has to go away. Sometimes things are too good to be true.”

According to Loud, while creating the clues, the writers will put themselves in the position of the contestant and the viewers to help them craft the questions. 

“If none of the writers can correctly answer it, we feel like, ‘Well, how can anyone else have heard of it?'” Loud explained. “If it’s too obscure for all of us in the room, there’s no point in asking it. We’re not out to stump the contestants and the people at home. That’s not an interesting show. There’s always something better that you can write about.”