’Jeopardy!’: What Was Alex Trebek’s First Job?

by Suzanne Halliburton

“Jeopardy!” and Alex Trebek were interchangeable for nearly four decades. You couldn’t have the quiz show without the strong, charismatic host.

Alex Trebek was host of “Jeopardy!” for 36 years. He conducted his final show 10 days before he died last November. So it’s difficult to think of one without the other.

But there was a time when Trebek wasn’t the suave, worldly host of the country’s most difficult game show.

Trebek grew up in Sudbury, Ontario. His dad was an immigrant from Ukraine who worked as a chef. Once in Canada, the Trebek family shortened their name from Terebeychuk. Alex’s mother was French-Canadian. So the family spoke both English and French.

Growing up, Alex Trebek worked as a bellhop at the hotel where his dad worked. That’s definitely a non-glamorous assignment, but he rubbed elbows with travelers. That opened his eyes to new experiences.

Back in January, 2016, Reuters asked various celebrities about their first jobs. Trebek told the news service:

“My first job was as a bellhop at the Nickel Range Hotel in Sudbury, Ontario. My dad got me the job at the hotel where he was the chef. On my first day of work, I was four hours late. Not a good start.”

Pre-Jeopardy! Alex Trebek Didn’t Show His Face In First Professional Job

Trebek’s first professional job wasn’t on camera. While he attended the University of Ottawa, Trebek got a job in 1961 with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. That’s Canada’s public TV and radio. Trebek worked as a radio host. He basically was a general assignment kind of radio guy. He’d do the news, or the CBC sent him out in the field for an assignment.

Trebek did sports, too. He announced curling. Canadians love this sport, although we Americans usually only see it at the Winter Olympics. And Trebek announced horse racing.

Alex Trebek’s first on-camera job was hosting a music/dancing show similar to American Bandstand. So Trebek was Canada’s Dick Clark. The Canadian version of the show was “Music Hop”.

Trebek’s First Quiz Show Was For Teens

And by 1963, Alex Trebek hosted the quiz show “Reach for the Top”. That show was for teenagers. Trebek was willing to try anything. He hosted shows on classical music. He did CBC morning drive radio in Toronto. And he nearly landed the job as full-time host of Hockey Night in Canada. Trebek never lost his love for the Ottawa Senators.

So that’s the Alex Trebek background that made him into the perfect host for a quiz show like Jeopardy!. When Merv Griffin revived the game show in 1984, Trebek landed the job after original host Art Fleming declined to come back.

Trebek taped his final “Jeopardy!” show on October 29. He died 10 days later at his home in Los Angeles. He was 80. Trebek fought pancreatic cancer for 18 months.

“Jeopardy!” is looking for a full-time replacement for Trebek. The show currently is using a rotating crew of guest hosts. Ken Jennings, one of the top champions in Jeopardy! history, took the first turn. Then Mike Richards, the show’s executive producer, stepped to the “Jeopardy!” dais. His final show will air, Friday.

The shows hosted by Katie Couric, the former “TODAY” show host and NBC news anchor, begin airing on March 8. Dr. Mehmet Oz’s shows are scheduled to air from March 22 to April 2. Then comes Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback. His shows are set to start on April 5.