‘Jeopardy!’: Why Did Alex Trebek Shave His Signature Mustache in 2001?

by Jon D. B.

Ever wondered why Alex Trebek decided to shave his mustache after nearly 20 years on air? Of course you have! Hear it here in the late legend’s own words.

Back in 2001, ‘Jeopardy!’s beloved host Alex Trebek shocked the world-over when he appeared without his mustache for the year’s season. Trades went into a frenzy, with the facial-hair-disappearance making headline news and front pages. After all these years, it remains a hot topic, too. Which is, of course, why we’re here.

So why did the late legend go clean-shaven? Let’s find out, courtesy of The Archive of American Television – and the man himself. Within, a classic 2001 at-home interview with Alex Trebek features the answer in full, alongside charming details from the host’s personal life.

“You talked earlier about being very attached to that mustache,” the interviewer states. “What prompted your decision to shave it?” she asks.

“Pure whim,” Trebek brushes off with a smile. “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 icon recalls.

“So I shaved half of it,” he continues, hilariously. “So then I shaved the other half, and walked out, and I’m not sure everybody noticed immediately.”

Alex Trebek’s Son Cried Over The Loss of His Signature Mustache

As it turns out, such was the case at home, too. At least it was initially. Trebek recounts his arrival home that day after filming for the first time without his mustache – and how his wife Jean’s shock caused quite the scene.

“I stood in the doorway and I said ‘hi guys’… We talked for a few minutes… and for a few minutes more… and a few minutes more… And they didn’t even notice,” he says with great emphasis.

“And I had to say ‘do you notice anything different about dad today?’ Then Jean said ‘oh my God, you shaved your mustache!'” Trebek says wide-eyed.

“Matthew started to cry,” he recalls. “You do not mess with your children’s lives in that way,” he continues.

“It was just on a whim,” he revisits to clarify. “And what amazed me afterwards… was the amount of press that got! It made newspapers and magazines everywhere!” Trebek laments. “I was surprised – and to a certain extent – appalled by this. I said ‘my God, this is a television quiz show host shaving his mustache,'” he says with trademark humility.

And here we are – still discussing it – in 2021.

The Mustache Returns – Then Disappears Yet Again

Indeed, t’s a common thread throughout the modern discussion of Alex Trebek. The host would even go as far as to grow out his entire beard for the show for Season 35 – only to shave it all off again – much to the shock of fans.

“‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek made a splash when he returned for the show’s 35th season Monday sporting a handsome silver beard,” The Today Show remarked in 2018. “But on Tuesday that all started to change, and a video posted by the show revealed he’d gone goatee!”

Soon after, the gameshow tweeted a poll asking fans to decide between bearded or clean-shaven Trebek. As you can see, the beard won out in an overwhelming majority:

On September 20, 2018, however, the world wound up in shock over Alex Trebek’s return to a clean-shave. ‘Jeopardy!’ posted this classic-Trebek clip, which put the debate to an end in his own words. Or, the words of his wife Jean, more truly.

“Sorry to everyone who voted for an #AlexTrebeard Fu Manchu – Jean stepped in before things got too out of hand,” the gameshow captions the footage on their official Instagram. Within, Trebek explains in full.

“Sorry to have to tell you folks, but voting is now closed,” the late legend explains. “And we’ve determined that the winner – is my wife, Jean,” Trebek laments with a twinkle. “She voted for me to be clean-shaven and so – that’s it.”

Watch Trebek Discuss ‘The ‘Stache’

That’s it, indeed. The clip continues to show lovely behind-the-scenes footage of the icon. Within, we see him shaving backstage with his beloved crew – making it clear he enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek facial hair debate as much as audiences:

What an absolute treasure this man was – and forever will be for ‘Jeopardy!’ fans.