Similar to Trebek, Gilbert started announcing on “Jeopardy!” since the show became syndicated in 1984. Until Trebek’s tragic passing in November 2020, those two remained the only two originl cast members.
Gilbert is best known for the iconic introduction that comes on at the beginning of every show. “This… is… ‘Jeopardy!'” Gilbert announces. He then introduces the contestants for the game and the current host. Before the pandemic, Gilbert never pre-recorded his introductions but did them live on set before each and every game.
“Jeopardy!” celebrated Gilbert’s 93rd birthday with a message on Twitter and a link to Johnny’s story on the “Jeopardy!” website.
“Happy Birthday to the legendary Johnny Gilbert!” the game show tweeted, along with a photo of Gilbert on set.
Gilbert’s Legacy Before ‘Jeopardy!’
Born in Newport News, Virginia, in the 1920s, Gilbert got his show business career started early. He began taking voice lessons at a young age, and right after graduation, he headed down to Jacksonville, Florida for a new job at a nightclub.
The club needed a Master of Ceremonies, so Gilbert learned the ropes while singing on the side. He even continued to perform while serving in the military in the 1950s. Gilbert performed all over Western Europe with a special services entertainment unit in the U.S. Army, according to an ABC News article.
It was when he returned from the military that Gilbert decided to try the television side of entertainment. He headed to New York, Los Angeles, and other major cities all over the country to announce for different game shows. Gilbert’s credits include “Music Bingo,” “Beat the Odds,” “The Joker’s Wild,” and “The $25,000 Pyramid.”
According to a “Jeopardy!” news story from 2016, Gilbert said he had met Alex Trebek at a television party in Hollywood in the 80s. The two crossed paths at different game shows before finally spending time together on the set of “Jeopardy!”
Gilbert and Trebek’s Game Show Ties
“My first impression of Alex was how bright he was. He’s a really smart guy – and it’s because he works at it. He studies, he reads things, he travels all over the world…because he loves it, it’s what he wants to do. [He’s] a really terrific guy,” Gilbert said in an interview with the official “Jeopardy!” site.
When Trebek died last year, Gilbert considered quitting the show as well. But show producers reminded him that fans needed a comforting and familiar sight (or sound) with the absence of Trebek on screen.
“It’s not easy for me because I worked with Alex for 37 years, and I never thought of anybody replacing him,” Gilbert told ABC News. “Nobody can do it like he did it, you know.”
Only Gilbert will decide when he’s done announcing for the game show, “Jeopardy” producer Mike Richards said in the same ABC News article.
“Johnny will be the announcer of ‘Jeopardy!’ as long as he would like to be the announcer of ‘Jeopardy!’” Richards said. “I have told him that, and it’s just how he is, humble. He’s never taken the job for granted.”