Former champion winner Buzzy Cohen, who will guest host Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, said funny contestants allowed Trebek to goof off and have more fun.
“Alex had an amazing sense of humor,” Cohen said. “(He) loved to good off. We kind of gave him license to show that side of himself.”
Cohen recalled a time during the 2017 Tournament of Champions when, as a joke, he and his two competitors did the robot dance during their introductions. Trebek, who wasn’t forewarned, followed suit and walked to the podium dancing.
“My god, it’s contagious,” Trebek said afterward, to gales of laughter.
“It was so special to have that moment, just the four of us,” Cohen recall.
Cohen and Trebek had a special relationship on the show. Their comedic interactions went viral. So much so, his over-the-top appearances on Jeopardy! were covered by Good Morning America. But Trebek seemed to love the interplay.
During that Tournament of Champions, Trebek said it was the most fun one he’d ever done.
The 2021 Tournament of Champions begins Monday and will continue on for two weeks. Fifteen of this season’s most successful contestants will square off for $250,000.
Trebek Once Began ‘Jeopardy!’ Without His Pants
Alex Trebek also liked a good practical joke. During the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions that featured Ken Jennings, Trebek shocked the audience and contestants as he strolled onto the stage sans pants. He had on his suit jacket and shirt, boxers and socks, but no pants.
The reason, he joked, was that backstage the contestants were nervous and had wanted to relieve some tension. So, they joked they would all do the show without their trousers.
“I was informed backstage a few minutes ago that our three contestants Ken, Brad, and Jerome wanted to relieve some of the tension and said we must do the program without trousers,” Trebek said straight-faced as everyone laughed.
He then asked the show’s director to get a shot of the contestants, to see if the contestants had followed through on their discussion.
They’d all chickened out. But not Trebek. Having made his point, Trebek left the stage to get dressed and restart the show. You can watch the incident here.
It was moments like this that made Trebek such an interesting game show host. He could be silly or stern. He would do whatever the moment called for, which is one reason Jeopardy! remained so popular during his more than three decades as host.
Trebek died last year of pancreatic cancer. The show’s producers haven’t found a replacement for him yet. That’s mainly because filling Trebek’s shoes — or pants in this case — isn’t going to be easy.