The untold truth of Alex Trebek

If you're a fan of game shows, then you definitely know of Alex Trebek — it would be impossible not to.

He's been a constant presence in American culture for years, thanks to the classic quiz show Jeopardy!, on which Trebek has starred since 1984. The show — which tests the knowledge of buzzer-pushing contestants and at-home wannabes on a range of subjects from books to ballet — has been named one of the best shows of all time and it has endless awards to prove it. For his part, Trebek has earned six Daytime Emmy Awards and the esteemed Peabody Award (per CNN), which is no small feat.

Though he's been in the public eye for more than three decades, there's still so much you might not know about him, like the fact that he used to be a wallflower. Oh, and you have to hear the one regret he has in life. That said, let's take a closer look at the untold truth of Alex Trebek.

Jeopardy! wasn't his first gig

Following his graduation from the University of Ottawa, where he received his degree in Philosophy, Alex Trebek kicked off his career in 1961 working as a newscaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Company, according to Biography. But it wasn't long before he dropped that dream. Just five years later, he transitioned to game show host, working on a show titled Reach for the Top until 1973, when he moved to the United States to join the NBC-syndicated show The Wizard of Odds.

By 1984, Trebek signed on for the show that would make him a TV icon, Jeopardy!. Although he had various other hosting gigs in the years since, that one appears to be his favorite, as he once told People magazine that he'd be "lost" without it. "I'm enjoying myself and I'm having a good time with what I'm doing now, but if I were to retire, what would I do?" he told the publication. The always wry Trebek added, "My wife would say I'm getting on her nerves because I'm around all the time."

He used to feel like he didn't belong

With his larger-than-life personality and comedic charm, it's hard to imagine that Alex Trebek ever had trouble fitting in. However, he apparently did go through a weird phase while transitioning from Canadian to American life after his move in the '70s. "I was a shy, small-town Canadian kid," he told Vulture. "I never felt like I belonged."

Trebek continued on to say that he only started to feel like he fit in with the help of a Hollywood publicist who would invite him out to dinner parties at an LA hotspot. "His being there to introduce me to people made me comfortable," Trebek continued. He also joined a backgammon-playing community, which helped him make more connections. "I met people that way; I didn't have to go out on my own. And once I'd achieved a certain degree of popularity, I would play in celebrity golf tournaments and meet stars," Trebek added. Before long, he was rubbing elbows with "major stars" like Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Stewart. We'll take "How cool is that?" for $400, please. 

He'll definitely judge you if you mess up on Jeopardy!

If you've ever watched Jeopardy!, you know that Alex Trebek can come off kind of stern and perhaps even snobby to those who struggle to come up with answers. While some people might suspect that this is a natural reaction and totally unintentional, Trebek seemed to reveal otherwise in an interview with Vulture. "Yes, it's conscious," he said of his tone. "Not that it's preplanned — it's a reaction — but I know that 'You've disappointed daddy' is a tone I'm striking. It's also, 'How can you not get this? This is not rocket science,'" the TV guru continued.

Though Trebek has admitted that he doesn't "have filters anymore," he told The New York Post that he still tries to limit things he says on the show that could be harmful to others. "What I won't do is read clues that are put-downs of people. I don't like taking cheap shots," he explained to the publication. So that's at least something.

He's been all over the small screen

Believe it or not, Alex Trebek has appeared in more than a handful of popular shows. His TV appearances date back to at least the early '90s, when he appeared on a 1990 episode of Cheers. Per IMDb, he's also worked on Rugrats, The Nanny, How I Met Your Mother, RuPaul's Drag Race and — wait for it — Saturday Night Live (SNL).

In fact, SNL created its own sketch of Trebek's iconic show titled Celebrity Jeopardy, with comedian Will Ferrell acting as the game show host during the years he worked on the series. "I enjoyed his work as me on the program," Trebek once said of Ferrell to The Hollywood Reporter. "Every taping, somebody in the audience says 'How do you feel about the Will Ferrell impression of you on SNL?' And I say the same thing every time: I love it. I wish he was back on the show so he would do more," the host continued.

He's a Guinness World Record holder

That's right. In 2014, Alex Trebek was given the Guinness World Record for "most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter," according to Variety. At the time, the TV host had covered 6,829 episodes since joining the show in the '80s following the departure of the original host Art Fleming, who reportedly ran the series from 1964 to 1979. "The good news is as long as I keep hosting the program, I stay ahead of whoever's in second place, and that makes me feel good," Trebek said in a video after receiving the honor.

Breaking the record seemingly won't be an easy feat. At the time of this writing, Jeopardy! has aired well over 7,000 episodes, per Insider. Trebek also renewed his contract in 2018 through 2022 (via Vulture), so considering the fact that roughly 230 episodes are taped each year, it seems like whoever is in second place will have quite the work to do. We'll see what happens.

He doesn't have faith in President Donald Trump

On his game show, at least. When asked by Vulture how he thinks President Donald Trump would perform on Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek threw the zinger. "He might not agree that any of the correct responses are correct," said Trebek, taking a shot at Trump's frequent dismissal of facts.

Trebek also opened up about his opinion of Trump in several interviews, and what he's had to say hasn't always been so stellar. While speaking to The Hill in 2016, for example, Trebek, who identifies as an independent at the time of this writing, said the race between then-candidate Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was "very disappointing on both sides." And when rating the comedy skills of recent presidents including George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama, Trebek appeared to put Trump at the bottom of his list. "I wouldn't say that he [President Trump] makes jokes. He picks on people," he told Vulture

Go Lakers!

We'll take "Basketball Facts" for $200, Alex!

In a special Jeopardy! segment, Alex Trebek revealed that he played for his high basketball school team in his native Canada (where most kids are practically born with a hockey stick in their hands). "We didn't have much basketball so, although I had never played basketball in my life, I tried out," he told the interviewers. Though he didn't expect to make the cut, "after three or four weeks of practices, when they selected the team, [he] was on it as point guard."

After relocating to the United States in 1973, he said, he became a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and he appears to be a diehard fan, as of this writing. He told interviewers that if he could build his own Mount Rushmore, it would feature Lakers superstars such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, and Magic Johnson.

Got bars?

At the time of this writing, hip hop is the No. 1 genre in the United States and perhaps the most influential, and yet seeing a non-rapper celebrity spit bars can still come as a shocker. So obviously, hearing the professor-like Alex Trebek show off his MC skills in 2014 was wild. According to USA Today, he "read famous rap lyrics from Dr. Dre, Grandmaster Flash, Biggie and the Beastie Boys in the category 'It's a Rap.'" Those lyrics reportedly included "Don't push me, 'cause I'm close to the edge/I'm trying not to lose my head" and "Another plane/another train/another bottle in the brain."

He recited more lyrics in 2017 including, per Billboard, "Drake's 'Started from the Bottom,' Desiigner's 'Panda,' [Kendrick Lamar's] 'm.A.A.d. City,' [Lil Wayne's] '6 Foot 7 Foot' and [Kanye West's] 'Famous.'" And it was absolutely gold. Best of all is that clips of those moments are still online for your viewing pleasure. You're welcome.

His health has been in jeopardy

Alex Trebek suffered two heart attacks, one in 2007 (via CNN) and the other in 2012 (via The Hollywood Reporter). Just three years after the last attack, he was hospitalized for a head injury that occurred during a fall and was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, which WebMD describes as a potentially life-threatening "collection of blood outside the brain." He reportedly underwent surgery to remove the hematoma and was released just days later, per Deadline.

Unfortunately that wasn't the end of Trebek's health troubles. More recently, he announced in March of 2019 that he's been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Despite the grave diagnosis, the TV host pledged to fight against the disease. "Now normally the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I'm going to fight this and I'm going to keep working," he said in a video announcing his diagnosis. "And with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease," continued Trebek.

Hear his one wish

You might want to grab a tissue (or three) for this one. Though Alex Trebek says he's pretty happy with the way his life has panned out, he told People in 2019 that there's one thing he would change: not meeting his wife, Jean Currivan (above), with whom he shares two children, sooner.

"I'm pretty satisfied with my life," the game show guru explained to the publication. "But my wife Jean and I have been together almost 29 years, and I was thinking about President Bush when he died, and all the comments about his life about what a nice guy he is, and how he and his wife had been together 73 years.  I thought, 'Oh my gosh.' If I'd just met Jean in my 20s we could have had a longer life together," he continued. BRB, crying.

He then followed up with a joke that might help lighten the mood, saying, "I guess if I'd met her when I was in my 20s she wouldn't have been born yet. But hey, 29 years is pretty good!"