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Alex Trebek, beloved ‘Jeopardy’ host for 36 years, is dead at 80

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Alex Trebek, a staple of TV’s game show genre thanks to his almost four-decade run as Jeopardy! host, is dead at 80.

Trebek died at home early Sunday morning, as first reported by TMZ and later confirmed by Variety, as well as Jeopardy!‘s official Twitter account. His death marks the end of what had been a very public struggle with pancreatic cancer.

Trebek revealed his cancer diagnosis – stage 4 pancreatic cancer – back in March 2019. He was realistic about his prognosis at the time, explaining that it’s normally “not very encouraging.” But he pledged to fight it, and to keep on doing his job at Jeopardy! while he did.

In the year that followed Trebek’s revelation, he stepped back into the spotlight multiple times to update the public on his health, and in March 2020 he hailed a year’s worth of progress in fighting back the cancer. He continued working – as the pandemic allowed – through 2020, and even made the time to write a memoir, which released in July.

Trebek, a Canada native who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998, had served as the host of Jeopardy! since the game show’s 1984 revival. Over the years, his name became synonymous with the hit series, with his personality so entrenched in American pop culture that he and Jeopardy! both became a regular source for parody on Saturday Night Live.

(Jeopardy!‘s original run, as a daytime game show, went from 1964 to 1975. It then made brief returns later in the ’70s as an evening game show before the ’84 revival. Trebek has served as the host since then.)

Trebek got his start in Canada, in the early ’60s, doing an assortment of jobs for the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), that included reading radio news as well as sports coverage on TV and the radio. He eventually went on to host a number of Canadian programs – including game shows – into the early ’70s, which led to an eventual move across the border.

In 1973, Trebek took a job hosting The Wizard of Odds in the U.S., and then High Rollers, both game shows. The latter in particular kept him employed through much of the decade. It also introduced him to Merv Griffin, the creator of Jeopardy!.

In the years after taking the reins of the long-running game show – and even moreso in recent years – Trebek distinguished himself as an unassailable fixture of U.S. pop culture. He was known for his quick mind and razor wit on television, as well as a willingness to step outside of typical comfort zones. (He actually rapped on air more than once.)

Trebek’s facial hair also established him as a recurring thirst trap for a forever-horny internet.

The impact of the Jeopardy! host’s work continued to ripple outward even in the week he died. In an episode that aired during Election Week, winning contestant Burt Thakur thanked Trebek for the influence he’d had. “I learned English because of you,” he told Trebek in a touching moment at the end of the episode. “My grandfather, who raised me … I used to sit on his lap and watch you every day. So this is a pretty special moment for me, man.”

As the news of Trebek’s death made its way around the internet, fans the world over stepped up to pay their respects to a TV legend.

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