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.)
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.
Thinking today about his family and his Jeopardy! family—which, in a way, included millions of us.
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) November 8, 2020
I was obsessed with Jeopardy as a nerdy kid growing up in Ohio. I’ve loved and revered Alex Trebek since I can remember. What an iconic career. RIP Alex Trebek.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) November 8, 2020
Susan and I watch Jeopardy every night and Alex Trebek was like a member of the family after so many years. 7 PM in NYC won’t be the same without him… he will be missed.
— Tony Bennett (@itstonybennett) November 8, 2020
RIP @Jeopardy’s Alex Trebek.
I was on Celebrity Jeopardy & was making fun of him, during rehearsal. He came from backstage and said “And Jon Lovitz, make fun of me during the show!” “Really?” “Yes! We want you to be funny! That’s why you’re here!” Very nice man. He’ll be missed.
— Jon Lovitz (@realjonlovitz) November 8, 2020
RIP, Alex Trebek.
My heart goes out to his family.
— Jeri Ryan (@JeriLRyan) November 8, 2020
We mourn the loss of #alextrebek -a friend, a colleague, an icon. He graced us with warmth, wit & pure elegance, which is why we welcomed him into our homes night after night, year after year.
We are deeply saddened for his wife Jean, his family & millions of Jeopardy fans.
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) November 8, 2020
Thanks to my super smart husband, I got to spend a couple of days watching Alex Trebek do what we know him for doing. He was unfailingly gracious, generous, funny, kind, and patient. I’ll miss his almost daily presence in our lives and wish his family comfort. https://t.co/pqHrHMkydZ
— Rebecca Metz (@TheRebeccaMetz) November 8, 2020
I had to tell my 3 year old daughter that Alex Trebek had died. She looked up at me, eyes brimming with tears, and solemnly said, “I want to watch Daniel Tiger” and I was like “I can’t tweet this shit, come on, we need to go viral” and then oh here come the waterworks again
— Paul F. Tompkins (@PFTompkins) November 8, 2020
Everyone jokes that Dolly Parton is the only person who could unite America but here was Alex Trebek in living rooms and at dinner tables forcing families to stop arguing and reexamine their gaps of intelligence for 40 years
— Marc (@MarcSnetiker) November 8, 2020
During these divided times, Trebek was someone that everyone could look up to. He was kind and decent and valued truth and honesty. He made the country better, teaching us not only about topics such as history and science, but also lessons on character. What a tragic loss. RIP. https://t.co/6V9AVzJvvK
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) November 8, 2020
We both worked out of NBC Burbank at start of our careers.
Later reminisced about our good fortune.
Classy, modest and gifted.
— Tom Brokaw (@tombrokaw) November 8, 2020