Friday is a sad day for Jeopardy! fans, as the syndicated game show is set to air the final episode Alex Trebek taped as host before he died of pancreatic cancer in November. Many have paid tribute to Trebek as his final episodes air, including past champions and those who have appeared on the show in the past.
But former Jeopardy! champion and Greatest Of All Time Tournament participant Brad Rutter is doing his best to lighten the mood with a great story that showcased a little-seen side of the late game show host. People detailed a radio interview Rutter gave with WOGL on Thursday where the show veteran described a moment from the Ultimate Tournament of Champions in 2005. Back then, Rutter was not as veteran a big-game Jeopardy! player, and the tournament pitted him against Jeopardy! GOAT Ken Jennings and Jereme Vered.
Rutter explained that the trio were nervous before the match and someone joked that to ease tensions someone should should play without their pants on, a riff on some common advice to imagine a crowd naked if you’re nervous. But it turns out that Trebek got wind of the joke and wanted to play along.
“What we didn’t know was that our mics were live, and Alex heard us,” Rutter said.
When the announcer introduced Trebek, the longtime host decided to have some fun with the three competitors. “Alex came out with no pants on,” Rutter recalled.
Rutter added that Trebek’s sense of humor came out “even more so in person than you would see on the show.”
“You’re really just not allowed to talk about much,” he told WOGL of being on Jeopardy! “I was lucky enough to be on the show so often that I got to know Alex a little.”
Trebek’s humor has appeared on the show in other forms over the years, but it was a notable break from the usually stoic character he displayed as trivia master on the show. It’s what made those SNL sketches about celebrities messing with Will Ferrell’s Trebek so funny: the idea of the Jeopardy! host suffering on their account. Rutter also co-signed another good Trebek story earlier in the week that spoke to who the show host was.
Nothing captures the Alex I knew better than this story. https://t.co/peYLV4LXGZ
— Brad Rutter (@bradrutter) January 5, 2021
It is nice, though, to know that Trebek was also willing to risk a bit of public embarrassment in order to deliver a joke. And it’s a lovely example of why so many people over the years recall their time on Jeopardy! and around its legendary host so fondly.