“And now, here is the host of Jeopardy! Alex Trebek.”
Johnny Gilbert has introduced Alex Trebek as the host of Jeopardy! over 8,000 times, but he’ll say it for the final time on January 8. That’s the airdate of the last episode that Trebek taped before he died from pancreatic cancer at 80 years old. In a special issue of People, Gilbert, 96, remembers Trebek as a special talent and all-around good guy.
“Alex has always been the same person. He was very introspective, he read a tremendous amount, and traveled a lot. He was always doing crossword puzzles to keep his mind active,” Gilbert said. He called Trebek “very intelligent” and revealed that he was “always telling the youngsters in the audience, ‘You’ve got to read, you have to learn. That’s the way you’re going to succeed.'” Gilbert also told an amusing story about a question an audience member once asked Trebek. It involves thongs, obviously:
“He would answer any question anyone wanted to ask. He would get so involved that we would have to hold up coming back out of commercial for him to finish with the audience, but he insisted,” Gilbert said. Some of those questions [were] silly. “One gal asked him, ‘Boxers or briefs?’ Alex took a beat and said, ‘Thongs!’ I told him a long time ago, ‘If this show goes away, you could be a stand-up comedian.’ He always loved to do jokes.”
Gilbert doesn’t know who will replace Trebek as the next host, but he has some advice for them. “Jeopardy! is a very special game. All that information that he gave out, aside from what was actually on the show, was in his mind,” he told People. “Somebody has to be able to handle that. If the person lets the show be the show, it will be fine.”