The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life Alex Trebek 2000
I'm not a huge fan of autobiographies, as they can be dull and self-serving, but Alex Trebek is a man who has dominated game show culture for nearly four decades and been a household name. Jeopardy is an institution that rewards intelligence, speed, and education, which is sorely missing in our dumbed-down age of instant punditry.
This book is a charming set of stories told by a man who's lived a full life and is very grateful for it. Each chapter begins with "The answer is..." in a playful nod to his game show where the answers are always presented and the questions required. The book is short, perhaps because of Mr. Trebek's advancing pancreatic cancer, which gives him limited time to write it. The author talks about his cancer diagnosis and how it has changed his life, and the struggles he has to go through to keep doing the show.
Trebek talks about his childhood in Ontario, Canada and his parents who didn't always get along. He got his start in Canadian radio and television and was lured to California by Alan Thicke to do his first US game show- The Wizard of Odds. Trebec paid his dues doing music shows, sports shows, and a series of failed game shows like Double Dare, High Rollers, and the $128,000 question.
When syndicated television was about to take off in the 80's, Trebek was recruited by Merv Griffin to host a rebooted Jeopardy (the original starred Art Fleming), in tandem with Wheel of Fortune. The rest is history. I was amused at Trebek's take on how cheap Griffin was, but both men became very wealthy.
The second half of the book is laden with Jeopardy stories, and I wish there were more. There was the terminally ill contestant who asked for her slot to be moved up before she died, (they did, and she won) There was the insufferably smart Ken Jennings who took over the show for over a month, winning day after day until he was finally dethroned on a question of whether Henry VIII or Larry King had more marriages. And there was the gambling genius James Holzhauer who managed to beat the odds in gaming strategy and altered the order in which categories were chosen.
Ken Jennings narrates most of the audiobook, and after the book was published he was named as a producer for the show. I wouldn't be surprised to see him take over for Trebek as host. The two men clearly have a close relationship. Trebek does narrate some of the audiobook and he comes off as a genuine, sincere, and humble man, just as he appears on the show.
I could see how being a game show host in the spotlight every day would make one egotistical or even a bit nasty. But that didn't happen to this man, in part, he claims because of his wife who he praises repeatedly as his rock. He insists on being called the host of Jeopardy, not its star, and he credits the show's writers with much of its success.
Trebek has done much work for charity, which I didn't know, and the proceeds from this book go to cancer research. It's always a pleasure to find a soul like Alex Trebek, and we will miss him when he's gone. Thank you for sharing this book Alex.