Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article misstated the date of Alex Trebek’s passing. Suggest regrets the error.
Alex Trebek had a lot to say about Jeopardy! in his memoir, The Answer Is…:Reflections on My Life. From being silly on the show to expensive hairpieces and celebrity contestants, Trebek discussed what it was like to be the quiz show host for 37 years. Before the host passed away in November 2020, he shared many of his thoughts on the show. However, his opinion on Celebrity Jeopardy! is something die-hard fans need to consider before criticizing the spin-off.
Is ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ Easier?
In Trebek’s memoir, the game show host acknowledges what many fans suspect about Celebrity Jeopardy! “It’s no great secret that the material for Celebrity Jeopardy! is easier than in regular games. Many celebrities who appear on the show are not die-hard fans,” wrote Trebek.
Known for his dry wit, the host continues, “I’m often asked if celebrities have to take a test to appear on the show. Yes. They have to be able to spell their name correctly.”
Although the celebrity games are less difficult than the regular shows, what people may find surprising is the reason for the easier clues. “Our aim is to make it easier for celebrities to appear on the show, not harder. It isn’t easy getting them to come on. They don’t want to embarrass themselves,” reflected Trebek. “They don’t want to screw up an answer to a seemingly easy clue and seem dumb in front of million of viewers.”
Since superstars don’t want to appear stupid on the show, Jeopardy! must find ways to persuade people to compete in Celebrity Jeopardy! Trebek shares, “We do as much as we can to entice them, like offering the chance to win large amounts of money that will be donated to their favorite charity and holding it in an exciting venue like Radio City Music Hall.”
Celebrity Contestants May Surprise You
Trebek’s frank assessment of the celebrity version of Jeopardy! is important to remember for any die-hard fans watching the spin-off. Trivia is not the focus, and neither is competing. It’s the personalities of the celebrities, which makes it appealing to new viewers.
That being said, Trebek found that there were several superstars that could possibly have held their own with actual contestants in a regular game. “Usually they come from the news media. Those folks have a good grasp on current events,” remarked Trebek. Still, those Jeopardy! skills are a bonus, not a requirement, of the spin-off.
There were a few people from Hollywood and professional sports who have competed on Celebrity Jeopardy! that Trebek believed would do well on the regular version of the show, too. From Jodie Foster to Aaron Rodgers and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Trebek knew not to judge competitors by their profession.