Mind-Blowing Facts You Never Knew About Jeopardy!

‘Jeopardy!’ is more than just a game show, it’s a part of American culture. The classic show has been running for several decades now, with several generations of Americans growing up listening to Alex Trebek’s amusing one-liners and yelling out answers at their TV sets. Even if you’ve watched a lot of the show, there’s a lot you surely don’t know about it.

Announcing His Battle with Cancer

Alex Trebek, the 78-year-old host of the long-running game show, announced live on an episode of ‘Jeopardy!’ that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. And that was at the beginning of his illness. Amazingly, Trebek didn’t miss a day of work, even while he was undergoing chemotherapy. ‘It wouldn’t be right for me to walk away from this if I can possibly do it and I managed to do it,” he said. “So what’s the big deal?”

Source: YouTube

He discovered the illness after feeling constant pain in his stomach which led to finding a bulge in his stomach that was “the size of a small fist.” He said that he’s been wearing a hairpiece to deal with the hair loss that results from chemotherapy. “My mother passed away a couple of years ago at the age of 95,” Trebek said. “So, if I have a majority of her genes, I should be okay for a while.”

The Man Who Won $1.69 Million

This is James Holzhauer – the man that won $1.69 million on ‘Jeopardy!’ which makes him the newest record holder for the highest amount won on the show. And believe it or not, his time in the spotlight isn’t over yet. He’s returning to the show this month. The best part about this is that he donated a large sum of his winning.

Source: CNBC

The Las Vegas native and his wife have donated to The Las Vegas-Clark County Library, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum and the Ronald McDonald House in Las Vegas.  Curious as to how he got so successful at the game show? He credits reading children’s books from the library as the key to his success (hence the donation to the library). Yay for reading!

Horrifically Horrendous Handwriting

Have you ever noticed that Jeopardy! Contestants always seem to have absolutely awful handwriting? There are plenty of times when host Alex Trebek and the audience watching at home can’t even read what has been written.

Source: eternallifestyle.com

Well, this isn’t actually the fault of the contestants. They have to write on a little screen using an oversized stylus, so it’s very tricky to write as well as they usually would.

A Very Happy Ending

One of the most memorable contestants of all was undoubtedly Eddie Timanus. He was the show’s first blind player and had to use braille to read the categories and type his answers out on a keyboard.

Source: Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

He went on a five-game win streak and earned $90,000. Not only that, his future wife saw him on TV and tracked him down to go on their first date!

You Can’t Buzz When You Want

Like most game shows, contestants have their own buzzers on Jeopardy! to signify that they’re ready to answer a question, but they can’t actually hit the buttons anytime they like.

Ken Jennings in a still from the show.
Photo by Jeopardy Productions/Getty Images

The buzzers are fitted with ‘buzzer enablers’ that only turn on when Alex Trebek has finished reading the question. This was done to prevent people from continually buzzing and making loud noises before Trebek could even finish talking.

A Very Special Rule

Some people dream of appearing on a game show just once in their lives, with the idea of being on TV and having a chance at winning a big cash prize being a very exciting one for many people.

Alex Trebek in a still from the show.
Source: YouTube

Others are addicts and actually spend their lives trying to get on lots of shows. There’s a special rule when it comes to Jeopardy! However. You aren’t actually allowed on the show if you’ve already appeared on the sister show, Wheel of Fortune.

Jeopardy! Has a ‘Clue Crew’

As previously stated, there’s a big team of people working on the creation of each and every episode of Jeopardy! The questions have to be written and fact-checked, the set has to be prepared, etc.

Source: Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

There are also video clues to take into account. These are made by the show’s ‘Clue Crew,’ who have traveled over a million miles all around the world to make the video clues for the show.

Getting Onto The Show Is An Achievement

Winning an episode of Jeopardy! is a big challenge, but even getting onto the show in the first place is quite an accomplishment. In fact, Jeopardy! Has some of the strictest entry requirements for prospective contestants.

Source: Emily Yahr/TWP

To get on the show, you have to ace an exam with 50 questions on it. You only get 15 minutes to finish the exam, too, so you have to answer each question very quickly.

The Question Masters

A tremendous amount of work has to go into each and every episode. Someone has to write all those questions and answers, after all! There’s a big team of writers and researchers working on Jeopardy!.

Source: Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

The writers come up with various questions and clues. When they’ve finished, they pass the info onto the researchers who have to check all of the facts and ensure everything is accurate.

It Wouldn’t Be The Same Without Johnny

Two people make Jeopardy! Work so well. Alex Trebek, the host, is one of them, but the other big name that should never be forgotten is Johnny Gilbert.

Source: Fandom

Gilbert, who is in his nineties now, is the announcer for the show and has held that position since it started up in 1984. Gilbert has a significant history in game show announcing, working on shows like Pyramid, The Price is Right, and others.

The Short Straw

There’s something very strange about the Jeopardy! Contestants that you probably never noticed before; they all seem to be precisely the same height! No, it’s not a particular part of the contestant selection process, it’s actually a production trick.

Source: Reddit

Each contestant is actually standing on a platform that can raise or lowered to match up with the heights of the others. This is done to put each contestant on a ‘level playing field,’ so to speak.

Trebek Actually Loves To Watch The Show

Alex Trebek has several hobbies and interests outside of the show. He likes to play hockey, like any good Canadian, and he enjoys working on little projects around the home.

Source: Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

He also loves to watch Jeopardy!, which is quite surprising considering how much time he spends working on the show and the fact that he knows how every episode is going to end before it even starts.

Alex Trebek Only Missed One Episode

Alex Trebek has been hosting Jeopardy! Since 1984 and has been the face of the show for all that time. He films multiple episodes each day and has prided himself on never missing a single episode. Well, except one.

A still of Pat Sajak.
Source: YouTube

Back in 1997 on April 1 (April Fool’s Day), Trebek decided to organize a little prank with Pat Sajak, host of Wheel of Fortune. The pair traded places and hosted each other’s shows to put some big smiles on the faces of the audience members.

A Little Background on Alex Trebek

When thinking up exciting facts about Jeopardy!, many people will tell you that Alex Trebek is actually Canadian. This is true, and many fans of the show will be familiar with this fact.

An image of a smiling Alex Trebek.
Photo by Doug Griffin/Toronto Star/Getty Images

What they might not know, however, is that Trebek had a history in game shows. He hosted a high school quiz called ‘Reach for the Top’ in Canada before heading over the border into the United States.

Alex Trebek Is Only A Stage Name

Prepare to have your mind blown. Alex Trebek isn’t actually called Alex Trebek! He’s one of the most legendary and iconic game show hosts of all time, but he uses a different name off-stage.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

In reality, the hilarious host’s name is George Alexander Trebek. This means that the ‘Alex’ part isn’t totally made-up, but it’s only really his middle name, rather than his first name.

The Jeopardy! We Know Is Technically A Reboot

The current version of Jeopardy! has been on the air for so long, it feels like it never really had a beginning and may never have an end, but the show in its current form is technically a reboot!

A dated still from the show.
Source: YouTube

In fact, the original Jeopardy! Started off in 1964 and ran through until 1975 on NBC. The show then had a brief revival in 1978 but had to wait until 1984 for its full reboot, which has been on the air ever since.

There Isn’t Always A Winner

The whole point of a game show is to have a winner, right? Well, in the case of Jeopardy! It is actually possible for an episode to end without anyone actually winning, but this only happens very rarely.

Source: YouTube

In thousands of episodes of the show, there have only been seven cases of a ‘no-win’ game, so it’s highly unlikely you’ve ever actually seen one unless you watch every episode religiously.

For A Good Cause

Every now and then, Jeopardy! Hosts special celebrity shows in which various famous faces battle it out to take home the biggest cash prize. Except, they don’t actually take home any money at all. It all goes to charity.

Source: vimeo.com

Each celebrity chooses a charity before they come on the show, and the biggest winner so far is Andy Richter, the comedian who has often worked alongside Conan O’Brien. Richter earned $68,000 for a children’s hospital.

Alex Trebek Has Famous Facial Hair

Over the years, Trebek has become famous for his facial hair. He had a classic mustache for around thirty years before shaving it off, which came as a huge shock to fans of the show.

Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

After a few years, the show actually ran a poll to let fans vote on Trebek’s new facial hair, and he now has a stylish silver beard.

The Show Has Some Hardcore Fans

Every show has its ‘fandom’ with the hardcore fans going to great lengths to know all there is to know about the show. Jeopardy! is no exception. Online, you can find the ‘J-Archive.’

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This is a website dedicated to Jeopardy! And it contains all of the categories, questions, and answers that have ever been featured on the show. With thousands of episodes, that’s a whole lot of knowledge.

Trebek Is A Record Holder

Alex Trebek is one of the biggest names in the quiz and game show world. You can’t think about iconic game show hosts without his name and face popping up in your mind.

Source: Youtube.com

But did you know he’s a world record holder too? He currently holds the world record for hosting the most episodes of a single game show. It’ll be a long time before anyone breaks that record.

A Crazy Conspiracy Theory

There are all sorts of conspiracy theories out there, and there are even a few about Alex Trebek! Some people have also suggested the Jeopardy! Host might be a robot because of his serious demeanor and unflinching gaze.

Source: Saturday Night Live – RSSing.com

Saturday Night Live did an amusing spoof of Trebek, with Will Ferrell in the lead role, and a metal band named Zion Grove even wrote a song called ‘Alex Trebek Is a Robot.’

A Very Exclusive Club

You’ll have to be a real genius to enter Jeopardy!’s exclusive ‘300 Club’. How do you get in? Well, access to this club is reserved for people who managed to answer at least 300 questions correctly on the show.

Source: hollywoodreporter.com

So far, there are only 19 people who have managed to enter the 300 Club, which proves that the show doesn’t pull any punches when writing up some of its questions.

Alex Trebek Is A Joker

Alex Trebek is well-known for his excellent sense of humor. He’s always making jokes and busting out some hilarious one-liners that leave the contestants and audience members in hysterics during each episode.

Source: Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

One time, back in 2005 during the Ultimate Tournament of Champions series, Trebek decided to play an April Fools joke on his audience by coming out on stage without wearing any pants.

The Show Originally Had Another Name

Back in the pre-production stage, Jeopardy! was just an idea in the mind of Merv Griffin. He worked alongside his wife, Julann. In fact, it was allegedly Julann who thought up the main idea while taking a flight from New York.

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When Griffin then pitched the show to NBC, he called it ‘What’s the Question?’ but the executives decided to give it a new, shorter name to be more catchy and memorable.

Most Contestants Earn Some Nice Prizes

Game shows live or die by the size of their prizes. If a show can only offer low prices, it just doesn’t seem as exciting or interesting to either watch or tries to take part, but Jeopardy! Definitely excels in this area.

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The second and third place contestants only walk home with $2,000 or $1,000, but the winners receive an average of $40,467.40, with millions of dollars being given away over the years.

The Show That Never Stops

Jeopardy! has been running for over three decades now since the current version started up in 1984. During that time, over 400 other game shows have come on the air and been canceled.

Source: courtesy Jeopardy! Productions Inc.

This essentially makes Jeopardy! One of the toughest game shows in the business, as it isn’t easy to create a successful formula that can really stand the test of time so strongly.

Alex Trebek Never Stops Changing

Anyone who ever watches Jeopardy! will know that the show’s host, Alex Trebek, always wears a classy suit. Now you might be wondering how many of those suits Trebek actually has backstage.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The answer might shock you: he has over 100 suits in total! This is because, due to the way the show is filmed, Trebek has to change into five separate suits each day and get them all washed.

Always Keep A Dollar Back

We’ve seen that it is possible for episodes of Jeopardy! to end without a winner, and if that happens, everyone goes home with nothing and a new set of contestants arrive to take their places.

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The show’s creators have issued a helpful hint to prevent no-win games; they encourage players to always keep a dollar back when wagering. That way, even if the other players finish with $0, you’ll still have more cash than them and be the champion of the day.

Merv Griffin Made It

Ever wondered who thought up the idea for Jeopardy! in the first place? That honor belongs to Merv Griffin, who initially worked as a radio singer and Broadway actor. He also hosted his own talk show before heading into production.

Source: mervgriffin.com

He created Jeopardy!, but was also responsible for the creation of another iconic game show: Wheel of Fortune. Clearly, he had a brilliant mind when it came to game show development.

The Show Is A Prize Winner

Every contestant who arrives on the show floor of Jeopardy! Hopes to head home with some big prizes after answering questions successfully and making it through to the final rounds, but the show itself has won some impressive awards too.

 Alex Trebek attends the book party for Alex Trebek "Jeopardy."
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

In fact, throughout its run, Jeopardy! Has won no less than 33 Daytime Emmy Awards and even won a Peabody award as well. It’s also been ranked as one of the top game shows by countless experts.

Alex Trebek Was Not The Original Host

Alex Trebek is synonymous with Jeopardy! Nowadays. It’s impossible to think of the show without him, and many younger viewers wouldn’t even know that he wasn’t actually the original host of the show.

Art Fleming poses for a studio portrait.
Photo by NBC/Getty Images

In fact, the very first host of Jeopardy! was Art Fleming, but Trebek took over the reins in 1984 and hasn’t stopped since then. Fleming earned two Emmy nominations during his time as host of the show.

It’s Not Called Jeopardy

If you ever happen to meet a hardcore Jeopardy! Fan and accidentally spell the show’s name without the exclamation mark at the end, you’ll probably get a lecture.

Source: cenblog.org

It’s important to note that the exclamation mark is a part of the show’s name and was added in for extra emphasis and excitement. Ever since the show began, that iconic exclamation mark has been a part of its name.

Merv Griffin Was A Multi-Talented Man

The show’s creator, Merv Griffin, was an exceptionally talented and skilled man who seemed to excel in everything he did. Before he got into the creation of game shows, he was a singer.

Merv Griffin poses for a portrait.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

One of his biggest ever hit was the classic “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts,” which sold several million copies upon its release and made it to the top spot on the Hit Parade.

There Have Been More Than 7,000 Episodes

Jeopardy! is one of the longest running shows of all time. The show’s 35th season started in September of 2018, meaning that there have been more than 7,000 episodes of Jeopardy! So far.

Source: Twitter

Behind the scenes, Alex Trebek and co can film up to five episodes in a single day and shoot for around 46 days each year, resulting in well over 200 episodes being shown each year.

Contestants Have To Pack Their Bags

We’ve looked at how Alex Trebek has to change into multiple suits each day due to the nature of the show’s filming, but how about the contestants? Well, they actually have to change too!

Source: techrepublic.com

Contestants are asked to bring some spare clothes along with them. This is so that the winner of the day can change to make it look like a different day, even though they might film more episodes on the very same day.

The Master of Jeopardy!

So who is the best ever Jeopardy! Player? Well, that honor has got to belong to the one and only Ken Jennings. Jennings currently holds the record for the longest ever Jeopardy! Streak.

Photo by Jeopardy Productions/Getty Images

His reign occurred back in 2004 when he managed to win a whopping 74 games in a row before finally being dethroned. For viewers, Jennings’ run lasted for months, but it was actually all filmed in a couple of weeks.

The Biggest Cash Prize

The name ‘Brad Rutter’ merely is legendary in the quiz show world, and another hardcore Jeopardy! The fan will undoubtedly be familiar with the man from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Rutter is the highest-earning contestant in Jeopardy! History.

Brad Rutter attends a press conference.
Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images

In total, he has earned over $4.3 million from the show and has earned plenty of cash on other game shows as well. He and Ken Jennings have been typically ranked as the best players in the history of the game.

The Best Of The Best

Having been classed as the two most excellent players in the Jeopardy! The world, Ken Jennings, and Brad Rutter decided to take part in an exceptional episode that saw them face off against an IBM supercomputer called Watson.

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The show was filmed in 2011, with Watson absolutely dominating. Rutter finished third in the show, with Jennings claiming second place, but Watson was way out in the lead, earning over $50k more than the others.

Not An Original Idea

We’ve seen that Jeopardy! Came from the creative minds of Merv Griffin and his wife, Julann Griffin, and the structure of the show really is genius in the way that it forces contestants to think about the questions, rather than the answers.

Source: Youtube

However, this idea had actually been done before! A show called ‘CBS Television Quiz’ had used the exact same format of making contestants guess a question from an answer, but it wasn’t anywhere near as successful as Jeopardy!.

Merv Griffin Even Wrote The Music

Merv Griffin has a rich history in music, having worked as a radio singer with an orchestra and written several songs of his own. So, when it came time to make Jeopardy!, he decided to write the theme tune too.

Source: quora.com

Griffin said he only spent a minute making up the show’s music, which was initially meant as a lullaby for children, but that single stroke of creativity earned him tens of millions of dollars in royalties.