Longtime "Jeopardy!" announcer Johnny Gilbert is remembering Alex Trebek weeks after he died from pancreatic cancer. With a career spanning several decades, the 96-year-old has worked with many game show hosts, but in an interview with People, Gilbert said it was Trebek who left the greatest impression.
"I noticed that he wasn't the usual big-smiley-face emcee," he said. "He was quiet and listening to everybody and everything."
The pair worked on "Jeopardy!" for 37 years during which time they got to know each other well. Gilbert said what was notable about Trebek was that he never changed. "He was very introspective, he read a tremendous amount and traveled a lot. He was always doing crossword puzzles to keep his mind active."
Trebek also loved to interact with the audience. He would often urge younger attendees to read and keep learning so that they could succeed in life and would answer countless questions from the crowd. "He would answer any question anyone wanted to ask," Gilbert recalled. "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."
Some of the questions were valid but most were "silly," Gilbert said. "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 added that a "part of him left" the set of "Jeopardy!" after "Alex left."
Trebek died on Nov. 8 at age 80 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. Ken Jennings, who is the all-time "Jeopardy!" champion, was the first of several guest hosts to appear on the game show until a permanent replacement is found. Shortly after he was announced as guest host, Jennings was slammed for an insensitive tweet in 2014 in which he said: "Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair."
The tweet has been deleted but Jennings had already apologized back in 2018.
"I never did a public flogging thing for this but I did apologize personally to angry/hurt people who reached out personally," he tweeted. "It was a joke so inept that it meant something very different in my head & I regret the ableist plain reading of it!"
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