Barry Petchesky’s elegiac tribute to Alex Trebek earlier this week was full of the appropriate pathos for the foremost game show host of our time. Indeed, Trebek’s tenure on Jeopardy is close to surpassing Bob Barker’s TPIR run in terms of overall longevity. And Trebek, by all accounts, has harassed far fewer spokesmodels.
The announcement Trebek made about being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer was certainly moving and his determination to fight the disease admirable. All of these things in total create a picture of an eloquent and patrician personality whose presence will be missed by all.
And that is just what that purely evil motherfucker wants you to think.
There is no one in the culture who has sliced out the heart of hapless no-names more often than Trebek. And he does it all with a camera trained on him. Alex Trebek runs up on you with no mask, because when he’s done with you, you’re dead.
I too, just like Mr. Petchesky, lost on Jeopardy. I came in second. I did not get my ass kicked. I did very well, right up until the moment when I choked to death on my own brain in Final Jeopardy and dissociated with my body.
Earlier in the show, I was one question away from a lock game. Had I answered that question correctly, I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to show my entirely wrecked ass to several million people. I almost had $18,000, and potentially more if I did well on future shows. Instead, I ended up with enough cash after taxes to pay for my flight, hotel, and a couple dinners out. I got owned, I owned myself, everything owned me. Owni, Owno, Ownum.
Alex Trebek watched all this happen, as he does every show, and smiled. After I melted into a puddle of egoless goo, he shook my hand, made a few seconds of small talk, and walked off the stage.
He presumably went to his dressing room, got out of his suit, and into the appropriate clothes for a weekend of seal-coating his driveway and workshop. This is not some weird speculation on my part. This is what he likely did.
During the audience Q&A, he talked about how excited he was to go home and apply a very intricate layer of high-end seal coat to a large area of cement. This man, who makes millions per annum, who was 72 years-old at the time of my taping, was going home to do a task that even the most dedicated DIYers usually farm out. He was taking time set aside for leisure to do unpleasant work, labor which others with far less money than he would gladly do for a small fee. Trebek could pay these hypothetical driveway sealers several thousand dollars and still not have come close to expending all of the funds he made on that one single day taping the game show Jeopardy.
That is not normal. That is worse than wearing a hair-shirt. That is mortification of the flesh. For what? I think we know: Decades of watching hapless nerds who spent months and years auditioning for his show get fucking destroyed.
I was lucky. I got called to be on the show the first time I passed the online exam and got an audition. I met others who had made it to the audition phase or even the contestant pool five and six times without getting called to appear. I cannot imagine the anguish one of these long-suffering goofballs goes through when they finally make it on the show and get eviscerated by some other uber-dork like Jennings or Chu.
And all the while, there’s Trebek, perched on his stool, marking up his answer card, not flinching once at the carnage taking place before him. He is not the bolt-gun operator at the abattoir, glumly knocking off the cows as they moo down the conveyor belt. No. He is something far more sinister. He is Caligula at the Colosseum. He is Torquemada watching the Auto Da Fe and we love him for it. When he coaxes the quirky stories from contestants, two of whom are irrevocably doomed, we chuckle at his quips. In twenty-five minute blocks, he is the primary witness to the endless slaughter of innocents and then he bids the audience farewell until the next group of damned souls arrive. Alex Trebek is a monster and he will live forever.