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‘Jeopardy!’ Champion Brad Rutter Recalls Hilarious Prank Alex Trebek Pulled on Contestants

Prevention logo Prevention 1/13/2021 Kayla Blanton
  • Jeopardy! champion Brad Rutter shared a fond memory of Alex Trebek.
  • He says Trebek once came out without pants on to calm the contestants’ nerves.
  • Trebek’s final episodes aired Jan. 4 through Jan. 8—his last taping was on Oct. 29, just 10 days before he died of pancreatic cancer.

Although Alex Trebek wore his stoic game face most times you saw him host Jeopardy!, he had a wonderfully dry sense of humor. More than anything, he cared about the contestants on the show—and in a radio interview with WOGL’s Glenn Kalina, Jeopardy! champion Brad Rutter shared a memory that reflected both those sides of the game show host.

In 2005, Rutter competed in the Ultimate Tournament of Champions against Jerome Vered and interim guest Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings. With a lot of prize money on the line, they were all understandably shaking in their boots.

“We were so nervous, we were just all pale as a ghost,” Rutter recalled. Then, one of them (“I don’t remember who,” Rutter said.) joked that to “cut the tension” they should play without wearing pants. “What we didn’t realize was that our mics were live, and Alex heard us,” Rutter said. When the time came for Trebek to join them on stage, his name was announced and, yep, he came out pantsless.

Obviously, this moment didn’t air on TV, but it’s a precious, funny memory Rutter holds dear. Unfortunately, due to the competitive and secretive nature of quiz shows, Rutter said there wasn’t much interaction with Trebek outside of filming.

“You’re really just not allowed to talk about much,” he explained. “I was lucky enough to be on the show so often that I got to know Alex a little.” He added that the host’s dry sense of humor came out “even more so in person than you would see on the show.”

Trebek’s final episodes of Jeopardy! aired Jan. 4 through Jan. 8—his last taping was on Oct. 29, just 10 days before he died at age 80, losing his battle with stage four pancreatic cancer. Before he signed off for the last time, he gave the world a parting look at his sentimental side, with an emotional speech about unity and kindness amid the ongoing global pandemic.

“We’re trying to build a gentler, kinder society, and if we all pitch in just a little bit, we’re gonna get there,” he said to the camera. Oh Alex, how you will be missed.

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