Come Cry a Happy Tear with Alex Trebek

A great idea for the “I am not a robot” Captcha guys would be to play that video instead of a “how many pictures have crosswalks” authenticator. If a tear doesn’t splash on the fingerprint reader, you fail. You are a mechanical person, and I do not trust you.

I’m on to you Watson.

Alex Trebek has always been around. Consistently stern, but caring. I always think about an exchange he had with A.J. Jacobs, a writer who wanted to expose his smugness.

I find out my fellow Esquire editor Andy is looking for a writer to interview Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy! I plead with him for the assignment. How could I not? I mean, Jeopardy!–the pot of gold at the end of my project. And Alex Trebek! The world’s most famous know-it-all.

“I’m a big Trebek fan,” I tell Andy. “Huge Trebek fan.” Andy–who eventually relents–is no moron. He knows I’m reading the encyclopedia and have an ulterior motive: me versus Trebek. A knowledge showdown.
Truth is, I have conflicted feelings about Trebek. On the one hand, I love Jeopardy! and respect the way he runs the show with stern colonel-like authority–not a moment wasted on buffoonery. On the other hand, I want to pop Trebek in his smug Canadian mouth. I mean, this is the man who pretends to know every potent potable and every presidential pet, who oozes faux sympathy for mistaken contestants with his famously condescending “sorry,” who pronounces “burrito” as if he went to kindergarten with Fidel Castro and “Volkswagen” as if he grew up on the
banks of the Rhine. Plus, my friend who writes about TV says that in real life Trebek is kind of rude. All the better.

This will be my chance to expose him for what he is: some guy with a ridiculous mustache who reads the answers off the cards. That’s right, folks: he has the answers already!

That was the plan, anyway. But if I was hoping to impress Trebek with my superior intelligence, things didn’t get off to the best start. The day after I flew to Los Angeles, I drove my rented compact to Trebek’s Beverly Hills mansion and rang the bell.

Trebek’s son answers, and tells me his dad is out back, waving vaguely in the direction of the yard. The yard in question is an elaborate landscape, with lots of trees and walls and bushes and paths, and after a brief walk, I run into a Mexican gardener. “I’m looking for Alex Trebek,” I say. He waves me back. I pass another Mexican gardener, who waves me even farther back. I get to a third Mexican gardener. He is on his knees, a look of intense concentration on his face as he digs a hole. By this time, I’m getting a little frustrated. “I’m looking for Alex Trebek,” I say, a bit too sharply. I am about to clarify with a “Donde esta Senor Trebek?” but I don’t have a chance.

“You found him,” says the gardener. He stands up, takes off his thick soiled glove, and comes to shake my hand. This is not good. As an experienced journalist, I probably should have been able to pick out Alex Trebek inside the perimeter of Alex Trebek’s own property. But in my defense, Trebek is wearing a baseball cap, his hair is grayer than I thought–and where the hell is his mustache? Turns out he shaved it off a few years ago. Okay, a little more research might have been advisable. It’s about five seconds into my alleged know-it-all showdown, and I’m feeling about as clever as, say, Jennifer Love Hewitt on Celebrity Jeopardy.

That book is The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World.

I think that’s how you credit a quote from a book, but I’m not classically trained. Please don’t kill me, Austin.

Needless to say, the videos Alex is making are more for us and not him. I gamble he will (or has already) recorded his Final Jeopardy goodbye to his millions of adoring fans.

We will stay strong and fight on until that final answer is “This disease took the life of many people you love, but was finally cured.”

“What is Cancer?”

-grit

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