“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek posed a new challenge to viewers of his syndicated quiz show this week.
We’ll take “Famous Toupees” for $200, Alex!
“What the challenge for ‘Jeopardy!’ viewers is right now is to figure out, ‘Is that Alex’s real hair, or is that a full hairpiece?’” the beloved host said in his first at-home television interview since revealing his pancreatic cancer diagnosis in March.
“Because they all know that when you start chemo, you lose your hair,” Trebek told “CBS This Morning’s” Jane Pauley for an interview that airs this weekend, a preview of which was released Thursday. “So which is it? All right. You’re looking right now. … This is not the real me, but on air, I’m told that there were times when the hairpiece looked better than my real hair.”
The 78-year-old has treated the often-terminal disease in such a jocular fashion since going public. But he’s repeatedly vowed to beat it as well, despite not elaborating on his medical prognosis.
He told Pauley that he was in production on “Jeopardy!” when he learned of his cancer. He had complained to his doctor about stomach pain that wouldn’t go away, and tests eventually showed that he had a lump “the size of a small fist” inside his abdomen.
Early in his treatment, Trebek suffered excruciating stomach cramps both on and off camera. They were so bad that he was “on the floor writhing in pain.”
The pain level “went from a 3 to an 11. And I just couldn’t believe. I didn’t know what was happening,” Trebek said. “And it happened three or four times a day while we were taping. So that was a little rough on me.”
Trebek, who has helmed the TV show since 1984, has completed nearly 8,000 episodes and resolved to go on despite his illness. On one occasion, he barely made it to his dressing room, where he cried from the pain. He said he waited for the spasms to pass and took pain medication.
“I got through it. And the producers were very kind. They said, ‘Look, if you don’t want to do the show, we’ll just cancel taping.’ I said, ‘No. We’re here. We’re doing the shows,’” Trebek said.
The host wrapped Season 35 last month, and is taking a few months off before production begins on the next season. Season 36 starts filming in July and premieres in September.
He hopes his own hair will grow back during that time, he said.
On Sunday, Trebek won his sixth Daytime Emmy Award, and the appreciative host joked that he didn’t mind if he earned it because of “sympathy votes.”
Trebek’s full interview airs on “CBS Sunday Morning” this Sunday.