We're used to seeing Alex Trebek in control. After all, for 20 years he has been the well-dressed man with all the answers on Jeopardy! But this week, the quizmaster's utterly clueless as to whether he'll beat fellow game-show hosts Bob Barker and Meredith Vieira to take home his fourth Daytime Emmy award.
TV Guide Online: You're nominated with Bob Barker. How would you do on The Price Is Right? Do you know the price of Rice-A-Roni, for instance?
No, and my wife keeps chastising me about that because she indicates to me, "You know, the prices have gone up a lot, Alex." I'm not sure I'd do all that well with the current prices of things like that. I tend not to pay all that much attention, although there are situations where I will drive around the block to find gasoline that's two cents less per gallon.
TVGO: The celebrity-themed Jeopardy! tournaments are always so competitive. What's the worst trash talk you've heard recently?
I made a ruling in Wayne Brady's behalf and Ashton Kutcher took exception to that. And Wayne wound up winning. The two of them went a little mano a mano, doing push-ups off camera.
TVGO: What's the best Jeopardy! strategy you've seen?
[One] champion we had would jump all over the board to cause a bit of confusion among his opponents. But if you do not have good reflexes and don't know the material, there is no strategy that will guarantee a victory.
TVGO: How do you decide what phrase to say when someone gets the right answer?
If I use one word 15 or 20 times in a row, that's gonna bug the audience, so I try to keep it fresh and varied. "That's right." "Good." "Correct." "You got it." "Right on." "Way to go."
TVGO: Good answer. What do you do while contestants write down their Final Jeopardy answers?
I watch to see if they're writing anything down, so I can comment afterwards. "He had a smile on his face so he must feel pretty confident. And, ooh, this one was struggling and didn't write anything down 'til the last possible moment."
TVGO: It's been three years since you shaved your mustache. Would you now consider a goatee?
Uh, never a goatee.
TVGO: And no soul patch, either?
TVGO: You have a 13-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. Do they ever goof on Dad's unique job?
Just when they wanna be little smartasses. They'll just play the kind of game that a lot of people play with me. "The answer is..." And I have to come up with the correct question.
TVGO: People say you seem a bit smug for a man who has all the answers right in front of him.
Well, I don't think I come off as arrogant or a know-it-all. There are times when I give a correct response that I didn't know. And I could say, "I'm sorry. The right response is 'Napoleon' — and I didn't know that before I read it on this clue!" But I'm the man in charge, and I have to act that way.
TVGO: Letterman once did a list of "Top 10 Ways to Tick Off Alex Trebek." No. 3 was, "Answer every question, 'Who is George Peppard?'" Would that really drive you nuts?
No. [Laughs] I love weird humor, and Letterman has some pretty weird humor going sometimes. Jeopardy! is fair game because we're part of Americana. People love us and make fun of us. And that's a sign that we've arrived.