‘What Alex did best is he didn’t overshadow the contestants’: 'Jeopardy!' winner & Queen’s alum reflects on Alex Trebek

Jordan Nussbaum talks Trebek and the magic of ‘Jeopardy!’

Alex Trebek (left) and Jordan Nussbaum (right) during a June 2018 episode.
Credit: 
Jeopardy! Productions Inc.

In the wake of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek’s passing in November and his final episode airing last week, one-time winner Jordan Nussbaum, Queen’s Law ’15, discussed meeting the famous Canadian. 

“What Alex did best is he didn’t overshadow the contestants […] he didn’t make it all about himself,” Nussbaum said in an interview with The Journal.

Nussbaum, a long-time fan of the trivia show, appeared on Jeopardy! twice in June 2018, winning a total of $17,800, which he partly used to buy a house in Toronto where he works for Romano Law Office. The rest is still “sitting in an American bank account” as a nest egg for a rainy day, he said. But before his brush with Jeopardy! glory, Nussbaum was a student at Queen’s Law with a serious knack for trivia.

He has fond memories of attending trivia nights at two downtown Kingston bars, the Alibi and the Brooklyn—both of which have since shut down for good—with a team of fellow law students.

Nussbaum remembers his time on Jeapardy! as a thrilling yet sleep-depriving experience.

“I was sitting in the studio all day waiting for the last game and I finally got called […] but then [after] I was juiced. I was really, really on a rush for the rest of the night and I couldn’t fall asleep. I got like two hours of sleep that night, having gotten three hours of sleep the night before so I was pretty tired come the [second taping]. I woke up at 6 because they pick you up at 7 in the morning.”

Despite his two restless nights, Nussbaum was struck by Trebek’s kindness toward him, the other contestants, and those in the audience.

After the first commercial break on the show, Trebek would ask each contestant to share a personal anecdote.

“The story that I told for the first game […] was about how I had recently taken a trip to Poland to visit my grandfather’s hometown and other significant locations to his Holocaust survival story, and Alex seemed like he was genuinely interested in that which was nice,” said Nussbaum. “When there was something that really struck a chord with Alex, he went out of his way to talk about it a little bit more.”

“He was notorious for his great pronunciation,” Nussbaum continued, recounting a moment when Trebek jokingly corrected his pronunciation of Rochambeau, a French general who fought in the American Revolution.

While Trebek was known for his excellent diction, he made the occasional mistake according to Nussbaum, which the crew would fix by asking Trebek to dub over any flubs during commercial breaks.

“He made a really funny [mistake] during my game,” Nussbaum said. The question listed members of the NWA and asked the players to identify the rap group.

“The members that they listed were Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and MC Ren. But instead of MC Ren, he said McRen like McDonalds.”

Trebek may not have been intimately familiar with Gangsta Rap, but Nussbaum said he was a humble man.

“While he was great at delivering the clues, and had some good banter, and cracked the odd joke, he didn’t overshadow the contestants themselves and the trivia. He didn’t make it all about himself.”

In Nussbaum’s opinion, despite his popularity, Trebek’s humility set him apart from other hosts who let their fame become the main attraction of the show.

“What made Alex Trebek great is he did his role better than anybody had before him for sure, and maybe better than anyone after him ever could or will.”

Corrections

This article has been updated to reflect that Jordan Nussbaum played two games of Jeopardy! but only won one game.

The Journal regrets the error.

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