The Answer Is… is the memoir from long-time Jeopardy host, Alex Trebek. Those looking for a standard paint-by-numbers linear memoir may be disappointed, but what you get here is likely a better experience. I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook, which aside from the introduction, the conclusion and a handful of chapters read by Alex, was mostly read by Alex’s friend and Jeopardy contestant Ken Jennings.
In his memoir, Alex muses on the highlights of his life. From growing up the son of Ukrainian immigrants in Sudbury, Ontario to how his early days in radio led to the natural transition to television host. It’s fascinating how easily Trebek would bounce from variety show host, to afternoon chat show host to game show host. Sure, he had his nervous episodes and doubts about his abilities, but he seemed to be able to excel quite handily with whatever task he was given. This has a lot to do with his positive attitude and his refusal to quit when confronted with adversity (aside from his brief tenure in military school).
There are many anecdotes in this book that had me laughing out loud. From meeting the Queen, to his hilarious Q&As with the Jeopardy studio audiences, Alex has a great sense of humor and humility about himself. He even touches on Will Ferrell’s infamous impersonation, which Alex said flattered him. That said, he notes that Eugene Levy did the best impression during his time on SCTV when they lampooned the CBC quiz show, Reach for the Top.
As expected, much of the book deals with the behind the scenes nature of Jeopardy and some of the contestants that Alex deemed the most memorable over the years. One of the things I wasn’t aware of was that the cap on consecutive show appearances only ended in 2003. Previously, you could only win 5 shows before you had to retire. This worked out really well as Ken Jennings would appear shortly after the rule was abolished.
In my opinion, the only time the book really falters is when Trebek enters into political commentary. While he stays neutral in his assessment (problems on both sides of the political spectrum in the United States), it just felt sort of out-of-place and shoe-horned in. It wasn’t offensive by any means, but more of a non-opinion… opinion? It’s not uncommon to think that we need to come together and end the division amongst the population, but it’s unlikely to happen and it sort of felt like fluff.
Things take a turn for the serious as Alex gets deep into his cancer diagnosis – something he’s still currently battling. Trebek is very candid and open about how this fight has changed his life and has left him tired and drained on a daily basis. It’s a sobering look at the effort it takes to step in the ring with such an aggressive form of cancer. Alex isn’t looking for sympathy here, but he said he’s received a lot of positive comments from people saying he’s made them feel less alone in their own battle with the disease.
This was a quick read (under 5 hours total on audio). It breezed by and was enjoyable enough that I could recommend this to just about anyone. Alex is truly a good man with a heart for philanthropy and the Jeopardy trivia brought to the surface here would be interesting enough to anyone who had just a passing interest in the show.