Alex Trebek served as the host of “Jeopardy!” ever since the game show relaunched back in 1984 — and he wasn’t the only fixture of the series. Announcer Johnny Gilbert joined the show at the same time, and the duo worked together for 36 years, until Trebek’s death last month.
Now Gilbert is opening up about the loss of the beloved television personality and his longtime friend.
“Everybody's walking around in a little bit of a fog, shaken from the whole thing,” the 96-year-old announcer told People of the mood on set now. “Part of me left here when Alex left, really."
Trebek, who died at the age of 80 after battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer, continued filming episodes until just days before his death. Gilbert uttered the familiar phrase, "This is Jeopardy! Here is your host Alex Trebek,” for the last time on Oct. 29.
Working alongside the host for so long gave Gilbert a special perspective on the man that viewers may have missed.
"Alex has always been the same person," Gilbert explained "He was very introspective, he read a tremendous amount and traveled a lot. He was always doing crossword puzzles to keep his mind active."
And he tried to inspire others to better their own minds.
"He was always telling the youngsters in the audience, 'You've got to read, you have to learn. That's the way you're going to succeed,'" Gilbert recalled.
But Trebek had a love of laughs, as well, and they often happened when he engaged the studio audience in Q&As between commercial breaks.
"One gal asked him, 'Boxers or briefs?'” Gilbert said. “Alex took a beat and said, 'Thongs!' I told him a long time ago, 'If this show goes away, you could be a stand-up comedian.' He always loved to do jokes."
And when it comes to filling Trebek’s shoes on the show, it’s going to take someone with a quick wit of their own to do the job.
"’Jeopardy!’ is a very special game," Gilbert told People. "All that information that he gave out, aside from what was actually on the show, was in his mind. Somebody has to be able to handle that. If the person lets the show be the show, it will be fine."