James Holzhauer is perhaps the biggest name in Jeopardy! that’s not Alex Trebek right now. The record-smashing Jeopardy! contestant took the game show world by storm earlier in 2019, and his return for the upcoming Tournament of Champions is the biggest buzz the show has gotten in some time. The other news that ran concurrent to that, unfortunately, is the pancreatic cancer diagnosis of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.
Holzhauer himself will joke that game show scandals a few decades ago mean that Holzhauer and Trebek can’t exactly be best friends, but they have had a warm relationship both on and off the show. Holzhauer, for example, made a large donation in Trebek’s honor to a pancreatic cancer research walk earlier in the year.
“I felt like I had to do something in Alex’s honor, and it was a great opportunity to show my hometown some love,” Holzhauer said according to the Las Vegas Journal Review.. “I was definitely surprised when that donation went viral.”
The interview centered around the health of Trebek, who last week detailed how a second round of chemotherapy for his Stage IV pancreatic cancer has impacted his health and possibly his ability to host the show. That’s tough to hear for Holzhauer, who called the news that he needed another round of chemo a “gut punch” earlier this year.
“I’m not sure I can give you a more poignant reaction than ‘this really sucks,’” Holzhauer told the Review-Journal on Wednesday in an email. “It’s basically the same thing I felt when I first heard the news of his cancer diagnosis in the ‘Jeopardy’ green room.
“I will say that during the ToC taping, Alex’s voice and delivery sounded as good as ever.”
Holzhauer called Trebek a trouper, noting, “I’m sure it’s getting more and more difficult for him to keep showing up to work …”
He told the Vegas paper that Trebek’s uncertain future on the show is tough to take.
“Whatever happens from here, I’m glad I had the opportunity to be on the show with Alex,” Holzhauer wrote. “I can’t imagine ‘Jeopardy’ without him.”
That’s a sentiment a lot of Jeopardy! viewers certainly agree with, and hopefully there’s more good news for Trebek on the horizon. For now, he continues to host the show through Season 36, including Holzhauer’s return to the Jeopardy! stage in November.