The answer: A gray sliver of facial hair still associated with a game show more than a decade after it’s been shaved off.
What is Alex Trebek’s mustache?
Indeed, “mustache” was the first word that sprang to mind when CNN’s Lizzy O’Leary — a contestant on this week’s “Jeopardy! Power Players Week” — was asked about Trebek.
Of course, even O’Leary acknowledged that her answer doesn’t apply anymore. But it says something about the lasting power of “Jeopardy!” that it’s hard to picture Trebek — or the show — without the mustache.
“It’s an iconic show,” said former Obama White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, who competed against O’Leary and “Hardball” host Chris Matthews in an episode airing Monday. “You watched it some in college. You watched some after dinner or something. It’s something that’s been with us for so long.”
In Trebek’s 28 years as host of “Jeopardy!” (weeknights, 7:30 p.m., ABC), D.C. has always been a hotbed for contestants, and the show hasn’t lost its popularity in the region.
Hundreds of Washingtonians lined up early at DAR Constitution Hall last month to see Trebek take his act on the road for the show’s teen tournament — which aired the past two weeks — and the Power Players contests, featuring an array of celebrities competing for charity.
This isn’t the first time “Jeopardy!” has come to Washington. Another “Power Players Week” was held eight years ago.
“We’re like the presidential run, except in reverse,” Trebek said. “When people are elected president, they come to Washington, D.C., and if they re-elect they have to stay for eight years. When we come, we leave for eight years.”
Trebek comes to D.C. for a few days each year to host the National Geographic Bee. But bringing “Jeopardy!” to the District gave the host a larger time frame to see more of the area’s famed landmarks — and to experience some everyday D.C. nuisances.
During the taping, Trebek took jabs at Metrobus drivers (“Have they never heard, ‘Don’t block the box’”), our traffic jams (“I’ll never complain about traffic in L.A. again”) and the ever-present sound of emergency vehicles (“Can you go a period without hearing sirens in Washington, D.C.?”).
The celebrities competing this week have a distinctive D.C. flavor, with many either covering the news or making headlines, like Gibbs, and his predecessor in the Bush administration, Dana Perino, who competed against NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabar and CNBC anchor David Faber in an episode airing Tuesday.
Other local tie-ins include clues about D.C. sites and one about a certain Nationals pitcher.
About the only thing missing was Trebek’s mustache.
“It’s in a drawer in my dresser in Los Angeles, so I can’t put it on at any time,” joked Trebek, who wore a fake mustache as an April Fool’s joke in 2001, months after his famous shave. “But I don’t think I’ll grow it again. If I do grow it again, it will come out a lot whiter.”
It’s a good trick to keep Trebek and “Jeopardy!” from showing their age.
Trebek in Another Role
Alex Trebek, above, has hosted “Jeopardy!” for 28 years, and has been in the television broadcasting business for 50 years. The other game shows he’s hosted include “The Wizard of Odds” and “Classic Concentration.” He told the audience in Washington last month that he’d love to star on “The Hollywood Squares” and later told reporters that moderating a presidential debate sounds appealing. “I’d be able to bring the everyman approach,” he said.