Jeopardy! announcer Johnny Gilbert admittedly struggled with the decision to continue as the voice of the popular game show after the death of longtime host Alex Trebek in November 2020. Adjusting to a new permanent host after Trebek's battle with pancreatic cancer came to an end wouldn't be easy, the 92-year-old Gilbert told the Associated Press in a new profile.
"It's not easy for me because I worked with Alex for 37 years, and I never thought of anybody replacing him," he said. "Nobody can do it like he did it, you know." Despite his initial reluctance to move forward following the death of his longtime colleague and friend, the Jeopardy! producers asked Gilbert to consider his staying with the show as a comfort for viewers still mourning Trebek's loss.
"If you just listen to the way Johnny articulates each name, each word, he has a voice and even more importantly, delivery, unlike anyone else," Mike Richards, the show's executive producer, told the AP. Without Trebek, "the fact we can still rely on Johnny is obviously very important to us as well."
Gilbert's journey to becoming the voice of Jeopardy! began in Jacksonville, Florida, where he traveled at age 18 in response to a newspaper ad for a band singer. While the position had already been filled, Gilbert began work as a club emcee on the outskirts of town, despite having no previous experience. "[The club manager] taught me how to introduce people on the stage and take them off the stage," he recalled.
His burgeoning career in show business was interrupted by the draft, but even during his service, Gilbert was noticed as a talent and assigned to a U.S. Army special services entertainment unit in Germany. When he returned to the U.S., he began working in earnest as an announcer on shows such as Music Bingo, Beat the Odds, The Joker's Wild, Dinah! and The $25,000 Pyramid.
About 37 years ago, Gilbert got the gig to announce on a Jeopardy! for 13 weeks, and nearly four decades later, there are no plans to bring in anyone to replace him. Gilbert told the AP he wasn't sure if the show would bring him back as when taping begins this summer for Season 38, admitting, "I'm not as young as I used to be," but Richards assured fans that Gilbert will be the voice of the game show as long as he desires. "Johnny will be the announcer of Jeopardy! as long as he would like to be the announcer of Jeopardy!" Richards said. "I have told him that, and it's just how he is, humble. He's never taken the job for granted."