What is your ideal office?
My ideal office is what I call my place of organized chaos. Organized because all my research and reference works are close at hand along with my history books. The chaos comes in because I tend to let a lot of stuff pile up on my desk for a while before attacking it with a vengeance and clearing it all away. Except for bills, which I pay immediately.
It’s been rumored that you know all of the answers to the questions asked on Jeopardy—are there any significant gaps in your knowledge?
There are many gaps, however, I probably appear to be brighter than I am because I’m a generalist rather than a specialist—I know a little about a lot. It has served me very well.
Watson’s winning run on Jeopardy is something of a technological milestone—what are your feelings on the future artificial intelligence, are you fearful or hopeful?
Artificial intelligence is the future and that causes me some concern. For two reasons. First, robots are replacing human laborers faster than we can train these people for new jobs. Second, as A.I. improves there will surely be problems of ethics, morality, and judgment.
Have you forged any friendships with contestants?
When I started in the game show business, there were very strict rules about any socializing with contestants. This applied to the time before they competed as well as to the time after they appeared. I have abided by that rule to this day.
What is the last piece of art that moved you?
Stationary art—paintings, sculptures, etc.—have never moved me at a visceral level. They have caused me to think and wonder and marvel but that’s it. However if you consider motion pictures as an art form then the story changes dramatically. There are many movies that have moved me star ting with my favor ite How Green Was My Valley. I’ve seen it a dozen times and it still brings a tear to my eyes.
Jeopardy has run back to back with Wheel of Fortune for many years—have you ever had any feuds with your rival host Pat Sajak?
Pat and I have been friends for over 35 years, but friends who do not socialize together. His main home is in Maryland, mine is in LA. We work on different days. Once in a while we manage to do lunch.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
My homeroom teacher in my senior year at high school said this to me on graduation day—“Alex, never lose your love of life.” His understanding of me almost brought me to tears and his words have stayed with me for all these years.
What is the most Canadian thing about you?
I would hope that the most Canadian thing about me is a kinder, gentler kind of personality.
Who was the most memorable contestant on Celebrity Jeopardy?
There have been a number of memorable celebrities on Jeopardy, but for different reasons. Michael McKean for his great knowledge, Regis Philbin for his exuberant personality, Cheech Marin for showing us he was more than just Cheech, the late Jerry Orbach for his competitiveness, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for his calm and distinguished demeanor.
What’s the most rebellious thing you’ve ever done?
I walked out of military college after just three days.
What’s the most interesting fact you’ve learned recently?
That Abraham Lincoln never had a moustache.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
There are no pleasures I enjoy that make me feel guilty.
What’s the magic word?
There are two but they are really just a variation of the same theme: love and kindness.