‘Once-in-a-lifetime experiences for $200, Alex’: Winnipeg contestant reflects on ‘Jeopardy!’

In the wake of news that beloved Canadian game show host Alex Trebek died of pancreatic cancer Sunday, tributes have been pouring in from Jeopardy! fans from around the world.

While millions have fond memories of watching Trebek quiz contestants over his 36-year tenure as host of the show, one Winnipeg man took in the Jeopardy! experience first-hand.

George Buri, a professor in the University of Manitoba’s history department, told 680 CJOB his 2017 appearance as a contestant on the show was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially when it came to meeting fellow Canadian Trebek.

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“He was very, very into the show he hosted,” Buri said.

You can see, when there’s a close game like ours was, he gets into it, and he gets pumped up.”

Buri, who said it still feels strange to refer to Trebek in the past tense, was leading going into Final Jeopardy, but flubbed a question in the ‘Americana’ category — “as a Canadian contestant, not my category” — and eventually lost the game.

Despite the loss, he said he has no regrets about his experience on the show, and even got to talk football on-air with Trebek, during the contestant-interview segment of the show.

“We actually rehearse those with a producer, so you think you know what he’s gonna say — but Alex is Alex, and he’s going to do what he’s going to do on the show,” Buri said.

“He’s notorious for asking people completely different questions they didn’t actually prepare for, so that’s what he did with me.

“He sort of threw more for a loop and asked me a question about being a Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan, and I was able to have a little chat with him about that, so that was kind of neat.”

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George Buri turned his Jeopardy! experience into a Fringe play.
George Buri turned his Jeopardy! experience into a Fringe play. George Buri / Instagram

Although Buri didn’t win his round of Jeopardy!, he did turn the experience into a play at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival in 2019, entitled, fittingly, I Lost on Jeopardy!

According to a fan-maintained archive of all Jeopardy! contestants and clues, Buri is the most recent of only six contestants with Winnipeg roots who appeared on the show, with the first — Kathy Brice — appearing in December 1990.

Read more: Alex Trebek, host of ‘Jeopardy!,’ dies after battle with pancreatic cancer

Trebek, born in Sudbury, Ont., in 1940, was a well-known game show host for years in Canada before reaching international fame as the Jeopardy! quizmaster, beginning in 1984.

The host revealed he was suffering from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in a video posted to the show’s official social media channels on March 6, 2019.

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Among the Jeopardy! fans expressing their condolences were numerous celebrities and world leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said in a tweet Sunday that we have “lost an icon.”

“Almost every night for more than three decades, Alex Trebek entertained and educated millions around the world, instilling in so many of us a love for trivia,” he wrote.

“My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all who are mourning this tremendous loss.”

Click to play video '‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek dies after losing battle with cancer' ‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek dies after losing battle with cancer

‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek dies after losing battle with cancer

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