When Jeopardy! first got revived as a game show in prime-time syndication, Johnny Gilbert was there on episode one, announcing what would become the show’s iconic three-word intro: “This...Is...Jeopardy!”
More than 30 seasons later, few people are as known for their voice as Johnny. Jeopardy! notwithstanding, he’s been announcer for dozens of game shows and thousands of episodes over more than six decades of television, with prior careers as singer, actor and TV host under his belt. But none have become so synonymous with his voice as Jeopardy! From the show’s own studio tapings to dinner tables across America, he shepherds fans every day to the kick-off of that day’s 30 minutes of good old-fashioned fun.
Straight from his living room, Johnny takes you back to the start of his own J!Effect story, which also happens to be the start of Jeopardy!’s whole story. Well, we’ll let you hear it straight from him.
The Jeopardy! Effect Begins
We all knew it was a good show, but whether people would buy it or not, we didn’t know. The audience just kept building and building and building…until it was being renewed for one year, and for two years, and three years at a time. It just grew. As we know today, between 8 to 9 million people watch this show every day. Did I ever think it would be that big? Not in a million years. But, am I happy it did!
The Voice Effect
[People] do recognize the voice. I remember we went on a cruise a few years ago, [my wife] Sharee and myself, and we were seated at the dining table with – there must have been – nine people around it. And before we were halfway through the meal, they had identified me as being the voice of Jeopardy! And that does surprise me...even to this day. It’s hard to get used to that kind of thing.
“This...Is…” the Opening to Every Family Dinner?
The opening to Jeopardy! was written by Merv Griffin. And he wrote that because he wanted to get right into the show. He wanted to capture people’s attention at the top of the show and get right into the game. You know, Alex doesn’t even interview people until after the first commercial – we get right into the game.
His J!Effect Compadre (Alex Trebek!)
We met at a party 30-some years ago in Hollywood – it was a television party. All television game show people were there, and I met him then casually. And then I met him in and out as we were doing shows. I really got to know him only when I started working on Jeopardy! My first impression of Alex was how bright he was. He’s a really smart guy – and it’s because he works at it. He studies, he reads things, he travels all over the world...because he loves it, it’s what he wants to do. [He’s] a really terrific guy.
Being associated with Jeopardy! has changed my life from the standpoint that I have become such a part of it. And that’s a proud thing to be able to say, because it is a show for all people and for all time. So to be known as the Jeopardy! voice is a wonderful thing for me, and it’s certainly different from anything I had ever done before that.
People associate with this show differently than they do any other show that I know of. They’re almost like a fiber of the show. So many of them have watched it from the time they were so young. They’ve been raised with it, they’ve watched it with the family. So when you meet with them or talk to them, they don’t talk of it as a game show or a quiz show – they talk of it as an event. It is fascinating to see how much they are affiliated with the game, not just as a viewer, but they feel like they’re part of it.