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How Alex Trebek Ended Up On The Colbert Report's Final Episode

On October 17, 2005, Stephen Colbert took his satirical take on right-wing punditry he'd been polishing on The Daily Show and brought it to his own half-hour comedy series called The Colbert Report. And while early reviews were tepid at best (New York Magazine said it "has problems so intrinsic as to be potentially unfixable), Colbert's series lasted nearly a decade and became one of the most profound political satires ever devised.

As you might imagine, Colbert and his team wanted to give the fictional, conservative Stephen Colbert a proper send-off before the real, liberal Stephen Colbert began his next gig hosting The Late Show on CBS — and they did. Hard to believe all these years later, but on The Colbert Report's grand finale, "Same to you, Pal," Democrats, Republicans, George Lucas, Big Bird, Cyndi Lauper, cartoons, former presidents, and both right-wing and left-wing pundits linked arms to sing Vera Lynn's heartbreaking (yet heartwarming) "We'll Meet Again."

As the show closed for the last time, Colbert stood on a rooftop, Captain America shield in hand, wondering what would become of him without the Report. In that moment, Santa Claus arrived in his sleigh along with Abraham Lincoln (who was a unicorn the whole time) and one other beloved figure — Alex Trebek.

Recently, Colbert remarked on the passing of the long-time Jeopardy! host on The Late Show by revealing the story of how he asked Trebek to appear on The Colbert Report's finale.

Why Alex Trebeck fit right in with Lincoln and Santa

Stephen Colbert had about six months to ruminate on how he would close out The Colbert Report and also say goodbye to this fictional version of himself he'd been playing since 2005. Colbert knew he wanted to send fake Colbert off into eternity with some legendary figures, but he hadn't figured out exactly who all those figures would be yet.

According to Colbert, it was long-time friend and former host of The Daily Show Jon Stewart who figured it all out. Colbert had already decided on Santa and Lincoln, but was stuck on the final person when Stewart immediately responded with "Alex Trebek."

Colbert contacted Trebek to see if he'd be game to take part in the finale, and Trebek's only question was, "why me?" Colbert told Trebek, "you're a cultural figure up there with Lincoln and Santa, and I think you'd be a nice guy to spend eternity with." Alex's response was, "then I'd be happy to."

What Colbert left out (and is worth mentioning) is what Trebek says to fake Colbert in that final scene. When Colbert boards Santa's sleigh he remarks, "So I guess I'll be gone forever." Trebek's fitting response was, "Oh, no, no, no. We'll always be there for the American people whenever they need us the most."

Colbert closed his Late Show segment by saying, "I just want to say to everyone who's spending eternity with Alex Trebek right now — congratulations. You have a kind man joining you right now." A fitting tribute to the kind man who reminded us regularly that many of life's answers come in the form of a question.