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Alex Trebek Meets His Match – Again

Quirky contestant Austin Rogers returns for the Tournament of Champions, to win more money – and banter with the once-uptight host.

Austin Rogers left "Jeopardy!" Oct. 12 in fifth place for most money won on the storied game show ($411,000). But the 12-time victor exited first in a category unlikely to ever to make it onto the "Jeopardy" game wall: Butts of Alex Trebek's Naughty Jokes.

Now Rogers is set to return as the annual Tournament of Champions kicks off Monday. It marks a rematch of sorts for him  – not against any of the other quiz whizzes, but against Trebek.

The oddball New York City bartender initially threw Trebek with his wisecracks and show-openings antics. Rogers variously mined making a phone call, blowing up a balloon and pitching a baseball during the introductions, when most contestants just smile stiffly as the "Jeopardy!" theme plays.

But he ultimately charmed Trebek, who teased Rogers as "Mr. Show Biz," bantered with the contestant about his thrift-shop wardrobe and returned his high-five.

It represented a departure of sorts for Trebek, whose haughty smugness as the man who holds the questions to the answers punctuated the show for much of his 33-year run.

In the 1990s, that image earned him a parody on "Saturday Night Live" in which Will Ferrell portrayed Trebek as the flustered,

victim of "Celebrity Jeopardy!" contestant Sean Connery's (Darrell Hammond) crude taunts.

The truth is Trebek has mellowed somewhat in these recent, post-mustache years. Proof rests in the juvenile joke he cracked, inadvertently or otherwise, during Rogers' finale.

Rogers buzzed into a category where the question needed to include the name of a tree. When called upon to deliver a nickname for a detective, Rogers said, "What is a dick?"

Trebek snapped: "I've never seen a dick tree."

(While "dick" is old-school lingo for a detective, the correct question is "What is a gumshoe?" – as in gum tree.)

The exchange set the Internet ablaze. It also clearly amused Rogers. With the Tournament of Champions, he earns an opportunity to expand his entry in the trivia books as the man who got the world to see another side of Alex Trebek.

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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