Pat Sajak’s bizarre behavior on ‘Wheel of Fortune’ explained

In recent weeks, there’s been a “Wheel of Fortune” puzzle that can’t be solved by buying a vowel or guessing another consonant: What in the world is going on with host Pat Sajak?

The 76-year-old game show legend has been acting quite bizarrely.

In the last month or so, Sajak has put a contestant in a chokehold; claimed he hides in letter-turner Vanna White’s garden; asked a contestant to remove his shirt and tugged on a contestant’s beard.

On this past Monday night’s show, he even scolded a contestant who grabbed the envelope in the show’s bonus round: “Don’t ever do it again!”

One can’t help but wonder if America’s longest-running game show host has finally had enough — or maybe he was always this strange and grumpy.

Getting tired of the wordplay grind would be understandable.

He’s been hosting “Wheel” for four decades, since 1981. The fashions have changed, but the game has remained very much the same.

By comparison, Johnny Carson’s seemingly never-ending reign on “The Tonight Show” was just 30 years — and the King of Late Night took 15 weeks of vacation at the end of his run.

Pat Sajak putting "Wheel of Fortune" contestant Fred Jackson in a chokehold on a show that aired in March. Pat has his hand over the  Fred's mouth and is twisting his arm behind his back.
Pat Sajak puts “Wheel of Fortune” contestant Fred Jackson in a chokehold on a show that aired in March.
Wheel Of Fortune

Sajak’s recent hijinks aren’t the first time he’s exhibited strange behavior.

In the fall of 2020, in a span of 10 days, there were numerous incidents.

He snapped at a contestant for “interrupting” him while he read a commercial promo on one show.

On another, he told a competitor to “stop making sound effects” when they let out a celebratory yelp. “Ungrateful players! I’ve had it!” he said to another player when they questioned an answer as “redundant.”

Pat Sajak and contestant Christian Dixie, who's trying to grab the envelope out of Pat's hand as Pat looks grumpy.
Pat Sajak scolded fan favorite “Wheel of Fortune” contestant Christian Dixie this week when he grabbed the envelope out of Sajak’s hand during the bonus round.
ABC/Wheel of Fortune

In 2021, he even mocked a young man’s speech impediment on air.

The following year, he made viewers cringe when he asked longtime letter-turner Vanna White, “Have you ever watched opera in the buff? I’m just curious.”

Such moments reportedly put Sajak on thin ice with his bosses.

“Pat has put his foot in it one too many times and offended people with his off-color humor and temperamental behavior,” an insider told OK! last September. “Network brass and top-level producers have come down hard on him and read him the riot act.”

(Representatives for “Wheel of Fortune” and Sajak did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)

Sajak with WWE star and "Wheel of Fortune" contestant Austin Theory, who's lifting up his shirt as Sajak looks away and smiles.
Sajak sent tongues a-waggin’ when he asked contestant and WWE star Austin Theory to take his shirt off in the middle of the game.

Off-camera, Sajak’s behavior can also be edgy.

Like his “Wheel of Fortune” predecessor Chuck Woolery, he’s known for publicly expressing his conservative views on a variety of topics, such as COVID vaccines and climate change.

He once tweeted, “Global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends” — only to later apologize and delete the missive.

Politics aside, Sajak is known for his cutting sense of humor.

Perhaps he’s attempted some bad jokes of late, but many say he’s a pleasure to be around.

“Pat was wonderful to work with … and I have nothing but good things to say about him. He couldn’t have been nicer,” an industry insider who worked with Sajak for several years on “Wheel” told The Post.

A female contestant on the show in 2019 had similarly positive things to say.

“He was actually super funny and sharp. I didn’t get the ick,” she told The Post.

Viewers and advertisers seem, for the most part, happy.

“Wheel” remains at the top of the syndicated heap with its sister show “Jeopardy!” — which is also produced by Sony Pictures Television.

Photo of Vanna White posing with Maggie Sajak and Pat Sajak. They're on the show's set and smiling at the camera.
Vanna White, Maggie Sajak and Pat Sajak.
ABC via Getty Images

In the week ending April 17, it pulled in over 8 million viewers each weeknight — and it’s showing no signs of slowing down even amid its host’s outbursts.

Sponsors are not pulling ads, nor are they threatening to do so — always a sign of trouble in TV land.

There’s an off chance that Sajak’s recent behavior is related to some health issue unknown to the general public.

In 2019, he revealed that he’d almost died after suffering an intestinal blockage that required emergency surgery.

“I remember thinking, not in a morbid way, ‘I think this must be death. This must be what death is like,’” he told Good Morning America.

Photo of Vanna White and Pat Sajak from 1975. Vanna is wearing a red dress and has dark hair; Pat is wearing a blue checked sports jacket with a red tie and also had dark hair.
Vanna White and Pat Sajak in their early days on “Wheel of Fortune.”
©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Evere

Seemingly more likely is the possibility that Sajak’s acting-out is a contract ploy.

He and White, 66, with whom he reportedly gets on famously, are both signed through 2024.

Sajak earns an estimated $15 million a year and added a lucrative executive producer credit to his hosting duties in his last deal.

He’s estimated to be worth between $65 million and $75 million and owns both a sprawling hilltop home in Los Angeles and a brick mansion in Severna Park, Maryland.

He and his wife — Maryland native Lesly-Brown Sajak — divide their time between the two.

Their children — son Patrick, 32, and daughter Maggie, 28 — are grown, but Maggie is getting into the family business, as well as carving her own path as a country singer.

She’s been the show’s “Social Correspondent” since 2021 — shooting behind-the-scenes clips and interviews with the show’s staff and contestants and sharing them online.

On occasion, Maggie has even stepped in for White as the show’s letter-turner — though neither she nor show officials have said anything publicly about what that could mean when both her father and White eventually leave the show.

Sajak has acknowledged that his final puzzle is coming fairly soon.

In 2021, he told “Entertainment Tonight” that he and White are “certainly closer to the end than the beginning” and that “I’d like to leave before people tune in and look at me and say, ‘Ooh, what happened to him?’”

Indeed, that time may be now.

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