As Alex Trebek read Talia Lavin’s now (in)famous response of “What is the Love Ballad of Turd Ferguson?” to Final Jeopardy, a mischievous smile broke across the 26-year-old writer’s face and she gave two thumbs-up.
With that response, Lavin broke the Internet--or at least made a sizable dent, especially by Jeopardy! standards. Not since IBM’s Watson computer handed human contestants’ asses to them on a silver platter had the 50-plus-year-old game show earned so much national attention.
“I had only 30 seconds to think of a joke that was clean enough to make it on the air. That was the extent of the premeditation,” Lavin told The Daily Beast of her quick decision to put down a fictitious feces-related song in response to the clue: “This song from a 1999 animated film about censorship had a word censored from its Oscar performance.”
“I was thinking of writing ‘F the police,’ but I thought it would be redacted,” Lavin said. “But then I thought, ‘It’s Jeopardy!. It’s a family show.’ I thought to go with my main man, Turd Ferguson.”
While the correct answer was “Blame Canada’ from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, many viewers at home instantly realized that Lavin’s response was a throwback joke to Saturday Night Live’s beloved Celebrity Jeopardy! sketches in which Burt Reynolds (played by Norm MacDonald) insisted on being called Turd Ferguson.
“Norm Macdonald is my sensei,” Lavin said. He hasn’t reached out to her since her viral Jeopardy! turn but “I want him to so much.”
Lavin, a Fulbright Fellow, a fact-checker at The New Yorker, and a friend of this reporter, spoke to The Daily Beast about what Trebek smells like, Twitter trolls already harassing her, and the one question she regrets missing.
Did you know the actual answer to the Final Jeopardy! question?
I totally had no idea. The moral of the story is if you’re losing on Jeopardy!, make a joke.
How did Trebek react when the cameras were off?
When I talked to Alex after the show he claimed not to know who Turd Ferguson was. I mean, it’s entirely possible he doesn’t, but I told him “He’s from the Saturday Night Live sketches… about you.” He said [deep Trebek patrician voice] “I haven’t watched them in a number of year.” He also smells great.
Really, what does he smell like?
As if a rainbow farted. Just imagine it with your heart.
You filmed the Jeopardy! episode last month. How did it feel watching the explosive reaction over the past 12 to 18 hours?
I was watching the Talia hashtags until 3 a.m., which is a terrible idea. No one should do that… but it’s kind of amazing. People are really passionate about other people’s Jeopardy! style of play. I had no idea.
Have you gotten some negative responses?
Someone told me I looked like Bobby Moynihan in a wig. Well, I was like, “That’s a compliment to Bobby Moynihan.” Instead of telling me I should take a seat, someone told me that I should take several.
I retweeted everything, negative and positive. I wanted to make the negative people look dumb, so I drowned them in love.
On a happier note, what have been some of the best or surprising responses to your Jeopardy! foray?
A lot of people commented on the see-throughness of my outfit, which was not premeditated. I had about 40 Facebook friend requests from strange men. I think my favorite tweet was from someone who wrote, “I pray to baby Jesus that Talia finds her chill.” Someone made an Instagram collage of all my sad buzzer faces.
How did your family react?
My mom thanked me for the shout-out [Lavin wrote “P.S. Hi Mom” in her Final Jeopardy! response], and she said she didn’t think my outfit was see-through.
What about the truly important takeaway, aka the money?
I got $1,000 from Aleve, which is appropriate because it’s a consolation prize meant to relieve your pain--like Aleve does.
Are you gunning for a sponsor?
If any company were to sponsor my life, I would want it to be Aleve. Please, tell them I would like an endorsement deal.
Is there anything you would change about your time on Jeopardy!?
I’m just really sad I missed a question about bagels. That crushed me on the inside.