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One of the more fun activities for the evening witching hour before anything real actually comes on television is to sit on the couch and play Jeopardy. There’s a certain embarrassment to being in negative numbers while playing with the family, but that’s nothing compared to an actual contestant being down thousands of dollars by the final round. Fortunately, contestant Talia Lavin made the most of a recent loss by tricking host Alex Trebek into saying “Turd Ferguson.”
Spoiler alert: the correct response is not “Turd Ferguson.”
For any viewers not in the know, the “Ballad of Turd Ferguson” response to the Final Jeopardy category of Oscar-nominated songs was a bizarre choice for Talia Lavin’s last-ditch answer, relating to a famous SNL "Celebrity Jeopardy" sketch. There was some laughter after Trebek read her “Hi, Mom” signoff, but Talia Lavin’s comment flopped in the studio. Mostly.
Judging by the enthusiastic – if rather scattered – laughter after Trebek uttered the unforgettable words “Turd Furguson,” there were a few in the audience who understood the joke. Still, her joke went viral after the episode of Jeopardy hit the airwaves, as those who viewed the video flashed back to a certain Saturday Night Live sketch and found a new hero in Talia Lavin.
“Turd Ferguson” came from a particularly memorable installment of SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy series in which Burt Reynolds (played by Norm MacDonald) changes his name on his podium to force Alex Trebek (played by Will Ferrell) into calling him by a funny name. MacDonald’s stint as Reynolds was so popular that he was brought back for the show’s 40th anniversary special to reprise the role.
Of course, half of the joy of the original sketch came from Trebek’s exasperated response to Reynolds’ tomfoolery. The end of the "Celebrity Jeopardy" sketches was one of the biggest losses following Will Ferrell’s departure from SNL. Trebek’s ongoing feud with Sean Connery, the endless revolving set of dim-witted superstars who win no money for charity, and the fantastically easy categories were always highlights, but MacDonald’s “Turd Ferguson” appearance as Burt Reynolds immortalized him. If Talia Lavin’s big smile and thumbs-up after her “Turd Ferguson” response is any indication, she has no regrets for paying her own tribute to the sketch.
Talia Lavin’s fellow contestants clearly also had no idea how to answer the final clue about an Oscar-nominated song, but they made valiant final efforts to save their thousands of dollars. Lavin, undoubtedly knowing that she wasn’t getting anywhere with her $600, has joined the ranks of iconic characters who started out as nobodies but were heroes by the final credits. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thelma and Louise, and Talia Lavin may not have emerged from their respective contests as victors, but can anybody say that they really lost?