In the midst of tuning out from the Wednesday’s Republican debate by perusing the latest tweets, I came across a pronouncement which naturally drew the eye, “Wtf is turd ferguson?” I immediately thought, Oh no, one of the candidates is going to be in major trouble. Clearly I, unlike many other social media users, was not up on my Saturday Night Live trivia.
On Wednesday night, #TurdFerguson was enthusiastically trending on social media as a result of self-proclaimed “Yenta 4 lyfe” and Jeopardy! contestant Talia Lavin’s unexpected answer to the Final Jeopardy question, seeking “a song from a 1999 animated film about censorship [that] had a word censored from its Oscar performance.” Making lemonade out of lemons, when Lavin, a professional fact-checker for The New Yorker failed to recall this particular fact, she instead resorted to a comedic strategy, jotting down: “What is the love ballad of turd ferguson p.s. hi mom :)” (If you’re going to throw away 600 bucks, why not acknowledge your mother in the process?).
As it turns out, “Turd Ferguson” is a hallmark of SNL history, featuring Norm MacDonald as Burt Reynolds and Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek, in an enactment of Celebrity Jeopardy! The segment centers on Reynolds (MacDonald’s) insistence that he is not, in fact, Burt Reynolds. This prompts an irritated Trebek (Will Ferrell) to begrudgingly issue him a new name, Turd Ferguson, which Lavin so epicly revived during her stint on the real Jeopardy! show.
Lavin’s answer left Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek utterly confused, serving up a hesitant, “Sorry, no.” But most importantly, Lavin prompted Trebek to utter “Turd Ferguson” aloud, rendering her an instant internet sensation. Bemused viewers and SNL loyalists tweeted reverently about Lavin’s antic, and Mashable even called her an “American hero.”
After getting her several hours of fame, and in the spirit of the night, Lavin gave a shout out to her Twitter companions, telling the Huffington Post she was “honored to be trending on [Facebook] with [her] homeslices Iggy Azalea and Jeb Bush.”
Hannah Vaitsblit is an intern at Tablet.