Celebrity Jeopardy! is a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live which is a parody of the same-named special event on the television quiz show Jeopardy!, a game show which features competition between notable individuals with all winnings going towards charitable organizations, and significant reductions to the game's level of difficulty. Fourteen sketches aired between December 7, 1996 and May 16, 2009: two sketches per season from 1996 to 2002, when Will Ferrell was a regular on the show; and one each in May 14, 2005 and May 16, 2009, when Ferrell returned to the show as host. All fourteen sketches took place on reproductions of the 1996-2002 Jeopardy! set, even though the sets changed on real Jeopardy!
Ferrell appeared in all fourteen sketches, portraying host Alex Trebek. Darrell Hammond also appeared in each sketch, twelve times portraying Sean Connery, in an impersonation that "often questions Trebek's sexuality and sometimes implies that he has known Trebek's mother in a carnal sense." Norm Macdonald appeared in five sketches, all as Burt Reynolds. Jimmy Fallon appeared six times, each time portraying a different impression.
The sketch[edit | edit source]
Under the guise of a celebrity game show wherein celebrity contestants appear and donate their winnings to charity, the sketches usually begin at the start of the second round of Jeopardy!, called Double Jeopardy! The host, Alex Trebek, welcomes the audience (while sometimes apologizing for any inappropriate acts which the celebrities have performed in the game's first round), and introduces the celebrity contestants, along with their current scores, which are revealed to be either $0, a negative score, or a very low positive score.
The rules of Jeopardy!, similar to the original game show, require that a contestant select a category and a dollar value from the game board in order for the game to proceed. But many times, the celebrity contestants on the SNL sketches will refuse or fail to select a clue, grinding the game to a halt. Often, Trebek violates the rules by making the selection himself. The sketch always used the category "Potent Potables." The sketch originally used such reasonable categories as "Celebrities," "Movies," and "Popular Music," but as the celebrities' ineptitude grew more apparent the categories became more childish, even including categories whose titles suggest that the contestants will be able to infer the correct response without even reading the clues, such as "Colors that End in 'Urple'," "States that Begin with 'Californ'," "Famous 'Kareem Abdul-Jabbars'," "Black Comedians Named 'Whoopi'," and "Drummers Named 'Ringo,'" and categories that do not require any response
onless in order to receive money), "I Have a Chardonnay" (where the contestant automatically gets the points and Trebek would get to have a glass of wine), and "Automatic Points" (where a contestant is "automatically awarded the points" just for choosing a dollar value from the category).
Categories are often misunderstood by the celebrities and transformed by one of the contestants (almost always Connery) into sexually suggestive phrases (i.e., misreading "Catch These Men," a category about people on the FBI's Most Wanted list, as "Catch the Semen;" "A Petit Dejeuner," a category about French phrases, as "Ape Tit [...];" "The Pen Is Mightier," a category about quotes from famous authors, as "The Penis Mightier;," and "An Album Cover" as "Anal Bum Cover" etc.). Connery would also appear to change categories, such as crossing off letters in the category "I Have a Chardonnay" to make it read "I Have a hardon," and occasionally covering up entire categories with a piece of paper with a new one on there (ex. "Potpourri" was covered up by "Things Trebek Sucks").
Trebek eventually grows exasperated with his inability to conduct the show, and cuts it short by moving to the Final Jeopardy! Round. Sometimes, he discards the scripted category; when this happens, the scripted category is usually not revealed (although at times, if conducive to another contestant's character, they will, as in the category "Famous Mothers"). When Trebek discards a category, he moves in favor of a much easier task; for instance, he will ask the celebrity contestants to write their own clue and respond to it, or make any mark whatsoever to earn a correct response. Sometimes, a childishly simple category is announced, such as "First Grade Math" or "Horsies." Despite constructing scenarios wherein it appears impossible for the celebrities to fail, they invariably do. On rare occasions, contestants respond correctly to Final Jeopardy! clues, but such success is never accompanied by an appropriate wager, rendering the whole effort pointless. Connery occasionally provides the correct response, but uses his wager to transform the text into a rude phrase. For instance, when Trebek asks the contestants to write a number to earn a correct response, Connery writes "V" for his response, which Trebek acknowledges as correct since "V" is the Roman numeral for 5, but Connery reveals "SucK it, Trebek" for the wager (the "V" forming the top of the "K"). In some occasions, Connery appears to have sympathy for Trebek until the wager reveal, which happens to be a rude drawing at Trebek's expense. However, Connery wasn't the only contestant to perform this. In response to a Final Jeopardy! question from one of the earlier sketches, which has each of the contestants name their favorite food, John Travolta responds "miso," surprising Trebek who says that miso is indeed a soup; yet when he asks for the wager, Travolta reveals it to be "horny," which is read as "me so horny."
Trebek then ends the show, many times by announcing that money will not be awarded to charity or by declaring his intention to resign or commit suicide.
Trebek is the beleaguered straight man, and is generally the only person on stage who is interested in playing the game. The contestants, who often appear either unaware of what the game is or uninterested in playing it, will either ramble incoherently, deliver irrelevant monologues, or openly antagonize the host. Whenever a contestant takes the game seriously, he/she proves utterly incapable of supplying a correct response. In all fourteen sketches, no contestant ever buzzes in with a correct response, though two came close; Phil Donahue in the second sketch answered "This December 25th holiday involves decorating a tree and opening presents." with a vivid description of a Christmas morning scene but going out of his way to never actually say the word "Christmas", while in the 40th Anniversary Special, Tony Bennett responds to "'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' are about this person's adventures." by naming every main character from the story but Tom Sawyer, only to be cut off by Trebek before he can recall Jim's racist nickname. Meanwhile, Trebek makes little to no effort to hide his contempt for the celebrities' stupidity, and in return, is bombarded with sophomoric insults from Sean Connery. Initially, Burt Reynolds had been the celebrity who appeared on each episode. When Reynolds appears for the last time on the sketch, he misreads categories in the same way as Connery, and insists that he be addressed as "Turd Ferguson" because, as he states, "it's a funny name."
Appearances[edit | edit source]
|December 7, 1996||Sean Connery||Burt Reynolds||Jerry Lewis|
|May 10, 1997||Phil Donahue||Marlon Brando||During the sketch, Reynolds refers to Robert Blake as "a good guy"; Blake hosted an episode in 1982, and his behavior was so unpleasant (at one point balling up a script presented to him and throwing it back in the writer's face) that he was banned from the show.|
|October 4, 1997||John Travolta||Michael Keaton|
|May 9, 1998||Sean Connery||Minnie Driver||Jeff Goldblum|
|October 24, 1998||Tom Cruise||Adam Sandler||Sean Connery||Sandler is the only SNL cast member to be impersonated.|
|March 20, 1999||Nicolas Cage||Calista Flockhart|
|October 23, 1999||French Stewart||Burt Reynolds||Macdonald was hosting during this episode, playing Reynolds for the first time not as a cast member.|
|April 15, 2000||Sean Connery||Keanu Reeves||Hilary Swank||Ricky Martin (Chris Kattan) appears during the video daily double while Chad Lowe (Chris Parnell) appears in the audience.|
|December 16, 2000||Robin Williams||Catherine Zeta-Jones||Sean Connery|
|February 8, 2001||Ozzy Osbourne||Martha Stewart||SNL Thursday Night Live prime-time special. Writing on the sketch originally began the week before it aired.|
|September 29, 2001||Chris Tucker||Anne Heche|
|May 18, 2002||Dave Matthews||Bjork||Rock & Roll Edition; Connery had recorded an album of filthy limericks "just so I'd be eligible". The real Alex Trebek made a cameo appearance. The last episode with Ferrell as a regular cast member.|
|May 14, 2005||Bill Cosby||Sharon Osbourne||Ferrell is hosting during this episode.|
|May 16, 2009||Kathie Lee Gifford||Tom Hanks||Ferrell also hosts during this episode. Tom Hanks appears makes a cameo. Burt Reynolds (cameo by Norm Macdonald) appears at a fourth podium.|
|February 15, 2015||Sean Connery||Justin Bieber||Tony Bennett||This episode is the 40th Anniversary Special. Hosted by Alex Trebek (Will Ferrell), guests include Sean Connery (Darrell Hammond), Justin Bieber (Kate McKinnon) and Tony Bennett (Alec Baldwin). Other celebrities later joined including Christoph Waltz (Taran Killam), Matthew McConaughey (Jim Carrey) and Burt Reynolds (Norm Macdonald) as Turd Ferguson. Bill Cosby (Kenan Thompson) appeared during the video daily double.|