If it were a “Jeopardy” question, it might go like this: “Teaneck native who became a social media sensation for making host Alex Trebek say ‘Turd Ferguson.’”
To which the answer (or question, in the distinct lingo of the long-running game show) would be: “Who is Talia Lavin?”
Ms. Lavin, who worked at JTA for about a year starting in the summer of 2013 and now is a fact checker at the New Yorker, didn’t win much money as a contestant on “Jeopardy” on September 16, but she did win quite a bit of fame. She was trending on Facebook the next morning and mentioned everywhere from Cosmopolitan to USA Today.
Her winning moment was a reference to “Celebrity Jeopardy,” one of the popular recurring skits of late-’90s-era “Saturday Night Live.” In the skits, Will Ferrell impersonated Mr. Trebek and dealt with actors playing a host of raucous characters, from Sean Connery to John Travolta. Often, a devious Burt Reynolds (played by Norm Macdonald) asked Mr. Trebek to call him the nonsensical name “Turd Ferguson.”
When Ms. Lavin was stumped on the show’s Final Jeopardy question, she wrote in the words: “What is the love ballad of Turd Ferguson? P.S. hi mom.”
Mr. Trebek consequently was forced to say “Turd Ferguson” on Jeopardy.
The audience laughed politely at the reference, but the Internet exploded with responses, and Ms. Lavin quickly became a trending topic on Facebook by Thursday morning.
Before she became an Internet darling, Ms. Lavin wrote on news and pop culture topics for JTA. She also was JTA’s resident Ukraine expert during the 2014 “Euromaidan” revolution in which President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed. (Ms. Lavin, who is fluent in Ukrainian and Russian, had spent the previous year as a Fulbright Fellow in Eastern Europe.)
But Ms. Lavin disclaimed the fame, posting as a comment to this JTA story: “I’m no hero, just a red-blooded American who likes oversized hats.”
JTA Wire Service