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The Most Embarrassing Jeopardy! Flubs That Cost Contestants

"Jeopardy!" has graced televisions since 1964, when the first iteration of the game show was hosted by Art Fleming until 1979. The modern version of the popular game show, hosted by the late Alex Trebek, began in 1984. After the quiz show's beloved, long-time host died from pancreatic cancer in 2020, the popular "Jeopardy!" champion, Ken Jennings, was named as an interim host, while the network considered candidates to replace Trebek permanently. In 2022, it was announced that Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings would share the hosting duties for "Jeopardy!"

Although the quiz show has changed a bit since losing Trebek, it remains popular, in part because of the contestants and their often humorous wrong answers. On November 13, 1986, Gary Giardina, an opera singer from New York City, cracked the audience up during the 1986 Tournament of Champions quarterfinal game, when he answered the clue, "By the 4th Century A.D., Rome had 28 public ones stacked with rolls of papyrus." Gerry said, "What are public toilets?" without missing a beat, but lost $300 when his opponent revealed the correct answer was "What are public libraries?" Despite missing this answer, Garry was the winner of Episode #504, proving you can make a mistake and still take home the prize.

Over the years, the contestants on "Jeopardy!" have blessed the viewers with a bevy of hilarious wrong answers. Stick with us as we review the most embarrassing flubs and what they cost the contestants.

What is a threesome?

Kara Spak, a newspaper reporter from Chicago, cracked up the audience and totally embarrassed herself during the 2011 Tournament of Champions quarterfinal game. She only lost $600 dollars for her hilarious wrong answer to the clue, "If Andy yearns for Brenda, and Brenda cares about Charlene, who pines for Andy, the three of them form one of these." Spak's embarrassment after blurting out, "What is a threesome?" was apparent from her mortified expression.

When the correct answer was revealed to be, "What is a love triangle?" Alex Trebek's famous dry humor took center stage with his comment, "Kara has obviously had more experience than I," adding to her embarrassment and sending the audience into peals of laughter once again. This wrong answer is one of the funniest and most embarrassing flubs in "Jeopardy!" history.

Spak wrote about her hilarious and viral wrong answer, which has racked up nearly three million views on YouTube, saying she has heard about the embarrassing answer in every facet of her life. "While the 'Jeopardy! Threesome' might be what I'm most remembered for," Spak wrote on the "Jeopardy!" website, "I'll always remember the excitement of walking into the studio and all the amazing people — those working on the show and my fellow contestants — I met there."

What is a hoe?

Just because Ken Jennings set records, going on a 72-episode winning streak on "Jeopardy!" doesn't mean he didn't give some wrong answers during his time as a contestant. In this clip, Jennings confidently answered, "What's a hoe?" instead of the correct answer, "What is a rake?" to the clue, "This term for a long-handled gardening tool can also mean an immoral pleasure seeker." The entire audience cracked up before Alex Trebek playfully admonished Jennings for his subtly sexist response, saying, "They teach you that in school in Utah, huh?"

Although the answer only lost Jennings $200, it was an embarrassing gaff for the squeaky clean "Jeopardy!" favorite from Utah. Jennings actually addressed the viral wrong answer on the game show while hosting "Jeopardy!" in 2022. When an audience member asked why his answer was wrong, Jennings jokingly asked the audience, "Yeah, why didn't I get it right? I think the idea is the clue says it's 'an immoral pleasure seeker,' and we don't want to characterize all hoes that way. Rakes, apparently, we're okay with that aspersion on their character."

This hilarious wrong answer did not end Jennings' historic winning streak — that would come later when he answered, "What is Fed Ex?" instead of "What is H&R Block?" to the clue, "Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year." Although Jennings could easily have been embarrassed by his flubs, the "Jeopardy!" champion took everything in stride.

What is donkey?

Although the correct answer was an illegal boxing move known as a rabbit punch, Mike Hatch, a men's clothing sales associate from Gainesville, Georgia, came up with a colorful wrong answer whose meaning you can look up on Urban Dictionary. If you don't know the slang term, be warned — it is sexual in nature and not very nice. Hatch's answer to the clue, "This blow to the back of the neck is the punch named for this animal," completely ignored the fact that "Jeopardy!" is a family-friendly show.

Instead of answering with "What is rabbit?" Hatch said, "What is donkey?" losing $800 dollars and most of his dignity. The studio audience was dead silent, although you could hear Alex Trebek holding in a chuckle. Despite the pin-drop silence in the "Jeopardy!" studio that day, viewers at home must have been dying of laughter at Hatch's embarrassing flub. It's a safe bet his friends and family will never let him live this one down.

What is the age of consent?

Tom Imler, a data repair technician from North Carolina, wrongly answered the clue "In common law, the age of this, signaling adulthood, is presumed to be 14 in boys and 12 in girls," but it wasn't exactly funny. His answer was probably the most embarrassing wrong answer in "Jeopardy!" history. When Imler answered, "What is the age of consent?" in a questioning tone instead of "What is puberty?" he lost $400 and opened himself up to public ridicule.

Imler's mortifying answer went viral in 2015, and the public branded him a creep and pedophile for his embarrassing gaffe. "It pissed me off," Imler told The New York Daily News, before adding, "It's 127,000 percent untrue. But when it started to snowball, I started to worry that people might think it was true. I started to think, 'Holy cow. What if one day I come home from work and there's a cop waiting outside my door.'"

Thanks to the internet being the gift that keeps giving, this viral wrong answer experienced a resurgence in 2021. Having this humiliation come back again obviously wasn't welcome and brought up negative feelings about the experience. Imler told Newsweek that people were saying things like, "This guy is a pedophile. Wow. Somebody check his basement. Somebody check his hard drive," adding, "I was just astounded at how fast it exploded. It was the wrong answer to a poorly worded question."

Who is Ariana Grande?

In 2020, Alwin Hui, a consultant from Washington D.C., hilariously mistook Janet Jackson for Ariana Grande on an episode of "Jeopardy!" After watching this clip and being given the clue, "As the recipient of the 2018 Icon Award, she took 'control' and took to the stage in her first live TV performance in nearly a decade." Hui's mistake proved that being ignorant of pop music and pop culture can cost you $800 on "Jeopardy!" To be fair, Jackson was wearing a high ponytail, which is Grande's trademark look, but one of Jackson's biggest hits was included in the clue. This type of flub shows the importance of preparing for this game show by learning about subjects you know very little about.

Broadening his knowledge base could have prevented Hui from losing cash, embarrassing himself on national television, and being mocked online. One fan tweeted, "I just watched a guy named Alwin on 'Jeopardy!' call Janet Jackson Ariana Grande. What world IS THIS?!?!?" At least Hui mistook one pop diva for another musician. Years ago, one contestant on "Jeopardy!" chose a stand-up comic instead of a music icon when she guessed Chris Farley instead of Johnny Cash for the clue, "His 2003 People magazine obituary was headlined 'Fade to Black.'" This flub cost Gale Clemens over $14,000, proving that knowing your music icons is just as important as knowing sports figures on the quiz show.

Who is Magic Johnson?

Another instance of a contestant needing to broaden their knowledge base before competing on "Jeopardy!" happened when Joe Morse, a Coast Guard helicopter mechanic, missed the easiest hockey question ever. The pace of the show is brisk, and having fast reflexes and the ability to think on your feet is incredibly important if you want to win the game. But knowing the acronyms for professional sports is also important, or you might wind up embarrassing yourself with a wrong answer.

From this clip, it's obvious that Morse flubbed up when he answered the clue, "100+ assists in an NHL season has been accomplished only 13 times, 11 times by this player," with a baffling, "Who is Magic Johnson?" Alex Trebek's response, "Oh no," made it obvious that Morse gave the wrong answer and lost $400 dollars. The correct answer was clear from the question, but Morse guessed wrong and will probably never live it down with his fellow mechanics. Everyone knows that Johnson never played in the NHL, but Wayne Gretzky sure did, and he was the correct answer.

What is a train?

Christine Havens, a parish administrator from Waterloo, Iowa, took things a bit too literally when she answered the clue, "It made zoological news in 2008 when Asian mouse deer were seen escaping predators by this means of locomotion." Havens lost $600 when she blurted out, "What is a train?," but she also made Mojo's 10 Worst Jeopardy Answers, which is an accomplishment of sorts. Despite making Mojo's list, Havens has avoided the online ridicule that some of the other contestants on our list have experienced.

Miniature hooved mammals jumping a freight train to avoid predators is a cartoonish and absolutely hilarious mental image we can thank Havens for, but the correct response was, "What is swimming?" By the way, if you haven't seen an Asian mouse deer, you must Google them. They are the cutest little creatures you will ever lay your eyes on, and should 100% be featured in an animated movie about forest creatures trying to save their natural habitat.

Who is Faulkner?

Broadway actor Brad Weinstock selected Women Authors for $2000 in a Double Jeopardy round. After hearing the clue, "This native of Jackson, Mississippi, wrote the novel 'Delta Wedding' about a Southern plantation family," he completely forgot the category's title before answering. Weinstock's wrong answer, "Who is Faulkner?" was made even more hilarious when the host, Ken Jennings, roasted Weinstock for giving the wrong answer.

While Faulkner was from Mississippi and a celebrated literary figure, the host said, "I think Faulkner would be surprised to find himself in a women author's category. It's Eudora Welty." Weinstock's response to his embarrassing flub was classy and confident, when he joked, "Oh no! I hope I don't go viral." Despite having a hilariously wrong answer that cost him big, and guessing wrong intentionally during Final Jeopardy, Weinstock still came in second and proved he had a sense of humor while playing "Jeopardy!"

What is a pansy?

Becky Sullivan already knew she wasn't going to win her round of "Jeopardy!" because her opponent, Sean Anderson, a law professor from Champaign, Illinois, was so far ahead of her going into Final Jeopardy. In this clip, Alex Trebek gave Sullivan a hard time before she even gave her answer, teasing, "I think you may have found a way to insult liberals in this country." He was right, and Becky lost every penny of her $6000 in Final Jeopardy when she answered the clue, "The flower pictured here is called this, also a disparaging term for people on the political left," with the guess, "What is a pansy?" sending the studio audience into peals of laughter.

Sullivan, a radio producer for NPR, laughed her loss off on the air but later took to Twitter to defend herself. Sullivan tweeted, "OK here's the deal with pansy: I actually didn't know bleeding heart was a flower. I just put the only flower I knew that was also an insult," adding in another tweet, "Second place still gets me two grand though. Worth it. Sean did great." At least now we all know a bleeding heart is a flower, thanks to Sullivan's embarrassing flub on "Jeopardy!"

What is Toronto?

An IBM AI named Watson took on "Jeopardy!" champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in February 2011, and we have David Ferrucci, then an AI expert at IBM, to thank for this entertaining episode of the quiz show. From this clip, we can see that Watson decimated the competition but didn't have the right answer in Final Jeopardy. The category was "U.S. Cities," and the clue was, "Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle." Watson's competitors guessed correctly that the city was Chicago, Illinois, but Watson's unsure answer, "What is Toronto?????" made it clear that the AI wasn't so sure of its answer. Watson only lost $947, making a smart wager while effortlessly winning the game.

This baffling answer leads to many questions. Does AI experience embarrassment? Does Watson not recognize international borders? Did the AI program not understand the difference between U.S. cities and North American cities? Does Watson have plans to take over Canada? Regardless of the reasoning behind Watson's wrong answer, it was good for a laugh and eased our collective worries about AI taking over the world. "'Watching you on Jeopardy! is what inspired the whole project,' one IBM engineer told me, consolingly. 'And we looked at your games over and over, your style of play. There's a lot of you in Watson,'" Jennings wrote in Slate about playing against Watson.

What are meese?

Jack Weller, a law student from Stanford, California, went viral with his incorrect answer, "What are meese?" in the category, "Plurals That Don't End in S," and the clue "Moose." The plural of moose is actually moose, which his competitor, Maggie Houska, a prospect researcher from Minnesota, got correct. In this clip, we see that Weller only lost $400 for his embarrassing flub, but he gained the love of "Jeopardy!" fans, who took to social media to praise Weller's relatability.

One fan tweeted, "'What are meese?' as the plural of moose is the most relatable wrong #Jeopardy answer I've ever heard." Another fan on Twitter added, "I just loved that. So cute! And so human," while someone else on Twitter claimed, "He should get extra points for that." Jack rebounded from his flub and didn't let the embarrassing wrong answer affect his game. He took second place, despite earning an impressive $37,600, proving that intelligent people sometimes give the funniest wrong answers.

Wolf Blitzer's epic losing streak

This clip of CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer's terrible appearance on "Celebrity Jeopardy!" featured one flub after another, sticking Wolf in the hole by $4600. Although some audience members reveled in Blitzer's downfall, with one gleefully tweeting, "I will never, ever get tired of seeing this image of Andy Richter curb-stomping Wolf Blitzer on 'Celebrity Jeopardy,' host Alex Trebek had another opinion. "Wolf had done well on a previous appearance on 'Jeopardy!,' but on this game, the categories didn't line up with his areas of expertise," Trebek told The Washington Post, adding, "And Andy Richter was probably as good a 'Celebrity Jeopardy!' player as we have ever had on the program."

Although this experience on "Jeopardy!" may have been embarrassing for the journalist, another contestant, Stephanie Hull, holds the record for the worst score in "Jeopardy!" history. Hull dug herself a $6,800 hole during her game. Five years after her history-making flub, Hull publicly addressed her poor performance. "One of the things people who haven't been on the show don't necessarily realize is they pretty much tape it in the same amount of time that it takes to air," Hull told Slate, adding, "So each episode, the contestants are up there for less than 20 minutes." She continued to describe how intense the experience was, admitting, "It's kind of a blur."

Mispronunciation can cost you big

Nick Spicher, a museum educator from Everett, Washington, lost $3200 for mispronouncing the title of a Coolio song, mashed up with the title of a piece of literature. As you can see in this clip, Spicher's response to the clue, "A song by Coolio from 'Dangerous Minds' goes back in time to become a 1667 John Milton classic," had him saying "What is Gangster's Paradise Lost?" instead of "Gangsta's." His answer was accepted at first, but then the judges took back the $3200 because the pronunciation was incorrect. Despite losing the money, he still came out on top, winning the episode.

This wasn't the only time a contestant lost money for mispronunciation. Wolf Blitzer was docked for mispronouncing Julia Child by adding an S to her last name, while Daniel Nguyen mispronounced 50 Cent, saying, "Who is 50 Cents?" and losing $800.

Some "Jeopardy!" fans believe a mispronunciation was missed and the wrong person won the show in March 2023. According to some viewers, Kelly Barry, a marketing communications specialist from Seattle,mispronounced her answer to the clue, "The force of Lasse Hallström was strong to pull in this Scot to play a fisheries expert in 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.'" One fan called out the flub on Twitter, writing, "Who is Ewan 'Gregor?' Your winner tonight got that answer wrong. I rewinded it three times to be sure. Since she got that wrong, she should not have won."

Every once in a while, it's Jeopardy! that flubs up

Sometimes "Jeopardy!" makes a flub, and fans call the game show out. In 2022, the show had the wrong Long Island city named in their clue, "Type of institution that has a 'row' in Garden City on Long Island, including one about firefighting and a children's one." The answer was, "What is a museum?" The museum row the clue was referring to is actually in Uniondale. One Long Island legislator, Siela Bynoe, wrote a letter to "Jeopardy!" explaining that they named an affluent community, rather than the working-class neighborhood where the museums are actually located, and admonished "Jeopardy!" for not giving the community of Uniondale the recognition it deserves.

In another recent snafu, as we see in this clip, host Ken Jennings allowed a contestant to change his answer. In the Season 39 opener, three-time "Jeopardy!" winner Luigi de Guzman, answered the clue, "Here's a typical early 19th-century landscape by this British painter," with, "Who is Constant?" Jennings allowed de Guzman to take another stab at the answer by telling him, "Say it again." When de Guzman's second response was, "I'm sorry. Who is Constable?" Jennings accepted the answer, and de Guzman's competitors lost a chance of adding $1000 to their winnings. This infuriated fans later in the episode, when Harriet Wagner wasn't allowed to change her answer mid-sentence. Both of these instances could have changed who won that episode of "Jeopardy!"