On January 24, Ken Jennings showed his personality to fans in the final round of Jeopardy! After revealing the correct response to the final clue, the host made a hilarious high-brow joke with his trademark dry wit.
In an episode that featured contestants Linda Napikoski, Joe Incollingo, and Troy Meyer, the category for the final clue was “Foreign-Born Authors.” Meyer had previously won three runaway games and was set to be a four-day champion. Spoiler alert: Meyer did win the game with a four-day total of $137,600.
After the players had 30 seconds to respond to the clue—“In the 1950s the New York Times said this author ‘is writing about all lust’ and his lecherous narrator ‘is all of us,’”—Jennings first asked Incollingo for his response. The contestant along with the other two players gave the correct response, “Who is Nabokov?” The answer referred to novelist Vladimir Nabokov.
But it was after revealing the answer to Incollingo that Jennings made the high-brow joke. “That’s right,” Jennings remarked. “A reference to Humbert Humbert, the creep who narrates Lolita.”
A creep indeed! If you know the book by Nabokov, Humbert is more than just a creep. He’s an older man who kidnaps and sexually abuses “Lolita,” a nickname he gives to a 12-year-old girl. In fact, the novel was so controversial in 1955 when it was released in France that America didn’t publish it until 1958.
Although the Jeopardy! audience didn’t respond to Jennings’ reference, plenty of YouTube fans commented on the video. As one viewer said, “Kudos to Ken for calling Humbert Humbert a creep. And ew to the NYTimes reviewer.”
Responding to the review in the clue, another fan said, “I’m sure it’s taken out of context, probably referencing the way ‘all of us’, especially in the U.S., obsess and lust over this or that, because yeah, wow, I’ve never heard anyone side with Humbert Humbert.” Other fans also called out the somewhat off-putting clue because “it’s not that hard not to relate with Humbert Humbert” is more than a little creepy considering the character’s central obsession with a pre-teen.
Obviously, Jennings was correct in referring to the narrator as a creep and poking fun at the Times commentary. Whether referring to a creep in a novel or dropping one of his other dry jokes, it’s always a treat to see the host’s personality shine through on the show.