‘Leave Jeopardy! Contestant Dan Tran Alone’

The UNH PhD student gained internet infamy for his terrible Alex Trebek interview.

Those who watch Jeopardy! regularly know that the show is chock full of awkward moments. Host Alex Trebek judges contestants for missing answers. Contestants accuse Trebek of supporting sweatshop labor. Trebek attempts authentic accents when pronouncing foreign words. It can get pretty painful. But no portion of the show is more consistently uncomfortable than the contestant interview.

After the first commercial break, Trebek makes each nervous nerd tell him a quick story. These stories are never funny, and Trebek never seems to care about them. They take precious time from what is already basically a nine-minute game interrupted by interminable ads for life alert buttons and Richard Tisei ads. To come off as charming is a near-impossible task.

Enter UNH PhD student and Boston native Dan Tran. Though he ended Monday night’s episode as a co-champion, he gained internet infamy for telling the “worst story” ever in Jeopardy!’s many years. Tran took what is usually a dully uninteresting show portion and elevated it to artfully boring. His story went as follows:

“So when I was a senior in high school—I took French in high school—we went on an exchange trip and we arrived incredibly jet-lagged. No cappuccino could really save us in that regard. And during an open air tour bus tour in Paris, I looked up and said to my friends, ‘Hey, you know, the moon looks pretty bright tonig—today.’ And um, they just turned to me like ‘Dan, that’s not the moon, that’s the sun.’ It’s like, ‘No guys, it’s it’s the sun.’ But, but it turned out it was actually the sun and not the moon. And I still confuse it nowadays.”

Can we forgive Tran for this? Maybe he’s just making a Shakespeare allusion? In The Taming of the Shrew, the “shrew” Katharina and her husband Petruchio argue about this very subject:

Good Lord, how bright and goodly shines the moon!
The moon! the sun: it is not moonlight now.
I say it is the moon that shines so bright.
I know it is the sun that shines so bright.

Okay, he probably isn’t making a Shakespeare allusion. Maybe Tran is just a bad storyteller. Not only is this a very silly mistake he made back in the day, but he peppered the narrative with some extraneous asides, interrupting himself to talk about French class and cappuccino. Even in telling the story about mixing up the sun and the moon, he seems to have mixed up the use of the words “sun” and “moon,” making the end of the story incomprehensible. Was it actually the sun? Did he mispeak? We’re still not sure!

The internet punished him accordingly. “Guy named Dan Tran tells worst ‘Jeopardy!’ story ever,” declared Fox News. “This Is the Lamest Contestant Story Ever Told on Jeopardy,” wrote Gawker. “We all know a Dan Tran,” tweeted a viewer. And we do. But like any good internet mob, there has been a backlash: those who argue we should leave Dan Tran alone.

Because you know what? Tran won Jeopardy!, which means he made some money and he got to come back to tell another story. (It was not as notable, Fox News reports.) In a game show where personal anecdotes are usually boring enough to make you hate them but not so boring as to make you laugh out loud, for a brief moment Dan Tran brought us all some joy. So thank you, Dan Tran, for sharing your truly strange tale of celestial confusion. Thank you heartily.