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Jonathan Franzen, America’s Greatest Living ‘Jeopardy!’ Player

Jeopardy.com
Jeopardy.com

This week — congratulations, week — has been Power Players Week on Jeopardy! (exclamation theirs). What’s a Power Player? I have no idea! (exclamation mine). I don’t watch Jeopardy! (exclamation theirs). But I’ve been tuning in, anyway, to see what’s up. My modest goal: Find out who is the most powerful player person in the world.

Tonight is the week’s last episode, and what a lineup: Melissa Harris-Perry and David Gregory, from the world of political journalism; and Matthew Weiner, director of the 2013 dramedy Are You Here. POWERFUL.

Yet I suspect that they are playing for second place. Here is where we stand, heading into Friday’s finale — from the least powerful player to the most:

12. Al Franken: Told Alex Trebek that Alex Trebek has no talent.
11. Ana Navarro: Laughed at Al Franken’s jokes.
10. Louis C.K.: Didn’t seem powerful.
9. Kate Bolduan: Flashed “I’ve lost friendships over board games” vibes.
8. Michael Steele: Started poorly enough that when he got one right, Alex said, “Good for you.”
7. Chuck Todd: Played to win.
6. Jonathan Capehart: Seemed nice.
5. Lara Logan: Hadn’t heard of the movie Cast Away.
4. Anderson Cooper: Defended a conservative Daily Double bet by calmly explaining, “I don’t speak Portuguese.”
3. Sunny Hostin: Finished at zero.
2. S.E. Cupp: Assessed, “God’s done pretty well.”
1. Jonathan Franzen: We need to talk about Jonathan Franzen’s Jeopardy! performance.

Jonathan Franzen didn’t just play Jeopardy! the most powerfully this week — he gave one of the most iconic celebrity performances I’ve ever seen. What’s crazy is that I don’t think I had even considered him a celebrity until Monday. I’m honestly not sure I’d heard him speak before. His voice is perfect. Jonathan Franzen sounds like not being online feels. Jonathan Franzen sounds like he is trying to remember the world’s most boring secret about you, but can’t, because it’s too boring. Jonathan Franzen gestured “I knew that” after not knowing an answer (JON, I BELIEVE YOU) and mouthed “duh” after getting Final Jeopardy wrong.

I wonder if Jonathan Franzen calls his penis “The Great American Novel.” The glasses Jonathan Franzen wore looked nice. Jonathan Franzen has sideburns now. Jonathan Franzen needed a cause to donate his winnings to and chose “birds.” The Wonder Boys costume department called and they want Jonathan Franzen’s blazer back. Watching Jonathan Franzen lose at Jeopardy! made me understand people who tweet “fuck me” at the Pope. Jonathan Franzen seems normal and satisfied. He should write a book.

Congratulations to Jonathan Franzen, this week’s Ultimate Power Player.

This piece originally appeared in the May 20, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.