Rick and Morty fans usually make the news for being awful manchildren who harass women online or scream publically about Szechuan Sauce, but on Thursday, a Jeopardy! writer represented the brighter side of the Adult Swim show recently renewed for an unprecedented 70 episodes, by devoting an entire slew of categories to its inside jokes.
“I hope you three are fans of that show, because there’s a theme building here,” longtime host Alex Trebek warned contestants after reading the first category, which was simply “Rick and Morty.” The best parts of the episode are Trebek pronouncing the category titles, which are all quotes from the show. He’s as excited as a Cromulan when he exclaims, “Show Me What You Got,” and delivers, “You Pass Butter,” with the same nihilistic apathy as Rick Sanchez explaining a sentient robot its purpose in life.
The fan responsible for lining the episode with Rick and Morty gags is Jeopardy! staff writer Mark Gaberman. “He wanted to do a tribute to it, and was able to come up with enough catchphrases from the show that made sense as categories on their own,” Jeopardy! head writer Billy Wisse, who personally hasn’t seen the show, told VICE.
While Trebek nailed the catchphrases, Wisse said, “I’m willing to state without asking him that he doesn’t watch Rick and Morty.” The writers often coach Trebek through the correct pronunciation for clues like rap lyrics that require nuance, and this was no different. “Alex is always in on the joke.”
Jeopardy!’s eight staff writers pump out 230 games a year, which adds up to a total of about 14,030 clues per season. The pure volume means they’re given creative license to tap their own interests. Likely due to Gaberman's influence, Jeopardy! has included Rick and Morty trivia at least twice before, as well as over 15 references to co-creator Dan Harmon's previous show, Community. “There’s no substitute for direct experience,” said Wisse.
Fans who were excited by the category’s theme were disappointed by the lack of Rick and Morty trivia, which could easily feed a whole Jeopardy! episode, in the clues. “If there had been a good spot for one, we would have included it,” said Wisse. “But it would have felt forced.”
Occasionally, the team comes up with enough related categories that they can build a theme across a board, but it’s rare for a single TV show to dominate the whole thing. Wisse could name only three other shows that have done so in the past: Seinfeld, when Sony Pictures Television (which also syndicates Jeopardy!) released a DVD box set in 2004; Saturday Night Live; and on two separate occasions, Gilligan’s Island.
The gigantic following that made Rick and Morty 2017’s top comedy and Adult Swim’s most popular show ever was also a big enough encourage Jeopardy! executive producer Harry Friedman to approve the inside jokes. “There are fewer and fewer things that are really phenomena a wide group of people are going to appreciate. When we can find one, we love to do it,” said Wisse. “We try to stay relevant, stay current, if for no other reason to keep variety in the show. There’s every reason, creatively and demographically, to do things that are of-the-moment.”
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