The late Alex Trebek wasn’t shy when it came to admitting that “Celebrity Jeopardy!” isn’t quite as challenging as regular “Jeopardy!” play.

“It’s no great secret that the material for ‘Celebrity Jeopardy!’ is easier than in regular games,” Trebek wrote in his memoir, per Deseret News. “Many celebrities who appear on the show are not die-hard fans. I’m often asked if celebrities have to take a test to appear on the show. Yes. They have to be able to spell their name correctly.”

But Trebek did name a handful of celebrities who could hold their own and who he believed could succeed on a regular game of “Jeopardy!” — including Jodie Foster, Aaron Rodgers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Anderson Cooper and Andy Richter.

Now actor and comedian Ike Barinholtz can definitively join that list.

Barinholtz, known for his role in the sitcom “The Mindy Project,” was a recent winner of “Celebrity Jeopardy!” who was invited to compete in the 2024 “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions — marking the first time in tournament history that a celebrity has gone up against competitors from regular season play, the Deseret News reported.

The actor’s quarterfinal game ended up being one of the more competitive matches of the tournament (so far). Up against 13-day “Jeopardy!” champ Ray Lalonde and 3-game winner Melissa Klapper, Barinholtz pulled out a win to advance to the tournament’s semifinals.

Barinholtz lost his semifinal game Thursday night. But competing in the tournament, he said, was a “bucket list” item and an experience he’ll “never forget.”

Related
All 3 contestants missed these 19 clues in the ‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions. Can you answer them?
The ‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions is (finally) back. Here’s the latest

Ike Barinholtz competes in the ‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions

At the start of Barinholtz’s Tournament of Champions debut, host Ken Jennings asked the actor how it felt to be the first celebrity taking part in the competition.

“I feel like a guinea pig a little bit, but I like guinea pigs — they’re adorable, like me,” Barinholtz said. “But yeah, it’s an honor to be here.”

And Barinholtz came ready to play. It was clear early on that the game was going to be tight. At the end of the first round, Lalonde was in the lead with $5,400 — only $600 ahead of Barinholtz, and $1,600 ahead of Klapper.

By the time Barinholtz landed on one of two Daily Doubles in the second round, he was in the lead with $7,600 — but Lalonde and Klapper were right on his tail, so he opted to wager all of his $7,600 on the following clue: “Fellini felt he’d directed 7.5 films before making this 1963 gem.”

Barinholtz came up with the correct response — “8 1/2″ — doubling his total to $15,200.

Related
Ken Jennings opens up about his new book — and why he’ll (probably) never play ‘Jeopardy!’ again

But the game wasn’t over yet. Klapper eventually landed on the second Daily Double of the round, and wagered $8,000 of her $11,400 on the following clue: “Hindi and this language named for a region are the two most spoken first languages in India.”

Klapper got it right — Bengali — and brought her total to $19,400. Going into the Final Jeopardy round, Klapper was in the lead with $21,400. Barinholtz trailed behind with $14,800, and Lalonde was in third with $13,800.

It all came down to the Final Jeopardy clue, in the category “Poets of Ancient Rome”: “Far from Rome, this first-century poet wrote, ‘The leader’s anger done, grant me the right to die in my native country.’”

Wagering $8,000, Lalonde got it right — Ovid — and brought his total to $21,800, temporarily putting him in the lead. Barinholtz also guessed Ovid, and with a massive wager of $13,801, brought his total to $28,601, giving him the lead.

All eyes shifted to Klapper. Her response? Juvenal.

And that’s how Barinholtz became a semifinalist in the Tournament of Champions.

Ike Barinholtz competes in the ‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions semifinals

At the start of Barinholtz’s semifinal game, Jennings noted that the actor was the only competitor in the tournament who hadn’t lost a game of “Jeopardy!”

“Let’s hope that doesn’t change in the next 30 minutes,” Barinholtz said with a laugh.

But the semifinal game proved to be more of a struggle for the comedian. At the end of the first round, Barinholtz was in third with $1,600 — nearly $6,000 behind first place. Unlike his first game in the tournament, the actor didn’t land on any of the game’s Daily Doubles and never got the chance to make a large wager. But he did gain some momentum in the second half of the game, closing out the Double Jeopardy round in second place with $10,400. Ben Chan, a nine-game “Jeopardy!” champ was in first with $15,200.

And then it was time for Final Jeopardy. The clue fell under the category “ancient drama”: “From the 470s B.C., Aeschylus’ earliest surviving work has this title; he’d fought them repeatedly in the preceding years.”

None of the contestants came up with the correct response: “The Persians.”

Barinholtz had wagered all of his $10,400 on the clue and dropped to zero. The victory went to Chan, who became the first contestant to secure a spot in the Tournament of Champions finals.

What Ike Barinholtz said about competing in the ‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions

In a recent video shared on Instagram, Barinholtz called his fellow competitors “legends,” and said it was a “bucket list goal of mine to be on the real ‘Jeopardy!’”

“It was incredible,” he said. “It was just an experience I’ll never forget.”

While some reactions on social media indicated surprise that Barinholtz had done so well in the tournament, the comedian said those who know him best know he’s “a trivia freak.”

“The people who know me were not surprised because I’m a trivia freak — just an endless source of useless knowledge,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “But a lot of characters I’ve played are, oh, I don’t want to say stupid, but I can’t imagine they would do well on ‘Jeopardy!’ right? ... So, I think there were people who were probably like, ‘Oh wow, that guy’s not actually a complete moron!’ But I want those people to know that I still am. Like, I constantly figure out new ways to get my keys locked in my car.”