Ike Barinholtz advances to 'real' 'Jeopardy!' semifinals after Monday night win

Who is Ike Barinholtz? This actor and screenwriter is a former “Celebrity Jeopardy!” champion who just made it to the semifinals of the original game show’s Tournament of Champions.

“The Mindy Project” star and writer, who won “Celebrity Jeopardy!” last year, prevailed in Monday night’s episode against scenic artist Ray Lalonde and professor Melissa Klapper, whom he previously described as “legends” and “real players” on the non-celebrity version of the esteemed program.

The “Blockers” and “Late Night” star won $28,601 and the ability to move on in the tournament. He played a perfect first round, earning $4,800, but struggled in the second round, only getting seven of the 10 Double Jeopardy! clues correct. He and his fellow contestants made it to the Final Jeopardy! round with five-figure earnings. Klapper led with $21,400, Barinholtz followed with $14,800 and Lalonde trailed with $13,800.

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

The answer: “Who is Ovid?” Both Barinholtz and Lalonde answered correctly. But the “History of the World, Part II” and former “MadTV” scribe wagered more than his competition — $13,801 — bringing his total score to $28,601 and notching his victory.

The 47-year-old trivia wiz will compete in his semifinal episode on Thursday, a spokesperson for “Jeopardy!” confirmed Tuesday. Representatives for the actor did not immediately respond Tuesday to The Times’ request for additional comment.

Speaking to Season 40 host Ken Jennings before winning the round, Barinholtz said that people didn’t seem to realize how smart he was.

“People were giving me a lot of well wishes and a lot of them were tinged with the tone of, ‘I thought you were dumb?!’” he joked. “I am, full disclosure, but it was wonderful … People were surprised, but I was happy that they were saying nice things.”

The actor was joined in the studio by his parents, “Jury Duty” star Alan Barinholtz and mother Peggy Barinholtz.

He plans to donate his winnings to Pacific Clinics, Hollygrove, where he also donated his $1-million prize from “Celebrity Jeopardy!” and past winnings from “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” and “E!’s Celebrity Game Face.”

The episode itself, which was taped Feb. 7, was previously in question when Lalonde and several other tournament competitors announced that they would withdraw from the show in July amid the writers’ strike. Although “Jeopardy!” is an unscripted game show, it relies on clues that are crafted by members of the Writers Guild of America who were on strike between May and September. A spokesperson for “Jeopardy!” later said that the show “never had any intention of producing a Tournament of Champions for Season 39 until the strike is resolved.”

Barinholtz has not yet addressed the win on social media, but before the episode he encouraged his followers on Instagram to tune in.

“It was incredible, it was an experience I’ll never forget,” he said, proudly brandishing his previous “Celebrity Jeopardy!” trophy.

Times staff writer Christi Carras contributed to this report.

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