Louis Virtel is a familiar face to the pages of Queerty, as the host of the YouTube series “Verbal Vogueing,” where he monologues his thoughts on pop culture, politics, and often himself, all with a hefty dose of “faggot realness” and a sharp snap of his fingers.
His YouTube success led to appearances on Chelsea Lately, as well as his current job as a celeb interviewer for HitFix, and he has used his media platforms as a voice for LGBT activism.
Virtel has now come out of another closet on the national stage: this time as a die-hard trivia aficionado, after he landed a plum spot as a contestant on “Jeopardy!” (Watch him introduce himself in the “Hometown Howdies” here.)
Feeling at home at the Jeopardy! podium as much as in front of his YouTube camera, Virtel confidently sassed his way through the game and found himself in the lead, only to lose everything at the Final Jeopardy question. But he has no regrets — except for not being gay enough on the show.
Louis Virtel: I was playing Jeopardy! before I even watched it regularly. My family had an ’80s DOS computer game when I was three or four, and I learned how to type playing that and Wheel of Fortune. I ran home from school starting in about second grade to watch Jeopardy! every day, since it comes on at 3:30 in the Chicago area. The O.J. Simpson verdict interrupted a Final Jeopardy! once, when I was 9 or so, and since then I’ve not really been a fan of O.J.
I imagine you were very bossy with your friends as a kid and tried, perhaps unsuccessfully, to make them play with you.
There was some strong-arming going on. Growing up, I forced pals to play video game Jeopardy! with me, but eventually all my friends watched with me. The summer after I graduated high school, we would all pile into somebody’s den and watch Ken Jennings win every day.
You mentioned before that you’ve met many past contetants. Have you met Ken?
I have not. He messaged me after my game aired, and he occasionally favorites tweets of mine. Clearly there’s sexual tension, which is fine.
Preparation is tricky with Jeopardy! because the only way to really psyche yourself up is to review as many old Jeopardy! games as possible. It’s like crosswords; you can only get better by doing more crosswords.
How does reading old questions help you study? Do they repeat questions?
They repeat subjects all the time. They won’t ask the same question about Anna Karenina, but you may get the same reference to a train again. I studied certain things I’m terrible with, like weights and measures, and sports. There is just no hope for me when it comes to learning current sports. I looked up NFL MVP winners and remembered a few of those. Hello, Bart Starr! I know who you are!
You gave quite a sassy snap after you answered the Double Jeopardy question correctly. Have you waited your whole life to do that, or did it simply come from deep within you?
Snapping is a major part of my life. It establishes verve and efficiency and flavor, and in the case of that Daily Double, it was a damn relief to get that question right. My gayness gets volcanic when I’m winning at stuff.
You wrote a column about the importance of introducing your sexual orientation on the show, and why you regret not actually saying it on-air. For instance, you wrote, “As a kid growing up in the suburbs who venerated everything about Jeopardy!, I would’ve loved seeing an expressive gay contestant own his homosexuality as well as the buzzer.“
If I heard a Jeopardy! contestant say, “Oh, I’m gay,” I think I’d have been pretty wowed as a kid. The fun of Jeopardy! is seeing how much people know, right? Well, I think seeing a contestant know he’s gay and acknowledge it is just as awesome. And fitting, for the show.
Fitting for the show how?
Jeopardy! is about the power of knowing. I think knowing yourself is a similar triumph.
But is Jeopardy! really the appropriate opportunity to engage in LGBT activism?
If activism means identifying myself as gay on air, yes.
There is definitely a legacy of the gays thriving in trivia contests. Even on “Will & Grace,” they bonded over playing “”25,000 Pyramid.” Why do the gays enjoy these games so much?
I think there’s a big contingent of gay people who like storing information. We like being knowers; we make use of arcana and trivia. Knowing a lot of stuff is the most surefire way to be sophisticated. I like smart-people pageantry.
So, you’ve prepared for this moment your whole life, and now it’s over. So, what do you do next?
In terms of my trivia addiction, I wish I knew. I’ll definitely keep up with the show and continue reading Trivial Pursuit cards every night.
But it’s not just your trivia addiction. You have a life-long relationship with this show. Is this…the end?
I will always enjoy this game. Several of my best friends have gone on Jeopardy! and lost. I’ll rehash certain regrets with them, but I’m not someone who can’t look at Alex’s face anymore because I missed a question about the Tower of London. No way.
Are you at peace with this?
As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as going on Jeopardy! without realizing you can lose. My friend Brian is the strongest trivia guy I know, and he lost his game too. I’m completely at peace with the game. I got to prove I know about Uzbekistan and Iggy Azalea. You can’t do that on The Price is Right.