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For Jon Hamm and Paul Rudd, board-game battle wasn't Trivial

May 8, 2014 at 2:32 PM ET

Remember those pie-shape Trivial Pursuit pieces? For Jon Hamm and Paul Rudd, they aren’t just three-sided bits of plastic. They’re symbols of an old love triangle.

Jon Hamm and Paul Rudd
Getty / Reuters
Jon Hamm and Paul Rudd were once in hot pursuit of the same woman.

A profile of Hamm in the new issue of Vanity Fair reveals that the “Mad Men” star first met Rudd over a Trivial Pursuit game in which the stakes were unusually high: The two were vying for the affections of a young woman named Sarah Clarke (now an actor herself, known for her role as Nina Myers on "24").

For the record, Hamm saw Clarke first: She had been his high school prom date back in St. Louis, and Hamm was close buddies with her brother Preston. Rudd didn’t come on the scene until he and Preston roomed together at the University of Kansas, but when he met Sarah, sparks flew.

Rudd’s showdown with Hamm came soon after. Under the pretext of visiting Preston, Rudd dropped by the Clarke family home to hang out one night. “Obviously he was coming to visit my sister,” Preston scoffed to the magazine. “And Hamm was there because he was always at my house.”

Rudd, who knew Hamm had taken Sarah to the prom, now admits to feeling intimidated.

“He seemed like he was a good-looking, athletic guy who possessed qualities I did not possess,” the “Anchorman 2” star told Vanity Fair of meeting Hamm that night.

Things got really dicey when the game got rolling: “Sarah and I were on one team and Jon and Preston were on the other team,” Rudd continued. “Jon would want to go right to Yellow, which was History, and I was like, ‘Oh, great, this guy is smart too.’”

Not to mention quick. “They would ask a question like ‘What is the largest lake in Africa?,’ and Jon immediately went, ‘Lake Victoria,’” Rudd griped. “I felt so emasculated in the game that, as a result, I started reading atlases.”

The article doesn’t say which team won — or whether Clarke was wooed by either admirer (she’s now married to actor Xander Berkeley). But many would say Rudd is being too hard on himself. Newly discovered evidence suggests Hamm wasn’t always so dashing. And if Rudd tackles trivia half as well as he lip-syncs, there’s no doubt he held his own.

At any rate, the Trivial Pursuit duel didn’t drive a wedge between the future stars. The two later became friends when they moved to Los Angeles and have since collaborated on several projects. 

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