review of lance armstrong’s opening monologue at the espy’s
June 16, 2007
The ESPYs are ESPN’s self-congratulatory, sports world version of the Oscars. But like the Oscars, they provide a few really good moments. Like Jon Stewart’s joke about piracy, where he points out to the audience of millionaires in diamonds and pearls, and says “These are the people you’re stealing from!”
I must admit, I’ve never watched the ESPYs. In fact, didn’t watch the ESPYs this year. But because I’m an avowed cycling geek, I watched Lance Armstrong’s opening monologue of the ESPYs on YouTube. And if you don’t know what YouTube is, then, I must tell you that I knew John F. Kennedy Jr, and you sir, are NO John F. Kennedy Jr.
Anyway. Lance Armstrong’s Opening Monologue for the 2006 ESPYs. Have you ever seen an interview with Lance Armstrong? Generally, my Mom is a better interview. Seriously. He’s got that whole “take it one day at a time, some days you win, some days you lose, some days it rains . . . think about that” thing going. Oh, sure, there are times when he’s really mad or has an axe to grind (well, that’s always, but I mean one he wants to grind in public), where he’ll just go off on something or someone, like Dick Pound, but really, who wouldn’t go off on someone named Dick Pound every chance they got? Like Dick Pound and his parents don’t deserve what they get?
In light of all this, I expected Mr. Armstrong to be a bit dry in his hosting. Not so. I would, in fact, hire Mr. Armstrong to host my next Bar Mitzvah. Yup, that’s my rating for him. “Would Hire To Host Next Bar Mitzvah.”
Let’s break it down.
Lance came out like all hosts come out, dressed in a black suit, white shirt, no tie (I like the no tie—Lance gets a merit for no tie.), but as he walked toward the audience, he flashed double peace signs. The only thing geekier than flashing double peace signs would have been a gigantic grin and a double thumbs up. So he gets a demerit for the double peace signs, canceling out the good will he garnered with the suit/no tie look.
And here it comes, the big opening joke, everybody’s waiting, what’s it going to be, it sets the stage for the whole night, will LA kill, or be killed, do we get the stiff cards-close-to-the-vest LA, or the loose, I-hate-Dick-Pound-and-want-him-to-die LA?
Lance opens with “I’m here for the same reason all of you are here: I’m a HUGE Lance Armstrong fan.” I’m going to call this a push. Can’t tell yet, but he isn’t dying, he seems loose.
But he goes straight into his “I’d give my left nut to host the ESPYs joke.” I like it. He’s already combined arrogance with self-deprecation, and a testicle joke to boot. He’s officially on the rise here. Clearly he’s been practicing, but not too much.
Now, the heart of comedy is unpredictability. Well, actually, unpredictability is more like the Brains of comedy. The heart of comedy is suffering. But either way, we can feel LA is going to talk a bit about the Tour de France (he doesn’t really, ever, except very obliquely), and we feel like he’s going to tell us how much he loves France. Which would be really lame.
Which is why the next joke just kills. He says something about having a great time in France, makes a lame (not lame enough for a demerit, but lame nonetheless) joke about peeing in a cup, and then delivers the bomb. France just made the finals of the World Cup, he says, and ALL their players tested positive. For being Assholes. In one quick phrase, LA skewers France and the French, and lays waste to the audience. He’s now officially on a roll.
And we reach the lame middle portion, where he starts some shout outs. You know, “Lebron James is in the HOUSE!” stuff. Lame. But again unpredictability lifts him out of the doldrums and into the realm of comedy. “Hi Carmen” he purrs at Carmen Electra. Who doesn’t love a good Carmen Electra joke? The audience goes wild.
Followed up by a fantastic Bode Miller, “totally sober tonight, only drinks when he races” joke. You know what, forget it, I’m going to break my vow and watch the Pamela Anderson celebrity roast. You can’t get this kind of humor anywhere else.
Uh oh, LA has just introduced Jake Gyllenhaal, and made reference to Brokeback Mountain. Who in the world knows what’s coming next? Impossible to predict. Here it comes, wait for it . . . YESS! A “Hey Jake, I thought you liked it in the rear” joke. What’s not to like? A serious demerit from the distinguishing viewing public.
Ahh, who am I kidding, I’m the guy who thought “There’s Something About Mary” was the best comedy in the history of comedies.
Here comes the retirement bit, predictable, sure, but requisite, since, well, he DID retire this year, and so he calls out other distinguished athletes who retired this year. And here’s a brutal and unforeseen retirement zinger directed at Mister “I can choke whenever I want, I’ve won the damned major already” Phil Mickleson. Nicely done.
Lance now jumps to a slide show of his retirement, filled with really lame and unremarkable jokes like a picture of him on the beach with his bike. Ha ha. Whew, go on, you’re killing me. This bit is rescued from the depths, however, by a very funny and nasty dig at Isaiah Thomas and the New York Knicks. Ohh, I wish Isaiah was in the house, he might have rushed the stage, or had LA killed.
Armstrong wraps up his surprisingly strong monologue with a little bit about accusations and hinting at drug use. And . . . Mr. Teflon skillfully deflects and dodges, kudos to the legal team.
I’m also going to recommend the video clip the ESPN folks put together for LA about his preparation for the ESPYs. This Armstrong character has legs. I’m a fickle guy, and my allegiance can be bought. I’ve flip-flopped on the Armstrong thing so many times the DNC is courting me to be their next presidential candidate.
But today I’m an Armstrong fan. Almost as much as a Floyd fan.