In honor of the Arnold Classic in Columbus this weekend, a story.
I grew up in a smallish town that is the popcorn capital of the world. We produce a lot of popcorn or something. Or we did at one time? I know shamefully little about why my hometown is associated with popcorn but I guess it’s not that important here.
What is important is that every fall the town has a festival in honor of our supposed popcorn legacy. We shut the tiny downtown down and bring in rides, fried foods and musicians who were popular at least a decade ago.
As part of the festival, there are pageants. I wouldn’t call them beauty pageants, per se, because there are talent categories and interview categories and… OK, yes beauty pageants.
There is one for little kids, the Miss Teeny Pop competition.
As a kid, I wanted to compete in Miss Teeny Pop so badly! If we were to make a pie chart of the appeal of these things to little girls like me (meaning most little girls), 95 percent of the wheel would go to the pretty dresses. Oh, child, I wanted to wear a fancy frilly dress so badly!
In sixth grade I got my chance. I think my mom took some convincing, but I did it. My dress was ridiculous. I was on the older end of the competition’s age spectrum so I needed something, my coaches said, that would make me look young. (LOLZ.)
My dress was silver and blue and I loved it. It was covered in fake jewels and had crinoline sleeves the size of my head. Any self respecting beauty competitor of the late ‘90s had crinoline sleeves the size of one’s head.
I practiced my modeling to songs like “You Are So Beautiful” and that Whitney Houston song about children being the future. I practiced my talent routine—a ballet dance to something from The Nutcracker. (I still remember the opening 16 counts! I also still remember I was docked points during the competition because I smiled throughout the entire performance. Not appropriate for the music, the judges said. I’m not salty still about that at all…)
And I practiced being a girlie man.
See, there was a portion of the competition called Commercial. The girls create (or, if we’re being honest, the girls’ coaches, moms and other various adults create) a minute or so long “commercial” that they perform on stage individually during the competition. The commercials are supposed to promote the Popcorn Festival, so even though every commercial is different, they all have the same basic outline—announce when the festival is, who the kinda-washed-up feature acts are and why people should go and walk around the carnival of greasy culinary delights.
These commercials can get really creative. The judges are easy. Have some kind of popcorn, bathroom or hillbilly cutesy pun and you’ll probably get in the top five winner bracket.
My commercial had none of these things.
I, my friends, was Hans and Franz’ brother. That’s right, Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live, the reoccurring sketch starring Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey.
My character went out on stage and did some Pump You Up sayings about going to the Popcorn Festival. I had a papier mache dumbbell I hoisted around. I wore a grey sweatsuit cinched at my pre-pubescent waist with a brown belt. I stuffed bundles of clothes into my sweater sleeves to encase my tiny 100-pound frame. I did a lot of muscle man posing. I wore a brown man wig.
I don’t really remember if my commercial was a hit. It must not have been because I did not place in the pageant, even though they place, like, 12 runners up. But that commercial is hilarious to think about now.
I’m guessing the Hans and Franz joke was hot at the time, but I had never heard of Hans and Franz and this was in the stone age before YouTube so I could not watch examples of the sketches. Thus, 12-year-old me’s impersonation of Hans and Franz was actually an impersonation of adults in my life doing impersonations of Hans and Franz. An accent of an accent of an accent.
Plus, my relationship to understanding manhood and the fake and funny displays of it was nill; this was, after all, the time in my life when I wrote “Peace, Love and Hanson” on EVERYTHING. I’m sure my impersonation of muscle men satire was something in its own right.
I wish we had video of my commercial somewhere. But, again, stone age. We do, however, still have my Hans and Franz costume in the basement. I smell a Halloween costume coming on… I could really nail that accent and silly bro pick up lines as a 28-year-old.