Bragging Rights is a new Grantland series with a single goal: to determine which member of a cast, a team, a band, or a presidential cabinet is killing it the most, years later. Grantland writers will take turns giving their take on who has the bragging rights from the posse of their choosing. This week, Shea Serrano looks back at Friday.
There are two ways to define Bragging Rights. The easiest way is you take the group of people you’re examining and look at all of what’s happened to them since the movie or song or TV show or whatever it is when they were all together that you’re using as the starting point. You go from that point to now and you see who’s done the best. There’s your winner.
So, say, for example, this were Bragging Rights: Saved by the Bell. We’d look at everything Zack, Kelly, Slater, Screech, Lisa, Jessie, and Mr. Belding have accomplished since the last episode, add up whatever imaginary points or credits we might come up with, see who has the most, and there’s your person with the bragging rights. It’s a good system, and a fun system, and it almost always works. But it doesn’t here. Not with Friday. The scales are tilted too far to one side. The winner here is just too obvious (as is the second-place finisher). So we have to go a different way. Let’s look at everyone involved first.
- Ice Cube
- Chris Tucker
- Nia Long
- Bernie Mac
- Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr.
- John Witherspoon
- Anna Maria Horsford
- Regina King
- Paula Jai Parker
- Faizon Love
- DJ Pooh
- Angela Means Kaaya
- Vickilyn Reynolds
- Ronn Riser
- Kathleen Bradley
- Meagan Good
- Reynaldo Rey
- Michael Clarke Duncan
If this were a normal version of Bragging Rights, Ice Cube would obliterate everyone. He has too many check marks next to his name. I might’ve tried to argue that Chris Tucker owned the Bragging Rights, but that would have been foolhardy.
I mean, Tucker has neat music sidebars that we can attach to his name — he was in a Michael Jackson video and he was in a Tupac video, and those are both neat things. But Ice Cube is Ice Cube, so Carter’s little bit of music momentum gets scrubbed away fairly easily (even if Ice Cube hasn’t really been “Ice Cube” since 1992’s The Predator). And Tucker’s string of movies after Friday were philosophically cooler than Ice Cube’s movies were — Tucker had, among others, Dead Presidents (amazing), The Fifth Element (world-bending), Rush Hour 1, 2, and 3 (great/very good/decent), and Silver Linings Playbook (very strong); meanwhile, Ice Cube lobbed up, among others, The Players Club (fart), I Got the Hook Up (double fart), Are We There Yet? (triple fart), Are We Done Yet? (quadruple fart), Are You Shitting Me?, The Janky Promoters (quintuple fart), First Sunday (sextuple fart), and The Longshots (OK). So there’s that way. But here’s the thing: Do you know what’s cooler than being philosophically cool? I’ll tell you what’s cooler than being philosophically cool: BEING SUPER RICH, MY DUDE.
Ice Cube is worth $140 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
What’s more: Do you know what makes being super rich even better than it already is? I’ll tell you what makes being super rich even better than it already is: When the guy you’re competing against to see who has Bragging Rights is super fucking poor. Here’s Chris Tucker’s Celebrity Net Worth rating:
NEGATIVE ELEVEN POINT FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. That’s how much Chris Tucker’s worth. That’s insane, especially when you consider he was paid positive $45 million just for Rush Hour 2 and Rush Hour 3.
Negative eleven point five million.
He doesn’t even have no money. He has less than no money. If Tucker went into a store to buy a thing and the cost of that thing was the store gave him $10 million to take it away, he still wouldn’t be able to afford it. 1 So, again, the winner here, if we use the primary understanding of the parameters of Bragging Rights, is just too obvious. Ice Cube gets the gold medal, Chris Tucker gets the silver, and if you want to extend it some, Bernie Mac gets the bronze. So let’s not do that. Let’s do the other thing. Let’s use a secondary understanding of the parameters of Bragging Rights to create a few more conversations.
This is a lift of one of my favorite Louis C.K. bits. Louis C.K. is the greatest.
The secondary understanding is less obvious, but just as simple to understand: What we do now is, rather than look at everything that’s happened in all of these careers since Friday, we examine them only within the Friday universe, the pop culture reverb 20 years after the movie’s release. What remains? What is the most memorable? What has had the biggest impact?
We can work from least consequential to most:
Bragging Rights: Who Was the Person in a Bit Part Who Ended Up With the Biggest Actual Acting Career?
Only two true candidates here: Meagan Good, who had a very tiny part as one of the kids at Big Worm’s ice cream truck …
… and Michael Clarke Duncan, who had an even smaller part during the flashback scene in which Smokey tells Craig about Deebo knocking Red out.
Good’s most memorable spot was as Columbus Short’s love interest in Stomp the Yard, and as good as that movie was and as many times as I’ve seen it, I can’t even pretend to know what her name was in it. Clarke Duncan’s best spot, however, was as John Coffey in The Green Mile. MCD’s got the Bragging Rights here.
Bragging Rights: Drug-Addicted Character Battle
It’s Felicia vs. Ezal, and it’s Felicia for the Bragging Rights and there’s really no two ways about it. #ByeEzal
Reverse Bragging Rights: Which Character Has Wandered the Furthest Away From Friday’s Iconography?
I hate that it had to be you, Deebo:
The first time I saw that commercial I’d assumed it was a parody, one of those fake lawyer things like what Kevin Durant’s currently doing. But it’s not. It’s a real thing. It’s a real, actual thing. And I’m very sad about that.
Bragging Rights: Stand-Up Comedy Performance at a Taping of HBO’s Def Comedy Jam
Let’s extend this one out into Next Friday, where Mike Epps stood in as the Chris Tucker replacement, just to get a third participant.
Third place goes to Epps’s second appearance on the show (with a cameo by Deebo, if you can even believe that):
Occasionally funny, though only mildly so.
Second place goes to Tucker’s first appearance on the show:
Much more measured and practiced than Epps’s set.
First place, though, and this is for real one of those God vs. Men type things, is Bernie Mac’s unforgettable, unbelievable, unstoppable “I ain’t scared of you muthafuckers” set:
It’s a master class. He was in total control, totally prepared, and it was total domination. He’s onstage for about a minute and 20 seconds before the crowd realizes what’s going on, what they’re watching, what’s about to unfold — and when they figure it out, it’s just amazing. You can feel the energy through your computer screen. Here’s Kid Capri at the 2:10 mark, and you’ve got to figure he was the house DJ for the entirety of the show’s run, so he saw every comedian that ever went up there and knew what he was watching was special:
What a wonder. Bragging Rights here go to Bernie Mac, because Bragging Rights always go to Bernie Mac.
Bragging Rights: Best Song From the Soundtrack
This is a wonderful soundtrack, second really only to the Above the Rim soundtrack if we’re talking about movies tied to hip-hop culture. There’s “Friday” by Cube, there’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin’” by Dr. Dre, there’s Cypress Hill’s “Roll It Up, Light It Up, Smoke It Up,” there’s “Hoochie Mama” by 2 Live Crew, and then all of that and the rest of the rap is balanced out by “Tryin’ to See Another Day” by the Isley Brothers, Rose Royce’s “I Wanna Get Next to You,” Roger Troutman’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and “You Got Me Wide Open” by Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell. Bragging Rights goes to “Keep Their Heads Ringin,’” quietly a very perfect Dr. Dre song.
Bragging Rights: Best Single Line
I don’t imagine it would be all that hard to put together a full, healthy list of the 100 best lines from Friday. Remember Red’s heartbreaking, “Man, my grandmama gave me that chain”?
Remember Ezal’s goofy “My neck, my back, my neck and my back”?
Remember Joi’s perfectly tuned “You ain’t got ta lie, Craig, you ain’t got ta lie”?
Remember Pops’s all-world “Every time I come in the kitchen, you in the kitchen”?
Remember Deebo’s cosmic “That’s my bike, punk”?
There are so many. Everybody who talks has at least one, which is a remarkable stat. Nobody had lines better than Smokey. NOBODY. Not in this movie and not in any comedy stretching five years in either direction of time. It felt like every time he said any single thing, it toed up next to the possibility of becoming a Hall of Fame entry.
“… And you know this, man.”
“What the fuck you doing stealing boxes for? What you trying to build, a clubhouse?”
“Gimme three and a half minutes; maybe even four. She’ll be wanting to marry a n----.”
“I don’t give a fu-uhk.”
“Weed is from the earth. God put this here for me and you.”
“I got mind control over Deebo. He be like, ‘Shut the fuck up.’ I be quiet. But when he leave, I be talking again.”
“Puff, puff, give.”
“Most people wanna borrow sugar. Even ketchup. You wanna borrow my car? Hell naw.”
“Don’t ever, ever, evereverevereverever come by here.”
Three of them, though, sit above them all. Third place is his heroically pointy barb, “You got ta be a stupid motherfucker to get fired on your day off.” It’s just true beauty, and will never ever not be funny.
Second place is his plea to Craig to get him to smoke: “It’s Friday, you ain’t got no job, and you ain’t got shit to do,” and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a more airtight argument.
First place, though, of course goes to “You got knocked the fuck out!” which, even if you fast-forward time 100 million years, will forever be a part of popular culture. It has ascended. YGKTFO’s got the Bragging Rights here. More on Smokey …
Bragging Rights: Most Entertaining Smokey Exchange
Third place goes to Smokey vs. Rita:
The way his face drops when he sees her. The way he bends over and stares at her stomach. When he gets out of taking the girl with him to pick up his mom by saying, “Nah, she don’t like a lot of people with me when I go get her.” When she asks him if he’s going to call her and he says, “I’ma call you … but if you come by, I won’t call you. OK?” The way he takes counsel with Debbie afterward. Gorgeous.
Second place goes to Smokey vs. Felicia:
It’s perfect, all the way down to the way he flicks his hand away at her after Craig’s “Bye, Felicia.” He should get paid positive eleven point five million dollars per year just for this scene alone.
First place, however, goes to Smokey vs. The Pastor:
Bragging Rights. Easy.
Bragging Rights: Everything About the Whole Entire Movie
Smokey. Infinity. Chris Tucker is as necessary and vital and wildly influential as Smokey as Eddie Murphy was as Axel Foley in the ’80s. Please, god, let this final installment of Friday find its way out of production and into the theaters. And pleasePleasePLEASE let Smokey be in it.