Kenny Powers Hall of Fame: Our Most Special Eastbound & Down Memories
Molly Lambert: I am so sad about Eastbound & Down ending that in true Kenny Powers fashion, I am angry. Why must you go, Kenny? What is the world worth without you in it? I know Danny McBride will keep making movies, but what if we all go Misery on him and just tie him up until he promises to be Kenny for us again, one last time? Still, the legend of KP will live on in boxed sets, GIF sets, and HBO GO, but most of all in our hearts, minds, and groins.
I love Eastbound so much that I made eight mixtapes based around it concurrent with each season that are probably the most complete record of my life during the years the show spanned. I’ve been reflecting on how much time and thought I’d invested into this fandom, and how it’s probably the last time I’ll ever invest so much of myself in a thing I did not make. I feel a lot like Stevie Janowski, losing the sense of purpose I’d been grounded to for years. Who am I without Kenny? Who did I possibly think I was before? Regular television feels bland, network sitcoms limp, everything is colorless in the wake of Kenny’s flaming margarita of a run through culture, backed by Jody Hill and David Gordon Green’s impeccable tag-team direction. This clip is from the second season, when Kenny flees to Mexico. I like to compare Season 2 of Eastbound to Season 2 of The Wire, which had a similar sophomore shift in location and supporting cast, only to revert back to the original setup for the remaining seasons after that. Season 2 has great guest spots from Michael Peña and Ana de la Reguera. Choosing a favorite clip from Eastbound is difficult. Every moment of the show is the best moment. So here’s a small offering of Kenny freestyling in the booth and misinterpreting obvious social cues. “Kenny Powers’s girlfriend. Kenny Powers’s girlfriend’s song.” I love you, Kenny. With Mad Men‘s end also approaching, I might just throw my TV into the ocean. Maybe I’ll make a pilgrimage to Myrtle Beach.
Kenny Dancing on Ecstasy
Andy Greenwald: If Eastbound & Down were a 15-hour movie instead of a 29-episode TV show, you could do worse for a tagline than “Love is inappropriate sometimes.” And if you wanted to make a trailer to sum up all the inspired, debauched pathos to come, you could probably just show a portion of the above Season 1 clip in which Kenny, zooted on ecstasy and egg rolls, attempts to win over April through the power of dance. That it’s hilarious is expected, that Danny McBride is weirdly balletic, even as he’s performing a move that ought to be known as “Rogering the Rabbit,” is less so. Just before he pukes and the music starts wobbling, Kenny gestures as if his heart hurts. Is he dancing? Or is he dying? These are the types of questions only great art — and good drugs — can inspire.
Kenny Powers vs. Reg Mackworthy
Mark Lisanti: There’s Kenny Powers, standing on an improvised mound in front of a used-car dealership, 60 feet and six inches and three strikes away from his nemesis, Reg Mackworthy. Reg crouches for a quick prayer, thinking the Lord is on his side; Kenny squints and looks in at his rookie catcher, knowing that it’s God’s will that he will triumph on this day. He takes a deep breath before uncorking some 45-mph chin-music in Ashley Schaeffer’s direction, just for generally being a giant dick to him. Kenny’s second offering, which PITCHf/x classifies in the eephus family, is nigh unhittable, if only because an awkward edit obscures its wounded-fowl arc from sight. Schaeffer is livid Kenny’s pitching around his slugger with everything on the line; the ensuing mound visit is contentious. There is an uncharitable reference to fellatio.
Kenny steadies himself. Is self-doubt, the coke-bogarting hobgoblin of insecurity, finally eating at him? Can he vanquish the somewhat-less-washed-up enemy standing before him? Maybe he can’t. Maybe this isn’t going to end well. Maybe Ashley Schaeffer’s going to clown him in front of an excitable mob of discount-hungry monkey-fuckers after all.
But then his April appears. She is his strength, his light, his premature-ejaculatory goddess. He doesn’t care who knows that she made him mess his pants. As we’ll learn over the course of four seasons, she’ll always hold that kind of boner-exploding sway over him. They are meant to be together.
Kenny won’t stand for his long-suffering soul mate being reduced to a pair of tits with legs. Not by Reg Mackworthy. Not by anybody, unless it’s in the context of their own loving filthy-talk.
And so Kenny reaches back, adds about 40 miles per hour to his third offering, and knocks the eyeball right the fuck out of Reg’s skull. Hears the child’s gun reading: One-hundred-one. Draws two fingers across his upper lip. Celebrates his fallen enemy with a dismissive flip of those fingers.
“Suck a fat one!” he screams at Schaeffer. But he’s screaming at a world that dares doubt him. A stupid-ass world.
Because he’s got his pitch back.
Chris Ryan: Behold Ric Flair II, Shelby, North Carolina’s greatest salesman of German import automobiles, regular attendee of Black Biker Week, sometime dealer of semiautomatic weapons with trace levels of cocaine, and purveyor of ocelot wigs: Ashley Schaeffer.
Can we talk about the fact that, while Ron Burgundy might be Will Ferrell’s most beloved creation, Schaeffer might be his greatest? The infrequent appearances of Schaeffer on this show might have been the result of scheduling issues for Ferrell, but I’d like to imagine there was a more compassionate reason behind his scarcity: the concern that, were he to be a more regular cast member, too many Americans would up and have heart attacks from laugh-sobbing too much.
I know I’d be at the top of the list of candidates. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as painfully hard in my life as I have the first time I watched the outtakes/long version of Schaeffer’s “I can feel it in my plums” speech from Season 1.
Actually, that’s not true; I might have laughed harder when Schaeffer told his trusty sidekick Scott to put his penis in Kenny Powers’s baby.
It seemed like every time Ferrell came onscreen on this show, Ashley Schaeffer’s story had deepened and expanded and gotten richer and crazier. This is sort of the genius of Eastbound. There are the obvious laughs, but those laughers are amplified by the world-building. Whether it’s Adam Scott and Matthew McConaughey’s scouts or the insane, incestuous family at the water park, or the marriage on the rocks between Jillian Bell and Tim Heidecker’s characters, you can see that those people could have had shows of their own; that’s how deep this show goes.
All that being said, maybe Schaeffer is only made for small doses. Frankly, I don’t know if America could handle an entire show of shooting people with cannons …
I know I couldn’t. I don’t think my heart could take it.
Ten Bucks and a Burrito
Sean Fennessey: I have a theory about the second season of shows shepherded by the truly creative. It involves the introduction of a foreign element in an effort to beat back the tide of repetition. Enter Furio on The Sopranos, a trip to the docks on The Wire, a tour of the Kentucky underworld with Mags Bennett on Justified. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. EB&D‘s second season is an off-site affair, a classic shift away from Season 1’s sprawling, banal North Carolinian suburbs and into the sweaty milieu of Mexico. It never quite worked for me for all the reasons that Season 4 was so effortlessly controlled. Like the Colorado Rockies, Kenny Powers is home at home. Still, the second chapter had moments, none better than Michael Peña’s Sebastian Cisneros. Peña had worked with Eastbound‘s Jody Hill a year earlier on the grim, sort of brilliant security guard psychodramedy Observe and Report, where he melded with Hill’s sensibility, and his discomfiting Cisneros is the millionaire doppelgänger of that movie’s Dennis. That stop-start cackle, the gentle lisp, the wide-eyed naif philosophy. (“I love to racism, bro!”) Peña has one of the weirdest energies of any actor in Hollywood. (Just look at him exiting that plane dressed as a faux Ayatalloh in the American Hustle trailer.) He’s half-cocked and half-stoned. Kenny has faced down a menagerie of fellow sociopaths throughout Eastbound‘s glorious run — Ashley Schaeffer, Ivan Dochenko, his daddy Eduardo Sanchez. None have been as confusing or as welcome as Sebastian.
Emily Yoshida: I like to think that in an alternate universe, Toby Powers grows up to be not Alexander Skarsgard, but Alien from Spring Breakers, raised in a lettuce-filled backpack by sex-toy-enhanced dinosaurs and nursed on nudie posters and blacklight-responsive pot leaves. Myrtle Beach Forever, bitches.
Tess Lynch: I think I’ve featured this clip before in one HOF or another, but to be honest with you, I’d use it for every single HOF if I could. You’ve got your Bangles, your Limewire mention, your two buddies isolated in solo drugged-out dance fits (Kenny, of course, admiring himself in the mirror, sometimes through his clenched eyelids), your dirty coffee table with prescription bottles, glasses, beer, and crumpled-up paper bits. There is the American flag, right next to the poster of an ass, in a room that looks both like a permanent residence and a spring break motel in Panama City Beach. This death be not proud — you can smell that room, the sweat and testosterone and remaining half-inches of hot domestic beer growing ever riper — but it’s not a bad way to go if you were, even just temporarily, Kenny’s no. 1 hombre. The prospect of being Kenny’s best friend should be totally unattractive because he’s rude, selfish, and he’ll insult your wife’s breast implants or give you a complex about your chin on a whim, but Shane showed us that even Powers could be dominated and tamed.
Set It Free
Amos Barshad: You’d think I’d have gotten my fill of plucking out Eastbound bits back when I did my feature on/ode to the show … but NOPE. For sheer bite-size quotables, EB&D is an endless fount — pound-for-pound, quite possibly the best in the game — and should be treated as such. Here at the end, though, I’ll keep it simple, and leave it with something of a Kenny Powers credo, one I have, in recent months, taken to texting to folks in my life — friends, family members, fellow churchgoers — in moments of doubt or confusion. And so I’ll just say this: Basically, everyone, I think it’s high time you set that pussy free. Set it free.
Adam Scott, a.k.a Pat Anderson
Andrew Sharp: Eastbound was great for most of the time it was here and the final season was perfect, but it’s even better when you look back at everything you forgot. Remember when Adam Scott, Danny McBride, and Matthew McConaughey spent 30 seconds talking about sucking their dream’s dick? I still can’t believe this was a real TV show.
Kenny was always amazing on his own, but the reason it’s possible to waste a solid 90 minutes watching old Eastbound clips on YouTube is because everyone they introduced along the way was every bit as perfect: Cleg, Reg Mackworthy, Shane, Ashley Schaeffer, Guy Young, the Russian, everyone.
I’d forgotten about the assistant to the assistant GM in Tampa until Sunday night, but he was as great as anybody.
He taught me the difference between a gold card and a black card. He got really into the party scene, a little into dudes, lost everything — then got clean and sober, ready to chase the dream again and make amends via gift basket.
I’ll miss this show now that it’s gone, but it’s cool, because I’ll probably be watching these old clips forever. It was so offensive and insane that just remembering it existed will get better with every passing year. Now, let’s go chase our dreams and get that black card. Word to the the Jonas Brothers.