There’s a fine balance to awkward comedy. An audience must be able to recognize the exceedingly uncomfortable nature of an exchange while also indulging in a scoop of schadenfreude. While shows like The Office may have popularized the format, another challenger has entered the ring: this viral news segment.
Broadcaster and TV personality Jamie East shared the clip in question on Twitter earlier today, warning, “This is the worst ever live news item I’ve ever seen. I urge you to watch it in all its glory.” It starts with an on-the-scene news reporter fumbling his opening. He’s trying a joke about how, normally, when we think of inflation, it carries a negative economic connotation. In this case, however, the throughline is about inflatables, as in the bouncy castle variety. His question about inflation — whether it’s “a good thing, or not a good thing?” — falls as flat as a Michael Scott inspirational quote as his co-worker 1) can’t seem to hear him, and 2) has apparently never heard of the improv rule of “Yes and,” which basically translates to just go with the joke. “It depends upon what the topic is,” says a confused anchor back in the studio, before throwing out the thinnest of lifelines by mentioning an inflatable boat. Okay! Now we’re getting somewhere!
Except we’re not because the two continue to fumble on about inflation for several excruciating seconds before the reporter quietly says, “Yeah...” in such a way that confirms his soul is exiting his body. The animated husk that remains pushes through nevertheless, introducing a crowd of volunteers who have been standing behind him this whole time, trading bemused grins in silence.
For a moment, it seems like the segment is getting back on track. The reporter steps in to talk to his newly engaged audience — only to blow it once again with an impossibly worded question: “What kind of fun do you think you’re going to have today?” “Umm... lots of fun?” one woman replies, turning to gaze into a future free of inflatables. The rest of the group Q&A session that follows is 90 percent awkward silences and stares as the reporter continues to ask about “what kind of fun” people think they’ll find here. (The answer: “bouncing fun,” which I guess is a thing.) Finally, the reporter gets to the point he’s been trying to make this whole time: this is an inflatable slide that people can jump on. In case the giant inflatable slide billowing just behind him didn’t make that clear.
The reporter then begins to lead people in a “magic” chant (?), “because when you’re talking inflatables, you need something that’s been inflated.” (Apparently this video, which is already dragging on far too long, does not count.) Everyone plays along, except for this guy in the black jacket, who simply is Not Having It.
Against all odds, the chant is successful because it suddenly summons “Mr. Wacky,” a green tubular man from San Diego. (It’s almost too successful, actually, because Mr. Wacky appears to be shuffling around back there before the chant is even finished.) It’s an honor for the reporter to meet Mr. Wacky. “This is an honor,” he says.
Brimming with energy, Mr. Wacky happily (and cogently) shouts about the various family fun attractions attendees can expect before taking a moment to dunk on what is surely only a shell of a man by now. “Does that mean everyone becomes an inflatable today?” the reporter asks. “Do they want to be inflatables today?” Mr. Wacky responds with skepticism.
The segment wraps with everyone doing “doing their Mr. Wacky.” Except for this guy, who, again, is not having any of it.
We salute you with our best Mr. Wacky flail, my good sirs, for your contribution to this hallowed genre.