Kenny Powers is most ingenious character, and Eastbound and Down is the funniest show to come out since I stopped owning televisions.
It should come as no surprise that I, the ugliest American with an expat blog, am a fan. Kenny Powers is the ultimate ugly American. See the first few minutes of the debut episode:
The character was inspired by Daniel McBride’s first character from The Fist Foot Way and combined with John Rocker, star relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves who gained notoriety for making homophobic, racist, and sexist statements reported in a Sports Illustrated exposé. Like Rocker, Kenny Powers was a promising young pitcher for the Atlanta Braves whose career was short-lived. Powers makes the same kinds of xenophobic statements to the press, and he’s a Southern redneck. True KP fans can visit the official John Rocker website to see exactly how much he influenced the Kenny Powers character.
But the Kenny Powers character draws from other icons as well. There is a scene where Powers explodes into a rage after being confronted with steroids allegations, as did Dominican ballplayer, Sammy Sosa. Another part of KP’s personality is arrogance and overconfidence ala Allen Iverson:
KP has an obsession with wealth and luxurious things, like the rappers and athletes who earn tens of millions of dollars during their careers and declare bankruptcy a couple years after retiring. Also central to the Kenny Powers persona is his drug use: marijuana, cocaine, pills, mushrooms, alcohol, everything. He snorts cocaine at the middle school where he works as a substitute teacher.
Actors Danny McBride (portrays Powers) and Ben Best (plays Clegg) hatched up the idea of Kenny Powers based on what they saw as the current state of the American hero. They sold that image to producers Will Ferrell (comedic genius who plays Ashley Schaeffer) and Adam McKay (director of Anchorman).
Kenny fuckin’ Powers
KP from the first season:
Sure, I’ve been called a xenophobe, but the truth is I’m not. I honestly just feel that America’s the best country and all the other countries aren’t as good. That used to be called patriotism.
The scene that endeared Kenny Powers to ugly Americans everywhere was this one, in the very first episode:
A crucial character to the show is Stevie Janowski, the band teacher at the middle school where KP is the substitute gym teacher. Stevie’s a wimp who worships Kenny. Without Stevie, there is no show.
KP rocks a mullet. The mullet haircut became a big joke around 1999 and 2000. I never had one, but I had many friends who had mullets. Many, as late as high school graduation in 1997. It wasn’t a joke for a lot of Americans; they really thought it was cool.
Whenever I have a bad day my therapy is Eastbound and Down reruns. After watching me laughing uncontrollably, my Peruvian wife grew curious. So I downloaded all the seasons with Spanish subtitles. She’d laugh out loud at a lot of parts, and often insist on immediately watching the next episode. Sometimes she’d feel guilty for encouraging the ugly American in me, horrified at how funny I thought it was, and even more horrified when I do his dance moves (see 0:43 – 0:47 of this sequence). She started saying KP “es un loser.“
But after finishing the first season, she still wanted to continue to the second. Then she really started to disapprove of KP because of his anti-Latino racism. And that’s why KP deserves an article on Expat Chronicles, the blog for ugly Americans living among Latinos. This article is not just a character profile of KP. It’s also a comprehensive record of all the anti-Mexican jokes in the 2nd season, coming from KP or his worshipper, Stevie Janowski.
Season 2 in Mexico
Promotional trailer for the second season:
(Introducing the 2nd season, where Kenny Powers moves to Mexico)
Kenny Powers: A man who ran and never looked back, a man who drank his ass all the way down to the butthole of America: fucking Mexico … I know that this savage land was made for me.
(Kenny angry at the neighbors’ kids playing soccer outside)
Kenny Powers: If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is fucking soccer, alright? And I hate when people do it around me … The language barrier, honestly, is just so fucking frustrating right now … I knew living in the barrio was going to be fucking annoying, but I didn’t know it was going to be so goddamn loud, and that’s honestly why I’m so frustrated.
(To his neighbor, whose wife is breastfeeding)
Kenny Powers: It looks like she’s cooking seared tittie for someone right now. I feel like this is some goddamn National Geographic shit (another family member appears). Who the fuck is that? How many people you got crammed up in there?
(After being invited to a family dinner)
Kenny Powers: I appreciate the offer, but I don’t wanna bond with new people down here , alright? I already got a family, I don’t need a fucked up version of the original.
Kenny Powers: Right now I just would like the company of somebody who seems normal. And even though you’re Mexican, you seem normal to me.
(Addressing the baseball team)
Kenny Powers: I’m in the darkest, third-world hole I’ve ever been in in my entire life, about a thousand, hundred million miles from where I should be. And the only way for me to get back there is for us to join forces. If we can make enough noise down here, then just maybe, everyone in America will hear us.
(In front of the team, after breaking a window with a ball)
Kenny Powers: If this were America, you’d have a radar gun. And right now, it would read 101. When’s the next game? See you dumb motherfuckers there.
(To the team owner)
Kenny Powers: How much does it actually cost to buy a Mexican baseball team, ten bucks and a burrito?
Coach: I know this locker room isn’t exactly what you were thinking about when you were a kid, dreaming about playing ball one day.
Kenny Powers: No, it’s pretty shitty.
The signature scene from the second season of Eastbound and Down is Kenny Powers’ debut entrance as the relief pitcher for the local baseball team, Los Charros.
Vida: Why are you dressed as a mariachi?
Kenny Powers: You know I’m just doing some PR shit here for the baseball team. Figured I’d dress in the customary, you know, gowns and whatnot.
Vida: So um, you’re signing autographs?
Kenny Powers: Yeah, I’m supposed to be.
Vida: How come there’s no one in your line?
KP: That’s a good question. Honestly I’ve been trying to figure that out all goddamn morning. Sometimes I just feel like if you don’t have a goddamn soccer ball bouncing off your head, nobody even gives two damn shits about you in this country.
Vida: Soccer is really popular here.
KP: Well it’s not in America. In America people fucking hate soccer and, honestly, that’s the way it should be.
Vida: I don’t know, I kinda like soccer.
KP: You kinda like soccer?
KP: I’m gonna pretend like you didn’t just make my dick go soft.
Stevie: Kenny, there were some weird Mexican motherfuckers that came by yesterday.
KP: Who were they?
Stevie: Some fucking mongoloid and a fucking dwarf.
(Via loudspeaker, driving around the city center to promote KP)
Stevie: Villagers and townspeople, come see Kenny Powers destroy the competition in Mexico. He’s a national gift, from the good people of America, to you. Cheer for him, bow to him, worship him! Kenny Powers, he’s the White Flame, and he’s burning this country to the fucking ground. The White Flame, Mr. Kenny fucking Powers.
(Kenny with Vida and her son at the carnival)
Kenny Powers: You should also be thanking me for these tacos, ‘cause these seem like they’re the deal. Although I wonder if I’m gonna get Montezuma’s Revenge from this shit.
Vida: I think you’re gonna be fine.
KP: Do you think they wash their hands here?
Vida: Of course.
KP: Do you know what Montezuma’s Revenge is, Tony? I’ve heard it’s when a white man shits his pants in Mexico.
(Speaking to the team coach, in the team’s Hall of Fame exhibit)
Coach: Playing for this team’s not a joke, not to me, to the players, or to them.
KP: I don’t think it’s a goddamn joke. I never said it was a joke. If you got something you want to say, then just say it. You can save us a lot of time with this fuckin’ pointless history lesson in this goddamn creepy, unimpressive, fucking hall. I don’t like it in here, it’s gross. (Walking away) Thanks for nothing!
Vida: Wow, this neighborhood is unbelievable!
Kenny Powers: Right? It’s like we’re not even in Mexico.
(Car publicity announcements)
Stevie: Come see Kenny fuckin’ Powers tonight at Charros stadium. He’s the ‘Hombre Negro’, not the White Flame. He’s not scary like the negros in America, unless you’re the competition. Then he’ll strike you out, and shit all over your face. Come worship the big dick American at Charros stadium, and hopefully he’ll impregnate all the women here so we’ll have a new generation of Kenny Powerses.
This clip is another grand entrance from KP, after having built a local following:
Kenny Powers: Who wants beer? You’re Mexican, you all want fuckin’ beer. HAHA!
(after learning about his father’s second family)
Kenny Powers: Turns out I got a goddamn stepmom and a fuckin’ Navajo half-brother.
Stevie: I’m sorry that your brother is Navajo.
Kenny Powers: Me too.
Stevie: I know that would be very upsetting. If I found out I had a half black brother or a whole black brother, I would be very upset.
(Before leading a 4-wheeler tour)
Kenny Powers’ father: Alright strap in and put your helmets on, little ladies. I know these helmets make you look like a puss, but trust me. You do NOT want rely on these quacks down here in these hospitals to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Stevie: Haven’t you guys ever heard of Montezuma’s Revenge? If you guys knew how to boil meat, or grill it, this shit wouldn’t be happening!
Kenny Powers: Stevie, our time here in Mexico has come to an end. We can’t hide in this wasteland forever, chasin’ exotic women. It’s time we get back to the business of livin’, face what awaits us back in America.
KP: Maybe you go down on her, dude. Don’t be selfish, don’t be sexist.
(Stevie makes funny face)
KP: You don’t like that?
(Stevie shakes his head)
KP: Why not?
Stevie: It smells.
KP: Oh, yeah, I bet it does. She’s always eatin’ that weird stew and roots and shit.
Stevie: What about ATM?
KP: I would stay away from ass-to-mouth. You don’t know what’s going to affect her immune system. They drink bacterias and biological things here. Yeah, just, for safety.
(Stevie asks Kenny for permission to marry his Mexican girlfriend)
Stevie: I know that technically I should be asking Maria’s father this, but in many ways I feel like you are the father to all the Mexicans here.
Kenny Powers: And you do realize that if you had offspring, they will be mixed children. They could be made fun of on the playground.
Stevie: I was made fun of on the playground, and I turned out pretty cool.
(to his neighbor, Catuey)
Kenny Powers: These are the keys to the Denali. If you can find time I’d like you to fix it. I had Stevie on the motherfucker, but he got derailed. Now it’s time for a professional – time for a Mexican.
(Car publicity announcements)
Stevie: Mexicans! Oh, Mexicans! For once in your life, get off your couches and do something. This is your last chance to see Kenny Powers. He lost the love of his life. He went to Mexico for a change. He met his father. He got screwed over. But the thing about Kenny Powers is when he faces adversity, he moves past it. Because once Jesus leaves the building, he is out of Mexico for good!
(speaking to the baseball team)
Kenny Powers: I brought you guys up from less than fucking nothing and took you up to a championship level, only to abandon you there … I’m sorry for that … This is a classic Cinderella tale … You guys will eventually just go back to being the shittiest, Mexican baseball team in Mexico … We can do some fuckin’ great things tonight, you guys … Know that you’ll never, ever, EVER reach the heights you will reach tonight. But you can leave here knowing that you helped Kenny Powers’ dreams come true. For a bunch of Mexican baseball players, that ain’t too bad.
(contemplating his time in Mexico and return to America)
Kenny Powers: Just like that, the journey is over. Depression is finished and you’re on your way back to the world of the living, smiling, regular people.
(After reuniting with his brother’s family in North Carolina)
Kenny Powers: I gotta get a move on. Yeah, I got a big old pot of titties waitin’ for me at the end of the rainbow. But before I can sip upon them, I need to go ahead and take a big old shit in a fuckin’ American toilet. Cool? Gimme some high fives, some American high fives, huh? Good to see your goddamn white faces, give it up!
Kenny Powers: Never in a million years did I imagine myself being in Mexico. After all, who would? Most Mexicans spend the bulk of their day just trying to get out. So you can hardly blame foreigners like myself for not thinking about getting in. Oddly enough, the people here aren’t that different from the ones back home, when you get past the lack of interest in real sports and the need to have yellow rice at every fucking meal. Can’t help but notice how much they stick together too. I mean, when you see Mexicans in the States you think, “Oh there’s a group of Mexicans doing Mexican things together.” But here you see that it’s not just because they talk the same language and they’re all Catholic. Family means a lot to these people …
(Inviting April to lunch)
Kenny Powers: There’s this really cool Mexican place down the road. Has really awesome food but the décor is kinda shitty, kinda like Mexico itself.
I started watching this online a few months ago. Kenny Powers seems to be a fairly standard Adam McKay/Will Farrell character, an obnoxious guy you still root for for some reason. I guess because he represents an unedied version of us, what we really want without the politeness.
I don’t think Mexico is typical of Latin America. I think it’s much more influenced by the US, and has its own wierd things going on as well. I think the farther away from the US you get in Latin America the better it is.
It’s funny how many americans I meet this day and age who still think all latinos are mexican.
And in texas, americans automatically refer to any spanish music as “tejano” music.
I once took a white american chick to eat at a honduran restaurant. She didn’t like the food and she told me “you better not ever take me to eat ‘hungarian’ food again”.
All I can do is shake my head and laugh.
In order for people to keep watching, they have to like Kenny at least a little bit.
Just took time to watch the video.. McBride is very, very good.
He has found a wrinkle to get aound Hollywood’s PC enforcers. Insensative types laugh with him. Sensative and/or PC types laugh at him. Plausable deniability.
Kenny Powers is the man. There is so much that’s funny about that show.
Matthew B – I know what you mean, its frustrating, but It’s contextual…if you look at the Hispanic population of Texas probably 90% of them are Mexican. That is the dominant latin culture there and as such it’s an understandable stereotype. If you go to NYC, where the majority of Latinos would be Puerto Rican then Dominican, that is pretty much the label given out to all latin looking people.
I see this ignorance from Latino’s as well – I still hear many Latinos (esp Mexicans) referring to white folks “Anglo” which isn’t really offensive, but at the same time not at all accurate. I also hear quite often Latino’s swearing someone with a slight tan is half latino, or not possibly fully gringo, completely forgetting the various ethnic groups and mixtures that make up the USA.
Colin mentions at the start of this article Rocker and Iverson..I also want to point out the obvious double standard the Western Media has created with machismo. It’s very obvious that a white guy making lewd, aggressive or ignorant comment is chastised, mawked, labeled a redneck.. But the same kind of non-sense and usually worse, is not only accepted but completely expected and desired from blacks…be they rappers, athletes, actors etc.
Rocker received death threats for opening his mouth (no matter how ignorant his statement was, it was just hot air and stupid words) he received severe media pressure, and negative exposure leading to the end of his career.
Iverson beats an old white dude half to death with a chair, gets a pass to Georgetown. Pistol whippings, gun possession, drug possession, assaults on men and women…no problem. Oh yeah and his public racist statements on numerous occasions were met with winking and nodding but no real repercussions.
Colin, I know you would not be offended by being called out as being politically incorrect.
“This must be taken from African-American athletes and rappers who earn tens of millions of dollars during their careers, and declare bankruptcy a couple years after retiring.”
This particularly statement seems unnecessary. I think white and hispanic athletes, actors, singers etc have trouble investing their money as well.
But the Kenny Powers thing is interesting and funny.
I like Louie CK
I had been thinking, if I was introducing a Colombian or whoever to American culture, or anti-culture, I would watch Dave Chappelle with them (particularly if you could find some Spanish subtitles – which maybe you can’t)
Some better links re Louie and Dave:
I disagree, read:
kenny fuckin powers.. love this guy