Tomorrow, WWE puts on “Crown Jewel”, their most controversial event ever. All over the mainstream news, we’ve been hearing about how WWE is getting paid big bucks by a repressive regime to carry out an outrageous PR campaign for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
But this is far from the first time that wrestlers have been used in stealth propaganda for causes totally unrelated to sports-entertainment. In fact, Hacksaw Jim Duggan beat WWE to the punch by 18 years.
Around the year 2000, Hacksaw appeared as a guest on Havin’ a Beer with Mike, arguably a comedy program based in Orlando, Florida.
Duggan took part in a sketch called, “Bikers’ Court”, which on paper is a wacky parody of court shows like, “People’s Court”: what if our legal system were run by rough and tumble bikers instead of stuffy old rich guys in suits and robes?
I mean, who needs lawyers when you can just have a fistfight?
Am I right, fellow commoners?
But it turns out that TV host and cancer enthusiast Mike McDaniel doesn’t have anything against all lawyers, just the kind who threaten our freedom – by which he means, the lawyers who go after those plucky little tobacco companies.
As such, Mike interviews the three plaintiffs in one such frivolous lawsuit:
A little person named Ed Stump (get it!) who is suing Big Tobacco for stunting his growth…
…Bob Turner, a fat slob who carries an actual box of donuts, started smoking six months ago, and is suing Big Tobacco for supposedly ruining his physique…
…and Mary Harper. Gee, the writers really got lazy with the clever last names after “Ed Stump” the midget, huh? Mary is suing Big Tobacco for giving her lung cancer.
Kidding! They never use the C-word in this skit. She’s actually suing because she smokes while cleaning houses topless and the hot ash keeps burning her breasts.
Mike, the show’s producer, was really, really proud of that gag, too.
But the cast of characters is more than just a collection of bizarre strawmen; this is supposed to be “Bikers’ Court”, after all, so there’s also Judge Hacksaw on the bench overseeing the proceedings…
…a six-person jury of bikers…
…and bailiff Bunny Guns, who beat out Mary Harper for the script writer’s sole “boobs” pun.
Hacksaw asks Bunny to swear everybody in, so she tells those sons of bitches to raise their damn hands and tell the truth.
I actually think that joke is a little funny, and fits with the “biker” theme to boot, which is why I just made it up.
In the actual sketch, the joke is that Bunny is too stupid to know which hand is her right hand, so she has everybody raise both hands while being sworn in.
Is it also a joke that the witnesses get sworn in well before they even take the stand, or that the lawyers, jury, and audience members all take that same oath for some reason at the beginning of the trial? Or is that just a weird quirk of the biker legal system?
The Big Tobacco attorney, an upstanding man of integrity, argues that the plaintiffs shouldn’t blame his client for the consequences of their free choices.
“That’s what living in America is about,” says the reasonable attorney as Hacksaw, a lifelong proponent of living in America, nods along.
After all, just like 10% of all smokers, these three plaintiffs all started smoking as adults! Mind you, everyone I’ve ever known who smokes started as a minor, except for my friend Nick, who bought a pack on his 18th birthday as a joke and has been hooked ever since. You’re a dumbass, Nick.
After the defense correctly calls the plaintiffs, “lying, greedy, cheap trailer park trash”, chaos erupts, leading Hacksaw to restore order, banging his 2×4 like a gavel. Hey, that’s a nice touch! I didn’t even make that up myself, that’s in the real sketch!
Hacksaw threatens those in the courtroom with a night of pulling splinters out of their head. Now, if Big Poppa Pump were the judge, he’d have worded it a little differently.
In stark contrast to the honest Big Tobacco attorney, the plaintiffs’ lawyer is a condescending slimeball whose appeals to emotion are transparently phony and rehearsed.
(Not that I’m suggesting any of the actors in this thing actually did rehearse)
Then it’s time for the plaintiffs to talk to Judge Hacksaw one by one.
First, it takes an excruciating minute and a half for Jim to explain for anyone who hadn’t yet gotten the joke that Ed Stump is short because he’s a midget and not because he smokes.
Next, Mary Harper explains the effects of topless smoking, which include, and I quote, “discoloration, severe swelling, sensitivity, and they’re so big now”. Severe swelling *and* they’re so big now? I’m surprised Judge Hacksaw didn’t stop the trial right there and award Mary damages not just from the tobacco industry, but from whatever dramaturgical whiz wrote these clunky lines for her.
But instead, Mary shows Exhibits Double-D to the jury…
…and to the judge.
Mary is played by Hacksaw’s wife, Debra, so this scene is perfectly wholesome – aside from being pro-tobacco industry propaganda, of course.
Fewer than 15% of all people who have sued tobacco companies have ever worked as a novelty topless maid. (Source: United States Department of Justice)
Last up is Bob, who we learn is not just a big fat slob, but a stupid, rude stoner who litters.
This earns him a signature 2×4 beating from Judge Hacksaw to wrap up “Bikers’ Court”, and not a moment too soon.
Hey, what do you mean there’s still ten more minutes of this crap?!
Yes, we still have to suffer through closing arguments, jury deliberation, the verdicts, statements from the judge, the awarding of damages, the appeals process…
And let’s not forget the coverage of the crowd outside the courtroom, consisting of real American folk who love their motorcycles, their cigarettes, and the protection of multi-billion dollar conglomerates from liability.
In his closing argument, the down-to-earth, sensible, and witty attorney for Big Tobacco reasons with the biker jury, comparing the case to laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets – but, uh, in a bad way.
I suppose the idea is that if we don’t stop the spread of these cancerous lawsuits now, we as a society will get hooked on them, almost like an addiction, until our country becomes deathly ill.
In the end, what matters is freedom – and who is more free than a nicotine addict? And, hey, this tobacco lawyer walks the walk, casually lighting up a cigarette right there in the courtroom because it’s never the wrong time to enjoy the cool, rich, but mild taste of his client’s product.
As the jury leaves to deliberate, the crowd of people outside smoke in solidarity with Big Tobacco. This crowd somehow includes members of the jury, who are locked away inside.
In the newsroom, the network legal analyst doesn’t like the plaintiffs’ chances in their lawsuit against the perfectly legal product of the tobacco industry. The legal expert’s name is Sturgis, as in the site of the annual biker rally, meaning we have now pinpointed another kind-of joke in this sketch.
Sturgis is played by emphysema aficionado Mike McBath, owner of the Orlando Predators Arena Football team…
…and financer of this very skit.
After the commercial break – although where, when, or how this show ever aired on television, I’ll never know – Bailiff Bunny hands Judge Hacksaw the verdict and walks away sexily…
…prompting Jim to leer at her robotically.
The jury finds in favor – surprise of surprises – of the tobacco industry.
And the courtroom rejoices!
Hacksaw then brings the anti-tobacco attorney to the bench and gets him to admit that he stood to make a fortune off the lawsuit. Disgusted, Hacksaw rails against lawyers out to make a buck, then has the sleazy lawyer disbarred and arrested for extortion.
The tobacco industry’s principled lawyers don’t get any reprimand from Duggan, as I assume they all worked pro bono.
Next, Duggan sentences the midget to 30 days of laundry duty for the Harlem Globetrotters. He is taken away by Globetrotter Curly Neal, who emerges from the jury room to the most nightmarish rendition of “Sweet Georgia Brown” you’ll ever hear. “I’d prefer to be handcuffed by Bunny”, mutters Mr. Stump – twice, actually, in case viewers didn’t catch it the first time.
Hacksaw sentences fat Bob to a beating…
…and sentences topless maid Mary to three days of service at the bikers’ club house, much to her delight.
To close the skit, Hacksaw gets serious for a moment, inveighing against smoking in the strongest terms allowed by the sketch’s producers.
“I think it stinks, and personally, I believe it can lead to an early grave.”
Hear that? In Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s personal, non-medical opinion, smoking might be harmful.
But he loves America way more than he hates smoking, which is why he opposes “BS lawsuits” against tobacco companies.
And so, after 22 excruciating minutes, we’re done with this damn thing.
Besides it being a tobacco PR department’s fantasy committed to videotape, set in a world where cancer and addiction don’t exist and where every opponent of the smoking industry is a money-grubbing fraud, the biggest issue with this skit is its waste of a potentially amusing concept.
The “biker” gimmick barely even comes into play; the judge and jury could have been sailors or zookeepers or from any other walk of life, as long as it provided cover for a sketch about how tobacco companies shouldn’t have to pay a dime when their product kills people.
What I’m saying is, this sketch doesn’t play out like a parody so much as an unintentional parody-of-a-parody. And when I view this sketch through the lens of metaparody, dare I say it’s actually quite entertaining?
No, I dare not, because it’s still 22 minutes long and unfunny and terrible in every way.