Last week, I made a guest appearance on the Pod Pods Pod Boy Meets World podcast to discuss the show that so many of my peers love and adore to this day, but that I never really got into for some reason or another. Anyway, one of the episodes that we discussed featured a cameo from 80s movie icon Donald Gibb, who will always be remembered so famously for his portrayal of Fred “Ogre” Palowaksi in the 1984 comedy classic Revenge of the Nerds, which is the subject of today’s installment of 73 Sports Movies in 73 Days.
One of the things that I mentioned on the podcast was my disappointment that Gibb never became a bigger star, or at least more than the first or second guy called when a casting director shouted, “Hey, we need a big angry oaf!” I guess that’s the biggest thing that I take away from this movie 29 years later. That and it’s still one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen.
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I’m already watching this movie for the second time today as I write this – mainly because I got one of the lines in the homecoming rap wrong and that is unacceptable – and I spent about an hour in between each viewing trying to decide my favorite part, and I think that’s impossible. I mean, I think my favorite line is definitely:
“Do you know karate?”
That killed me when I could count my age on both hands and it kills me now. Then again, I didn’t really know what karate or jock straps were when I was that young, and pretty much everything killed me back then, from chicken pox to Cookie Monster, so I guess that part is irrelevant. But if I’m teaching a class at Harvard on classic, timeless film comedy, I’m pretty sure that I’d use that scene on the first day, followed by the Blazing Saddles campfire and Paul Rudd fainting behind Ron Burgundy when Ed tells the Channel 4 news team that Veronica Corningstone has joined as co-anchor.
And The Plot By Little Old Me, Lamar
Revenge of the Nerds is the timeless story of society’s greatest, most punished outcasts of all – the intelligent and unathletic. In the 80s especially, we were taught through cinema that jocks ruled and nerds were to be shoved into all sorts of objects, including lockers, toilets, pools and sometimes even traffic. Poor, poor Martha Dumptruck.
But with each story of jock dominance came the morals of how all people are created equal, whether they suit up to play football for the fictional Adams College or if they spend their times talking to robots and creating software with their geeky, awkward girlfriends. Deep down, we’re all human beings, whether we chop the sleeves off of our letterman jackets to show off our freaking arms or we simply wear shirts with holes pre-torn in them because it makes the phrase, “Who farted?” that much funnier. (I know that shirt appears in Nerds in Paradise and not the film at hand, but it is still delightful and deserves to be mentioned when applicable.)
Another important idea that the 80s implanted in our brains was that being in frats was super cool, and if you’re not in one, you will be subject to four years of ridicule and beyond. (Again, this idea is better represented in Nerds in Paradise as well, as Lewis and Co. are ridiculed by people beyond their own college and even age group, but if you wanted to discuss Nerds in Paradise so much, then you should have paid to watch that one, damn it.)
In this case, Revenge of the Nerds is the story of best friends, Lewis and Gilbert, as they embark on their journey into secondary education together, but while Gilbert is content with being who he is and not worrying about what others think, Lewis is destined to be popular and fit in with the bros and the babes. But that won’t happen if Stan Gable, the Alpha Betas and football team have anything to say about it, because looks and muscle far outweigh brains at Adams College, and that’s why all of the nerds eventually find themselves fixing up a real sh*thole of a house off campus.
Beyond the discrimination that they face at Adams, the nerds can’t even find a national fraternity that will take them seriously, until the very last hope – Lambda Lambda Lambda – agrees to a meeting, as that was the only organization that the nerds forgot to send a photo to. Thanks to U.N. Jefferson agreeing to give the nerds a trial term as Tri Lambs, the nerds are able to file a complaint against the Alpha Betas and seek some sort of justice and normalcy in their existence at Adams.
Of course, the Alpha Betas aren’t just content to ridicule and force the nerds off campus, as they set out to ruin the party that Lewis and Co. have hosted with the Omega Mus to impress Jefferson and the Tri Lambs, and after the nerds concoct one hell of a revenge scheme, a revenge of the nerds if you will…
… that involves them pouring liquid heat in all of the football team’s jock straps and setting up video cameras in the Pi Delta Psi house – the sister sorority of the Alpha Betas and home of the wonderful Betty Childs – Jefferson determines that the nerds are good in his book, and the Tri Lambs become official at Adams.
What I love most about this movie is how simple the solution for the nerds is in theory – they just have to win the Greek Games at the Homecoming festival to take control of the Greek Council. This is a far cry from the reality of “Let’s vote for the guy whose frat throws the sickest parties” that I experienced in my college days, but maybe the 80s were different and simply much more awesome. Regardless, this is where the nerds ultimately prove that brains always win over brawn, even when it comes to the timeless art of seduction in a Darth Vader mask that could also technically be referred to as rape. But that’s a whole different conversation that I’m not capable of having because I only like happy stuff.
Let’s Talk About The Homecoming Show Instead
Despite the fact that this film involves a bunch of a-holes on a college football team terrorizing nerds, I count it as a sport because of its competitive nature, in that the geeks need to defeat the jocks to gain any sort of credibility and respect. That leads us to our main argument: Which part is better, the Greek Games or the concert?
I think the majority of people would say it’s the concert, but I still ask because I’m a sucker for Booger’s belching, Takashi’s tricycle riding and Ogre’s Trojan Horse. Also, like any great sports movie, Revenge of the Nerds has an epic – and I don’t ever use that word lightly – speech by a coach, in John Goodman’s locker room rant that inspired the Alpha Betas to get out there and destroy private property.
And then there’s the final victory, when the nerds claim what is theirs – the campus, the women, the pride and the respect – despite the physical harm against Gilbert, who turns in one of the great, positive inspirational messages of any 80s movie.
It’s also great, because… well, I’ll let YouTube commenter “compiancomedy” explain…
I’d dispute that, but it’s part of what makes the ending so spectacular, whether intentional or not.
Final Grade: Poindexter dancing on an infinite loop.