All jokes have a life cycle. The bigger and more immediately far reaching the joke, the longer the time between when every single person in the world was screaming it at once and when you couldn’t bear to hear it again. When big jokes hit peak saturation they go dormant and when they come back it’s usually quietly, in an off-handed way between friends or almost as a joke of the memory of that joke.
What no big joke in recent history has been through is a pandemic, which is kind of why Budweiser bringing back “Wassup?” right now via a pretend phone call between Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Candace Parker is like one giant, quiet, and surprisingly tender inside joke.
The spot opens with Wade checking his hair and beard in whatever amalgamation of video calling app he’s using, the kind of frantic last minute gesture we all make in that situation. In the other small screen the initials “CB” pop up. When Chris Bosh materializes Wade lets slip an elated grin that is returned by Bosh.
“Hey!” Wade calls, now he is sort of acting.
“Yo, my guy,” Bosh grins, doing an ad lib salute off the tip of his nose, “wassup man?”
“Wassup with you?” Wade asks.
“Nothin’,” Bosh shrugs, “Just rewatchin’ some games, havin’ a bud.” He is affecting exactly enough of a gentle cowboy here.
“I’m always rewatching old games,” Wade says, before another screen pops up and a woman with a cartoon head of a goat appears, surprising them both.
“Wassup!” It says. For a second, it’s a little scary! But then a smiling Candace Parker is revealed.
Bosh grabs his forehead in total surprise! “It’s the goat!” He says.
“What chu doin’, girl?” Wade asks.
Parker shrugs, “Nothin’. Gave up on cooking,” she sighs, “living off of snacks,” she lifts a single chip, “havin’ a bud.”
Everyone is nodding and here comes another floating square indicating a new caller. It’s DJ D-Nice! Everyone is dancing in their chairs. Wade is the least convincing, Bosh is moving his entire body so much out of frame that his head can’t quite stay in his small window. Parker actually looks cool. D-Nice mutes them all. A chorus of protest from all three until Parker asks Wade the question he must get most in life, where is Gabrielle Union? For how loud Wade calls for her you would think she were several floors away, but she appears, almost instantly, in a denim jumpsuit and sprawls over the back of the couch with the one word you have been dying to hear this whole time —
Like the first laugh after an uncomfortable silence, the biggest first yawn of your day, the magic word releases them and soon all four are shouting it, mouths open, tongues out, eyes shut, D-Nice has even taken them off mute to join in. It lasts for a full ten seconds and as everyone recovers, catching their breath, Wade turns suddenly serious.
Watching, you understand it’s the concept of the ad before it’s gotten there, but you got kind of lost in their going off script for the big WASSSSSAAAAAAPPPP reveal that Wade saying, “For real though, what’s up with everybody?” in a tone of concern and Union following up with, “You guys staying safe?” rings the kind of “Oh yeah” bell everyone is experiencing at all different points in their days, these days. Flip-flopping between feeling okay, feeling isolated, not knowing if those feelings are worth sharing if if they’ll pass.
Bosh, bless him, goes all in for the monologue that eventually fades the video out to the sign-off messaging, that “Checking in, that’s wassup.”
The Wassup joke has reached a completely new kind of zenith, an affectionate echo, the joke of a joke that might make people more comfortable and less inclined to admit they aren’t feeling great reach out and talk about it. If it takes a beer joke to get some people calling their friends and family to talk a little more right now, or encourages them to contact the help line Budweiser has set up with the Salvation Army, it’s really not the worst way to do it. Checking in is wassup, take it from fresh out of Inside The Actors Studio Chris Bosh.