Anyone familiar with the world of golf knows the name John Daly. Ever since the colorful golfer’s surprise win at the 1991 PGA Championship, the “Wild Thing” has become something of a legend both on and off the golf course. And if Kroll Show alum and Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre regular Jon Daly has anything to say about it, the other John’s star will still shine long after the final embers of the post-apocalyptic Earth whither and die.
Daly and fellow comedian Adam Scott, who also shares a name with a famous professional golfer, joined forces to make The Adult Swim Golf Classic, which airs Friday, April 8 at 11:30 p.m. ET. In character as their golfing alter egos, the two played an actual round of golf for charity a la the Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf series from the ’60s.
It’s safe to say that you and Adam Scott sharing your names with two professional golfers was a big source of inspiration for this. Yet you’ve been on about John Daly for years.
Yes! I’ve been obsessed with John Daly since I was 11 years old. He came out and won the British Open, and he was really the first famous person to have my name. It just so happened he was this outlandish, crazy, funny, and mythological person. He ignored the rules and indulged in vices on and off the course, and all that stuff. I was very much into him. I assume you’re referring to the website?
That came about because I was looking for a way to take back my Google search. His name was overshadowing (by a huge amount) mine, so in order to take back my search engine optimization, I made that website. It’s essentially a menu for disseminating pictures of me as John Daly. I went out to a golf course, sat in for four hours of makeup, and made myself into him. Now his Google image search is pictures of him peppered with pictures of me as him. [Laughs.] I’ve slowly, but successfully taken back my own Google search. The hits for pictures used to be on page one of his web search, but now they’ve gone down a few pages. Page 15 or something like that.
I’m sure The Adult Swim Golf Classic will help out with that.
I think so! This will definitely bump it up.
You said your learned about Daly when you were 11. Was he a hero to you, the same way celebrity athletes like Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky were?
My hero then was Mario Lemieux with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were my team, the hometown team, when I was growing up. The anti-hero was probably John Daly. Plus my dad is obsessed with golf, so we would watch it in the afternoon. There was really no big star back then. Sure there was Jack Nicklaus, but he was on the tail end of his career. But John Daly was to me the only star who came just after that. There was no Tiger Woods back then. There was no guy who was just rocking it, and then Daly came along in this classic American Cinderella story.
Almost like a John Henry story. He’s like Paul Bunyan, a legend of sorts, and he’s the kind of guy who’s smart enough to participate in his own legend. I love guys like that. He sells merchandise, he has an RV, he’s got his own… there’s a drink called the “John Daly.” He’s doing it, and it’s amazing! His awareness of his own brand is inspiring.
I assumed this was all one big parody, and that you and Scott weren’t any good at golf. Yet you both manage to hit quite a few of them.
We were actually playing, and that’s the point. It’s essentially a documentary about us in character as Daly and Scott playing golf for charity. We knew we couldn’t fudge the golf, and it was really important that we played it well. Mike Lazzo from Adult Swim is a huge golf fan, and he enabled the entire thing. He knows golf, and he knew that this special wouldn’t be as interesting if me and Scott weren’t actually trying to play. You can’t just swing and say, “Oh what a bad golf shot!” We were genuinely trying to hit good shots (despite being bad at it), and hit them at Trump National, which is a top-five ranked difficult golf course. It is one of the most difficult golf courses in the world. The odds were stacked pretty high against us, so our scores from the game are real. There’s a real winner, and we gave money to the winner’s preferred charity.
I bet Donald Trump appreciates the free press.
I’m sure he appreciates each and every name drop. It’s basically a commercial for Trump’s golf course. [Laughs.] We did that at a time when doing something like that was still funny, and not depressing. It gives an interesting twinge to the special. It makes it feel a little bit evil.
I assumed you guys were setting up a joke, then I realized it was a real golf course.
Oh yeah, it’s legit and top-ranked. It’s ridiculous. The whole special is a commercial for Donald Trump’s golf course, but what are you going to do? How could you predict last November that this was going to happen?
By nature a lot of it is improv. We had the backstory in place, of these two golfers competing with each other. We had the characters, as well as a few things we were planning on doing — like some costume changes and some shout outs to the real-life golfers, Daly and Scott. Throwing the driver into the water hazard was something Daly actually did. He threw a driver into Lake Michigan, and another into the South Pacific at one point. He was constantly doing that. There were other little references too, but because of the nature of it, we kept it relatively improvisational.
We knew we weren’t going to be good at golf. There was no way we were going to be all of a sudden really brilliant at golf, so we were able to plan around bad shots and other guaranteed items. Otherwise we sort of flew by the seat of our pants. That necessitated getting an extra big crew with six cameras. Since we were shooting this as a pseudo-documentary, we needed a camera that would just follows the golf ball as it goes into the sky and falls back down. That’s one cameraman who was used to being an artist but had to follow a golf ball all day. There were lots of little weird things like that we had to make adjustments for.
Your hair is based on John Daly’s fantastic mullet. Is that a wig, or did you actually bleach your hair?
I bleached my hair. That is platinum blonde. I want to say in this interview that my hair was fully bleached, and it gave me a whole new respect for what women go through with their hair. And men, but mostly women. Bleaching your hair platinum blonde like that is so painful. It’s horrible. It kills your hair follicles, so now I’m little bit balder than I was before, and that’s a nightmare. That’s completely true. It killed off some of my hair.
I really wanted it to be that — Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus, John Daly — that real white-on-white bleach that they get from so much sun. We had two rounds of bleaching and both of them were insanely painful. It gave me a whole new respect for what people go through with their hair. It’s a waking nightmare. I couldn’t keep the bleach on my head for too long. At one point, my head was covered in ammonia and I was about to start weeping.
How long of a shoot was it?
It was two days. There was about a day and a half of actually playing golf, then the rest of it was pick-up shots, conversation and beauty shots of Trump National.
At least you didn’t have to deal with the bleached hair for too long.
I shaved it all off. I waited until the roots grew in a little bit, and then I just had a great time shaving it into a crew cut.
You poor bastard.
[Laughs.] Hey listen, I brought it on myself.
Does John Daly know about this? Has he acknowledged it?
He’s never acknowledged it or me, but hopefully he will like it. I want him to like it, and I would love to reach out to him. Anything he wants to do in the future, I’m down. It’s kind of like a game of trading identities, but I do want him to know about it. He’s so interesting, and he’s not talked about enough. He is like Paul Bunyan to me. He’s like a myth. Everything he does — he makes country records, he has all this merchandise and ephemera. People are going to be talking about him for hundreds of years. He’s a legend. It’s just so impressive how he’s put his brand out there, and he’s cleaned up his act in last couple of years in a really cool way. He staked out his claim in this stodgy, white man’s world. It’s kind of a Horatio Alger, really beautiful American story. And I want to introduce him to a new audience.
I love the implicit idea there that, after the apocalypse, The Adult Swim Golf Classic will live on and inform future generations, or aliens, about the world hero that John Daly was.
Exactly! If you just see this special and nothing else, you’ll think “Who is this John Henry?” This great man who flouts the rules and succeeds on his own terms?
The Adult Swim Golf Classic airs Friday, April 8 at 11:30 p.m. ET on Adult Swim. Until then, here’s a preview…