I’m like you. I’ve enjoyed my share of laughs at the expense of Ryan Lochte’s less-than-stellar interviews. I’ve thought about how America wants to bang him despite his not being the most articulate guy. And I’ve come to the same conclusion you probably have: great swimmer, handsome gent… and not a lot going on between the ears. Who could blame anyone for thinking that? Saying seven times four is 21. “The reason why I love swimming is because racing.” The guy gave all of us ample evidence to think he wasn’t the brightest.
But it some cases, it was balanced out by moments of genuine charm. If you go to the end of the now-infamous BuzzFeed “Ryan Lochte is terrible at interviews” video, you hear him get asked a question about being cool. His response:
“I… guess. I mean, I don’t really see myself as being cool, but thanks.” [laughs]
That, it sounded to me, at least, was a guy who really was taken aback at the idea that anyone would see him as the picture of coolness. It was a sign of a real person underneath the caricature we were all having our fun with. And then that Funny or Die sketch about peeing in the pool? It wasn’t bad, and at times, neither was Lochte’s own performance. Yeah, there was some stiff line-reading, but at other moments: competent! Maybe none of us had given this guy quite enough credit. One of the many comments this post received also gave me pause:
He is GOOFY people and he loves milking that because its funny. It’s pretty obvious he isn’t dumb but a la many before him, he will laugh all the way to the bank.
Could it be? Could Lochte really be playing us all for fools as he ups his trolling game to greater and greater heights? It made me think, but my ultimate answer was, “No.” There just wasn’t enough there to support that idea. Sure, at times he seems like he’s trying to be ridiculous, but more often, he just doesn’t sound like a guy with a whole lot to say. Plus, some of those interviews in the “terrible interview” mashup were clearly from a while ago. If Lochte’s pulling one over on us, it’s a long, long con.
But then, I saw something today that changed everything. That something: Lochte on the 90210 set, describing his acting experience and what was so difficult about it. As usual, the entire clip is gold, but the money question-and-answer happens at the 37-second mark:
“Memorizing lines… and… trying to, like, say ‘em and still, like, do movement and all that.” Again:
“Memorizing lines… and… trying to, like, say ‘em and still, like, do movement and all that.”
Those aren’t the words of a rube. Those are the words of a MASTERMIND. I refuse to believe someone could utter a line so perfect and be unaware of the art they’re creating. “Do movement”? “DO MOVEMENT”?!?! You know who says “do movement”? No one, that’s who – unless they’re trying to get people to laugh hysterically. Maybe it hasn’t always been there. Maybe it took seeing himself get relentlessly mocked. But there has to be self-awareness there, and he has to be playing it up.
A mere lack of intelligence no longer explains the consistent quality of what we’re seeing. An especially good airheaded quote here and there is one thing, but enough to power an entire site? That’s not luck – no, this guy is taking us for a ride and loving every second.
So by all means, keep sticking a microphone in Lochte’s face. Odds are, you’re going to get something quotable. Just remember to ask yourself why. Is it possible this guy isn’t who you thought he was, that the guy we’ve been playfully laughing at is milking that attention for all it’s worth, laughing just as hard right back at all of us… and providing some of the best lines of 2012 in the process? I know my answer.