Oh, 2006. The year that brought us the Nintendo Wii, Twitter, Britney Spears breaking up with Kevin Federline, and Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.” I had just graduated from high school, enjoying the last hurrahs of teenage freedom before college, a full-time job, responsibility, and adulthood.
One of those outings that summer was to see Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby in theaters. My car-guy friends and I had decided to run into town to the movie theater at the mall. (Remember malls? When people actually shopped, and they weren’t just settings for post-apocalypse movies and Stranger Things?)
That outing was almost exactly 16 years ago, because Talladega Nights turns 16 years old today. Old enough for a driver’s license.
While I digest that, I’ll bring us back to Talladega Nights and the brilliance of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.
This film came after Will Ferrell’s time at Saturday Night Live, what my generation considers the best era of the show. Ferrell’s final season included cast members Tina Fey, Chris Parnell, Chris Kattan, and Maya Rudolph.
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Coming off of SNL, Ferrell had a string of ridiculously popular movies, including Old School (2003), Elf (2003), and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). It was the beginning of an era where it felt like Ferrell was everywhere.
And sure, Buddy the Elf and Ron Burgundy gave us some great lines that people my age still quote. But it was Ricky Bobby who gave us gems like:
“If you’re not first, you’re last.”
“SHAKE N’ BAKE!”
“I’m not sure what to do with my hands.”
“Dear Lord, baby Jesus,”
“I wake up in the morning and piss excellence.”
How many of us have quoted one of those lines in the past month? If you’re currently in your mid-30s, you’ve probably recited a Ricky Bobby quote today.
Talladega Nights had such an impact on the racing world, IndyCar’s Simon Pagenaud was frequently called by the name of Ricky Bobby’s rival, Jean Girard (played excellently by Sacha Baron Cohen).
Even today, Formula 1 drivers are still watching Talladega Nights with glee, when they’re not actively quoting Ricky Bobby himself.
It’s hard to imagine a world without Talladega Nights. While I’m not sure it did much for NASCAR’s image, it poked lighthearted fun at the series, and the carefully constructed down-home image of the incredibly wealthy drivers at the top of the sport.
And the quotes still make their way into our conversations, memes and garages — even on race day.
Happy Sweet Sixteen, Talladega Nights. Just make sure you’re home with the car by 8 p.m.