There's an old saying that nobody has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the American people. Well, it turns out that the same can be said for having your intelligence underestimated by the American people. We may like to think of celebrities as a bunch of shallow dumbasses, but in a surprising number of cases (assuming that you find the number six surprising), some of our stupidest celebrities are like daytime TV versions of Verbal Kint. For instance ...
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Prior to researching this article, I probably would have guessed that Dr. Oz's medical credentials were somewhere between Dr. J, Dr. Pepper and whoever Bugs Bunny happens to be talking to when he wants to know what's up. Dr. Oz is that guy with a doctor TV show who isn't Dr. Phil. On the Internet, he shows up on lists of the top five idiots of the year for "quackery and peddling ... 'alternative' medicine." The content of his show doesn't exactly scream medical integrity. His trademark move is to illustrate medical problems by creating gigantic body part obstacle courses for people to walk around inside of, complete with confetti cannons that simulate bodily discharge.
And that's actually the least ridiculous thing he does.
According to The New York Times, Dr. Oz is "one of the most accomplished cardiothoracic surgeons of his generation." Over the course of his career, he has performed 5,000 open-heart surgeries, has successfully transplanted people's lungs and is just generally in the upper fraction of the top one-tenth of a percent of doctors you want standing over your split-open chest cavity in life-and-death situations. While that description would admittedly make a pretty badass business card, there's no way it would fit with all the other things he's accomplished, even if you only count stuff he did while I was taking naps.
Oz graduated from Harvard before moving over to the University of Pennsylvania, because they have the best business school in the world and he wanted to earn an MBA while going to medical school, in case the whole "being the world's best heart surgeon" thing didn't work out. He completed his five years' worth of schooling in three, which is the fastest time allowable before they start checking you for wires to make sure you're not a robot from the future.
It might seem like bad news that America lost its smartest doctor to the world of daytime TV, but it's not that simple. First of all, he didn't stop being a doctor. When he's not walking a middle-aged housewife through a gigantic model of her husband's swollen urethra on national television, Dr. Oz is still the acting director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, which you might recognize as one of the 10 best hospitals in the country. He spends most of his week writing and filming his show, but on Thursdays he can still be found performing complicated open-heart surgeries that take hours and require him to take people's lives in his hands.
"Occasionally I perform them with my penis, just to keep things interesting."
He only decided to start the show after he got tired of telling patients about the tiny lifestyle changes that would have prevented the heart cutting he was about to give them. He decided he could do more good by trying to make everyone's lifestyles healthier via the idiot box. Like just about everything else he has ever done, it appears to be working.
The giant papier-mache body parts might be gimmicky, but they allow him to pull in millions of viewers while giving sound medical advice. You can't say for sure how many lives he's saving, but at least he's starting to catch up to Dr. Phil, a show that advises viewers about medical issues like mental health and weight loss despite the fact that host Phil McGraw is not a real doctor -- he only gets to use that word because of a non-medical graduate degree, and the fact that everyone is just impressed they taught a shaved bear to speak.
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"On the next Dr. Phil, my handlers dress me up in a tutu and I balance a beach ball on my head."
When we laugh at Dr. Oz's silly show, we're doing the equivalent of laughing at our special ed teacher for talking all slow and writing everything in big giant letters on the board.
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Today, Flavor Flav is mostly famous for being a reality TV punchline -- the guy that other reality TV stars can talk to when they want to know what it feels like to tell someone else they need to get their shit together. He was once part of one of the most innovative hip-hop groups of all time, but his only role appeared to be shouting "Yeah boyee" and dancing like he was in a competition with his wardrobe to see which one could make him look more high on cocaine. By all appearances, he had about as much to do with the group's music as a sports mascot has to do with whether a team wins or loses. At his best, he was there to dance around and pretend not to know where Brooklyn at while the rappers and DJs focused on making real music.
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"Just stand in the corner and play with your clocks, Flav. We'll call you when it's time to shout nonsense."
Even Public Enemy fans are probably surprised when they show up to their concerts and see Flavor Flav playing drums. And not the way mascots "play the drums" on a bald guy's head. Flavor Flav can actually make a full nine-piece drum kit sing.
In fact, he can play the hell out of a bunch of instruments. As a kid, he was regarded as a child prodigy for teaching himself how to play everything from the piano and guitar to the saxophone, trombone and even the French horn. He was just as prodigious as a shit-starting trouble maker, constantly getting arrested for skipping school and starting fires. Once, an interviewer who was looking for a heartwarming anecdote asked him what it was like growing up in his house, to which Flav responded, "Boy, did I burn the place down!" because he is bad at taking social cues, and awesome at being Flavor Flav.
You also may be surprised to learn that Flav co-wrote the first Public Enemy album with Chuck D. If you're having a tough time reconciling the twitchy rap clown with the militant, revolutionary music of Public Enemy, you're not alone. When the album got them signed by Def Jam, Rick Rubin suggested that Chuck drop the guy who was wearing a wall clock around his neck, forcing Chuck to explain that Flav was the only member of their group who knew how to, you know, make music. Or as Chuck D reportedly put it, "He can play 15 instruments, I can't play Lotto."
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"He uses his guitar pick to scratch the cards for me."
Unfortunately, we just don't pay as much attention to him when he's not acting like an asshole. For instance, here's a video that had less than 300 views at the time that this article went live in which he sits down at a piano and shocks a room full of people, improvising a mixture of classical, jazz and the Peanuts theme, piano noodling that sounds suspiciously like real music. And here's one that has 1.3 million views in which he dresses up like a pimp, wears a Viking helmet and gropes a woman while making the baffling claim that "you can have a picnic on her ass, G."
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If you watch The Colbert Report, you know Bill O'Reilly as the blowhard who sent boxes of his book to troops in Afghanistan who were looking for food and soap. If you witnessed his attempt to prove God's existence by asking how the moon got there, you know he's got a Juggalo's grasp of the sciences. And if you read the details of his sexual harassment lawsuit, or watched his infamous "We'll do it live! Fucking thing sucks" flip-out on the set of Inside Edition, you know that he doesn't just play a dimwitted bully on TV.
Bill O'Reilly can't be expected to gracefully flub lines and gracefully go bald at the same time, and so he chooses to do neither.
Folks on the far right seem to feel safe in the "No-Spin Zone," and middle-school gym teachers probably admire O'Reilly's excessive use of the word "pinhead." But even his fans would have to acknowledge that Bill O'Reilly doesn't seem to care much for that hoity-toity book learning, while his non-fans would be more likely to acknowledge that he's the sort of empty talking head in a stuffed suit that gives a bad name to real journalists and most Teddy Ruxpins.
We're not going to argue with the bully part. Bill O'Reilly was clearly meant to be a corrupt police chief in Prohibition-era Boston. But apparently he's not the anti-intellectual dimwit his enemies like to imagine. According to basically every list of surprising celebrity SAT scores on the Internet, O'Reilly put up a near perfect 1585 out of 1600 on his SATs, and his college career indicates a downright shocking level of intellectual curiosity. He graduated from Marist University with honors and went on to earn a masters degree from Boston University and a second masters from Harvard, before deciding to yell the F-word at teleprompters for a living.
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Just look at how he holds his own book like it's literally covered in poop.
None of this proves that he's a good guy. But it does suggest that those of us who prefer to exist out in the "Probably Some Spin (Really, Who's to Say?) Zone" have misjudged how calculating and self-aware he is.
There's an old saying in cards and child abduction that you play a sucker to catch a sucker. You may not agree with what Bill O'Reilly has to say about politics, or teleprompters, or how good it would feel were he to soap your boobs, but the truth is that he doesn't want his opponents to agree with him. In fact, he wants you to disagree with him as loudly as you possibly can. That only causes a commotion, and smart people know that nothing captures the attention of a nation full of suckers like a fight.
"Look over there! I'll stay here and watch your wallets."