6 Dumb Celebrities Who Are Way Smarter Than You Think
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 ...
Dr. Oz: One of the Most Brilliant Doctors of his Generation
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.
"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.
Flavor Flav: Musical Prodigy
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.
"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."
"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."
Bill O'Reilly: Over-Educated Harvard Man
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.
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."
Jerry Springer: Political Wunderkind
It's a popular piece of trivia that Jerry Springer used to be the mayor of Cincinnati, which would seem to make him overqualified for his more famous career as the host of a televised bum fight. But it's not the biggest mismatch in the history of professions. Politicians are known for exploiting the underprivileged and being smarmy and disingenuous, which is also the TiVo description of The Jerry Springer Show.
There's more chair-throwing in politics, but still.
Springer wasn't some slimy politician who bribed his way into public office. He was a goddamn prodigy. He graduated from Northwestern University's law school and immediately became a political campaign adviser to Robert F. Kennedy at the ripe age of 26. When fate intervened in the form of a crazy guy with a gun, Springer moved back to Ohio and ran for Congress against a beloved Republican in a traditionally Republican district. The move was considered ballsy by way of crazy, until he won 45 percent of the vote, and soon after he got elected to the Cincinnati city council. He was 27 years old.
And markedly less oily.
A few years later, he was forced to resign after bouncing a check at a rub-and-tug massage parlor across the river in Kentucky (we didn't mean to imply that he wasn't smarmy). Here's where you'd expect Springer to declare his innocence and express shock that those women hadn't voluntarily J'ed him O. Instead, he owned that shit, admitting his error in a brutally honest press conference that got him re-elected in a landslide the next year, and eventually would propel him to the office of mayor. So how did a guy who was known and admired for being frank and honest about his faults end up manipulating poor people into fighting on national TV while telling them that they should be ashamed of themselves?
Well, after he ran for governor of Ohio and lost, he decided to take his talents to TV, where he immediately became famous for his brilliant editorials on the evening news. While other news anchors just read the teleprompter, Springer became the most popular anchor in Cincinnati by making witty speeches that represented an actual opinion. And so he launched his own nationally syndicated TV show. It was a journalistically responsible platform where real people talked about real problems. In yet another industry famous for dishonesty and mailing it in, Springer stood out as a hardworking man of integrity.
His bouncers got very little work.
The problem was that nobody gave much of a shit about any of that hardworking integri-junk he was always going on about. And so in 1994, with his show facing cancellation, having lived a good life and succeeded in a number of public service careers, Springer decided that maybe, just this once, he would listen to his producers and take the show in a different direction. And so he hired a guy from The Weekly World News (the magazine that made the Bat Boy famous) and let his standards drop just a little bit. When the public loved this standard-dropping, he let his standards drop a little more. And pretty soon the show was a huge success, and Jerry Springer was basically the most transparently terrible person on TV.
It's worth noting that, had RFK not been gunned down, Springer was in a great position to be a major political player. Instead, his career did a reverse Reagan and he now lords over a show that he once described as "stupid human tricks" before going on to clarify: "It's all stupid. We're all idiots. It's bubble gum" and swearing up and down that he himself has never watched it. So for all the awful things you can say about Springer, at least he's still honest enough to hate himself.
The Big Dumb Linemen: The Smartest Guys on the Field
Everyone knows that the quarterback is the smartest guy on the football field. He has to keep track of thousands of plays and adapt to defenses on the fly. Great quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are constantly described as field generals for a reason. They're the strategists on the field, orchestrating attacks and moving the other players around like pieces on a homoerotic chessboard.
This man is the Eisenhower of throwing leather balls across carefully manicured fields.
If you had to pick the second-smartest player on the field, you'd be hard-pressed. Maybe you'd guess the linebacker, or whoever calls the shots on the defense, or the punter, because you're a racist. But really, football players who aren't the quarterback don't need to do a lot of thinking. The ogres up front, mashing into one another like an obese demolition derby, would appear to be at the bottom of the intelligence totem pole. How many decisions could they possibly have to make? They barely go anywhere. It's just size against size. They're basically fat for a living.
When they're depicted in movies, they tend to be just as dumb as they look. In Varsity Blues, the offensive lineman Billy Bob can't tell the difference between a pig and a dog.
He's got his name written on that truck door so he'll remember it.
If you're a fan of the NFL, you know that before each draft, prospects have to take an IQ-style intelligence test called the Wonderlic. You know this because the quarterbacks' scores get parsed like they're applying to Harvard. What rarely gets mentioned is that their scores are on average lower than those of the fat guys whose job it is to throw their bodies in front of them like the Secret Service taking a bullet for the president (if people shot at the president with bullets the size of human trucks).
According to NFL writer Paul Zimmerman, "Annually, offensive linemen average a higher score on the 12-minute, 50-question quiz administered at the NFL scouting combine than players at other positions do." That's right: The fat-for-a-living offensive linemen are the smartest guys on the field.
"Did you think these were the dreadlocks of a fool?"
They have to be because they have the hardest job. The entire defense focuses its attack through the line, which means there are dozens of guys on the other end being coached by a guy with an aerial view of the field, all aimed at outsmarting them. They're both the frontlines of the battlefield and its intelligence officers. All you have to do is catch one lineman by surprise, and the quarterback's the victim of vehicular homicide. The offensive linemen have to figure out exactly what the defense is going to do in real time while staring up at some dude's crotch.
As one NFL general manager put it, "They have to adjust to so many different fronts. They have to understand blitz concepts." That apparently requires pattern recognition and the ability to think and communicate with one another with the efficiency and speed of a beehive. And they have to do it all while frozen with their asses in the air, and then while five to nine of the world's fastest, strongest sentient animals fly at them in complex patterns.
It's one of the rare situations where it doesn't pay to be sane or stupid.
An entire army's worth of alpha males are paid millions of dollars a year to outsmart them, and they only have their fellow linemen, their minds and, yes, an ample helping of fat-marbled humanity under their pads. All to protect the pretty boy who gets to date supermodels.
Michael Bay: Secret Auteur
Michael Bay has long been held up as the mascot and spiritual leader of the dumbing down of American popular culture. Internet commenters hate Bay with the depth and ferocity of three-and-a-half William Wallaces.
Mr. Bay inside his home, a perpetual explosion.
He can make Transformers movies that rape their childhoods, but he will never take away our freedom to call his movies "soul cancer" or make statements like "Michael Bay is an AWFUL director, who's [sic] name should NEVER be brought up when speaking of TRUE cinema."
When he's not filling movie theaters with his trademark just-way-too-many explosions, Bay is known for casting underwear models instead of actresses, treating the top four buttons on his shirt like sarcastic suggestions and generally being the sort of middle-aged child who rarely exists outside of the second act of body-switching comedies.
"Can you Army just a little harder?"
If you think that Michael Bay movies suck, I'm not going to convince you otherwise (mostly because I agree with you about every one of his movies in which Nicolas Cage doesn't save the world). But it's at least worth noting that many professional filmmakers and film theorists don't agree with us. For instance, James Cameron, the most successful action director of all time, admits to having "studied his films and 'reverse-engineered' his shooting style." Apparently those rapid cuts from one angle to another that are the hallmark of Bay's "lazy" filmmaking style are technically way more difficult to pull off than ... well, not doing that.
The quotes about him being an AWFUL director and a soul carcinogen are from the comment section of an essay in which a respected film theorist claims that "Armageddon is a work of art by a cutting-edge artist who is a master of movement, light, color and shape." The essay was written years after the release of the movie, when Bay's second and third films were released as part of the Criterion Collection, a series of collector's edition DVDs curated by serious film scholars for fans of challenging art movies.
Where we see a car crash of colors and noise being filmed by an unskilled dumbass pointing his camera at whatever is exploding the loudest, some surprisingly great filmmakers and serious film scholars see an idiot savant. We ridicule his one dimensional characters, but film theorist Jeanine Basinger thinks we're missing the point, claiming that Bay's films are supposed to create "a kind of abstraction and unreality that is found in musicals." While we might see his constant cuts as an assault on our short attention spans, Basinger believes that his rapid cutting is the closest thing to abstract expressionism in modern Hollywood films.
In fact, you can make a shockingly strong case for Bay as auteur. For instance, it was long assumed that the plot for Armageddon was sketched out by Hollywood producers while doing cocaine and exploding LEGO cities with fireworks. In fact, it was Bay's vision from beginning to end. He came up with the idea while attending Wesleyan University (one of the best, and most liberal and artsy liberal arts colleges in America). He was taking "a geology course with this tectonic expert" who said, "Calamities happen; it's the plumbers who will fix the world." Bay loved the idea that the blue-collar workers would be forced to save the day if the world ever faced a geological disaster. He just changed the plumbers to oil-rig workers, put them on a giant rock hurtling toward Earth and added the line "Talk about the wrong stuff" because he's a bit of an idiot.
That also explains the whole "minigun on a space mining vehicle" thing.
Just a few years out of college, Bay was already considered one of the best visual storytellers working in the world of TV commercials. He created the first "Got Milk?" ad, and won the two most prestigious awards in the advertising portion of the Cannes Film Festival. And that was all in his first year as a professional director.
Once he made the jump to feature films, he was immediately unpopular with critics and people like me. The Rock is the only of his movies that is rated over 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. His most poorly reviewed film, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (21 percent), is also his most successful at the box office. And according to a bunch of people who take film a lot more seriously than I do, it's because modern art isn't for everybody.
Jack O'Brien is the founder and Editor in Chief of Cracked.com. You can follow him on Twitter, and also in the real world if you're sneaky enough.
For more surprising celebrity facts, check out 8 Celebrities You Didn't Know Were Geeks and 7 Celebrities Who Had Badass Careers You Didn't Know About.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Reasons You Should Be Thrilled Disney Bought Star Wars.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why John Madden is the smartest man ever.
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