It was last spring that Deadspin first began observing a strange new cultural phenomenon: Scores of people, from across the country, spending their hard-earned cash on customized MLB T-shirts bearing the name and number of Kenny Powers, the hard-throwin’, hard-livin’, burnout big-league pitcher (played by the incomparable Danny McBride) at the center of HBO’s rookie comedy Eastbound & Down. “Just to remind you,” Deadspin’s Tommy Craggs later wrote, as the Powers homages continued to roll in, “Kenny Powers is a fictional pitcher in a mildly popular cable TV program of which only six episodes have aired but which evidently moved some folks to such an extent that they purchased custom merchandise in his honor.” It was only the tip of the iceberg: From tributes to tattoos to Kanye West tweets, it’s clear that Kenny Powers has already achieved legend status in the minds of a small but dedicated fan base. With season two of Eastbound & Down — which finds Kenny washed up in Mexico, cockfighting for rent money — premiering on Sunday, Vulture took a look at Powers’s pervasive cultural impact and remarkably rapid ascendancy to cult-hero status.
Celebrity Fandom: On August 1, Eastbound & Down received the ultimate co-sign when Kanye’s Twitter — traditionally the domain of exorbitantly expensive credenzas — displayed the following message: “Crazy funny Kenny Powers,” with a link to Kenny’s crazy funny K-Swiss ads. What other rich, famous people love Kenny? According to EB&D co-creator Jody Hill, Jack White is a dedicated viewer. And then, of course, there’s Marilyn Manson. Says Adam Bhala Lough, the director of the upcoming Manson film Splatter Sisters: “Whenever I see Manson, he’s repeating entire chunks of dialogue and dressed like Kenny.” (See evidence here!) “He just walks around dressed like this and fucks with people on the street … Manson wants to kidnap Danny on some King of Comedy shit. Danny should be scared.” A Manson cameo on the show may be imminent.
Internet Fandom: On the Internet, Kenny Powers is king. His official Facebook page has over 450,000 fans, and there’s an unofficial independent fan club site that looks like it takes some serious time and dedication to maintain. For one, it has his complete career stats! (If you’re wondering, Kenny played from 2002–2006, bouncing between Atlanta, the Yankees, San Francisco, Boston, and Seattle.) There’s the remarkable fake K.P. Twitter, which Vulture got the inside story on earlier this year. Representative Tweet: “Been invited on @Oprah plenty but I’m too fucking polite to sit on her couch & talk ‘bout getting chicks pregnant in pools.” Elsewhere we have this invaluable Kenny Powers soundboard (“The man with the golden dick … Dr. Cock and Balls”) and a cornucopia of YouTube tribute montages, arguably highlighted by Nerve’s “How to Make Love Like Kenny Powers.”
Souvenirs: The selection of T-shirts bearing K.P.’s image alongside one of his many memorable catchphrases — including “The best thing about being Kenny Powers is being Kenny Powers”; “I play real sports. I’m not trying to be the best at exercising”; and, of course, “You’re fucking out” — are bountiful. Even better is this Kenny Powers talking bobblehead doll. One of the only bobbleheads in the world that comes with a parental advisory.
Dress-Up Time: After reporting the customized Powers merchandise trend, Deadspin took note of the next logical step: homemade Kenny Powers Halloween costumes. And like Jersey Shore before it, the costume trend went commercial: A prepackaged Powers costume — complete with “curly mullet wig” and “douchebag sunglasses” — is now readily available at the semi-legit looking KennyPowersCostumes.com.
And then, best of all: this random dude’s insane Kenny Powers tattoo.
God bless the young man walking around with K.P. permanently branded into his skin. And God bless Kenny Powers.