Participation Trophy Jokes Can Be Good … Sometimes

Photo: The Late Late Show with James Corden; Netflix

In a cycle we seem doomed to repeat from now until the end of history, participation trophies have once again become comedy’s hottest subject. On March 22, the @NetflixIsAJoke Twitter account posted stills of a joke from Jeff Foxworthy’s new stand-up special, The Good Old Days, which hit the service earlier that day. If you missed it, here is the joke in its entirety, pulled from a larger — admittedly not revolutionary — chunk contrasting observations about childhood today against Foxworthy’s experience growing up: “I played every sport. And it was weird back then. If you wanted a trophy, you had to finish in first place.”

Because Foxworthy’s joke is well-trodden material that has been tackled by everyone from George Carlin to Sebastian Maniscalco as early as 2008 and many, many times since, Twitter users predictably pounced on Netflix’s tweet to mock Foxworthy’s joke for its hackneyed and outdated premise. Since going live, the tweet has been quote-tweeted more than 5,000 times, fulfilling Netflix’s clear intention when it cherry-picked this joke to contrive engagement from millennials frustrated by boomers to drive more attention to Foxworthy’s special — which, for the record, is generally pretty harmless. When it was all said and done, everyone got to dunk on an easy target, and Netflix got its desired engagement. It was exhausting.

Adding to all the recent participation-trophy heat, comedian Chris Laker coincidentally performed a set on The Late Late Show With James Corden on March 23, defending the practice of awarding participation trophies from people he refers to as “trophy truthers.” During the set, Laker goes on a run about loving the participation trophy he got for playing on an underperforming soccer team as a child. “I put it up on my bookcase,” he says. “I didn’t realize I was ruining the country!” The Late Late Show clip didn’t quite generate the same buzz as Netflix’s tweet, but it functions as a good palate cleanser after the tiring onslaught it ignited. “I’m all for getting angry at an entire generation,” Laker quips, as if to respond to the Foxworthy dunks this week. “Someone should be punished for the passage of time.”

And so concludes the most recent saga of comedians debating the merits of participation trophies. While we’re here, we might as well use this as an excuse to revisit the best joke about participation trophies ever written, courtesy of Gary Gulman’s 2019 HBO special, The Great Depresh.

Participation Trophy Jokes Can Be Good … Sometimes