Professional skateboarder Chris Roberts has become something of an Internet sensation with his recent contribution to the "Stuff People Say" canon, "S--- Pro Skaters Say." In the film "S--- Pro Skaters Say," Roberts plays a professional skateboarder who struggles to make sense of a dystopian landscape where allen keys are nowhere to be found, ledges are rarely waxed enough, global supplies of griptape are at an all-time-low and the English language has been reduced to rubble.
Meanwhile, as the intricate plot of "S--- Pro Skaters Say" gradually unfolds, it becomes clear that some unnamed physical or psychic injury has left the protagonist tragically unable to speak in anything other than a series of oft-repeated phrases such as "Oh, that's the homie."
Critics and audiences alike have effusively praised Roberts' brave performance in this searing drama for its gut-level emotional honesty. During this discussion with ESPN.com, the remarkably genial Roberts reflects on his months of painstaking preparation for "S--- Pro Skaters Say" and why it might have been his most challenging role to date.
ESPN.com: Your recent performance as a professional skateboarder who chronically repeats certain phrases is garnering rave reviews. What films inspired you in your youth?
Roberts: As a kid? I am not the biggest movie buff. People ask me what's the last movie I've seen and I'm like, "I don't know. 'Mrs. Doubtfire?' "
Was it "Mrs. Doubtfire"?
I just think it's funny to blurt out, "I don't know. 'Mrs. Doubtfire?' "
A number of "Stuff People Say" films are out right now. But something about this project seems special. What about this film is so special?
Oh, Jesus Christ. I didn't think it was going to be special when we were doing it. Anytime I ever do something I just think, "This is stupid." I never like watching myself. But Aaron Meza, Ty Evans and Roger Bagley [the film's creative team] are geniuses. When you have those Crailtap dudes, it's going to come out as a gem.
What reservations, if any, did you have about taking on this role?
They just brought me in and said, "You're the guy." I didn't want to come off as an idiot. I didn't want to offend anybody. I do impersonate people a lot. If they have a unique voice I think I do a pretty good job of impersonating them. But my main issue is I never want to offend anyone or make someone look stupid. We're having a good time. I just wanted it to be a fun, stupid video.
In what ways are you similar to the character portrayed onscreen and in what ways are you different?
Oh, my god. This is not a movie role! It's a YouTube video! Some of the goofier things are not something I would actually say. I don't really go to Mike Mo's Facebook page and see how many friends he has. My personality is kind of there. I am always asking for wax. I am always waxing stuff up. When something is crowded I say, "What is this? Go Skate Day?"
Are you known as someone who uses a lot of catchphrases?
I do have a lot of catchphrases. Like now I call everybody "papi." I got tired of "dude" and "bro." "What up, papi?" I say "papi" a lot. Every single day. It's a good "dude" substitution. It's just a word that I am trying to explode. "Papi" is going to become the new "dude."
The character in the film often avoids skating, giving such excuses as "They knobbed the skate park." Are you avoidant?
I am all about skating. I love going out on the streets and having fun with my buddies. A good sesh with friends is all I can ask for. That is one thing that really drives me. How many jobs can you have where you just go out on the street with your buddies? It's pretty rad.
Some people have argued that the mass media has penetrated our lives to such a degree that many of us no longer speak in distinct regional dialects but rather in nearly identical idioms and "catchphrases," and that language itself is in decline. Was "S--- Pro Skaters Say" actually a very serious social satire merely masquerading as an amusing web clip?
Dude, who are you? What is this? I never even thought about these things. I am going to hang up the phone and really debate my life.
In all seriousness, you have incredible comic timing and delivery. Has anyone ever approached you about auditioning for comedic roles?
No. That's a whole different world. It is just not me. If something fell in my lap, yeah, cool, sure. Why not? Larry David is my idol. If I could be in a room with him for two minutes, that would make my life. I think ad-lib is the best. For "Curb Your Enthusiasm," they just have an outline, and everyone responds without knowing what's coming next. I'm a fan of [comedian] Mitch Hedberg -- the fact that he delivered one-liners, like Henny Youngman, King of the One-Liners. Mitch Hedberg reinvented the one-liner, and I thought he was brilliant. [Ricky Gervais' colleague] Karl Pilkington. He's one of those guys that doesn't know he's funny. I'm into the comedies. People are so serious. We need to have more humor in the world.
Here's where I subtly transition to ask you about the forthcoming, hotly anticipated Chocolate Skateboards video. Do you feel a lot of pressure for your next video part?
We had a couple meetings at first, but now we all know what we're doing. Not really, I'm sure I will [feel pressure] as the dates get set and the time gets shorter to film. It's coming along. Everyone is killing it on the streets so it's going be a good video for sure! They want to put it out this year. So I guess all I can say is "We're working on it!"
Well, thank you so much for speaking to us.
All right, dude.
All right, papi.