The verdict is in. Shaq‘s been Shaqtin’ a fool during his first year with TNT, and not in a good way. At the end of this season, if TNT has any respect for the heights “Inside the NBA” has reached over the past ten years they will part ways with Shaq immediately, and for a number of reasons. Let’s start with Shaq’s recent butchering of what is perhaps the most sacred of Inside the NBA segments: “Gone fishin'”
Shaq isn’t funny, this is readily apparent. But what’s worse is the degree to which Shaq’s unfunnyness nullifies the funny that has worked so exceptionally well over so many years. The segment reaches its lowest point when Ernie–desperately trying to navigate his way through Shaq’s antics to the commercial break–literally acknowledges Shaq the way a parent or grandparent would acknowledge a child doing something relatively embarrassing, annoying, or inappropriate in public, saying “Wow, look at you.” Ernie deserves a medal for working along side Shaq all year, because truly, there is no other way to navigate these sorts of situations besides awkwardly laughing them off and dashing for the commercial break.
You’ve got to wonder what is being said behind closed doors between the original big three, because Shaq is disrupting what has become a very potent chemistry between Ernie, Charles and Kenny. You can almost hear Kenny being squeezed out of conversations by Shaq’s bravado, and at times can literally see and feel his frustration while Ernie repeatedly tries to get Kenny a say. Outside of “Kenny’s Pictures”, Charles’ long time right hand man is being given little talk time in lieu of Shaq’s tendency to want to dominate a conversation, dominate a funny bit, and in many ways dominate the show in general. Think of Ernie and Kenny’s work with Charles in terms of something like the Howard Stern Show. The size of Howard’s character and voice leaves little room for anyone else. Hence the amazing chemistry he has fostered for over two decades with Robin Quivers, who plays off of him brilliantly. Both Kenny and Ernie have–up until recently–performed the same function with Charles. They know when to let Charles run off on a tangent, know when to reel him in, and know when to get their say, and the trio has built itself into an unstoppable force this way. They ebb and flow, and up until this year have been a well oiled machine. Enter The Big Unfunny, and that flow has become utter chaos at times, even in the segments that are meant to feature mostly Shaq by himself. Observe the new addition that is Shaqtin’ a Fool. Great title for the segment, but as you can see … the execution and the funny are amateur at best.
The diagnosis on Shaq is very simple. He’s spent his whole life surrounded by people lauding his “larger than life” personality, telling him he’s funny, when quite frankly the only comedic realm he seems to excel in is creating nicknames for players. There is no hesitancy in his voice. There are no traces of holding back. It is painfully clear that Shaq thinks he is a very funny person. Unfortunately for TNT he might be the least funny person in the room, and the worst analyst. The question is, does TNT have the guts to cut the line before audiences tune out? Viewers have an increasingly short attention span, and as long as usually classic segments continue to come off as awkwardly as Nick Cannon hosting a show about “crews” talking trash about other crews’ mamas, the greatest show in sports might crumble under the weight of a tragically unfunny and out of touch superstar.