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Early in the pandemic, satirical comedy duo Chad Kroeger and JT Parr took to the streets in one of Southern California’s most mandate-averse coastal communities, Huntington Beach, to hand out masks.
With their disarming surfer bro vernacular and a faux-naivety about a “mask shortage,” they attempted to deliver free face coverings to a variety of boardwalk denizens — each of them turning the guys away, citing medical misinformation, religious zealotry and other QAnon-approved rhetoric. They racked up 2.2 million views and countless pick-up, and it was hardly their first brush with viral fame. Their appearances at various SoCal city council meetings are the stuff of local legend. They even tricked Fox News into booking them for an interview. And, come Aug. 23, their unique brand of activism and comedy gets its own Netflix series: Chad and JT Go Deep.
The streamer dubs the show a “raunchy prank comedy.” The duo, who never truly break character, call it a documentary. But neither description really sells what’s at play. It’s a soft-scripted satire, Punk’d meets progressive activism.
“It’s in the lineage of man-on-the-street stuff, but we try to keep it open-minded and optimistic when we deal with people,” says Parr, whose often met with skepticism from all sides. “There are times where I know someone will say something boneheaded, but we try to leave it up to them as to which direction it goes. I just want it to be, like, as close to a real conversation as you can get.”
Such conversations require that the men play dumb. The first episode sees the them courting support in Republican stronghold of Orange County to “protect our boarders.” They mean skateboarders, but their efforts are naturally misinterpreted as a hard stance on Mexican immigration by eager conservatives. This faux pas, however, gets them “cancelled.”
“I don’t wanna get too into the weeds of the story, but it affected us deeply,” says Kroeger, whose real name is Tom Allen. “So, the documentary turned into like a journey following us as we reclaimed our status within the culture as stoke Lords. We’re able to right our wrong.”
It can be hard to watch the two men stare, feigning confusion, as they’re called out by people who don’t understand how they could make such a mistake. But it’s also what makes them kind of the perfect vehicle for difficult conversations. When we spoke, over Zoom, earlier in August they revealed that they were in Des Moines, Iowa, where they intended to generate attention for their latest cause later that day.
“We want to get Machine Gun Kelly to change his name to Background Check Kelly, to inspire the youth to advocate for gun safety,” Kroeger, with Parr adding, “We’re going to set up a booth outside — and then we’re gonna see the concert, because Tickets to my Downfall is a contemporary classic of pop punk rock.”
One could easily wonder, with a project as mainstream as a Netflix show, if the growing awareness of them is making their efforts more difficult to pull off — especially considering how localized their work is to the Southland. But one unexpected place where awareness has gotten them more respect, they say, is at local city council meetings. The two still regularly petition for various reforms, most recently offering public comment on the overturning of Roe v Wade at a July gathering of the Los Angeles City Council where they made vows of celibacy until women’s health rights were protected.
“At first it was a little more adversarial,” Parr says of their various encounters with local governments. “I think they thought we were poking fun at them. Once they realized we were sincere in our endeavors, they’ve come to appreciate us. And I do think it gives them a moment of levity amid more serious proceedings – though I wouldn’t describe it that way. I think our proceedings are the most serious.”
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