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The bit began nearly 20 years back when Rudd appeared on O’Brien’s Late Night. Every time Rudd appears on one of O’Brien’s shows, he pretends to introduce a clip from the project he’s promoting but instead shares a clip from the 1988 movie Mac and Me. O’Brien explained that the clip shows “a boy in a wheelchair going down a hill, going off a cliff and falling into the water and then a badly animated alien popping up.”
Rudd admitted that he “never imagined” that the running gag would last so long. “There’s something so tricky about it. Cause here I am. I’m gonna sell my wares on TV. Like, ‘Here’s something from what I just filmed.’ It just seemed — and still does to a large extent — kind of insincere,” he said.
O’Brien later explained that Mac and Me is “a bad E.T. rip-off,” while Rudd said that the film was funded by McDonalds.
“I remember watching it, kind of stumbling across it on TV, and there’s a scene where the alien raids this kid’s house — kind of exactly like E.T. did — and then he goes out and he’s looking for what I guess he assumes is an alien or something that was in his house and then the alien is up in the tree looking at him,” Rudd recapped. “And then this Peter Cetera-sounding song about best friends kicks in and it’s totally unearned. They don’t even know each other.”
The actor joked that the movie was “the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Rudd revealed that Mac and Me wasn’t the first movie he planned on playing a clip from on O’Brien’s shows. “Another one that I had been toying with was from the movie Baby Geniuses,” he said. “Baby Geniuses is another one of those movies that you watch and say, ‘Who was this made for?'”
He explained that the premise of the 1999 film was that all babies knew “the secrets of the universe and can talk to one another before they turn two, where they forget it and as they start to talk, it goes away.” He added, “Love the idea. Don’t love the movie.”
“There’s a scene where a baby — I want to say they have this super baby in a lab, I don’t know — and he escapes. This team of thugs are trying to track him down, trying to get this baby, and then they cut to the baby fighting a group of men and it’s clearly a stunt little person just beating up these guys,” he explained. “I assume the budget was so low that there was this one maniacal laugh that the kid makes and every time in the movie, they just use the same laugh. You hear it a hundred times.”
O’Brien said that fans have come to expect Rudd’s Mac and Me bit every time he appears on Conan. One fan even made a mashup of the clips from the many times Rudd has pulled the gag, which O’Brien noted “means nothing” and that there’s not point behind it.
“This is the first time that we even addressed it,” the actor added.
The host then reminisced about a time Rudd appeared on the show to promote Judd Apatow’s This Is 40. While the director asked Rudd to not show the Mac and Me clip, he still went ahead and kept the tradition alive.
“There was also another time where he came and stopped it,” said Rudd of Apatow. “It was the one time I think I actually showed a real clip on your show.”
“I just feel so gross telling anybody to see this,” Rudd said of promoting his films.
The actor added that he has since worked with Apatow, who has become more accepting of the Mac and Me joke. “I enjoy it because it’s just so dumb and it means nothing,” continued Rudd. “It just now, for lack of a better phrase, has legs.”
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