Doesn’t eating as a sport sound like something you can only hope to do in the most beautiful of dreams? Well wake up because this shit is real and it is amazing. Our good friend and favorite comic Barry Rothbart, along with fellow comic Jeff Cerulli are bringing us Hungry, a documentary on what should be the greatest sport in the world: Competitive Eating. It’s just like the literal Hunger Games except you don’t have to kill a bunch of kids just to get fed. You need only stuff your face with as much food as humanly possible. Easy, right? Wrong.
You’re probably picturing a lot of this:
This isn’t quite the case. Believe it or not there is a lot of careful training involved in competitive eating. For God’s sake you can die if you don’t do it correctly. One must take proper precautions both before and after the competitions. You don’t just show up and eat. There are things one has to do to stretch out the human stomach. How about downing a gallon of water like Brad Sciullo does, while wearing headphones, each chug following the rhythm of a song only he can hear, just drinkin’ to the beat of his own drum. Of course afterwards you can promptly throw it up.
The movie primarily focuses on Takeru Kobayashi, a world-famous competitive eater who holds several records. Six of them are planted firmly in the Guinness Book of World Records for eating delightful treats such as hot dogs, meatballs, Twinkies, hamburgers, pizza and pasta. Hungry yet? He is like a food sport rock star. People recognize him wherever he goes. The most surprising thing about him isn’t his impeccable style or the shock of pink often found in his hair, it’s the fact that he doesn’t weigh 8 million pounds.
He’s in better shape than I am. Should I start eating all the hot dogs for every meal? I mean I will. Kobayashi gut-busted on the scene in 2001 when he ate 50 hot dogs in one sitting which was TWICE THE AMOUNT OF HOT DOGS PREVIOUSLY EATEN. He’s a wizard. It was the game changing moment.
Dig in because you’re in for one hell of a ride. This is not your local carnival’s pie-eating contest folks. This is the real deal. Have you heard of the International Federation of Competitive Eating? It exists in this world and it has brought us Major League Eating. One of the fascinating aspects of this sport is it’s 100% sponsor-driven, my favorite being Pepto Bismol, of course. I assume Charmin and Tums are not far behind (pun). And these guys, these gentle giants and often not so giant folks (women too!) are not getting paid much, if at all, to do it! It’s purely for the love of the game. Can we say that about any other major league sport nowadays? Looking at you multi-million dollar contracts.
The premiere event in this sport is the Wing Bowl held every hear in Philadelphia, PA and it’s about, you guessed it, chicken wings. Steel yourself for so many scenes of people shoving chicken wings into their mouths at an alarming rate. A word of warning, you might get nauseous while watching this movie but you absolutely cannot look away. And what’s a documentary about competitive eating without a conspiracy theory or two. This movie has it all!
Of course this sport is not without its seedy underbelly with stories of the IFOC bullying contestants for participating in other eating contests, creating a monopoly and removing people from the league. This is the age old story of the little man (Kobayashi) sticking it to The Man to the sweet sounds of food consumption. After being jailed for attempting to participate in an IFOC event Kobayashi has taken matters into his own hands, well stomach, competing on his own. He is a hero in this sport, someone other competitors look up to because he struck out on his own and is creating something new, and did not allow himself to be intimidated. It’s really a beautiful film, with a backdrop of a shit ton of food.
This movie is not for the faint of stomach but it’s well worth the trip.