As a diehard Kansas Jayhawks fan, Rob Riggle loves this time of year. He also appreciates, and has been a part of, some high-quality trash talking throughout his military and comedic career.
“March Madness is a big part of my life," the actor told USA TODAY Sports last Thursday, one day before his beloved Kansas exited the Big 12 Tournament due to positive COVID-19 tests. "I look forward to it every year."
As the NCAA Tournament begins this week in the Indianapolis area, television viewers will see a lot of Riggle, along with Lil Rel Howery, starring in Aflac's "Post-Pain Campaign" commercials. Although fans may be watching from home alone or with limited company in 2021, Aflac is offering a way to keep personal rivalries alive.
Twitter users can type the hashtag #PostPainTrashTalk (from March 17-March 19) to nominate why someone in their life deserves a good verbal jab (and the city they live in). The best submissions will lead to an Aflac-hired actor showing up to the recipient's residence in the Aflac duck truck while wearing full protective gear — haz-mat suit, etc. — to deliver the unique burn.
"I really hope it works the way I'm envisioning it," Riggle said.
Aflac has come up with a unique and fun way to make sure you can still trash talk your buddies and rivals this March Madness. (Photo: Courtesy of Aflac)
Trash talking is an art, Riggle said, and it has been useful for him from his service in the Marines to writers' rooms to movie sets and, perhaps most importantly, his fantasy football leagues.
One of Riggle’s best friends from the Marines went to Michigan.
“I have no problem with Michigan, but I love to tease him and give him a hard time, and he loves to do the same thing with me about Kansas," Riggle said. "So we trash talk in all kinds of ways.”
But trash talk, even from afar, Riggle cautioned, can be tricky.
"It’s hard to trash talk with strangers because you get into a weird place," he said. "But with friends, you trust each other, you respect each other, so you know when you’re teasing, it’s good-hearted usually.
"And then it’s proportionality. Trash talking is proportionality. You can’t say, ‘Your team stinks!’ and then go ‘Oh yeah? Well, your mother!’ You can’t do that. That’s too much escalation."
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There are some X-factors when it comes to proxy trash talking. Some examples: the actor may not know the proper delivery or how to phrase an inside joke.
“But we’ve got professionals, they’re ready to go," Riggle said. "I’m sure they’re going to deliver in more ways than one."
Rob Riggle's favorite Kansas Jayhawks basketball memories
Riggle was a student when the Jayhawks famously throttled another blueblood program, the Kentucky Wildcats — led by first-year head coach Rick Pitino — 150-95 on Dec. 9, 1989.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Kansas Jayhawks play that level of basketball (again), where they just made everything they threw up, every shot.”
A second favorite memory of his is the final conference matchup in the Kansas-Missouri rivalry during the 2011-12 season, before the Tigers departed the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. Riggle was in Allen Fieldhouse for the Jayhawks' 19-point, second-half comeback and eventual overtime victory.
For a long time, the Jayhawks were the only team that brought Riggle — a Kansas City-area native — much joy. That was until the last several years or so, when the Royals and Chiefs each won championships.
"What actually makes me laugh about this is my son, who is 12 years old, he thinks championships just happen all the time. He’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to the World Series.’ Or, ‘I guess we’re going back to the Super Bowl.’ I want to pull my hair out, because it’s like, 'You don’t understand! I’ve waited 45, 50 years for some of this stuff.' But to him, it’s just another day. I hope it stays this way for the rest of his life because that would be fantastic.”
As far as any predictions for the 2021 men's bracket, it's the same one he makes every year: Rock Chalk.
“I lose so many brackets because I have Kansas going to the final and winning,” Riggle said. “I’m blessed, because they make it to the Final Four quite a bit. It’s a tradition. I have to stick with it. I can’t break it.”
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
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