In 1991, a hard-swinging (and even harder-living) 25-year-old named John Daly took the golf world by storm when he won the PGA Championship, a tournament he was only able to participate in after eight other golfers were unable to attend. Over the course of the next two decades, the name "John Daly" would become synonymous with a number of things, not all of them good.
That reputation has proven to be a blessing and a curse for Daly the golfer, but it's also something that Jon Daly the comedian has had to live with, by no fault of his own. He just happens to share a name with one of the wildest players in PGA Tour history.
Now he's using it to his advantage.
On April 8 at 11:30 p.m. ET – day two of The Masters – Daly will take on Adam Scott (another comedian who just so happens to share a name with a pro golfer) in The Adult Swim Golf Classic, a televised charity golf championship that just so happens to be set in 1966. The two remain in character as their namesake counterparts, and the special features a heavy amount of improvised comedy, but the actual golfing they do is very real…and very terrible.
Before he tees off, Rolling Stone spoke with Daly about how his totally weird tournament came together, why he thinks golf is the sleepiest sport of all and how he's trying to take back Google from the other John Daly.
So, how did Jon Daly become John Daly?
It began with a website I made, JonDalyisJohnDaly.com, to take back Google searches from John Daly. I've kind of been obsessed with him since I was a kid because he has my name, he's famous and he's kind of this wacky character. He doesn't just golf, he makes country records, he's an entrepreneur, there's a drink now called the "John Daly," which is an Arnold Palmer with vodka – it's great. And even when I Googled my name, he was so famous for 30 years that it basically was all him. So, to take back Google search I made a website, got in four hours of makeup, put up pictures of me as him on the Internet, and now when you do a Google Image search it's pictures of him mixed with pictures of me as him. So the golf special is the next formation of that kind of weird obsession.
In his autobiography he wrote about going on a diet of only whiskey and cigarettes in college –
He continued that for quite a while. Sometimes he'd add wings into the mix. Hot wings. He's got to be the most "non-Golf" golfer out there – he goes against the grain.
Have you ever had the chance to meet him?
No, I've never met him. But if he ever wanted to do anything, I would love to work with him. The next special could be me and him. Me as him against him as him. The possibilities of that are endless. That's something that could be in MoMA one day. That's really weird.
Do you know if he is aware of you at this point?
It would be weird if he wasn't. He is very out there; he's on Twitter, and for a long time people would hit him up online on my behalf and @ both of us. He's never reached out, but hopefully this special will show him that I'm serious about this and that I love him. I think he's hilarious. He might hate me. If there was somebody doing this about me, I would feel weird about it. But at the same time, it's not really indicting him any more than he indicts himself. He smokes and drinks on the golf course. I'm not making it worse. He's not a murderer in my special, he's just a golfer.
Speaking of which, one of the first characters you became known for was Bill Cosby-Bukowski. That must be different now.
Yeah, I never do [that character] anymore. After it was really clear to everyone that Bill Cosby was guilty, it became kind of a moot point to do that character, because that character plays with the tension of "What if this 'America's Dad' figure was the craziest sleazebag in the world?" And then you find out that [Bill Cosby] is the craziest sleazebag in the world, so it's kind of a waste of time now. But that was good for me, because I got so used to killing with that character that I needed to come up with some new stuff. It was convenient.
So back to the golf special, what did Adam Scott, the actor, say about playing Adam Scott, the golfer?
I just asked him to do it and he was like "Yeah!" That's it. I play golf once or twice a year with my dad, I'm really terrible. He's never really played golf. It doesn't matter if we play golf. It's about the aesthetics of televised golf. It takes place in the Sixties, so the whole thing is very much stuck in amber. It's stopped in time. It needed to be that way for how stupid it is – it's very stupid, obviously. I think it's just funny to me that we're not good at golf. I didn't want him to be good, I'm not good myself, but we do try our best. What you see is us trying to golf well. There's no, "I'm trying to be bad." It's very easy to golf poorly because it's so difficult.
How would you describe the nature of the special? Is it scripted? Is it improv? Is it a documentary, in that it's real golf being played?
Well, it's us playing nine holes of golf. It is really for charity, the money is real – we really gave money to St. Jude's Hospital. Inasmuch as it is a golf game, we basically do what any golfers would do on the golf course – we kind of just bullshit; we make fun of each other, talk about plans with our wives. It's kind of set up as a casual, fun golf game for broadcast. It's based on a show called The Wonderful World of Golf from the Sixties. It was this very weird show that was somehow very mainstream.
How often do you watch golf?
I watch it sometimes. I would say I nap to it. It's a very nappy kind of sport. I think my first memories of golf were just falling asleep to it while my dad watched it. It's such a non-participatory visual sport. I always found the pace and aesthetic of televised golf to be hilarious. It's so stupid and worthless and funny to me. It's such a waste of time, there's so much dead air and so many nature sounds, and the clapping and all that stuff is so funny to me. And it's so white. But for this special, I watched a lot of golf. I do feel like I have it ingrained in my bones. I knew that if we set up a golf game that was legit enough – with real scorekeepers and real announcers – that it could be just us playing golf.
Who's announcing the, uh, action?
We got Gary Williams from the Golf Channel and this guy Eddie Merrins, who is known as "The Little Pro," who is a legend from the Bel-Air Country Club. You couldn't ask for a better team. We did not feed them anything – they got what to do, they knew what the deal was and they did it. If we had gotten any of the major PGA people it wouldn't have worked as well, because these guys are low-key and it needed to have this Sixties feel.
But you legitimately wanted to beat Adam Scott, right?
Yeah. What you see is us really playing golf, trying to win. I won't spoil it by telling you who wins.
The Adult Swim Golf Classic airs Friday, April 8 at 11:30 p.m. ET on Adult Swim – with an extended version streaming at AdultSwim.com on April 10 at noon ET.