WFOEOTYL #3: Eight People in ’08

History Column
Written by Nathan Mattise

It’s time to close off the WFOEOTYL with the simplest of competitions: a popularity contest. Every outlet under the sun does a top people edition – TIME, USA Today’s Pop Candy, Sports Illustrated, Best Week Ever, etc. so it’s time to unveil In Pursuit of the Trivial‘s edition. You may be asking yourself, “How are they going to judge the top people?” Well take a look at the first parameter and, if you like what you see, read on…

  • Any Best People list will certainly deal with people who had success and acclaim in 2008, but in addition to that, the people on our list must be, “someone you would aspire to and feasibly could eat at a diner and talk for hours with.” (Apologies to most Food Network personalities, McCain/Palin, the Twilight author, etc.). This should cut people who have already gotten enough accolades and wouldn’t appreciate the small things (such as adoration from some 23-year-old pop culture obsessed kids).
  • The eight people of ’08 need to have survived throughout all of 2008 (apologies to Bobby Fischer, Heath Ledger, David Halberstam and the numerous other cultural icons we’re sorry to have lost in 2008).
  • Call it the “Fable” rule but good guys get preference over bad guys on the list. (Sorry Plaxico Burress and anyone else with similar stories of success turned tragic).
  • Finally, to piggyback off requirement one, this list is totally subjective (in case you didn’t know).

And now time for the list. In descending order…

8. Adam Richman – Travel Channel’s Man V. Food

If he’d been around the limelight all year he’d probably be much higher, but Richman burst (pun intended) on the scene with the new Travel Channel hit Man V. Food only within the last month. On the show Richman picks a city, stops by 2 or 3 of the local cuisine hot spots then finishes up by trying to complete the local food challenge (think of putting down the five alarm wings at your local joint).

The leap to the mainstream wasn’t a terribly big stretch for Richman, who was a Yale acting graduate jumping from bit part to bit part before his journaling habit gave him his big break. The guy clearly knows his food (he couldn’t pass on Primanti’s either), he’s funny, personable and has a real everyman quality that makes him and the show watchable and likeable. I’d get a frittata split plate at Doc’s Little Gem with him any time… except he’d probably prefer his own.

7. Doug Anderson – Discovery Channel’s Fight Quest

Anderson is a Richman-esque figure from the beginning of 2008. He kicked off (keep the puns coming) his notoriety with the premier season of Fight Quest, a show where he and his co-host would travel to a foreign country, learn the traditional style of combat then challenge trained experts in the end.

Anderson is a former military vet and after combining that with his show, he’s actually a unique combination of two bigger storylines from 2008 (the continuing war and the rise of MMA to the mainstream). He seems like he’d be an eggs over easy guy after a long day of training, but maybe he’d muster enough energy to tell me about the time he got cauliflower ear and how it feels to have a new wikipedia page.

6. Jason Bentley – KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic

Ask Drew Carey what it’s like to follow a legend, it sucks. Such was the task for Bentley who had to follow the shoes of Nic Harcourt at KCRW (you know, the “most influential DJ in America”). So far the publicity has been positive and the bands keep coming (most notably Keane swung by in late December). Bentley is no newbie to the station or genre – he used to intern at KCRW, hosted the show “Metropolis” and also helped select music for films such as the Matrix. I have a feeling he’d have a few things to say about Vampire Weekend over a cup of coffee.

5. Stephen Curry – Davidson Basketball SG

When you look like you’re 12 and weren’t recruited by any major basketball programs, the chances of you calling LeBron James a fan are quite slim. Stephen Curry doesn’t really follow the odds though. The junior guard took the nation by storm when his small, unknown Davidson squad beat the national powers of Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin on their way to an Elite 8 heartbreaking loss to eventual champion Kansas during last year’s NCAA tournament. Curry became the face of college basketball, a potential NBA player, a story to tell to their grandkids for a few thousand Davidson students and someone even King James admires. All that and he still has two years before he graduates. Any college kid is at home in a diner, Curry needs a sandwich named after him so he can be enshrined in one (c’mon North Carolina, make it happen).

4. Amy Poehler – SNL

SNL had a huge year due to its election year parodies and Poehler was a big part of it (writing and also as Hil, I know she wasn’t Tina Fey). That alone puts you in consideration for some notoriety but it might’ve been the least of Poehler’s accomplishments in ’08. She has a children’s cartoon that’s quickly becoming a kid favorite, she has a new sitcom deal with NBC, she starred in a movie and… she had a baby! That’s quite the way to retire from a resurgent SNL. It may have to wait until her kid is only enough to order pancakes, but I think you could sneak Poehler into a booth to chat as well.

3. Tunde Adebimpe – TV on the Radio

Adebimpe is living my teenage dream (and probably the dream of countless others) – he knows Anne Hathaway. Oh, and he starred in a highly critically acclaimed movie with her after releasing what many critics consider to be the album of 2008 with his hip, indie rock band. He should probably be higher on this list because I’d want to hear him talk about his life over omelets after his show, but…

2. Zooey Deschanel – She & Him

…Deschanel did the exact same thing except she’s also marrying indie crooner Ben Gibbard. She & Him was her first musical foray and their album was even named top album by Paste Magazine. She’ll be the cutest girl at any diner you go too – you know the type, the ones who can put down the entire lumberjack breakfast before you blink.

1. Barack ObamaUS President Elect

There’s really no one else who can claim it was his year more than Obama. I don’t even need to explicitly defend it, but I know what you’re thinking… yes, he would (and even has) eaten at a (Scranton!) diner.

The End.

Others in serious consideration: Girl Talk | Rocco Mediate | Usain Bolt | Ira Glass

(Links today from the people/organizations listed above, Wikipedia, USA Today, TIME)

Have an argument to make with the list? E-mail it.
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