The 115 Funniest Things to Ever Happen on Survivor
#13. Rob Cesternino
Amazon - All Season Long
Rob Cesternino is my choice as the funniest Survivor player of all time.
Sure, he may not make the Funny 115 as often as people like Judd, Robb Zbacnik, and Chris Daugherty, but in my mind Rob Cesternino is funnier than all of them. And the big difference is that Rob is the only one of them who was actually trying to be funny. The other three guys I just named? Unintentional humor galore. You laughed at them despite their best efforts to be taken seriously. You laughed at them because they were so damn dramatic and intense. But not Rob. No, Rob is the only one who was actually trying to play to the audience. He was the only one who was trying to get us to laugh at all the things that were going on around him in the game.
And he succeeded.
Quite a bit.
To this day, Rob C. remains the single funniest player ever to have played Survivor.
It is a shame that people have sort of gotten tired of Rob over the years, because it has overshadowed the fact that he was such a special and unique player when he first burst onto the scene during Amazon. People nowadays tend to forget that Rob was the first comedian ever to be cast on the show. He was the first normal run-of-the-mill internet geek to be allowed to play the game of Survivor. And he was the first player ever to go out of his way just to entertain the audience.
See, Rob was well aware of the fact that Survivor was a TV show. And he was one of the first players to really grasp the fact that making entertaining TV was just as important as winning the game. And this is an accomplishment that a lot of Survivor fans don't really give him credit for. They tend to focus on the fact that Rob came close to winning the Amazon, and then he got his butt kicked in All-Stars. And that's the only legacy they tend to attribute to him. But you know what? None of that really matters. Rob's final placement in Amazon and All-Stars isn't remotely important. It shouldn't make the slightest bit of difference in how we view Rob Cesternino as a character.
And here's why...
(Note: This is the part of my essay that a lot of Survivor fans will take issue with. They always do. But I stand by these statements 100%. Always have. Always will.)
Survivor is, above all else, a television show. That's all it is, that's all it has ever been, and that's all it will ever be. And the sole purpose of a TV show (indeed, the only purpose) is to make money for its network. If the show brings in good ratings, the network can charge more money to its advertisers, and that's really the only reason that television shows even exist. They exist solely to bring in more money from the potential advertisers.
So what makes a show get good ratings? Easy, it's the characters. If the characters on a show aren't interesting and/or relatable, for the most part the general viewing audience isn't going to care. I can't think of a single successful TV show that has ever had uninteresting characters, and this applies to Survivor just as much as it applies to normal non-reality TV. Survivor lives and dies by its characters, just like any other TV SHOW, and the fact that Rob understood this is what made him such a valuable commodity all around.
Rob was funny, Rob was likable, Rob was a normal guy, and Rob was interesting. And on top of all that, he went out of his way to try to entertain the audience. And this is exactly what you want on a show like Survivor. After all, you don't get players that understand the TV side of the business every day. In fact, I can maybe name only two or three players who seemed to grasp this concept prior to Amazon (Greg and Colleen being the main two). But then here comes Rob Cesternino. He comes at a very crucial point in Survivor history (remember that Thailand had just bombed), and he turns out to be everything the producers were looking for, and more. Rob was the first true comedian ever to be cast on the show. And on top of that, he was someone that the audience at home could relate to. See, Rob Cesternino wasn't some triathlete who liked to run 100-mile marathons. Nor was he an ex-navy fighter pilot. Nor was he a buff muscle man who could bench-press 700 pounds. And Rob Cesternino was not, I repeat not, a drop dead gorgeous bikini model.
Rob Cesternino was just a goofy kid who learned the game from watching it on TV. And he lived at home and ran a website from his parents' basement. He was just a normal kid with nothing particularly special about him. And that's what made him a casting director's wet dream!
Just like me!
(Note: I say that Rob was the first comedian ever to be cast on the show, because there's really nobody else you could say that about. Greg Buis in Borneo was probably the closest. Like Rob, he knew that this was a TV show, and like Rob, his antics generated a lot of laughs. But the big difference is that Greg was mostly interested in entertaining himself, not the viewers at home. Greg probably didn't give a rat's ass about the television audience. But Rob did, and that's a big difference. The only other candidates I can think of for "first Survivor comedian" would be Big Tom in Africa, or Boston Rob or Sean Rector in Marquesas. All three have somewhat legitimate cases for this title, but I don't necessarily think they went out of their way to make good TV. They were funny just because they were funny, but I don't think most of them played up their character just to get more screen time. None of them consistently tried to make good sound bytes for TV like Rob C. would always try to do).
So anyway that's Rob Cesternino's legacy in the world of Survivor. He was the first comedian ever to be cast on the show. He was also one of the first Survivor players to understand that YOUR PURPOSE ON THE SHOW IS TO BE A GOOD CHARACTER. Without Rob, we never would have had later Survivor legends like Jonny Fairplay, Shane Powers, James Miller, or half the cast of Guatemala. Rob Cesternino was single-handedly responsible for all of them. Especially his protege, Jonny "Cesternino v 2.0" Fairplay.)
I apologize for Fairplay. Sorry, guys. Didn't mean for that to happen.
Note that I didn't even mention that Rob was also a fantastic player. Some may find that aspect of his Survivor legacy important, but honestly I don't think it is in the slightest. Because, after all, you can be a fantastic player on Survivor and sometimes the audience won't even care. I mean, I can name countless players who got really far in their respective seasons, but never really resonated with the audience at home. And do you know what that makes them? Failures. Because if you get far in Survivor, but you weren't interesting enough for the producers to do anything with, you basically didn't do your job. You failed to give yourself an interesting story. And you cheated yourself out of a lot of airtime. Because even though you may have made it to the final four, you didn't do anything to ensure that the audience was going to care. And that means that in the business of television, you officially failed at what you were supposed to do.
For future reading on this subject, please see Brkich, Amber. Or Towery, Vecepia. Or Famie, Keith. Or Johnson, Darrah. Or Boatwright, Danni. Or Rogers Jr., Ted. Or Hall, Cindy...
Don't compare me to those freaks. Please.
So that's the legacy of Rob Cesternino. He was the first Survivor comedian, he was one the first players to embrace the concept that he was PLAYING A CHARACTER ON A TV SHOW, and every Survivor fan should respect the fact that he really was the first of his kind. Rob wasn't recruited off a street corner, he wasn't an award-winning triathlete, he never served in the military, and he wasn't a CEO who ran a successful corporation. He was just a kid sitting at home who (like most of us) read Survivor columns on the internet and thought it would be fun to be on the show. Rob was one of the first Survivor players who actually came from the internet fan base, and that means he has always been one of the viewers. Unlike most Survivor players, Rob Cesternino has always been one of us.
And it's too bad that people have forgotten that over the years.
The People's Champion. Sitting in the People's Boat.
So in honor of the first comedian to ever be cast on the show, I am proud to present Rob Cesternino's Funniest 14 quotes from Survivor: Amazon. Hope you enjoy.
(Note: This would have been a top 20 list, but I'm still annoyed that Rob bumped me from his radio show in April 2006. I was scheduled to be a guest on The Fishbowl to talk about my countdown, but Rob's show got canceled right before that so I never got to publicize The Funny 115 before I started posting it. Prick.)
ROB CESTERNINO'S TOP 14
(In no particular order)
1. "I don't like Joanna. She's always yelling about Jesus, and how Jesus loves Jaburu. I didn't know that Jesus had a vested interest in Survivor. Cause, as far as I've seen every picture of Jesus, he's a guy. And I think that he would want the guys to win." (Amazon, Episode 3)
2. "I don't see the women working well together. I know that their shelter is not gonna be as good as ours. I see them all crying, panicking, trying to build a cell phone, so they can call their boyfriends to come over and help them build a shelter. Outside of that I'm sure they've got maybe three sticks together." (Amazon, Episode 1)
3. "I said that the only way Roger is gonna win immunity is if it's a contest of 'Name that Perry Como song.' Or perhaps 'What type of prune is this?' Or some sort of other thing that only an old man like Roger would be able to determine." (Amazon, Episode 7)
4. "Heidi has been bitten by some insect. And it has now reached the size of one of her breasts on her knee." (Amazon, Episode 9)
5. "I don't know if it's such a great idea to give Matt bows and arrows... Great, Matt is gonna orgasm." (Amazon, Episode 9)
6. "I really cannot wait to watch it when the girls are all taking baths. Heidi, do you need some help with, uh, your bosom? Oh sure, Jenna." (Amazon, episode 3)
7. "There's no 'I' in team, but there's one in Matt's mouth" (Amazon, episode 4)
8. "I don't think all the firewood in the forest is gonna keep your torch lit tonight, buddy." (Amazon, Finale)
9. "Since day one, Heidi has always been my favorite. But she looks like she could really use the conditioner and, uh, maybe some of that soap. She looks a little rugged and beat-down. But, look, I'll take what I can get. She's probably a 9 1/2 in real life. And right about now she's closing in on a 6. So that kind of levels the playing field for a guy like me, which is an exciting prospect." (Amazon, Episode 3)
10. "He sits and sharpens the machete for an hour at a time. Why does he need the machete so sharp? I think he's gonna kill us. I'm afraid that when he is voted off, he's gonna take the machete and kill us after the vote." (Amazon, Episode 8)
11. "I don't know how I necessarily became the junior deputy firewood bitch." (Amazon, Episode 12)
12. "Jeff, I was lucky in this game that I'm not handsome. So I didn't have any handicaps like the girls found." (Amazon, Episode 11)
13. "I really am very happy for Matthew. I'm very happy that he got to win the car. And I asked him that if he ever goes to Asia, or if he ever returns to the planet that he came from, that he said I could borrow it and go cruising for chicks." (Amazon, Episode 12)
14. Rob's vote for Roger Sexton: "Here comes tonight's long distance dedication. It goes out to Rob from New York. He writes: 'Dear Casey, there's an old man in my life that's about to leave. Could you please play something appropriate for me?' Well Rob, here's your request: 'Na na na na. Na na na na. Hey heyyyy hey. Gooood bye." (Amazon, Episode 7)
P.S. Here is some Survivor trivia I once heard, about when Rob cast the above vote for Roger. Apparently Rob was a little too loud in the voting booth when he started singing "Na na hey hey goodbye," and all the players back at Tribal Council heard him. So when Rob came back to sit with the group, Probst game him a dirty look and said something like, "Nice job, smartass. Like hell that's ever gonna make the final episode." But, lo and behold, the producers ended up liking Rob's vote so much that they actually went over Probst's head (and dimples) and used it anyway. I think I heard Rob tell that story on a radio show once.
P.P.S. If you want to hear some really funny Cesternino jokes, listen to episodes 1-4 of the All-Star DVD commentaries. It's not so much that Rob is cracking jokes. No, what makes those commentaries really funny is that Rob is totally making fun of Rudy, right to his face, and Rudy doesn't even realize what he is doing. Rob just sits there during the commentary, baiting Rudy to comment on insignificant parts of the episode, and Rudy takes the bait nearly every single time. It's actually quite mean when you hear Rob do it, but who says comedy has to be pretty? In my opinion, it doesn't get much funnier than listening to Rudy randomly comment on the most inane, insignificant moments of first two episodes. "So... did you get that machete sharp, Rudy?" "Rudy, were you mad when Jenna made that face?" "Rudy, what did you think when Ethan dropped that coconut?" "Rudy, you like eating fish, don't you?"
P.P.P.S. Unfortunately, Rob Cesternino changed a little bit between Amazon and All-Stars. In my opinion he got a lot less charming, a lot less likable, and I'm guessing it's probably because he started to believe his own hype. The second time around, Rob really did believe he was the second coming of Survivor strategy. And this was evident every minute he was on screen during Survivor: All-Stars. Gone was the big grin and gone were the witty remarks. Rob didn't seem to be that same happy-go-lucky kid the second time around. He started to take his reputation a little too seriously, and that's why he ended up looking like this when he got blindsided at the end of episode four:
Old Rob wouldn't have made that face. In fact, Old Rob was quite gracious in his final words at the end of Amazon. Go back and listen sometime. But the second time around, I feel like Rob had more of a sense of entitlement, and it made him a lot less fun to watch. Oh well. We can still go back and watch Amazon, though. That was Rob C. at the very very tip top of his game. And (as you could have guessed), no I'm not even talking about his success as a strategist.
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