Flashback: Ben Stiller Plays Springsteen as a Puff Daddy Fanatic
Ben Stiller is a man of many talents. He’s not only a brilliant comedic actor, but he also writes screenplays and directs some of his own movies. His most impressive skill, however, might be his ability to impersonate Bruce Springsteen. He had a recurring bit on The Ben Stiller Show called Legends of Springsteen, where he portrayed the singer as mythical superhero who delivers babies and helps Abraham Lincoln write “The Gettysburg Address.”
He revived the Springsteen character in 1998 when he hosted the MTV Video Music Awards. In one skit he does a spot-on imitation of Tom Joad-era Bruce being interviewed about recording songs for the soundtracks to The Cable Guy and Weekend at Bernie’s. It was a weird time in Springsteen’s career when he was best known for contributing to the soundtracks of Philadelphia, Dead Man Walking and Jerry Maguire, and Stiller got every nuance of him down, even the ever-present chuckle.
The best bit that night was a spoof of the MTV show FANatic, which allowed superfans to meet their heroes and interview them. Stiller’s Springsteen is a Puff Daddy fanatic who has a shrine to him in his house and spends his free time carving a little Puffy doll he calls “Little P”. Jack Black plays his buddy who storms into a recording session with a camera crew to reveal they’re going to meet Puffy. In front of a stunned Puff Daddy (playing himself) Springsteen asks questions like “Why are you so awesome?” and holds a hug for so long that a bodyguard steps in to break them apart. The whole thing is even funnier than it sounds.
The video quality isn’t amazing here, but this was still the age of the VCR. Hopefully someday MTV will create a channel devoted to reruns from their 1980s and 1990s golden age, but for now we have to rely on stuff like this.