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My dinner with Chuck E.

By Tony Carnevale
Arizona Summer Wildcat
June 16, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Tony Carnevale

Recently, two people, both of legal drinking age, invited me to birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese's. I can only presume that they were indulging in regression, deriving the same enjoyment out of a familiar childhood experience that I might derive from eating cream of wheat or smearing my torso with my own feces.

As it turned out, covering myself in excrement would have been nearly as enjoyable for me as going to this hellhole of pizza, huge anthropomorphic mice and greasy children.

The problem was that I'd never been to Chuck E. Cheese as a child, and thus had no fond memories to distract me. Those of you fortunate enough to have never visited what I now call "Auschwitz-for-kids" are blissfully unaware of the fact that Chuck E. Cheese's slogan, "Where a kid can be a kid," should actually be "Where a kid can channel the souls of up to nine lesser demons." The basic premise is as follows: parents tired of paying attention to their spawn bring them to this combination restaurant/arcade/playground/cesspool, let them run rampant and hope that they only blind themselves in one eye.

Kids love this setup, as do my twenty-something friends, though you'd think they're a little older than the target demographic. There's a gigantic kid habitrail that resembles a tapeworm, made all the more appealing by the fact that it's crawling with pint-size vermin and their assorted excretions. "C'mon, Tony, let's go in there!" entreated my less-scrupulous companions.

Um, no.

There's a "stage," too, on which a robotic, seven-foot-tall "band" performs "songs" whose lyrics, blasted at volumes rivaling those of a Smashing Pumpkins show, are really propaganda designed to program the eight-year-old listeners to drag mom and dad to Chuck E. Cheese as often as possible. It's a bald-faced, disgusting attempt at brainwashing, and the lyrics are rather inappropriate for young ears, too. Here's an excerpt from a toe-tapping ditty called "Chuck E. Rap:"

Yo! My name's Chuck E. and I'm here to say

You should eat my pizza ev'ry single day

If next Saturday you're not here,

Then I'll tell all your friends that you are queer.

Break it down!

The band that performs this and all other mind-control material consists of five giant animatronic beasts: Chuck E. Cheese himself is the tux-wearing emcee and a mutant duck-creature is the lead singer. There's a fiddle-playing dog in cowboy garb, a purple Martian ape on the keyboards and an Italian guy plays the drums. We know he's Italian because he talks like Roberto Benigni and looks like a cross between the little guy on generic pizza delivery boxes and Mario.

"Look, mommy," cried an excited audience member during my second trip to Chuck E. Cheese, "this band has all the animals! They've got the mouse, the duck, the gorilla, the dog, and the Italian! It's just like the zoo!"

Chuck E. Cheese reminds us that ethnic stereotypes need not be adults-only. At the end of the show, the band introduced its robotic agent, who wore a yarmulke and said "Mazeltov" a lot.

Finally, when my friends were done with their rubbery pizza and had played one too many games of "Munch Mouth," in which you shoot Nerf balls at a representation of teeth, their appetite for inanity was sated. We were allowed to leave. I breathed a sigh of relief - now would be the respite from the hours of torture I'd endured.

And then, in the parking lot, a kid zapped me in the eye with one of those laser pointers that must be in Cracker Jack boxes these days. I hope he's able to remove it from his colon.