Oftentimes in life, those who become great forget those who have helped them achieve their success. Nourished their growth. Sewn the buttons back onto their adult overalls. I was that person to Mario and Luigi. Man, I remember the day I met those tiny Italians with gorgeous mustaches. I thought, here comes trouble! I’d say they weren’t always on their best behavior in my class. I can’t tell you how many times Mario came late because he kept sliding down the flagpole in the yard, and you’d be surprised to know how many times he got stuck up there because his overalls got caught. Luigi on the other hand kept flirting with Princess Peach, passing notes and throwing banana peels at her, even though Peach only ever had eyes for Mario. But despite their bad behavior, they aced every written exam. I knew Mario and Luigi had franchise potential, so I taught them everything I knew.
In order to master the art of the kart, you need to get down to the fundamentals. You can’t be an anxious driver when you’re at Koopa Troopa Beach because it’ll consume you like a cartoon Venus flytrap plant. First, I started off making sure these boys weren’t afraid to just drive straight on into a question mark, because inside those questions, well—there’s answers. Mega-size schrooms, a pair of shells, you name it. Mario was pretty scared at first to drive into these boxes and he would scream ‘Mama Mia!’, but I grabbed him by his overalls, got right in his face, and yelled at him to be brave and to grow a pair of shells. I’ll admit it, I was a tough teacher.
I remember back to one really tough driving session where Mario almost gave up. We were covering Rainbow Road and Mario just couldn’t get the hang of the speed boosts. He was missing almost every single one, putting him in eighth place, even behind the computer players. On our ninth or tenth time around, maybe around the third lap, he didn’t make one of the boosts, and…we fell off into space. When we clouded back up, he didn’t even want to finish. He started speaking in fast, aggressive Italian. Wario tried to calm him down, but Mario just called him a fat fuck. That didn’t go over well for class morale, and definitely contributed to Wario and Mario’s rivalry throughout the years. I pulled him aside and said, “Mario…you gotta drive for yourself. Not for your brother. Not for Wario. For you. It’s just you and the road out there, the wide open Rainbow Road. Go cause someone to slip on a banana peel until you master speed boosts.” And he did.
It’s moments like that where I realize that I was better off as a coach, though I do still find myself slipping into moments of regret and what-could-have-been. I could’ve been great. I had just been invited to compete at the Mushroom Cup in Daytona, Florida. A few days before competition started, me and a couple of my driving buddies went down to Peach Beach to mess around a bit. Hang out with the ladies and do a little driving, you know. I was speeding through the water, about to reach the finish line, when my buddy Lorenzo hit me right square in my pixelated schnoz. He was jealous, and that shell he threw that hot summer evening…cost me my driving career. Had that not happened, it would’ve been me who’d’ve gone on to have my own sold out racing video game series. It should’ve been me out there!
But here I am, reliving the old days. Mario and Luigi don’t call to check in anymore really. Of course, I get their Christmas cards with their gorgeous Italian families, but that’s really about it. I get it, a life of your intellectual property being used for graphic tees, video games, and weird porn can take up a lot of your time. I just wish they would invite their old teacher to their Super Mario Party.
Daniel Stillman & Emily Kapp are Chicago-based comedy writers. Their work has appeared in The Onion, McSweeney’s, Robot Butt, Little Old Lady and more. You can read more of Daniel’s work here and Emily’s work here. Follow Daniel on Twitter @stillmania and Emily @emilykapp_.