Comedian John Oliver took a long, brutal look at Chuck E. Cheese on his show last week — and the Irving-based kid-party pizza saloon has responded graciously.
State of play: Oliver highlighted some of the company’s recent lowlights, including reports that some of the animatronics still run on floppy disks, a denial that some locations recycle pizza, and the fact that the internet is filled with fight videos filmed at these places.
- “I believe there is a rot at the heart of Chuck E. Cheese,” Oliver told his audience.
Flashback: The segment also detailed the company’s fascinating history, like how the restaurant was started by a co-founder of Atari who wanted the mascot to be a coyote — until he accidentally ordered a rat costume instead and decided to just go with it.
- The Chuck E. Cheese character was originally an insult comic with a Jersey accent and a cigar.
- The business concept was so popular that it inspired countless knockoffs, including ShowBiz Pizza Place, which eventually bought Chuck E. Cheese and converted its own animatronic bands into Chuck E. Cheese characters.
The intrigue: Some fans still collect and restore ShowBiz animatronics, including one genius who programmed his collection to perform Usher’s “Love in This Club.”
Reality check: While you might associate the brand with those gross ball pits, the company ditched them more than 20 years ago.
- It also replaced the terrifying animatronics with costumed characters and created a new (tragic) backstory for the eponymous rat.
- Oh, the company decided that Chuck isn’t actually a rat. Now he’s a mouse.
What they’re saying: “Thank you, John Oliver, for being a fan of Chuck E. Cheese, and we’re honored to be such an important entertainment icon,” CEC Entertainment CEO David McKillips tells Axios.
What we’re watching: Company representatives say they’re sending Oliver “a special surprise” for his next live segment, which happens to be the day before his birthday!