VARIETY MAGAZINE review: Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating


Current Reviews... Everything Morgan Spurlock tried to impress upon the viewer in his hit docu, "Super Size Me," gets gobbled up and spat out in Danielle Franco and Chris Kenneallys "Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating." This amusingly light (but oh-so-gut-busting) reverie on one man's titanic efforts to rise to the top ranks in the very unofficial sport of competitive scarfing goes down quickly as a good example of documaking on freakish behavior and freakier subcultures. Fests will line up for seconds, with edgier ancillary helpings to follow.

Conti, who amazingly lacks a gut, is the kind of young guy who doesn't cheer Kobe Bryant, but rather world champ hot dog eater Takeru Kobayashi, who currently dominates the 4th of July Nathan's hot dog contest on Coney Island. Co-helmers Franco and Kenneally find Conti compelling -- a clearly intelligent fellow with odd tastes (Corey Feldman movies, giant vats of raw oysters), who can't seem to fit in mainstream America.

Having proved that he can down record amounts of oysters, Conti trains for and wins a New Orleans oyster contest sponsored by the IFOCE, or the International Federation of Competitive Eating. (His mark: 14 dozen oysters in 10 minutes.) Reaching his first goal of, as he proudly terms it, "eating on the professional level," Conti signs with the federation and goes on the competition circuit as preparation for the Nathan's event.

Even funnier than watching Conti go about this so seriously -- he actually runs, works out at the gym and applies Zen thinking as he pounds down the chow -- is watching his roommate Jeremy help him during training, and noticing the awe-inspired look on Conti's face when he's able to hang out with Kobayashi, who keeps his eating tricks to himself.

The filmmaking team adroitly uses verite technique and sticks to an amused yet respectful tone that has viewers rooting for Conti.

Camera (Orbital Digital color, DV), Franco, Kenneally; editor, Marc Senter; music, Dinshaw Gobhai; sound, Lewis Goldstein. Reviewed at Wilshire screening room, Los Angeles, June 25, 2004. (In Los Angeles Film Festival.) Running time: 74 MIN.

New York Times By A. O. SCOTT

A Competitor With Guts Chows Down For the Glory

Published: March 2, 2005

Every American is eating breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. They're just not doing it on a professional level." This observation, at once indisputable and somewhat puzzling, is typical of the wry wisdom offered by "Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating," a slight, amusing documentary that opens in Manhattan today.

The film, directed by Danielle Franco and Chris Kenneally, follows Mr. Conti (his real first name, which nobody uses, is Jason) as he evolves from a passionate fan (who supports himself through window washing, nude art-class modeling and sperm donation) into an up-and-coming eating professional.

We first see him, all dreadlocked enthusiasm, at Coney Island during the annual Fourth of July hot-dog-eating contest, where a 131-pound Japanese eater named Takeru Kobayashi is setting a new standard of high-speed gluttony. Later, Mr. Conti, who appears to be in reasonably good shape, declares that "to compare Kobayashi to Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods is to slight Kobayashi." As ever, it is hard to tell how much of Mr. Conti's tongue is in his cheek. In any case, what comes out of his mouth is often more interesting and various than what goes into it. You may not believe his earnest discourses on the philosophy and technique of competitive eating - it is unclear how much he does - but he is pleasant enough company.

As it tags along on Mr. Conti's travels from an oyster-eating meet in New Orleans to the regional hot-dog circuit, the film illuminates a curious subculture that is also a budding industry, governed by an organization called the International Federation of Competitive Eating. Once he has proved himself by eating 34 dozen oysters on spec - a world record - Mr. Conti is on his way into the federation's orbit, which gives him the opportunity to meet his idols, giants in the field with monikers like Mo Ribs, Crawfish Nick and Cookie Jarvis.

"A cross-discipline athlete is what everyone wants to be," says Mr. Conti, which may explain why he tries to eat three sticks of butter in his apartment, a feat that is not sanctioned by the federation but that he has seen one of his heroes - a man with "the mental stability to eat as much butter as possible" - perform on television.

Among recent documentaries, "Crazy Legs Conti" fits somewhere alongside "Super Size Me" and "Inside Deep Throat," though it is certainly milder and less controversial than either, and of course engages no urgent social issues. Like other sports movies, it may inspire some viewers to set out in pursuit of their dreams of gourmandizing glory.

On the other hand, the spectacle of Mr. Conti slurping up plate after plate of oysters may provoke what the federation euphemistically calls "urges contrary to swallowing." The movie neither whetted my appetite nor made me lose it, but then again, when it comes to eating, I'm content to remain an amateur.
'Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating'
Opens today in Manhattan.

Produced, directed and photographed by Danielle Franco and Chris Kenneally; edited by Marc Senter; music by Dinshaw; released by Oyster Productions and Gotham Sales. At the Two Boots Pioneer Theater, 155 East Third Street, at Avenue A, East Village. Running time: 75 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Crazy Legs Conti, Jeremy George, Dinshaw Gobhai, Richard Shea, George Shea, Rona Conti, Richard Conti, Takeru Kobayashi and Cookie Jarvis.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

The ONION Review

March 2, 2005 Volume 41 Issue 09

Crazy Legs Conti: Zen And The Art Of Competitive Eating
Director: Danielle Franco and Chris Kenneally (Not Rated, 75 min.)

By now, through live broadcasts on ESPN and countless lighter-side-of-the-news stories, many people are aware of the annual 4th of July tradition on Coney Island, where thousands gather outside Nathan's Famous for a hot-dog-eating competition. They may even know about the mysterious phenomenon of Takeru Kobayashi, a 130-pound legend who recently shattered his own record by downing 53 dogs and buns in 12 minutes, far outpacing competitors three times his size. But as the documentary Crazy Legs Conti reveals in stomach-turning detail, there's a whole subculture—and sanctioning body, the International Federation Of Competitive Eating—devoted to such amazing feats of gastronomical... er... athleticism. While the Coney Island event remains their Super Bowl, professional eaters travel to bars, restaurants, and festivals across the country to stuff their faces with matzo balls, chicken wings, sticks of butter, and other savory or marginal foodstuffs.
In their light-hearted and entertaining look at the eating circuit, directors Danielle Franco and Chris Kenneally find an affable tour guide in Jason "Crazy Legs" Conti, an eccentric New Yorker whose passion for the sport is as limitless as his appetite. More than just a casual fan, Conti studied the masters at Coney Island and Glutton Bowl closely, and applied their technique to his own nascent eating career, which unofficially commenced when he downed 34 dozen oysters in one long session at a New Orleans bar. After hooking up with the IFOCE, Conti returns to New Orleans for a 10-minute oyster-slurp against the veteran likes of Dave "Moe Ribs" Molesky and "Crawfish" Nick Stipelcovich. Though Conti dabbles in other areas, all roads lead to Coney Island, and he trains rigorously for a chance to share the stage with Eric "Badlands" Booker, "Hungry" Charlie Hardy, and, of course, the great Kobayashi.
Much like Spellbound, an Oscar-nominated documentary about young hopefuls at the National Spelling Bee, Crazy Legs Conti uncovers a small competitive subculture teeming with obsessive outcasts. If Crazy Legs had centered on half a dozen nervous pre-teens instead of a dreadlocked Corey Feldman aficionado sucking shells like a chicken bobbing for feed, perhaps it would have similarly inspired Academy voters. But within its limited scope, the film celebrates Conti's peculiar dreams and earnest intensity without dipping into condescension. To him, Kobayashi deserves all the hushed reverence attending a Michael Jordan or a Joe DiMaggio, and it's oddly inspirational to watch him chase a legend. —Scott Tobias

© Copyright 2005, Onion, Inc., All rights reserved.


Check out the full LATE NIGHT Episode Breakdown:

Monday, February 21, 2005 / Show #2323
by Michael Z. McIntee
News From The Late Show Home Office (Abridged!)

Stupid Pet Tricks; Bonnie Hunt; and Crazy Legs Conti Will Attempt to Set a New Record by Eating 44 Dozen Oysters.
PLUS: The Gates in Central Park; Doug Wead’s Audio Tape of the President; George W. Bush Talks Dirty; and a Top Ten list.

In the lobby of the Ed Sullivan Theater is a fellow named "Crazy Legs" Conti. He is 33, single, and lives downtown in the East Village. He is also a member of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, or I.F.O.C.E. What will he be doing for us tonight? Crazy Legs will be attempting to set a new international record by eating 44 dozen oysters by the end of the show. 44 dozen --- that’s 528 oysters. We widen the shot to see platter after platter of oysters. These aren’t just any oysters, “they’re New Orleans Oysters . . . the best in the world.” Crazy Legs proudly plugs the New Orleans oysters three more times during the show. How did Crazy Legs prepare? He carbo-loaded yesterday and hasn’t eaten since.

Observing and recording tonight’s attempt at the record is the President of the I.F.O.C.E, Rich Shea. We are ready. Crazy Legs is ready. Rich Shea is ready. The counter goes up. And we’re off! Crazy Legs starts out at an amazing pace, downing each oyster without taking time to enjoy each one. He missed one or two on the first platter but I’m sure if he has to, he’ll go back to scap it up later.

Meanwhile, we have a show to put on...

We go back to take a look at Crazy Legs’ progress. He’s still going at a steady clip. He said earlier in the day he likes to front-load, meaning he likes to get as many in him early then coast to the finish line.

ACT 2: Coming back from commercial, we see Mr. Conti devouring oyster #145. We see Dave pull out a platter of oysters from behind his desk. He likes the oysters as well. Perhaps not 44 dozen, but the platter in front of him I expect to be just fine. Dave forks an oyster . . . . and he gulps it. Savoring the mollusk, he then quickly demands, “Where’s my counter? Put it up! Put it up!” The control quickly creates a counter and up comes “Oysters Eaten – 1” He eats a second oyster and the counter goes up to 2.

Dave talks some more with Crazy Legs, asking for the origin of Crazy Legs. Crazy says all will be answered in the documentary coming out on March 2nd here in New York City entitled, “Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating.”

TOP TEN: Good Things About Having the Same Name as a President.
#10 Andrew Jackson: “When I withdraw money from the bank, instead of asking for Twenties, I ask for ‘Me’s’”
#9. James Garfield: “Every morning as I walk into Radio Shack, my co-workers have to play “Hail to the Chief.”
#8. George Washington: “I get the History Channel for free.”
#7. William Henry Harrison: “I don’t just say ‘no’ when my wife wants to redo the kitchen, I veto it.
#6. William McKinley: “Surefire pickup line: ‘Want to Mount McKinley’”
#5. Richard Nixon: “Nothing.”
#4. Bill Clinton: “I always get VIP treatment at strip clubs.
#3. Zachary Taylor: “I’m named after the guy who . . . actually, I’d never heard of him until today.”
#2. Thomas Jefferson: “When I show up at Colonial Williamsburg, I get more tail then Frank Sinatra.”
#1. George W. Bush: “With one phone call, I can invade any damn country I want.”

Back to Crazy Legs – he’s up to 193. Dave enjoys another. He’s up to 3.

ACT 3: Conti’s at 221.

PET TRICK #1: Mike Popick from Colorado, with Shadow, a half yellow lab, half golden retriever. Shadow is a big one, weighing at 112 pounds. Shadow’s dog food preference is Purina. Would Shadow eat an oyster? We’re about to find out. Shadow sniffs at it, thinks about it, and decides not.

What will Shadow do for us? Shadow will catch ice cubes spit out from Mike’s mouth. All is set. Mike puts an ice cube in his mouth and spits. Shadow, quick as a cat, snatches the ice cube. Ta da! We see the feat in slow motion.

As the hefty Shadow runs off, Dave mutters “that dog should consider a salad every now and then.”

PET TRICK #2: Teresa Hanula of Virginia with her dog Leroy, as Border collie. Will Leroy eat an oyster? Mmmm, nope. Not interested. So Dave eats the oyster. His counter goes up another.

What will Leroy do for us? Teresa says he will play house by setting the dinner table, then set the mood by playing a piano. We begin. From a toy kitchen set, Leroy places all the dinner fixings onto a table; plate, drink, meal. He then runs over to a piano and runs his snout up and down the keys. Ta da!

PET TRICK #3: Magda Pavlak of Oklahoma and her dog Kuba, a Boston Terrier. Will Kuba eat an oyster? Nope. I mean YES! Uhhh, nope, she spit it out. But wait, she ate it off the floor! But then she spit it out again. And then eats it! And then spits it out once again.

What will Kuba do for us? While Magda sings, Kuba will kiss her. Oooh, that sounds so cute. Magda sits Kuba on her lap and she begins to sing. Kuba then kisses/licks Magda fully on and IN the mouth. Lick lick lick. Ewwwwww. Says Dave . . . . . . c’mon, what did Dave say? You should know. Dave says, “We’re going to lose our liquor license.”

And that was Pet Tricks for tonight. Meanwhile, Crazy Legs is at oyster #254.

BONNIE HUNT: Would Bonnie like an oyster? No. Dave exhorts, “Oh, c’mon, don’t be like the dogs.” Oh, OK. Bonnie takes the scooped oyster and puts it in her mouth. Looking as if she just ate an . . . an . . . an oyster, Bonnie scrunches her face and gets it down. Only 527 more to go.

To close the show, we go back to Crazy Legs. So how did Crazy Legs Conti fare? It’s a personal best, but not a World’s Record. He finished about 4 dozen short of his goal of 528. What does he get for his effort? Besides a squishy stomach, Crazy Legs gets a $25 gift certificate to Red Lobster, courtesy of the Late Show.

And that was our show for Monday February 21, 2005.

Great Interview in New York Cool

Read the article...

Three great reviews from Oregon.  Check the links below:

The Oregonian

The Portland Mercury

Willamette Week - A pick of the week!


ZEN AND THE ART OF COMPETITIVE EATING (A&E, TV-PG) ''Crazy Legs'' Conti (left, chowing on hot dogs), a window washer making ends meet as a nude model, set the 2002 world record for speed-slurping oysters (14 dozen). This is his story. This is his kick-ass pickup line: ''They say they're natural aphrodisiacs. I already ate five dozen, so you should let me know what you're doing later.'' And this is the person who should play him in the movie version of this absurdly engaging documentary: Rob Schneider B+ —Neil Drumming

Detroit Rock City

Wednesday's best bets on TV
October 13, 2004

“Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating" (9 p.m., A&E). Food fright. Crazy Legs Conti, the centerpiece of this bizarrely fascinating infotainment special, is the glutton's glutton. He's able to scarf 34 dozen oysters in one sitting. Egad!? The sport of competitive eating may be repulsive to any sane individual. Then again, mega-chow hound Conti, who earns money as a window washer and sperm donor, approaches his extreme culinary hobby with a cockeyed Zen philosophy of mind over incredible edible matter. But really, Crazy Legs, gobbling sticks of butter!? Can't you find a more enjoyable way to clog your arteries?

The Pop! heard 'round the world...

Crazy Legs' death-defying stunt to eat himself out of an eight foot box of popcorn at the film's Tribeca World Premiere. Media outlets all over the world picked up on this amazing story. Check out the links below to learn more...

Read New York Sports Express' article.

See the video and read the CNN article.