We Talked To A Contestant From MTV's 'Yo Momma' 10 Years After Its Debut
Historians have traditionally used the birth of Jesus to signify the end of ancient times and the start of a modern era, but in my opinion, there's only one date that truly marks the moment society finally stepped into the future: April 3, 2006.
On this day, MTV showed the world you could make a TV show based on insults hurled across a middle school lunch table when it aired the first episode of "Yo Momma," an achievement in the art of television that may never be topped.
The show (which can be best described as "a rap battle with 'Yo Momma' jokes" was) hosted by Wilmer Valderrama, who used the phrase "cash money" too much and was probably only picked for the job because his last name rhymed with the name of the program.
I reminded a friend of mine the show existed after I remembered it existed a couple of months ago, and I'm still dealing with the fallout of the whiplash I suffered after hearing her response, which was "Oh, my cousin was on that show."
I was immediately skeptical -- after all, that sounds like the kind of lie you make up at a party to make yourself seem slightly more interesting for no real reason.
Shortly after demanding proof, I got a link to a sketchy website hosting a grainy video of the "Bay Ridge vs. Bensonhurst" episode from the second season, which featured a battle joker named "T-Skillz" who bore a striking resemblance to the cousin in the picture she showed me:
After rewatching the entire competition (which T-Skillz eventually loses), I knew I had to talk to T-Skillz to find out everything I could about the "Yo Momma" experience.
Skillz -- who goes by "Thomas" when he's not putting people's mommas on blast -- was nice enough to take some time to answer a few of the most pressing questions I had about his appearance on the show.
Prepare yourself for the behind the scenes look you probably had no idea you wanted.
I had to get something out of the way immediately: Who was responsible for the nicknames every contestant had?
Knowing how reality television works, I assumed there was a producer with an uncanny ability to stare at any contestant for 10 seconds and come up with a nickname that would resonate with the demographic they were trying to reach.
It turns out the contestants were allowed to pick their own monikers, and T-Skillz went with the one he had gotten when he was younger.
What kind of background do you need to succeed on "Yo Momma"?
Considering "battle joking" isn't exactly America's pastime, I was curious about the backgrounds of the people who were attracted to it.
In this particular case, T-Skillz figured his background in freestyle rap made him the ideal candidate. Considering the number of people he had to beat to represent his hood in the first place, it looks like he was right.
How do you even prepare for a competition like this?
I figured most contestants prepared by going onto MySpace and picking out their favorite comments, but T-Skillz got ready for his chance in the spotlight by "jogging and memorizing simple jokes."
To sum it up: Training for "Yo Momma" is a lot like a "Rocky" movie.
Was there any television trickery?
The nicknames might have been authentic, but that doesn't mean every aspect of the show was as straightforward as they made it seem.
There was one segment when each contestant was allowed to search through the other person's apartment for embarrassing objects to use as props during the battle, but he said the producers "added [their] own corny props because my crib was squeaky clean."
It's too bad they had to play dirty.
How did yo momma feel about being on “Yo Momma?”
In the final round, the contestants were forced to deliver "yo momma" jokes while their mothers arrived on stage, and (to paraphrase another "MTV" show) things stopped being polite and started getting real.
Considering the number of bleeps peppered throughout the exchange, I figured it would be awkward to have your mother standing next to you while you insult someone else's, but when I asked about his mom, he replied: "Being the nut she is, loved it."
He then added she hit on Wilmer Valderrama, so I think it's safe to say she enjoyed herself.
Did appearing on "Yo Momma" change your life in any way?
I can't say I know of anyone who appeared on an episode of "Yo Momma" and went on to a life filled with endless fame and fortune, and you could argue Valderrama helped ensure he wouldn't have to worry about either those things thanks to this show.
I asked T-Skillz if he learned anything from being on the show, and he said the only major impact was he got to see the reality of show business, a business he summed up as "mainly a bunch of phonies."
My only hope is you learned as much about the inner workings of "Yo Momma" as T-Skillz did about the inner workings of the industry.