Never has a man smoking a cigarette clad in a red speedo in the dead of winter looked so carefree.
Do you want to watch a video of a tattooed man in a tight dress and women’s underwear pour a bucket of water on himself outside in the cold, Canadian winter, before entering a bar and chug a beer? How about one where a cigarette-smoking dude, wearing only a speedo, walks down an Ontario street for two minutes before he chugs a tall can in public?
These short, bizarre videos make up a library of hundreds of clips where daring individuals embarrass themselves before chugging booze that have popped up in the last week on the "24 Hour Challenge" Facebook page—which has become the Canadian epicentre of the viral online drinking game "Neknominate."
If you haven’t already read our recent coverage of this ridiculous Australian phenomenon, Neknomination works like this: you chug a beer on camera while performing an outlandish stunt—and then you get to “nominate” two to three other friends to do the same within 24 hours. When finished, you post your video on social media and the cycle continues.
In Australia, some of the crazier Neknomination videos show beer-lovers surfing or riding their motorcycle in a t-shirt. But in Canada, the game has been tweaked to take advantage of our seemingly endless barrage of snowy madness. That’s why Neknominees must drink their beer in the snow wearing only their underwear—preferably of the skimpy and embarrassing variety. And, since we’re polite Canadians, they
also say "thank you" for being nominated. Most of the videos are quick, dirty, and poorly shot, others are more elaborate, as if you're watching a group of high school filmmakers making a crappy beer commercial.
Dedication is chugging a beer in your underwear for public amusement while your hoodied homeboy shivers. Screencap via.
While there have been a few Neknomination videos posted throughout the country over the past month, the online drinking game didn't go viral until last week. And ground zero seems to be Thorold, a small town in the Niagara region of Ontario.
Mark Lucas, 34, lives in Thorold and says he was one of the first people to participate in the game. He started the 24 Hour Challenge Facebook page last Thursday and since then it's amassed nearly 7,000 members.
"We knew it was going to take off, but I didn't think it would move this fast," the Neknomination mogul told me. "By Friday night I knew of people who were already talking about it in places as far away as Ottawa."
Lucas said submissions have since been posted from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island, and he said one reason the popularity of the game has exploded is because they Canadianized the idea.
"We put a Canadian spin on it," he said. "There was discussion between my friends and I about the polar vortex, and we just said, 'Screw the polar vortex, we're not afraid of the cold, we like to be a little bit crazy and we like to drink beer.'"
As more followers have been drawn to the game, people have been doing increasingly crazy shit to get the attention of their fellow Neknomination enthusiasts. For example, a video of one man jumping off a bridge into what appears to be a freezing cold river, and there's another video of a guy swimming a few metres beneath solid ice. Only in Canada!
The one-upmanship the game can perpetuate has been a source of controversy in other countries where Neknominations have gone viral. Recently, the deaths of two young men in Northern Ireland were linked to the drinking game.
Lucas said he doesn't want to see anyone get hurt and doesn't condone overconsumption, adding that the group will self-moderate to ensure videos of underage drinking aren’t posted.
According to Const. Derek Watson, spokesman for the Niagara Regional Police Service, that have been no incidents of unlawfulness associated with the 24 Hour Challenge.
"Chugging one beer is not a major problem," said Watson. "It's the stunts associated that are more concerning. Friendly competition can be fun, but when we subject ourselves or other to situations where someone can get seriously injured, it’s a concern."
The mayor of Thorold, Ted Luciani, declined to comment about the 24 Hour Challenge because he was not aware of the game. His secretary, Wendy Luce, explained this is because the City of Thorold doesn't use the Tweeters or the Facebooks: "Thanks for bringing this to our attention because I've been trying to make a case for social media," she said.
City officials may not have known about the 24 Hour Challenge, but Lucas said more than half of the town has heard of it and the number of people joining the group each day continues to rise. While there is concern about the safety of some of the pranks, he said the drinking game has already created some positive effects—for instance, a charity event to help raise money for a Niagara resident fighting Lyme disease sprung up out of the group on Monday. They plan on doing a group beer chugging video.
Yet, how much longer the game continues is already in question. Once the snow melts, the drinking game’s entire purpose ends.
“That's something I haven't considered,” said Lucas. “It's kind of a wait and see approach.” @drakefenton