What does it look like when a seemingly can’t-miss idea goes south? That’s the question inadvertently explored in the “Undercover Lyft” series, in which the ridehailing company taps high-profile celebrities to give people rides while dressed incognito. Previous installments in the series have starred entertainers DJ Khaled and Demi Lovato, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, race car driver Danica Patrick, and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
If you noticed that all of those people need a quick description to indicate exactly who they are, you might be seeing why this idea, which is great on paper, ends up producing fairly awkward results. And in the latest video, starring New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, the exact reason this is more cringeworthy than celebratory becomes extremely clear: Gronk drives around a small handful of passengers, most of whom are visiting Boston from around the country, while wearing a full disguise despite the fact that precisely none of them seem to care even a little bit about who Rob Gronkowski is. One of them, when he pumps her for details about her sports fandom, insists that she doesn’t go any further than a passing interest in figure skating; others sigh as their meatball Lyft driver pretends to be interested in astrophysics. The one who’s most engaged with Gronk’s leading banter is primarily interested in talking about how hot Tom Brady is. Then, when he does the big reveal, all of the passengers react with what we will call polite surprise and mild confusion.
It’s easy to see how this should work: Gronk should get on the road as a Lyft driver, find a handful of huge Pats fans, and blow their minds when they realize that the guy they’ve been talking about with their driver actually is their driver. But that really only works if the passengers are huge fans, and it’s clear that Lyft didn’t pay for more than an hour of Gronkowski’s time, so they just have to hope that maybe the dream scenario comes up–instead, it’s a bunch of people with a passing interest in sports at best, and very little interest in the New England Patriots, who are left wondering why the guy who dropped them off at their hotel is also apparently in the NFL.
It doesn’t help that the reveal is done awkwardly, either, with Gronkowski pulling off a wig in front of people who wouldn’t recognize him if he were literally wearing his jersey and pads while behind the wheel. There’s no great way for a celebrity to be like, “Bro, I’m famous!” to a random person in their car–and, in fact, the few times that the Undercover Lyft concept pays off at all are when the passenger figures out who their driver is without having to be told. (In the video in which Bryant drives people around Chicago, one guy seems to put his finger on it early.) Most of the time, though, we’re left watching people politely pretend to be shocked at the fact that their doofy Lyft driver is actually a doofy NFL dude, and that’s a poor payoff for an overdone concept.