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Davis, California

Friday, May 17, 2024

Humor: Art of the kickback


There are many different kinds of social events one will attend in their lifetime. Birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, anniversaries, break-up anniversaries and countless others. However, studying hard at a university can seriously limit a person’s ability to socialize with friends. Living in constant fear of deadlines, unemployment and general failure in life can take a serious toll on a person’s mental health. That’s why some college students take part in a ritual that cleanses away anxiety, formality and prudishness: The kickback.

Once in awhile, you might hear someone mention going to a kickback, or getting invited to one. You might then see it’s just a bunch of random people drinking beer and playing games in someone’s dirty living room. Don’t be fooled by the kickback’s ragged appearance: these gatherings can be some of the most important you’ll take part in at college. They allow people to enjoy themselves, go crazy and appreciate whatever’s going on. However, there are still rules of etiquette and procedure that hosts and guests abide by to achieve an easy-going atmosphere.

First, one must formally define the kickback.

Kickback– (Ki-k bah-ck) noun- A social gathering typically hosted by college students for the purpose of leisure and maintaining social bonds.

Although this definition may recall a pretty basic party, there are some further key requirements for it to count as a kickback.

  1. It must be casual- This is to avoid appearing pretentious. If a host over-prepares his or her place with decorations that weren’t bought at a dollar store, it will make the guests feel obligated to enjoy themselves. Cleanliness is also a balance between appearing dirty enough to look like you never cleaned up, but safe enough that your guests don’t get sick.


  1. A host that can improvise- A host must be willing and able to adapt to the unpredictable nature of the kickback. Different kinds of events and parties require various amounts of permissiveness. This is measured with the “Chill Spectrum,” quantified in “Dude” units.  This spectrum was hypothesized in 1992 in the Wayne’s World Papers, and later confirmed in 2000 by Prof. Ashton Kutcher in a Bro-Reviewed experiment. The Spectrum is measured on a -10 to 10 scale, with 10 being the most permissive (chill), and -10 being the most uptight (bummer).


Chill Spectrum measured in “Dudes” (Kutcher, 2000):

A Spinal Tap Concert: 11.0

Heaven: 10.0

Kickback: 9.0 (+/- 2 Dudes)

Pub crawl: 8.0

Summer Pool Party: 7.5

A friend’s birthday party: 5.5

Meeting a friend on the street: 2.0

Equilibrium: 0.0

Meeting a guy you don’t like on the street: -2.0

Court Case: –5.0

Weddings: -6.0

Graduation Ceremony: -7.0

Funeral: -7.1

Sweet Sixteen Birthday Party: -8.5

UK Royal Coronation: -9.5

Your Wedding: -9.9


If a host does not meet the Dude level for a particular event as listed on the Chill Spectrum, they will run the risk of alienating their guests through either negligence or obsessive controlling behavior.

  1. Relatively small- The size of a kickback needs to remain small and manageable for the sake of logistics. A large number of guests can complicate things once all the bathrooms are occupied, the queue for the video game is too long or the liquor runs out. The number of people you invite depends on your own resources, but there is a helpful system for each UC identifying the minimum and maximum amount of people one can invite to a kickback:

UC Davis: 3-25                                        

UC Berkeley: 2-15 (2-20 if bay-area apartment rents haven’t bankrupted you yet)

UC Irvine: n/a (currently under reevaluation)

UC Los Angeles: 3-100                          

UC San Francisco: 1-15 (no more than three medical school dummies at a time)

UC Santa Barbara: 5-30

UC Santa Cruz: 3- 25 (10- 50 if hosted on a public beach past 6 p.m.)

UC Merced: 1-1

UC Riverside: 4-8

UC San Diego: 2-20 (A 2003 city ordinance banned the term “kickback” for promoting violence. The new legal term is “Chill Fest.” Fines for publicly using the term “kickback” is $400 in Doritos chips.)


Another way to look at a kickback is through its various stages. The collective mood gradually changes over time, and it’s wise for guests to predict the mood so they can anticipate when to leave.

  1.  The “Hello. What’s up. How’ve you been” Phase: This is the first part of the kickback where guests start appearing.

Tips for the host for this phase:

-Have music playing in background

-Pretend you were in the middle of a video game they can automatically join in.

-Don’t leave any evidence of your homework in sight. This will making people think they are taking valuable studying time away from you.

  1. The “It’s getting crowded in here” Phase: This is right before the kickback has reached its full capacity. Some kickbacks fluctuate in size throughout the evening, while others remain consistent. At this point, the guests should be in the best mood to have drinks and food without judging whoever started pigging out first.
  2.  The “Hey. Who’s up for some…” Phase: This is the climax of the kickback and the point when the most crazy, amazing and memorable thing happens. It’s called “the Highlight of the Evening” and can be caused by nearly anything. In order to be successful, the majority of the guests must not be sober. There are several different kinds of highlights one can go for. Here are a few examples.
  3.     Someone injures themselves doing a flamboyant victory dance after winning a game of Table Soccer or Ping Pong.
  4.     Someone is paid 20 bucks to run butt-naked through your living room while everyone cheers him or her on.
  5.     A guest brings a guitar and gets everyone to sing classic “Weezer” hits.
  6.     A Police raid
  7.     A game of Rage-Cage or Kings Cup
  8.     “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips shows up to do research for his next movie.
  9.     Your 68 year-old neighbor complains about your party’s debauchery despite the crazy  things he or she did in 1969.
  10.  The “Later yo!” Phase: This is when guests begin to leave the kickback. It usually happens after the highlight of the evening, when someone gets too tired or when someone makes a social faux-pas (embarrassing mistake). At this point, the host must be sure that anyone leaving is sober, has a ride home or has reserved a couch to to be stacked upon before they wake up the next morning with a head full of misery.


Tip for host:

-Always have one sober person with a car to drive people home.


Tips for guests:

-Don’t tell the Host you’re about to leave, then spend half an hour looking for that one cute person to get their number. Just leave it be.

-Don’t shout out ‘goodbye’ to everyone as if you were the most important person that night.

-Don’t drink and drive………seriously!

The rules of holding a successful kickback can seem complex and frustrating at first. But if you have good friends as guests, an open mind and clever foresight, a good kickback is never far away.


Enjoy responsibly.

You can reach EVAN LILLEY at etlilley@ucdavis.edu.


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