“Lies!” That’s what many politicians would say after seeing an opponent’s campaign ad on television. Those politicians often demand that TV stations ban advertisements that they claim contain false information.
Voters often wonder why TV stations don’t investigate political advertisements to verify their truthfulness before allowing them to be shown on television. That way, the alleged lies never hit the airwaves.
Back in the 1970s I learned there were two kinds of English humor: the acceptable norm of the upperclass public school wit and giggles epitomized by Monty Python, Beyond the Fringe, or The Goon Squad, and the working-man’s laugh-out-loud inanity of Benny Hill and his ilk. Nick Hornby’s latest novel, Funny Girl, covers the period of British comedic entertainment where the posh university wits were being challenged by a more ecumenical approach to comedy.
The focus of Funny Girl is the BBC production Barbara (and Jim) which dared to represent a girl from the North as the heroine of the story (her husband was still very pukka and worked at Number 10). The novel seems to insist that at that time, British comedy was the purview of the well-educated—that the only good comedians were tempered on the playing fields at Eton—but what about Bottom? After all, Bottom was English … well, Athenian-English. Soon this fictional television comedy comes up against something entirely new for British television, Till Death Us Do Part (All In the Family in the USA version). And, of course, Lucille Ball is offered as an antidote to the high art of British comedy.
When I was in grade school—probably the fourth grade—the teacher brought a copy of Stan Freberg’s (soon to be) classic comedy routine, Saint George and the Dragon. Now back then Dragnet was big on the radio and even on television (we didn’t have one yet) and Jack Webb had perfected his snappy monotone delivery which was ideal for spoofing. Along came one of the comic geniuses of my time, Stan Freberg, and the result was this now nostalgic recording.
We talked that teacher into playing Saint George and the Dragon for us on several occasions and a few of us could reproduce the dialogue from memory. I guess you can think of Stan Freberg as being the Weird Al of the ’50s. Freberg died the other day. Beyond his skills in creating entertainment, Freberg can be easily considered the the father of humorous advertisements and commercials. Many of his efforts in this field are still memorable (and fun). In his later years he was reduced to doing sales pitches on the television for Encyclopedias, but he never lost the edge in his humor. Look him up: there’s a bunch of his stuff on YourTube.
I spend several hours each day watching (or at least listening to) the Current network on television. Much like the Food Channel used to be, Current programs are generally good for two or more showings each day and more importantly they serve as a middle-of-day forum for those advertisements generally considered late-night fare. Yes, it’s the world of progressive commentary, penetrating documentaries, and a more honest approach to the political world, all wrapped up in Ginsu knives, grout restorer, magic spot remover, food choppers, and all those Ronco-esque goodies Americans cannot resist.
I have always viewed (or ignored) these types of ads with a jaundiced eye and considered Ron Popeil a valuable alternative to Jerry Lewis but not as funny as the Reverend Jim. Throughout the years I have learned that the Ginsu knife, without the cool name and advertising hype, had been available in most hardware or general merchandise stores for years, that my vacuum cleaner could cut my hair and possibly even julienne my carrots, that I could catch an 1800 pound marlin on a two-foot plastic stick I kept ready in my briefcase for just such purposes, and if I ever go bald, there is a fantastic hair-in-a-can that even the Men’s Hair Club doesn’t offer.
But have you ever stopped to consider the economics of these wonderful products, especially with the fantastic if-you-order-today specials? Let’s walk it through.