Who can say what forces shape us? We are often the prisoners of our times. One’s future could be shaped by simply being at the right place at the right time—or the wrong place at the wrong time. Have you ever thought about what might have influenced your life if you were born during a different age? The Renaissance? The Civil War? The Great Depression? Who can say what heights you may have climbed, or to what depths you may have sunk?
Me, I haven’t thought about this conundrum much, because I was born during the Age of Advertising, and thus have a miniscule attention span. I’ve said this many, many times here at Scratchbomb, but I have been immensely influenced by commercials. I feel like they’ve rattled in my brain my entire life. Anyone who says they are not influenced in any way by ads is deluded or lying.
When you’re a kid, you find many things funny that you don’t as an adult. Specifically, other people. Adults won’t just laugh in random people’s faces, but kids will. They can laugh for hours about somebody they see in the street with a weird haircut or dumb hat on. And if the same person also says something weird, in a weird voice, forget it.
I was reminded of this cruel fact of kid-hood when Joe Randazzo of the Onion tweeted a link to this commercial for Polly-O string cheese (the most needless and unasked for food innovation of all time until pancakes and sausage on a stick). This ad ran for roughly 8 billion years during my childhood, but despite its ubiquity, me and my brothers always found it funny. Always.
Why? Because of the wizened old man who says NUTHIN? The way he said this, combined with his wrinkly face—he looks like a slightly melted candle, or a shar pei—was comedy gold to us.
If you’re seeing this for the first time, or were not as struck by it as I was as a kid, I don’t expect you to think it’s funny. I wouldn’t either, if I hadn’t spent my entire childhood laughing at it.
Watching this ad an adult, I am struck by a few things.
- Check out the odd posters hanging from the wall, that almost give it a Sedelmaier feel. I particularly like the one that bizarrely reads NO SCREAMING.
- The guy behind the counter who yells at the old wrinkly man calls him “Shimmy”. Obviously, he was trying to say “Jimmy” and failed. But Polly-O wasn’t gonna shell out for more than one take or overdubbing in post. So there it sits, “Shimmy”. My brothers and I found this quite hysterical. HIS NAME IS SHIMMY! WHOSE NAME IS SHIMMY?!
- Is cheese really the best part of the pizza, as this ad insists? That’s a matter of opinion, of course. But I think I’d rather have a whole slice of pizza than any one individual part of it. I like pizza, but I never get the craving to drink a cup of a tomato sauce on its own. In fact, cheese is probably the worst part of the pizza, nutritionally speaking.
- I now realize that all Polly-O string cheese really did was make it acceptable for you to chomp down on a huge chunk of fattening mozzarella at lunchtime. It’s like having individually wrapped pudding cups filled with foie gras.
- At the end of the ad, the kids taste the string cheese and give it glowing praise in foreign languages. But only the first kid says something in Italian (“Bellissimo!”). The last two say French expressions. (“Magnifique!” and “C’est si bon!”) C’mon, Polly-O, you’re making mozzarella and you don’t know the difference between Italian and French? Your handlebar-mustachioed ancestors are spinning in their graves.