Tag Archives: 1980s

What’s Cookin

With the sheer amount of insanity that has transpired in the last week or so of the presidential campaigns (never mind the accumulated insanity to this point), you easily could have missed a special sliver of crazy that emerged down the home stretch. It’s difficult for anything or anyone to appear particularly bonkers in an election season that has legitimized the voices of anime-loving Nazis. That feat was managed late last week when the topic of Spirit Cooking lit social media aflame.

The budget version (and fair warning, even this condensed explanation could lower your IQ several points) proceeds thusly: the fire-and-brimstone segment of the electorate pored over the recent Wikileaks emails and found one in which Hillary Clinton operative John Podesta talked about attending a show by performance artist Marina Abramovic called Spirit Cooking. Said show purports to involve various bodily fluids, pig’s blood, self-cutting, etc., in a tortured bohemian tableau familiar to anyone who’s ever been dragged to a freshman art show. Through the fevered interpretation of the Alex Jones crowd, however, Abramovic’s work was not a high-school-goth level metaphor but an act of actual witchcraft.

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The Lost Art of the Anniversary Special, Featuring Nazi Donald Duck

I know that the readers of Scratchbomb are students of genuine American folklore. Therefore, this will be of interest you: A Donald Duck 50th Anniversary special from 1984.

Back in those days, television loved to pay tribute to beloved pop culture figures via one-hour programs, during which the figure in question was feted by whatever random celebrities could be assembled. The pinnacle of this art was, of course, the Looney Tunes 50th Anniversary Special. Produced by Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video, it remains one of the most amazing things humans have made. This was just one example; in the mid-80s, it seemed every three months brought another such tribute to the airwaves.

People tuned in by the millions to watch these shows because back then, if you wanted to catch a “highlight reel” for I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners, this was your only recourse. Nowadays, if you want to see someone’s greatest moments, you can search for them on YouTube and you don’t have to pay Cher or Jeff Goldblum to punch up the proceedings.

However, back in 1984, the heyday of such programming, a special about Donald Duck all but demanded to be MC’ed and narrated by Dick Van Dyke, who also has some split animation/live action bits with the guest of honor. As in other such specials of its time, Donald is further celebrated by testimonials from a polyglot selection of stars seemingly picked out of a hat: Donna Summer, John Ritter, Kenny Rogers, Henry Winkler, and Andy Warhol, who is seen sketching out his own illustrated salute.

andy warhol + donald duckThe special also contains an enormous amount of old cartoon footage that is, I’m sure, locked up in a vault somewhere along with Walt’s frozen head, never to be seen again. For instance, a cartoon meant to promote postwar “understanding” between America and its neighbors to the south, with that understanding achieved by drinking cachaça and dive bombing bikini-clad girls on a beach with some kind of magic carpet. But that pales in comparison to a war-time short wherein Donald has a nightmare he lives in Nazi Germany and has to assemble bombs all day to the tune of Spike Jones’ “In Der Fuhrer’s Face.” So if you ever wondered what Donald Duck covered in swastikas would look like, wonder no more.

As with my Halloween presentation, the Donald Duck special is presented here with commercials included, intended to be viewed as one would have viewed it back when it was aired. (Source tape comes from a rebroadcast in 1985.) Again, the quality is not fantastic, but some sacrifices are needed to bring you Nazi Donald Duck.

YouTube Comment of the Week: Smurfs Pasta

Time was, you were nobody unless you got your own canned pasta. In the days of my kid-dom, every cartoon character was immortalized in semolina form by Chef Boyardee or Franco-American. Any resemblance between the pasta and the character(s) they were supposed to represent was purely coincidental; most of the shapes looked more like amoebas than anything else. They all tasted the same as well, industrial fake cheese and processed tomato sauce tang. I know because I ate every single one of these pastas at least once. I was a carb completist. (Although I feel that by calling these things “pasta,” I should have to apologize to some kindly old Italian grandmother somewhere. Perdonilo, nonna!)

The Smurfs received this tribute, of course, since they were on TV for roughly 73 years. Was the pasta blue? Of course not; such technology did not exist yet, and let’s pray it never does. The Pasta Smurfs looked and tasted exactly like the Pasta Pac-Man and the Pasta X-Men, which is to say carb-loaded blobs swimming in Campbell’s tomato soup. Uniqueness, verisimilitude, and taste were not the goals here. The goal was to make a canned pasta that you could put a cartoon label on so dumb kids (like me) would beg for it. Mission accomplished.

However, I do understand that the mere sight of these items have a nostalgic pull for folks of a certain age, myself included, which is why I found the comment you’ll see below this clip oddly endearing. And odd. Though no more odd than the commercial itself, in which Papa Smurf reacts to a Gargamel-induced food shortage by transforming a bunch of Smurf houses into Smurf pasta. Thanks, Papa Smurf! Now I’m no longer hungry but I have to sleep in a ditch!

Honorable mention for this comment that points out a continuity flaw in the ad copy:

Me, Elsewhere: The Looney Tunes 50th Anniversary Special

Today, I have a new post up over at Splitsider concerning the greatest thing Bill Murray has ever done: The Looney Tunes 50th Anniversary Special. Click on this this link, watch the clips, and tell me I’m wrong. I dares ya.

This is seriously one of my favorite hours of television ever and it will become yours, too, once you watch it. I COMMAND IT.

YouTube Comment of the Week: Chef Boyardee

This Chef Boyardee commercial is an amusing artifact from the 1980s, and typical of a certain genre of ad seen at this time. You see, by mid-decade, people were starting to be more health conscious, as exemplified by the aerobics fad (and to a lesser extent, the jazzercise fad). Corporations recognized this trend and acted accordingly. Not by actually making their products healthier, mind you, but by insisting their products were healthy enough as is, thank you very much.

The usual tack these ads took was that [PRODUCT X] gave you energy to get through your busy day. Take, for example, this Snickers ad, which obliquely endorses the idea of chowing down on a candy bar at 10am to tide over a hungry construction worker until lunchtime.

This Chef Boyardee commercial takes a similar approach. Kids and adults alike with active lifestyles are seen chowing down on Chef Boyardee products because they have “no preservatives.” Either Chef Boyardee has a very different definition of “preservatives” or he’s lying. There’s no way pasta can sit in a can for months at a time and still be edible without some kind of Franken-science involved. If you encased a mummy in a can of Beefaroni, he’d be unchanged a millennium later.

Of course, I’m not here to argue the healthy benefits of Chef Boyardee. I am here to point out a comment that was recently posted underneath this video. Enjoy.

Scratchbomb Christmas Comedy Classics!

Around this time o’ year way back in 2009 and 2010, I did a series of posts under the banners of Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs, with at least one example of each for every day in December leading up to Christmas Day. I chickened out trying to do that again this year because I feared running low on material, but I think there are still some gems buried in the earlier posts that could do with some new exposure, if I do say so myself.

In that spirit, please enjoy any and all of these Holiday Horrors/Triumphs of years past, whether you’ve just been hipped to Scratchbomb or you want to reread these classics of yesteryear because they’re so awesome. Hubris!

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Me Elsewhere: Rap Ads at Low Times

Let this be a heads-up to all and sundry that all this week, you can read contributions from yours truly over at Low Times. You see, once upon a time, companies thought they could capitalize on the emerging hip-hop culture in order to move some product. They also thought anybody could rap, and the results that littered the airwaves in the late 80s/early 90s were not pretty. So that we can all take a trip down memory lane, or expose unwitting younger generations to their horror, Daniel Ralston and I have compiled a few examples for your listening and viewing pleasure (?).

The first installment is up as we speak, with more segments to follow all week at Low Times’ “Long Player” section. The inaugural post includes a commercial I think you’ll “love in a major way.” Enjoy!

Skating on Thin Ice

A while ago, I wrote about the earworm effect of radio ads for Broadways shows, which imprint themselves on my brain when I’m most vulnerable (i.e., just waking up). I don’t know how things are in your neck of the woods, but local New York TV/radio is filled with commercials for Broadway shows, and has been my entire life. And Broadway-related commercials, such as this immortal ad for a hotel “in the center of it all” that was on TV for pretty much my entire childhood, and beyond.

This commercial is deeply imprinted on my psyche, perhaps even my soul. It sells a very old school, elegant idea that Broadway still has of itself–and, ironically, was shot when the Theater District was at the absolute nadir of its mid-1980s scuzziness. Whatever limited sense of irony and postmodernism Broadway may have now (enough to endure shows like Spamalot and The Book of Mormon, anyway), it had none of back then. Broadway was still very much wrapped up in glamour! and glitz! and you’re going out there a nobody but you’re coming back a star!

I am not at all a Broadway Person, so how do I know this? Because ads for Broadway shows ran on local TV constantly when I was a kid, and I can remember pretty much all of them. Like this ad for Cats which ran for roughly 900 years (much like the show itself). I recently had an argument with my wife when she insisted that the cats meowed along to the tune you hear in that commercial. (No, they didn’t, although the idea of them doing so is hilarious.) Or this nearly wordless ad for a revival of 42nd Street. Or this Dreamgirls ad that I distinctly remember, even though I’m sure I was too young to entirely understand what I was seeing.

Recently, another old Broadway ad flitted to the front of my brain. I remember being captivated by this commercial’s utterly earnest and weird conception of Great White Way glitz. Sadly, there is no representative example of this ad on YouTube, which is why at first I thought I might have imagined it. But I polled friends and family alike, and it was indeed a thing. My wife told me her sister had a poster of this show on her wall. A friend of mine told me she had to sing songs from it for school chorus. It was not only a thing, but evidently a quite popular thing.

Continue reading Skating on Thin Ice

Internet Gauntlet Answered: Heinz Homestyle Gravy

Almost a year ago, I threw down an Internet Gauntlet demanding to see the original version of a Heinz Homestyle Gravy commercial from the mid-80s. As you may recall–look, I know you don’t, but just say you do–there were several instances of this ad on the web, but not the original, long-form, unexpurgated version that I remember my grandfather loving so much.

How do I know? Because I could tell there were a few subtle differences between the original and the harshly edited variation that later polluted the airwaves. Either they reshot the thing or they used a different take. In the later version, the old man mugs a bit more, and addresses his sad lament (“oh no…”) directly to the camera. But in the majestic original, he keeps laughing to himself even as he realizes he just pissed off his old battle axe of a wife and will probably get a rolling pin on the dome for his insolence.

I couldn’t have been older than 10 when these ads first aired, and yet I remember being mad when they switched them up. Why? Because I recognized the comedic superiority of the first version, and because I was a really weird kid. I thought we’ve been through this already, jeez.

And yet, when I asked for the original version from you, the internet, I received not one response. Not one! You should all hang your heads in shame, you cowards.

And you should now raise your heads to witness this!

That’s right, some brave American patriot has posted the original Heinz Homestyle Gravy commercial! Tell me the delivery employed in this ad does not make it a million times better than that cheap hack job remake. You can’t tell me that, because it is not true and you are not a liar. Also, I now realize that the old man went on to play Louis CK’s agent in an episode of Louie. You know, the one where he was forced into playing a cop in a Matthew Broderick movie. Amazing how these things come back around.

I think I’m gonna go lie down for a while.

YouTube Comment(s) of the Week: News!

The vast majority of my YouTube collection is made up of random ads. I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about most of them; I’ve just placed them there because I found them on old VHS tapes and want to preserve them for posterity in a new format. I realize the impulse to do this is perhaps a form of OCD, autism, or full-blown mental illness.

However, in so doing, I’ve found that there are people out there people who even more trainspotty than me, folks who can recall exactly what aired when on TV throughout the ages, right down to all the ads, and are very eager to tell me in the comments (especially if I’ve gotten some detail wrong). For some reason, this is particularly true for local news ads/clips. Perhaps because the personalities from local news usually endure longer than those seen in national ad campaigns, or they evoke a sense of community. It’s also possible these folks are just bonkers.

Here’s an example: A promo for CBS-2 news with a “health” bent, followed by a comment from someone who knows exactly where some of the footage originated.

The same commenter made another appearance on another news-related YouTube video of mine. This was a montage of terrifying local news teasers from the 1980s, but this commenter was still able to isolate one moment in the video and not only identify the source, but tell me when it aired.

As a bonus, here’s what another wag had to say about this video.