Commercial Break: ShamWOW!
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 17, 2008
You following me, blog readers?
Apparently this one’s been around for a while now, and it’s possible that I saw it when it first came out in Spring–when I saw this commercial for the ShamWow!, it jogged something long since buried in the back of my subconscious. Normally I’m pretty good at mentally glossing over infomercials, letting them become pointless background noise and tuning back in to my TV when the images are no longer unnervingly 80s (or in rare instances, early 90s)-stamped. But this one captured my attention enough that I had to actually pay attention to the product being sold, at which point, I seriously thought to myself, “Hey, my place could really use a couple of those [towel/sham hybrid] ShamWows!” I was mentally calculating the prices of the total package plus shipping and handling when I realized that something was clearly not right.
Much to my surprise, I appear to not be alone with this bizarre phenomenon–apparently Vince Offer, the
writer/actor/director turned scientologist, turned late-night pitchman, has this bewitching effect on many. The Slate article on him turns out a pretty thorough analysis as to why this may be–his transfixing New York accent, his “making us feel like idiots” for not already owning the ShamWow!, and his physical dexterity among the top reasons. (I’d also list the fact that at the very beginning of the commercial, he’s bracing himself like something really big is about to happen, giving us the impression that what we’re about to see is going to change our lives forever). The really remarkable thing, of course, is that Offer actually appears to have come from somewhere, as his brainchild Underground Comedy Movie was universally panned (like, IMDB Bottom 100 panned), and Offer stayed (relatively) in the media spotlight years afterwards with related frivolous lawsuits against the Farrelly Brothers and Anna Nicole Smith.
The Slate article goes on to wonder whether or not Billy Mays will be supplanted as TV’s go-to pitchman/carnival barker. Personally, I’m just glad that someone, anyone decided that the infomercial world needed a makeover–these types of ads usually seem so permanently stuck in the past that just watching one of them makes me feel like I’ve aged five years. If Offer wants to inject some new blood into the formula, I’d probably buy a set of these things (which, by the way, are titled just like a fictional product from a Mr. Show sketch) just to cast a vote of support for the man. Regardless of his past transgressions, and his looking like the My New Haircut guy’s attempt at part-time employment, I hope that he’ll be condescending to me on late-night commercials for years to come.