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The weirdest vintage commercials on YouTube

The weirdest vintage commercials on YouTube (photo)

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I call YouTube “the black hole of the Internet,” because you go there looking to do research on old movie advertising and two hours later you’ve gotten nothing done but you’ve found the “Ghostbusters” logo drinking a Diet Coke. These are the results of one of my recent excursions into the black hole: seven of the weirdest vintage commercials in the history of television (American television, that is; weird commercials from around the world deserve a list all their own). Here, presented in no particular order, are my favorites:


Radioactive Makeup Tests
Dorothy Gray Cosmetics

“A clean skin is a healthy skin,” boasts this ad for Dorothy Gray Cosmetics. And really, what gets skin cleaner than a big old blast of radioactivity? This absurd makeup advertisement proves the effectiveness of cold cream by using it to remove dirt that’s been rendered “just radioactive enough” to register on a Geiger counter. Just enough! Amazing — watch as the cold cream removes the dirt, along with the rest of this lovely woman’s skin! Let’s pray this ad faked the radioactivity stuff, otherwise that model was going to need a lot more than cold cream to fix her face in a few years.


Load Your Toy Gun Just Like a Real Psycho Killer
Mattel Fanner .50 Shootin’ Shell Cap Gun

You could easily make a whole list of the creepiest vintage toy gun commercials on YouTube, but I picked just one “favorite:” this spot for Mattel’s Fanner .50 Shootin’ Shell Cap Gun. Most toy gun ads from the period play up the authenticity of their product — this other ad for the same gun boasts that it looks “just like Uncle Matt’s real .45!” — but this particular announcement gets bonus points for the “demonstration” of its eerily realistic loading and firing mechanics. In a scene straight out of a serial killer movie, an unseen subject lovingly prepares each individual bullet for its deadly mission: delicately applying caps to the back of each shell and loading them into the revolving chambers after blowing smoke from the freshly fired barrel. Afterwards, a child practices his quick draw moves on an elaborate Western town set. My sources tell me that child grew up to be John Malkovich’s character in “In the Line of Fire.”


The Scariest Doll Ever
Remco’s Baby Laugh A-Lot

This single 30 second ad for Remco’s Laugh A-Lot doll is more disturbing than all five “Child’s Play” films combined. The doll itself is bowel-looseningly terrifying, with a godawful laugh and Joker-esque cheshire smile. Plus there are these jarring quick cuts of girls turning to camera, obstensibly with surprised delight as they hear the doll. But the sequence is cut and shot in a way that suggests the head-spinning body horror of Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” Then everyone bursts out into a fit of uncontrollable laugher, as if they were being compelled by Satan himself to pay homage to his latest earthbound messenger. Seriously, if you’re reading this article after 9:00 PM do NOT watch this commercial. You won’t sleep tonight.


Glasses Make You Smart
RadioShack Tandy TRS 80

Why should you trust the opinion of Bill Bixby, an actor, when deciding which computer to buy? Because he wears glasses so he must be smart! Check out the hilariously unsubtle move Bixby makes twenty seconds into this ad, as we cut from a close-up of a computer monitor to Bixby pulling off a pair of specs. Apparently glasses automatically make someone an expert in the field of personal computing. “Well, hell hun, he has a slight case of myopia! Throw that Macintosh in the trash! We’re getting a Tandy!”


Yabba Dabba Do… Smoke!
“The Flintstones” for Winston Cigarettes

It’s inconceivable today that a cigarette company would advertise in family friendly entertainment, but back in the early 1960s, not only did Winston sponsor the classic cartoon series “The Flintstones,” they actually had the Flinstones characters appear in ads like this one, where Fred and Barney relax while their wives do the housework, marvel at the wondrous features of Winston cigarettes and recite the brand’s mantra-like catchphrase: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should!” I realize that the 1960s were a different time with different beliefs. But as far as I’m aware they were still basically the same cigarettes. Which makes this cutesy clip all the more insane.


Beer For Men, and Only Men
Falstaff Beer

Though the brand is all but extinct now, Falstaff was one of the country’s largest brewers in the 1960s, when they made their best and strangest commercials. Some of them are flat-out awesome, like this surreal James Bond pastiche. All the ones I’ve seen play up the product’s masculine appeal, with numerous reference to “man-sized pleasure” guaranteed to quench your “man-sized thirst.” I’m rusty on my American history, but didn’t women have the right to drink alcohol in the 1960s? Wouldn’t they enjoy a beer too? I guess not. Actually, now that I think about it, there’s plenty of phallic imagery in this thing — bows and arrows and foaming beer bottles — but not a single woman in sight to enjoy the, uh, man-sized pleasure. Curious.


Where’d That Hamburger Come From?
McDonald’s

Here’s one of the earliest spots featuring McDonald’s signature clown, Ronald McDonald, played by future “Today Show” weatherman Willard Scott. While Ronald would eventually evolve into a cute and benevolent mascot, here he gives me the willies (or maybe the “willards”). When a skeptical little boy tells Ronald he’s not convinced he’s the real deal (I guess a lot of guys walk around this kid’s neighborhood in clown makeup with a pound of french fries on their heads), Mr. McDonald proves he’s the genuine article by making hamburgers appear out of thin air. This commercial teaches children never to talk to strangers, unless those strangers have magic ghost hamburgers. Then you do whatever they want.


Have a favorite weird vintage ad? Tell us about it in the comments below of on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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