It was Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20 who once sang “It’s 3am, I must be lonely.” He forgot to add “because I’m watching infomercials, at least they’re funny.”
(We’ve all been there, Rob. Take a note from The Doors and break on through to the other side. Besides, they’re much funnier when you watch with others).
But much like these songs, infomercials increasingly feel like they come from another space and time—and that’s not just because they feature people who are so bad at doing things they could come from another planet. In fact, infomercials comprise a large part of the foundation on which modern content marketing was built. Before the Internet allowed this last decade’s content boom to surge in the direction of inbound marketing, infomercials were one of the first marketing genres to rely substantially on mixed media and persuasive appeals to logic and information rather than audience emotion, impulse, and whimsy.
Not without a fair share of whimsy, we can almost think of infomercials as ancestors to the infographic, albeit in a very “distant cousins” sort of way. Where the infographic relies on simple illustrations, hard numbers and soft sell tactics to address societal issues like race, gender and class, the infomercial relies on simple numbers, hard illustrations and hard sell tactics to address everyday problems like how to workout at the office, how to pick up after your pet, and literally how to squeeze the most out of going to the bathroom for number two (see: our #1). Of course, when it comes to humor and corny moments, infomercials are in a league of their own, which is why BestMarketingDegrees has used its expertise to rank the funniest infomercial marketing campaigns to ever grace your screen. Enjoy.
Where do we begin with an infomercial this phenomenal? Its status as a pop culture icon that swept the nation by storm from 2008 to 2009 would scratch the surface. A large part of the silliness behind Snuggie’s commercial is not the infomercial or even the product itself, but the sheer volume of the chord it struck in America’s kitsch-loving heart. Almost before it even reached the Internet in late 2008, it had taken on a life of its own, making several appearances on the bodies of talk show hosts and television actors. From there, it rocketed into the halls of infamy, becoming one of the most parodied products in YouTube history. Of course, this mainstream following did much to derail Snuggie from its destiny of becoming the perfect gift for your wacky, tacky, cat lady of an aunt because it transformed what was an inside joke into a hokey gimmick almost overnight. But watching infomercial people wear their longsleeved, fleece hospital gowns from their infomercial homes to roast marshmallows over their infomercial fires and high-sleeving each other at their infomercial sporting events will probably stir fond memories of LOLing away the tears as the global economy melted like a hot slice of butter down a big ole pile of flapjacks—which coincidentally, is the perfect meal to eat while nestled in your Snuggie.
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9. Wearable TowelⓇ
The first thing we see of Wearable Towel’s infomercial is a half-naked woman. Knowing what we do about sex selling in advertising, we’d think this is our hook. But it’s only the pointy tip. The barb sinks in when we see our half-naked hero trying, and miserably failing, to fold one corner of her towel over the other; that is, to wear a towel like most humans beings learn when they’re about 9 years old after seeing their parents, friends, and everyone else on television walking around like a bunch of terrycloth mummies. At this point, we become hooked not only by the scantily clad lady, but by her inability to wear a towel like she’s taken a bath since she landed on Earth just yesterday. After two new heroes try valiantly (But alas, to no avail!) at donning bath robes and towels with fasteners, we get the big reveal: “Now, there’s the Wearable Towel!” Cue our newfound hero: the Wearable Towel itself. “Is it a toga!? No, it’s a tunic! No! It’s a towel you can wear as both a toga or a tunic!!! Reeled along by a montage of heroes everywhere successfully wearing our newfound hero everywhere in either red, white, or blue, we see the funniest aspect of Wearable Towel’s infomercial: the insistence that its product is perfect for every occasion, as if it were the Swiss Army Knife of terrycloth inventions. And at the very reasonable infomercial price of $19.95, it pretty much is.
8. Pushover PlungeⓇ
The opening of Pushover Plunge’s infomercial speaks for itself. That is, we could stop the video right after the woman plunging gets a face full of “you-know-what,” hear the words “Pushover Plunge” plus “bellow technology,” and we’d jump off the couch shouting “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY I NEVER WANT A FACE FULL OF YOU-KNOW-WHAT EVER AGAIN.” But like every good infomercial, Pushover Plunge goes on a little longer than it needs to, with Australian narration that’s too gripping to look away. Our eyes widen further with every Aussie phrase (e.g. “bunged up”, “munged up”, then “bunged up” again), and as time wears on, Anthony Sullivan demonstrates the power of the Pushover Plunge not only by flushing toilet paper and brown “you-know-what” through translucent tubing, but also a package of bean burritos (plus some more toilet paper) all through beautiful, chemical blue water. Much of Pushover Plunge’s hilarity comes from the fact that it developed an enormous online following after an alternative narrationdubbed over Anthony Sullivan. The rest comes from testimonials at the end of the infomercial, which gush from some of the most plugged-up-and-proud folks you’ll ever see smiling about this portable plunger.
7. Uro ClubⓇ
Like most infomercials on our list, this one will leave you asking “But why?!” And unlike most infomercials on our list, that’s not because you can’t understand the problem the product claims to solve, but rather because you probably can’t see a problem in the first place. The UroClub was designed for male golfers who’ve overhydrated on an overstocked beer (ahem, water) cooler and can’t pinch it any longer. You can imagine the struggle. The bathroom’s back at the clubhouse, you’re up to tee, and that luscious evergreen rough and patch of brushy trees are calling your name. Except with the UroClub, instead of going all over the nicely manicured course like the territorial dog this female narrator thinks you are, you can just pull out a club, unscrew the hidden cap, unzip those pressed khakis, and let your thoughts drift to Niagara Falls. (See: PooTrap below for what this product looks like for actual dogs). Of course, the real problem is that most male golfers probably don’t see the problem with letting loose somewhere in that patch of trees, especially when their anatomical design and annual clubhouse fees make them feel free to go virtually anywhere they please. But the UroClub package comes complete a special towel to keep your privacy and makes it appear to everyone that you’re just checking out your club, which is more than we can say for most locker rooms back at the clubhouse. Am I right, men?
Although we’re pretty sure this violates at least 5 bazillion animal potty rights laws, it’s hilarious in the same way going to the bathroom in a car on a road trip is hilarious. Dad’s saying “No more rest stops,” Mom’s saying “Here’s a water bottle, honey. Do your business,” and everyone else seems to be having a difficult time not wetting themselves while you unzip your pants and shout “Shut up! I can’t concentrate.” Of course, we highly doubt anyone would allow someone else (even their own child) to make a #2 in a moving car, much less into a grocery bag, but half of what makes PooTrap so funny is its patent insistence that you’re doing your dog and yourself a favor by letting them to relieve themselves in a bag attached to their bum. Indeed, our enthusiastic narrator assures us “PooTrap is a unique, new product that fits any size dog without any hassles. And your pets will love it, too!” This Magic Poop Collector’s infomercial does a good job using the time-honored tradition of a montage of other products that fail to get the job done. Ever tried one of those pesky pooper scoopers? Try no more! Succeed with PooTrap. And if your pet can’t get on board with the harness design for whatever reason (e.g., color, discomfort, fashion choices), just remind them in your best doggy voice: “No poops! No oops!”
5. Tiddy BearⓇ
One of the funniest things about Tiddy Bear’s infomercial is that, with a name like “Tiddy Bear” and demonstrations on women’s chests, it has to know how funny it is. Unlike one of the other products on our list (see: #3) the pronunciation of Tiddy Bear is exactly what we’d expect for a product designed especially to protect women’s breasts (and shoulders) from the digging pressure of painful seatbelt straps. But Tiddy Bear isn’t just for women. It’s for men and kids who have trouble loosening their seatbelts, too! That’s why it comes in both pink and gold colors, so no one has to go without the cutest little chest cushion in the entire universe. Tiddy Bear was released in 2007 to much hubbub when it was featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where host Ellen called it “maybe one of the best inventions I have ever found,” and gave one to each of her (mostly female) audience members. Tiddy Bear’s appearance on perhaps the funniest afternoon talk show and endorsement from one of the funniest afternoon talk show hosts of all time adds a great deal to its funny factor, which is why it’s one of the funniest infomercials to ever grace our screens.
4. Hawaii ChairⓇ
The mother of all ab workouts you can do from the same position afforded by your La-Z-Boy, Hawaii Chair literally gives you a seat to work not only on your abs, but also at the office. The infomercial arguably outdid every ab workout device that came before it, including those electric workout girdles that were supposed to shock our tummies into washboards (RIP, ab belts). The Hawaii Chair one-ups commercials for those devices—which, like our friend linked above, tended to err on the side of more pomp rather than circumstance—by situating itself in an office where businessmen and women have their hips hula’d back and forth by the chair’s “2800 RPM Hula Motor.” Ukuleles play pleasantly in the background, giving the infomercial an island feel, much like its spokesman’s short-sleeve floral collared shirt. This provides a calming affect for the duration of the infomercial, which relies heavily on testimonials from the office workers, whose smiling faces and encouraging words divert our attention from the fact that their hips are rotating like hurricanes. Of course, these office workers do more than speak with their words. They speak with their actions. They answer the phones, work at computers, balance the books, and even file paperwork, all while spinning wildly from the waist down. Watching this calm in the midst of a seated storm is probably the funniest part of this infomercial, aside from the 2-second shot of a man who politely exclaims “Feels great on my abs!”
3. Doc Bottom’s AsprayⓇ
Three words: Beastly. Butt. Odor. These are the three-pronged hooks of Adam Jay’s infomercial for Doc Bottom’s “AllOver Body Deodorant”, Aspray. And that’s A-spray, not a$%-spray, dear reader—Get your mind out of the gutter. After this treble hook sets into our jaw, which dropped to the floor when it was revealed “Aspray” isn’t pronounced the bootylicious way we’d expect after a name like “Doc Bottom,” we become fixated somewhere between horror and amazement. As the infomercial goes from strange to hilarious, we find ourselves asking “What comic genius hath television wrought?” Unable to look away while Adam Jay both fronts and seems to destroy his own brand (or is it Doc Bottom’s?), it’s down the rabbit hole we go, yanked along hook-line-and-sinker by narration that’s impossible to unhear: “Aspray your butt! Aspray you feet! Aspray under your arms! You can even Aspray your privates. ASPRAY IS SAFE FOR ALL YOUR ODOR ZONES!!!” Contractor and testimonial man, Lanny F. delivers an infamous line at 1:21. Unfortunately, the infomercial for Doc Bottom’s Aspray was taken off the air after it managed to land MSNBC’s commercial graveyard shift. Addressing that fact in 2009, an MSNBC spokesperson was quoted saying “The first time it aired was the last time it aired,” to which Adam Jay rejoined he has the logs to show it graced the airwaves more than once. But apparently, the cable television masses weren’t yet ready for Jay’s matter-of-fact delivery and lowbrow talk of booty sweat. Happily enough for Adam Jay (and happily enough for us), the Internet was born ready.
2. Shake Weight for MenⓇ
We’ve all witnessed the wildlife aspect of gym culture. Shake Weight for Men’s infomercial gives us that documentary feel with the bonus montage of men sculpting themselves with spring-loaded dumbbells until they max out. The Shake Weight enterprise began by designing a 2.5 lb product exclusively for women until July 2009, when they debuted their infomercial for a new 5-pound product: The Shake Weight for Men. It exploded on the market. According to early estimates, the product earned $40 million in annual sales after infomercial debut, which was egged on by several parodies that aired via Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and South Park and helped to increase product awareness in the popular imagination. Although largely regarded as a gag gift, the Shake Weight for Men is an iconic example of the 1960s marketing adage “sex sells,” and that if you can’t get Arnold Schwarzenegger to rep your fitness product, you can always opt for a bodybuilder who sounds Eastern European to finish using it while saying “Woo, that’s it.” Like the Bowflex before it, the beauty of Shake Weight for Men is that it allows men to work out in 6 quick minutes from the privacy of their own home, so they don’t have to worry about pumping themselves up in public. All kidding aside, this infomercial is hilarious because it seems unaware of its own hilarity, which is why it’s one of the funniest infomercials to ever grace our screens.
1. Squatty PottyⓇ
What do you get when you cross a Shakespearean actor, rainbow ice cream and a pooping unicorn? Aside from perfection? Everything. Squatty Potty started in 2011 when a mother-son duo designed a stool for the purpose of evacuating smoother stool themselves. Since then, the company has grown exponentially from $1 million in annual sales during its first year to $2.7 million in sales during its second year to over $15 million in sales during its fourth year—which coincidentally, was when the infomercial debuted. Its success, like most infomercials before it, depends on logic in the way of scientific explanations as to why your bowels move better, as the Prince of Poop says, “when you go from a sit to a squat.” But like its infographic cousin that probably influences it, it also appeals to the online viewer’s appreciation for simple graphic visualizations (see: the pooping unicorn, which might as well be called Charlie since it evokes the Internet’s first beloved unicorn). Of course, we’re asked to take all this seriously: “No, Squatty Potty’s not a joke. And yes, it will give you the best poop of your life. Guaranteed.” An infomercial this funny is nigh impossible not to take as a joke, but its sense of humor manages to be only casually self-aware and warmly ironic, like when children dressed in Rennfair clothing eat rainbow ice cream (read: unicorn poop) at the end, and the Prince of Poop wipes their faces with a few squares of toilet paper. For indeed, Squatty Potty places the dirty act of defecating onto the cleanest porcelain pedestal you’ve ever seen—Oh yes, every pun intended ;)
In case your barrel of infomercial laughs isn’t full, here’s the Internet’s most popular (and funniest) compilation of infomercial struggles.