OK, well, many of you probably know that I have been on a long quest to find the next Snuggie. Oh, yes, I’ve seen the Cami Secret which finally ends that long unsolvable problem women have had of hiding their cleavage (and also offers perhaps the greatest before and after photographs in the history of the world). I’ve seen the Shake Weight, where women can get muscular arms merely by holding on to some sort of vibrating dumbbell (and yes, that sounds dirtier than it really is). Yes, I have seen the dozens of emails Brilliant Readers have sent along suggesting the next great infoco post.
Trouble is … the Snuggie info-commercial really is a difficult thing to replicate. As I’ve written a time or two before, what makes the Snuggie brilliant and, in my mind, utterly unique in infoco history, is that here you have a product that:
1. Aims to fix a problem that does not actually exist (blankets don’t have sleeves)
2. Does not really fix the problem (Have you tried answering a phone in a Snuggie?).
3. Is still, for almost magical reasons, irresistible to many people.
That sort of magical infoco comes along maybe once a generation, Snuggie is the Willie Mays of info-commericals. How do you follow up? It’s a difficult two-step process. 1. t: How do you invent a problem people really don’t have? 2. How do you go about not fixing that problem with a cheap product you just invented? Thomas Edison never had to deal with such issues.
Infocos were always dumb — nobody REALLY needed a knife that could cut through a beer can — but I do believe Snuggies took them to a whole new level. Put it this way: There’s a mock-infoco running these days on TV for something called “The Neck Basket” where people walk around with a basket around their necks. It is not a real product, it is supposed to lampoon infocos, but it really does the opposite. The Neck Basket is a much more intelligent and believable product than, say, the Ear Lift, which was supposed to prevent sagging ears from women (and men, I suppose) who walked around wearing carburetors as earrings (sadly, the market proved doomed for the Ear Lift — damned Capitalism). In today’s era, there’s no way to satirize info commercials because they are ALREADY satire. They are used, basically, to — as the dictionary defines satire — “expose and criticize people’s stupidity.” And get their money.
So, no, it’s not easy to find another perfectly formed Made For TV product and commercial. Some are too stupid. Some actually try to solve a real problem, while others fail to solve a made-up problem. Most are just not especially funny.
But … then there’s The Hawaii Chair.
Oh, this thing is a beauty. You’ve probably seen numerous people review this product already — heck that link has already had 2.7 million hits — but if you have not seen it, you owe it to yourself to take one minute and six seconds out of your life and watch this thing. I can’t say this is going to be a classic anymore than I can say that Roy Halladay’s performance Thursday will be a classic. It’s too new. But it’s a beauty.
The Hawaii Chair is a chair where the seat spins around sort of like a miniature version of The Tea Cup Ride at an amusement park near you. You may ask yourself: “Why would I want such a product? I like my chair, the one where the seat does not spin around.” Ah, but see, you’re missing it. Cue the music:
Scene one (The Song): “Take the work out of your workout. The Hawaii Chair!”
I love this song. I absolutely love it. I am singing it right now, and I’m on a plane! The guy next to me is looking like he might just kill me! And I don’t even care! It is supposed to sound vaguely Hawaiian, I guess, which is why I think they are playing some kind of ukelele behind the words. And the words clearly foreshadow what is coming. This chair, this amazing Hawaii chair, can take the work out of your workout.
Scene two (The setup): “You know Tamara, the Hawaii chair wasn’t just designed for home!”
So, who’s this guy in the Hawaiian shirt? I don’t know, but I can tell you he is happy. Pitch men are always happy. Sad doesn’t sell. Manic can sell, but this guy isn’t going for manic. He’s going for happy. And he is about to utter one of my favorite lines in the history of infocos, which is saying a lot. He’s trying to explain that while this chair WILL work at home, that is not the limit of its power.
He says this: “I mean after all, for some of us, at least FORTY HOURS of our week is spent sitting at our desk AT THE OFFICE!”
Oh, there’s so much here. First off, there’s the Bill Clinton, thumb-on-top-of-the fist-pump gesture, that I have noticed now is popular in both American parties. Have you seen that too? Democrats, Republicans, everybody, whenever they want to emphasize a point, they put their thumb on top of their fist, and they slowly pump forward, this is the Computer Age hand gesture, the sincerity exclamation point. I’ve started to call this the Clinton Pump, and it’s amazing that after eight rather, you know, interesting years in office, that the Clinton Pump might just be his enduring contribution to society.
Second, there’s the “Infoco Hot Woman No. 1” sitting in the background and shaking around because she is sitting one of of these Hawaii Chairs. And then camera pans to “Infoco Hot Woman No. 2.” And all the while this guy’s talking. The director HAD to be thinking: “Look, nobody is going to listen to a word this guy says anyway, so don’t worry about it.”
And that’s a third thing: What he says. But it isn’t so much what he says as how he says it. The man’s voice inflection is what really make this line work. You know how sometimes you will say something that you expect to shock people, and your voice will rise. Like you might say: “Did you know that the only golf course on Tonga has FIFTEEN holes on it?” The key is the word FIFTEEN since a regular golf course has, you know, however many holes a golf course has (it’s not 15).
So this guy is trying to make the point that a lot of people work, you know, and, like, in an office. And his voice very clearly goes into “You won’t believe this” mode when he says “at least FORTY HOURS of our week.” He says this like this is a revelation. LIke this is some hot new information he had just gotten from the research department. This would be like saying something like “Did you know that parents who have triplets have at least THREE MOUTHS to feed” or “Many streets have as many as FIVE HOUSES on them.” The 40 hours workweek — yeah, been pretty well established by this point. And later in the sentence, his voice raises again for the “AT THE OFFICE!” part, as if this is one of the most remarkable things this guy has ever heard. Imagine, not only sitting at a desk, but also AT THE OFFICE!
Forty-Hour-Workweek Guy then sends it off to some woman named Erin for testimonials.
Scene 3 (Testimonials): “Hi, I’m Erin Lee with Perfect USA. And today we brought The Hawaii Chair to a very busy work environment.”
OK, what the hell is “Perfect USA?” That’s the company? That’s their name: Perfect USA? And why is Pat Sajak sitting next to Erin?
Erin is clearly not having much fun. She’s going round and round on this stupid chair, and her legs are wobbling all around, and she either (A) Cannot remember her line or (B) Cannot say it straightforward because she is spinning around on this stupid chair. She has an awkward “Help me I’m spinning” pause between the words “very busy” and “work environment.” One thing that a good infoco NEVER does is show how utterly ludicrous the product actually is. No, for that you need a GREAT infoco. It is humanly impossible to see Erin on that chair and think, “Hey, I could do my work on that thing!”
To the testimonials!
Infoco Hot Woman No. 3: “Oh my gosh, this is amazing!” She says this while laughing, almost cracking up, which does makes this testimonial, um, a bit less than effective.
Infoco Distinguished Guy Who Looks Disturbingly Like Pete Carroll*: “It feels great on my abs …”
… he said abs.
*The real Pete Carroll on Twitter announced that he was throwing the challenge flag on his No. 19 ranking in my coaches as players list. Upon further review, it is possible Carroll was a better player than Norv Turner, John Fox and Mike Smith. But the angles that we have are inconclusive, not enough to overturn. Sorry Pete. The ruling on the field stands.
Infoco Hot Woman No. 3: “I can really feel this working!” And there’s no question the chair is “working.” She is saying this in that George Jetson like “Um, yeah, I can really feel thing thing working, how do you turn it off again?” sort of way.
And … that ends the testimonial portion of the commercial. Two people, one of them laughing.
Scene 4 (What can it do?): Our old friend Erin says “Hawaii Chair while answering phones! … using the computer … balancing books or filing paperwork.”
Really? Hawaii Chair while answering phones? OK, yes, I’m getting nit-picky here. But, seriously, “Hawaii Chair” is now a verb? The product has already climbed that “Xerox” and “Frisbee” language ladder. It took the word “text” YEARS to become a verb. These guys want that corner office promotion in one info-commercial?
The video that goes along with Erin’s narration is, of course, hysterical, as your very eyes tell you that you absolutely cannot Hawaii Chair while answering phones, while using a computer or while balancing books or filing paperwork. I mean, what, they couldn’t have gotten stunt people to do this to make it look like it’s actually humanly possible to do work while sitting on this chair? Couldn’t they have found a couple of those carnies who can climb that rope ladder at the state fair? That one woman trying to simply get a folder while the chair throws her around is clearly overmatched. And this is what that woman actually typed while spinning on that chair.
“Tkeeeeee wirrvl brrrronnwwn ntpemm foxxxx junmpepd odver tehe lllqaazzzyd= 48d9=og93.”
Scene 5 (Close the deal): Erin Lee, “You can hardly call this work. With the Hawaii Chair, it takes the work out of your workday.”
Erin doesn’t look any more comfortable in the chair now than she did the first time … at one point it looks like she’s holding on to the table for support. But what interests me is the tricky way she changed the chair’s slogan. You might recall from the original song — and how could you forget? — that the Hawaii Chair takes the “work out of your workOUT.” I took from it that this chair made it easier to work out. But Erin, that shifty little Erin, she made it so that it takes the work out of your workDAY. A chair with a spinning seat can actually making working out easy AND regular old working fun. You wonder why Copernicus didn’t come up with it first.
Cue the song:
Scene 6 (The final song): “If you can sit. You can get fit. The Hawaii chair!”
Perfect. A good info-commercial plays on the weak part of our mind, the part you can’t shut out, the vapid part that despite itself thinks: “Yeah, you know, it WOULD be nice not to spend $20 a month on paper towels anymore.” But only a great info-commercial can leave you more baffled at the end than you were at the beginning.”
And maybe this is the secret. Maybe people will buy the Hawaii Chair — like they bought the Snuggie — because at the end of the commercial they could not help but think: “That’s the dumbest product I’ve ever seen. Maybe I should get it. Nobody would make a product that stupid, there must be some redeeming quality in it that is just not coming through on the commercial.”
That’s how I feel. It SEEMS impossibly dumb. It SEEMS impossibly ineffective. It SEEMS impossible that someone would not only build a chair with a motor on the bottom that spins your butt around but also create a whole system to sell them to the public. But things aren’t always as they seem.
It is also true that things very often are exactly as they seeeeeememememmeemdm. Sorry. I Hawaii Chaired there.