Known Johnson

January 25, 2008

Succulence of ham

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:23 pm

I don’t like ham. But that’s beside the point. It’s a funny meat. Pork.

Does anyone remember a series of AM/PM Mini-Market commercials from the late 80s or early 90s that starred Ruth Buzzi and Arte Johnson from Laugh-in, in the characters they respectively made famous?

Arte Johnson Ruth Buzzi

I think about this often because, well, for seconds (I’ll start with this first because it’s less funny) no one ever knows what I’m talking about, and first, because it had one of my all-time favorite lines, delivered by Johnson’s Tyrone F. Horneigh to Buzzi’s Gladys Ormphby – something about “the succulence of ham, the tightly-packed sausage,” which, of course, elicits a vicious beating from Gladys’ handbag.

And I can’t find it anywhere. I’ve found a couple of minor references to it but never the actual commercials themselves, and I just can’t believe someone didn’t archive these things. Of all the crap that people saved on tapes, all the dumb commercials that have wound up archived for future generations to ignore, somehow these escaped?

No matter how dumb things seemed to have been, at some point in your life you’re going to want to see it again. And no matter how advanced we get and no matter how big and easy storage gets, one factor will always figure into things: most people forget to save the little things that truly marked our generation. So while we’re all obsessing over making sure our TV-on-DVD reflects the exact shows we saw because we think that’s going to be important to remember this time, the things that really reflected “our now” are the most easily ignored – ads, commercials, etc. Few things respond as quickly to public whimsy as ads do and commercials are a little glimpse of what society was truly like at any particular time. Sure, they’re glossed up and polished, but taken as a whole, it’s very easy to see where a society’s interests lie.

Maybe the commercial I’m looking for is long gone, but think what it represented – those weird times where things were strangely provocative, yet there were still so many taboos. That that commercial even made it to air is kind of surprising given how suggestive it is, but perhaps that’s why it is goes unrecognized when I mention it – maybe it did get pulled because it was offensive. In a way, things have gotten so safe that I don’t think anything like that could even air today. So, in effect, maybe with a commercial like that disappearing, that represents what we’ve lost.


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