David Bruce: The Funniest People in Television and Radio: 250 Anecdotes — Advertising


• Henry Morgan was a comedian who knew how to treat a sponsor — like dirt. One of Mr. Morgan’s radio sponsors (until they fired him) was the maker of the Oh Henry candy bars. While doing commercials for Oh Henry candy bars, Mr. Morgan would say, “Yes, Oh Henry is a meal in itself. But you eat three meals of Oh Henrys and your teeth will fall out.” But Mr. Morgan did even worse than this — from the candy maker’s viewpoint. After one commercial for Oh Henry candy bars, he told the radio audience, “Feed your children enough Oh Henrys, and they’ll get sick and die.”

• Alka-Seltzer once had a very funny TV commercial in which a man making a commercial for spaghetti and meatballs keeps blowing his line — “Mamma mia! That’s some spicy meatball!” — take after take, forcing him to consume more and more meatballs and causing indigestion, which is of course cured by Alka-Seltzer. In real life, the man making the commercial, Jack Somach, suffered through 175 takes, requiring him to bite into 175 meatballs. He skipped lunch and dinner that day.

• Jack Benny’s radio series occasionally made fun of its sponsors. For example, in one commercial, a telegram was read that supposedly came from a Canada Dry Ginger Ale salesman after he had found several people lost in the Sahara Desert without water for 40 days: “I came to their rescue, giving each of them a glass of Canada Dry. Not one of them said they didn’t like it.” (Believe it or not, Canada Dry stopped sponsoring The Jack BennyShow, and General Motors became the new sponsors.)

• An actress was supposed to say these lines on a radio commercial: “Helen, darling, what a delightful necklace! It looks as if it had tiny real violets entwined in it. It speaks of springtime and the outdoors. It gives you an aura of freshness and youth, hope and beauty!” The actress performed flawlessly during rehearsals and during the performance, except that she forgot it was the performance and after saying her lines complained, “Do I actually have to say this garbage?”

• When David Brenner appeared live on The Ed Sullivan Show, he was a major hit — the audience applauded so much that Mr. Sullivan brought him back on stage to take a bow. While acknowledging the audience’s applause, however, Mr. Brenner looked at a TV monitor. The TV audience was seeing none of this wild audience enthusiasm, for after Mr. Brenner’s final joke, the TV cameras had cut to a Preparation H commercial.

• While appearing on My Three Sons, William Frawley (he also played Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy) and the other actors were required to do commercials for the sponsors’ products. Mr. Frawley enjoyed the taping sessions when executives from Quaker Oats or Heinz were present. He used to take a bite of the sponsor’s product, make a face, spit the food out, and then cuss while saying how bad it was.

• In 1986, Michael Jackson made almost $15 million by appearing in two Pepsi TV commercials and serving as a consultant on a third commercial. The commercials did not show Mr. Jackson drinking Pepsi, and they did not show Mr. Jackson holding a Pepsi in his hand. Why not? Mr. Jackson is a Jehovah’s Witness, and he does not drink beverages that contain caffeine — including Pepsi.

• Jackie Gleason stood up for the integrity of The Honeymooners. His character, Ralph Kramden, lived in an apartment with an icebox — the Kramdens were too poor to have a refrigerator. A refrigerator company offered to sponsor the show if the Kramdens got rid of the icebox and used one of its products, but Mr. Gleason refused.

• In a very successful publicity stunt in 1933, Gracie’s brother turned up missing, and Gracie wandered from radio show to radio show searching for him. In a tense radio drama featuring a submerged submarine, a character radioed the submarine captain and asked, “Is Gracie Allen’s brother down there with you?”

• Some celebrities are not for sale. Lily Tomlin once turned down $500,000 to have her character Ernestine (“One ringy-dingy. Two ringy-dingys. A gracious good morning to you. Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?”) perform in commercials for AT&T.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: Atomic Drag — Satan Built My Hotrod”


Music: “Satan Built My Hotrod”



Artist Location: Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, UK

Info: “Instrumental Surf Punk Garage Rock from the North Coast of Northern Ireland.”

“Written, played, recorded and mixed by Atomic Drag March – June ’21, except ‘Cecilia Ann,’ written by The Surftones.” 

“Atomic Drag is Lee McDaid. Old enough to know better but dumb enough to do it anyway, his influences include, but are not limited to, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Big Black (Big Black at their very core were a surf band, a hill he’s willing to die on) Dead Kennedys, Pixies and The Bomboras. The debut self-titled EP contains 3 original tracks of horror tinged, Lynchian dark surf punk rock and a gonzoid cover of The Surftones classic ‘Cecilia Ann’ (famously covered by the Pixies, but you knew that).”

Fuzzy Cracklins Fuzzy grew up in So Cal and I never lost my love for surf music. Atomic Drag adds in a touch of horror that sets it apart from the beach crowd. Fuzzy’s full review is at  www.fuzzycracklins.com/2021/08/atomic-drag.html Favorite track: ‘Atomic Undead.’”

Price:  £1 (GBP) for track; £3.50 (GBP) for four-track EP

Genre: Instrumental Surf




Atomic Drag on Bandcamp