“You’re going to love my nuts” was the phrase that almost got me to buy a Slap Chop off the TV. I didn’t need a Slap Chop, as I had knives and never cooked; but the spokesman Vince said “you’re going to be in a great mood all day, because you’re going to be slapping your troubles away with the Slap Chop” and I wanted to believe him. But as I reached for my phone, I paused. Something started brewing in my mind and it felt like a warning.
This wasn’t my first adventure with telephone shopping. By this point I was an old pro at calling within the next three minutes in order to get my free gift with purchase. I kept a pad of paper and pencil next to my couch for easy access when a toll free, ten digit number flashed on my TV screen. I had developed a theory that if I saw a commercial more than once and I still really wanted the thing they were pitching, it was meant to be and I should call. I was destined to own this or that bric-a-brac made in Taiwan.
When I was six, my mother opened my eyes to the world of television shopping. I don’t remember the name of the object she bought, but I do recall that it was made of four red, plastic bungees that attached to a door handle and you were suppose to be able to do a full body workout with it. You may recall a similar product written into the Larry Sanders Show called “The Hankerciser 200”. “Too good to be true” should have been the lesson I learned from my mother’s purchase. Especially after I watched her give an assertive tug to one of the bungees, only to have it slip off the door handle and smack her in the face. Unfortunately, the lesson I mistakenly learned was that with a little piece of plastic, you could order anything over the phone and have it delivered to you like a present from God in only seven days.
When it was my turn to start making the calls, I was the perfect demographic for television shopping. I was just out of college, lived alone in a studio apartment and had my first credit card. I was going from one “romantic” three month relationship to the next and rarely saw my friends due to an odd-hours job in retail. Good times. I also might have been slightly depressed.
So there I would sit, futon facing the TV and take out on the table. Zoning out and barely watching the show I had flipped to, I would be jarred awake with a flashing light and booming voice. “You NEED to BUY this!” yelled the commercials. You are a cigarette smoking, morbidly obese, stressed out, old and ugly, overly busy person who needs a quick fix! You will be so happy with the results you see with this plastic metal machine miracle video and/or dvd!
I knew these commercials were lying. I knew that what they were selling would most likely not work. But I wanted to buy into the hype. I was unfulfilled and needed something to fill that void. And it worked, for a while. I got presents that occasionally did what they advertised they’d do. I would say 1 out of 5 items worked, as long as I used them as directed. The other 4 were pieces of shit and only good as a pre-paid “surprise” in the mail.
Luckily for me (and my wallet), my life started to change and the hold that ‘As Seen On TV’ had on me started to fade. One evening, two of my closest friends who had been actively working on getting me out of my self-inflicted seclusion came over to my studio for a visit. After getting really, very high and watching embarrassing childhood videos, I decided to up the ante by showing them one of the items I had purchased off the TV. Not only were they surprised that I had outed myself as an infomercial junkie, but they could not believe what I had paid actual money for: “Facial Magic”
“Want to reverse sagging facial muscles, and maintain your youthful appearance-without surgery? Then you must try Facial Magic! It tightens and firms double chins, jowls, sagging lids, droopy necks and more.” I was 23. I didn’t know what a jowl was. But I haaad to buy ‘Facial Magic’! I mean, it has the word magic in its name and it comes with white freakin’ cotton gloves! Basically, you stick your fingers in your mouth and make faces as you tighten your face muscles. Please enjoy a demo of the Facial Magic technique by clicking “MAGIC”.
It didn’t matter if I was high as balls or not, the faces the women were making in the instruction video were mesmerizing. My friends asked me if I bought stuff off TV often. I shrugged nonchalantly and said, “Nah.” But then they asked me to list what I had purchased. The list kept growing and growing and I got more embarrassed and ashamed. That’s when I started to realize I needed to get a grip on my purchasing habit, put the phone down and lock up my credit card. Four years later, memories of our laughter kept me from buying that Slap Chop.
Let me just say, I feel for the people who are still trapped in infomercial hell. Those packages that appear on your doorstep (even though you paid for them) sure do make you feel special. But it is a false happiness. What’s really special is experiencing life outside of the television. The good news for me is that I can laugh at myself now! God damn, I bought some stupid shit. So, for my personal development and for your entertainment, here is a list of some of the crap I bought through infomercials in no particular order. Enjoy!
- A ‘stop smoking’ device that punctured holes into a cigarette’s filter. -The theory was that less smoke would reach your lungs because it would go out the hole in the filter. However, if you cover the hole with your lips, you get the full drag and the plastic piece of crap you bought is a waste of money.
- Facial Magic -I pulled a cheek muscle and stopped using it.
- ProActiv acne treatment -I got it so long ago, Judith Light from “Who’s the Boss” was the spokeswoman.
- A “magnetic reflexology” shoe insert made of plastic. -A piece of plastic with sharp magnets glued to it. It was bumpy and hurt to walk on.
- Tony Little’s Gazelle “You can do it!” -I didn’t actually get this off of the television, but I wanted to. I got it for $150 cheaper on Craig’s List.
- 8 Min. Abs and Buns VHS video -Turns out 8 minutes were too long for my lazy ass.
- Winsor “Gotta keep both cheeks even” Pilates -The plastic band that came with the dvd snapped in half and hit my face. (like mother, like daughter…)
- Billy Blanks Tae-Bo VHS -Lots of fun, but one must continue to use it for results to happen. I chose pizza.
- Q-Ray -I have pain, I thought it could help. It didn’t. It also made my wrist green.
- Smooth Away: removes hair instantly and pain free -Who really thought sandpaper was a good way to remove hair?
- Abtronic Electronic Fitness System: Tones and tighten your muscles with gentle electronic stimulation! -Yes, I tried to shock the fat off my stomach. However, this was the last thing I bought off the television. My future husband’s finger pointing and laughter was shame enough for me to never do it again.
Hello and thank you for joining me. I’m Hoyt Bobach and welcome to “Get the Fax!”, the only news show powered exclusively by obsolete technology.
Tonight I have the special pleasure of sharing with you a conversation with the ladies of Booby Hatch, conducted via carrier-pigeon messages, Morse code, and semaphore.
Hoyte Bobach: First things first, who are you? Please try to describe yourselves physically because all women are the same on the inside. Also, try not to talk too much about your feelings, because all women talk too much about their feelings. Oh, and also, if any of you have your periods–
Sabrina: Newt…do you mind if I call you Newt?
HB: Well…my name is Hoyt.
Sabrina: That’s not what I asked. Look, Newt. Little known fact if you haven’t dated me: I ALWAYS have my period. And that, I guess, is how I would describe me. “Sabrina? Oh yeah, the one who ALWAYS has her period.” Oh, and I like raisins. Yep. I think that pretty much sums it up. Sabrina. Period. Raisins. Oh, and since you asked, those things make me feel like my pop-pop didn’t love me enough, and that makes me want to read “To the Lighthouse” again. Out loud.
(Sabrina begins rummaging through a large bag of tampons. She pulls out a tattered book and begins leafing through it. Katharine takes the book out of her hands and tosses it through a window.)
Katharine: Don’t mind Sabrina, she has her period. Who am I, you ask? Whoooo aaaam I? Good question, but irrelevant. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case …a princess…and a criminal. Does that answer your question? If not, I’m the redhead.
Alex: …and I’m the drunk. I mean Judd Nelson. I mean Charles Nelson Reilly. I mean a King Charles Spaniel: loyal, flat-faced, and luxuriously furred.
HB: How did you come together as a group?
Sabrina: Newt, I don’t know if you’ve heard of esteemed guru Mordecai “Gravy Stains” Humunculus, but he has a saying: “All you need to do is make waffles and wait.” Well, I don’t always know what things mean or if they’re good ideas, but that never stops me from blindly committing to them. So for about three years, I just stayed home and made waffles. Sometimes I took a break and watched the TV. Finally, one cold Sunday in the January of 2009, my doorbell rang. It was Alex. She was drunk. Then Katharine showed up with something in a paper bag. I knew that my ship had finally come in.
Kath: I had taken the N train from Queens (I had not moved to Brooklyn yet) and transferred to the G. I then got champagne for mimosa. I believe I was wearing a hat. At Sabrina’s house we had brunch, drinks and wrote five episodes for a sketch television show. Alex was drunk. But don’t tell her that.
Alex: I was drunk. but since no one told me, I went ahead and drove a tractor to Sabrina’s apartment. Thousands were killed, but the poppy fields of Brooklyn have never been so well-tilled. Everything has trade-offs. And can you blame me? I SMELLED WAFFLES. But seriously, I the real truth is that we were assembled by Lou Pearlman like a Lady Menudo. Once our testicles drop we’re out of the band.
HB: Who are your influences and what is your favorite sketch?
Sabrina: The book “A Wrinkle in Time” really stuck with me…um…what else? Mr. Show, Kids in the Hall, Tim and Eric, old SNL stuff. OLD. Favorite sketch? That’s hard. That’s like asking me to pick which of my kids is my favorite. Um. “The Audition” is up there. Oh, I should probably list some women too, huh? Yes, yes, funny women. Maria Bamford makes me laugh a lot. “The Maria Bamford Show” was really great and scary. That’s the kind of thing I go for: funny and disturbing. Oh, I saw this great Murderfist sketch live at UCB. It was about the devil and candy and suicide and was just so disturbing that it was hilarious. That one’s up there. I just don’t know the name of it.
Alex: Hmmm, Kids in the Hall and Mr. Show for me too, plus The Ben Stiller Show…and because of my dark English roots I gotta go with French & Saunders and Benny Hill – yep, there I said it. Kath and Sabrina are always “reminding” me that not every sketch has to end with a Yakety Sax bikini chase. In the event that I was ever kidnapped by Mitchell and Webb or The Mighty Boosh…well let’s just say I wouldn’t struggle. And I’d bring snacks for everyone.
Kath: Kids in the Hall, Monty Python, SCTV and early SNL influenced my desire to do sketch comedy. Television shows like Police Squad, The Young Ones, Mr. Bean, MST3K and later Mr. Show, Arrested Development and Spaced all tickled me in my funny privates. Parodying Jodie Foster in Nell kept me entertained… I quote the movie Anchorman more than any person really should… What was the question?
Sabrina: Did I mention that I want to take Tina Fey to the prom? If she says no, I would consider taking Katharine doing her Nell impersonation.
HB: Speaking of Tina Fey, did any of you see the last episode of 30 Rock? What did you think?
Sabrina: I don’t know what to think. At first I was excited that they were addressing the fact that “The Girly Show” is primarily written by men and only has one female character, which makes it somewhat similar to 30 Rock, but then I wasn’t sure where they went with it. I think Tina Fey was acknowledging something about the situation and making fun of herself, but I’m not sure what thoughts about women in comedy I was supposed to come away with (if any).
Kath: I too had some good hopes for this episode only to be left with a fizzly fart at the end. I feel like NBC decided that the topic of “women” should be lumped into one episode just to get it over with. The writers had to figure out how to smoosh ‘women are not well represented in comedy’, ‘women are judgmental of each other’, ‘men like sexy woman’ and ‘stalking’ all in one bow wrapped 30 minutes. This said, I don’t think 30 Rock is around to be an educational tool for a sociology class. It is just a TV show. However, if they are going to attempt to discuss a hot button topic (at least to some of us gals in comedy), try to at least have a point or an ending. Or hire another woman.
Sabrina: I agree. It was weird and fizzle-farty. And does anyone know why the “girl writer” character has a creepy Eastern European accent? And now she’s gay? Was she always gay? Who is she and why does she hardly ever speak? I am confused.
Alex: I just keep waiting for them to give her some lines besides the occasional “yergen fjurgen?” It is kind of creepy the way she’s always lurking in the background of shots of the writers room. And I thought she was Swedish. I adore 30 Rock though. I still think it’s got the goods. If Tina Fey goes to the prom with Sabrina I’m gonna show up drunk and knock over the punchbowl table.
HB: What animal best represents your personality?
Alex: Bugs Bunny dressed as a girl.
Katharine: Friendly’s Wattamelon Roll.
HB: Name your favorite movie and how many times you have watched it.
Alex: Shit. You’re gonna make me get all sappy and ruin my street cred. Fine. My favorite movies are The Apartment and The Graduate. They both have great hair, snappy dialogue, and I will always be in love with Jack Lemmon in the sixties. I’ve probably watched both of those a hunnerd times or more (yep that’s a number, look it up Poindexter!) Movies without Jack Lemmon or a Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack that I like are Wet Hot American Summer, Young Frankenstein, and The Impostors – which could all be filed under “highlights from the comedy geek cannon.”
Kath: The Star Wars movies and I have no idea how many times I have watched them. However, I do believe they should be watched in this order, please take notes:
IV:A New Hope, (The introduction to our heroes and their plight against the Empire.)
V: The Empire Strikes Back, (love, struggle and revelations…The prrrfect movie.)
After you hear, [SPOILER] “Luke I am your father” go back to the beginning of the saga and learn about the start of the Empire and Vader… but watch in fast forward.
I: The Phantom Menace, (Unless you are a child, only view pod race and fight scene.),
II: Attack of the Clones, (Unless you are a child, only fight scenes, if that),
III: Revenge of the Sith, (I personally like this movie enough to watch the entire thing, but I know I’m in the minority. So have your finger hovering on fast-forward.)
Then jump in time and see Luke and Vader face off (literally)
VI: Return of the Jedi, (Close your eyes at the end during the bonfire if you are watching the special editions.)
Ahhhhhhh….pure magic. For those of you who have heard me rant about this before. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it biznaches! I also like the movie The Notebook. That is a lie.
Sabrina: Have you heard Patton Oswalt’s bit about killing George Lucas with a shovel? Good stuff. Yeah, the Star Wars was big for me too, but “favorite” movie? I would have to say Cocoon. Seen it 67 times, and it just keeps getting funnier. I’m kidding. The Brimley makes me nervous. I guess I would say Groundhog Day. It’s just kind of perfect. I like Royal Tennenbaums too. Bill Murray is, of course, in both. Oh, and how do you not love Ghostbusters? I’ll take “Murray” for 600, please.
HB: What else do you like?
Kath: CHEESE! Sorry, cheese. I like cheese.
Alex: Kittens, vodka, and judging people based on their subway etiquette.
Sabrina: I believe I answered this one already, Newt. It starts with a famous blind singer who is not Stevie Wonder, subtract the “new boy in the neighborhood” who is “in Charge,” and end with the reason that people go to hell.
Kath: I think Sabrina is having a stroke…
Sabrina: Is someone making toast? Oof. Hand me Newt’s wallet, Kath. I need something to bite down on.
HB: Do you mind if I call you later?
Sabrina: No way, Newt. That’s not my name.
Kath: Are you threatening me?
Alex: Would you like me to seduce you? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?
Kath: That’s not what I asked.