18
Mar
15

Compare & Contrast: Vintage Duff Commercials

Duffless14

“Only Duff fills your Q zone with pure beer goodness.  So drink up, and up, and up!” – Cartoon Doctor
“Duff Beer, proud sponsors of Amos ‘n Andy!” – Narrator 

It’s always nice when Zombie Simpsons provides a wealth of options for Compare & Contrast.  For “Waiting for Duffman”, I could’ve gone with Homer quitting drinking like he did in “Duffless”.  Of course, there he quits because Marge thinks he might have a problem and we see just how awful and ubiquitous beer advertising really is, whereas here he gets a fake microchip implanted in him and screams a lot.  I could’ve also gone with the Duff calendar contest from “Pygmoelian” against that hapless, celebrity voiced reality show facsimile they strung together this week.  I almost contrasted the time Lisa rejected being a corporate spokeshack in “Lisa the Beauty Queen” with Homer’s abrupt and nonsensical about face as Duffman.  Hell, I could’ve even gone with Homer being dropped into a store’s publicity event, which is done much better in “Homie the Clown” than it was this week.

Instead, I want to take a detailed look at that one-dimensional Yogi Bear beer commercial and how poorly it fares next to the one Homer and Barney see on the brewery tour in “Duffless”.  The premises here are exactly the same: wildly sleazy commercials from a time when advertising could get away with even more than they can these days.  The differences are all in the execution.

The problems with the Zombie Simpsons version begin even before the commercial itself.  The scene preceding the commercial is that big Game of Thrones montage that takes up nearly a minute and a half.  That thing finishes with Homer taking an oath in this room:

GameofThronesMontageEnding

From there, the family and the beer guy are walking in this hall:

HeyAHallway

And from there, with nary a single word of intervening or introductory dialogue, they walk over to a TV and start watching:

HeyATelevision

Normally, I accuse Zombie Simpsons of overexplaining things, be they jokes, plot points, or whatever.  (And Jebus knows they do that enough elsewhere in this one.)  But this is them actually doing the opposite.  We can infer from the stuff on the walls that they’re in some kind of Duff museum, but the beer guy doesn’t appear to be giving them a tour (he certainly isn’t saying anything) and the TV they walk up to just snaps on without any of them so much as even looking at it.  Immediately they all stare at it and we go into the commercial in full.  There’s no transition, no continuity, just one unrelated bit stuck between two others.

By contrast, at the Duff Brewery in “Duffless”, not only do we know where they are and why they’re there, but we get a quick introduction that sets up the commercial.  The tour guide, fresh off denying that a batch of Duff had been contaminated with strychnine, says:

Here’s one of our favorite Duff beer commercials from the early 1950s.

This is how you set up a bit: it’s short, the tour guide is still in character with his fake pride (“one of our favorite”), and it seamlessly drops in the historical context.  From there we get the commercial itself, which is wall to wall with jokes at the expense of both Duff and the 1950s: “q zone”, the doctor telling people to drink “up, and up and up”, and, of course, “Proud Sponsors” of Amos & Andy, last and grandest of the nakedly racist mainstream minstrel shows.

FavoriteCommercials

Plus, look what Wikipedia just told me:

Adapted to television, The Amos ‘n Andy Show was produced from June 1951 to April 1953 with 78 filmed episodes, sponsored by the Blatz Brewing Company.

Real life Amos ‘n’ Andy was actually sponsored by a very Duff like beer brand, that’s fantastic!  That’s the kind of density this show has: it’s twenty years later and I just got something new.

Compare that with the unintroduced, not quite Yogi Bear ad.  This is the full transcript:

Narrator: When life looks hopeless, it’s not.

Chorus: Duff beer, feeling no pain/
Made from Canadian rain

Chorus: Tastes like nickle champagne/
Not Yogi: It will tickle your brain

Animals: Duff beer, feeling no pain/
Made from Canadian rain

By Zombie Simpson standards, that song is pretty good.  It only repeats a lyric once, and it doesn’t even have a clock eating montage stuffed into it.

But it also takes much longer than the commercial in “Duffless”, and, worse, it doesn’t come at the expense of anyone but Yogi.  It’s just this little, self contained thing that, however funny it may or may not be on its own, can be dropped into a random scene because it relates to precisely nothing else in the episode.

In addition to being part of an episode that goes out of its way to mock beer and beer advertising, the “Duffless” commercial had a point: the 1950s sucked and we are well rid of them.  Justly deserved ridicule is rained down on commercials where beer gets sold with health claims, minstrel shows on television, and the people dumb enough to fall for the former while enjoying the latter.  The Yogi hunting commercial, on the other hand, is little more than cartoon violence.

DeadAnimalHeads

Ha ha, they got shot [snare drum].

And while there’s nothing wrong with cartoon violence (I’m certainly a fan), if you want to be The Simpsons or even pretend to, you need more than just that.  Your beer commercial needs to be part and parcel of a larger whole; one that itself is making fun of huge variety of subjects.  It’s a tall order, I know, and Zombie Simpsons is never up to it, but The Simpsons always was.


16 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Vintage Duff Commercials”


  1. 1 Not Stan
    18 March 2015 at 1:26 pm

    In the 4th screen-grab it looks like the Duff guy is about to “moon-walk” or fly off the ground. Not a criticism, just an observation.

  2. 2 MarkRodkin
    18 March 2015 at 2:15 pm

    I’d, uh, also like to express my fondness for … that particular beer

    • 3 Patty Cash
      19 March 2015 at 5:27 pm

      The man never drank a Duff in his life.

      All kidding aside, I’m surprised Charlie didn’t mention that the posters on the wall in “Waiting for Duffman” were similar to the ones on “Duffless.” But I guess he already knew that.

  3. 4 Jack
    18 March 2015 at 3:16 pm

    You know things have hit rock bottom when you’re considering a Season 11 episode for the positive example in a Compare & Contrast.

  4. 18 March 2015 at 7:13 pm

    I think the bear beer commercial was supposed to be a parody of the Hamm’s Beer commercials, which also featured a cartoon bear. (E.g.,

    • 9 Joe
      18 March 2015 at 10:46 pm

      It was obviously a parody of the Hamm’s Bear. I even have a collectible beer-holder featuring the Hamm’s Bear.

      Yes, the ZS reference was a rather poor parody at that. There’s so much humor in a friggin bear was hooked on beer….how do you mess that up? The old commercials also never seemed to ever show the bear actually drinking the beer so they could have went with the bear finally drinking it and gagging (“This is what I’ve been advertising?!”)

      It’s also important to keep that in mind that the song in the commercial is pretty much the same as the commercials with different lyrics. “frooom the land of sky blue waters (waters)…” The song was and still is very catchy.

    • 10 Sarah J
      18 March 2015 at 11:30 pm

      I’m wondering if it’s also a reference to those old Winston cigarette commercials featuring the Flinstones.

  5. 12 Stan
    18 March 2015 at 7:21 pm

    That doctor is seriously wacky, though.

    • 13 torbiecat
      23 March 2015 at 1:01 pm

      I’ve always liked that little doctor. I think he’s a good example of the animators successfully merging the art style of The Simpsons with the art style of something else, in his regard, that UPA-esque style that was so popular in the 1950s and early 1960s.

  6. 14 Joe
    18 March 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Your description of that Duffless commercial relating to the Amos & Andy Show has the misconception that it featured minstrality when in fact by the time the 50s TV show came out they tried to keep up with the times and hired real African-American actors to play the parts and updated the cast’s living situation to a more suburban one

    The legacy and name of “Amos & Andy” got it more scorn than the show itself. Which is why the last attempt to being it back simply changed the name to “Calvin & the Colonel” and made it into a cartoon featuring anamorphic dogs (and was generally forgotten).

    • 15 Stan
      19 March 2015 at 3:40 am

      Wikipedia says they also used “black people in blackface”. And I think Charlie is wrong about the whole “minstel” concept because at least to me that term was very misleading when I read it.


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