Simon Wood

Hump Day: Unsung Stars

Are you clumsy? Do you find it difficult to cope with the challenges the modern world throws at you? Do you wish there was some gadget that would solve problems in your daily life? Are you amazed by the simplest solutions, especially those that can be purchased in installments of $19.95 or less? If you answered yes to any or all these questions, then you might have a future as an infomercial actor!

With the recent passing of the late, great infomercial impresario, Billy Mays, I realized that he would not have thrived if it weren’t for his infomercial actors whose shortcomings as competent human beings made his products shine.

I know what you’re saying. There’s no such thing as infomercial actors. Oh contre. (that’s French for you’re wrong).

I watch basic cable TV, which is prime fodder for infomercial products. If you want to buy a hearing device which will allow you to listen to your neighbors, a pocket voice recorder to remind you where you parked your car, or an untanglable garden hose, then it’s going to get advertised on basic cable.

The more I watch these ads for products I never thought I’d need, I keep seeing the same actors cropping up time after time. One sliver haired guy–sadly, I don’t know his name–he’s just that silver haired guy–has appeared as a dentist on the sonic clean between machine, the deaf guy for a micro hearing aid and old guy number three on an ad for some kind of virility product.

This has got me wondering if there’s an agency that specializes in clumsy, klutzy and unintuitive actors for infomercial products. There has to be. I never see these actors in anything else. I don’t see them doing guest spots on CSI or Law & Order or even playing King Lear outside a seven-eleven in Idaho. Just on infomercials.

This is a kind of niche acting that will never leave these actors out of work. Now, the product makers could hire some kind of A-list talent to demonstrate their product, but it really wouldn’t work. It would be too slick. There’d be too much believability in their performance. Recently, I caught an ad where the woman couldn’t operate a knife. She tried slice a tomato and ended up squashing it with the flat side of the blade. Now if Julia Roberts did this, we’d all be swept away with the authenticity of her performance, there’d be tears and spiritual triumph for Julia’s plight, and we’d all ignore the product. No, to highlight the true quality of an infomercial product, you need that element of incompetence. As the potential consumer of the product, I want to be saying to myself, “Look at that jackass getting caught up in a garden hose. What kind of idiot gets tangled up like that? Julie, come look at this dufus. He needs the self-reeling garden hose to eliminate all his tangling dilemmas.”

See what happened there? I couldn’t stop talking about the product. I even brought another potential consumer into the situation. This is marketing genius at its finest and it’s all possible thanks to the infomercial actor.

Now, I can see some thespians looking down at their infomercial acting brethren, but it is a true skill and one that should be applauded. Not everyone can demonstrate that Darwin was right about natural selection just by highlighting their inability to understand the concept of stairs.

I believe the infomercial actor should be celebrated. A new Emmy category needs to be introduced. Best/worst Actor in an outside situation or Best Male Actor in a DIY situation, or even Best New Performer in an act of buffoonery. Don’t laugh. These people bring me as much entertainment pleasure as George Clooney, if not more.

So I ask you all to celebrate the infomercial actor. They provide a vital service. And there’s got to be a sitcom idea in there somewhere.

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