Next time you see a member of the AdReview staff, ask about the hell joke. Or ask us about the guy who walks into a bar and orders five martinis. Or about the new piano player in the supper club. Or about another guy in a bar who approaches a woman inappropriately. Or, if you're not too squeamish, about the guy tenderly attending to his gravely ill wife.
Horrendous and hilarious, one and all. And that's just in the sodomy category.
Then, of course, there is "The Aristocrats," the filthiest joke ever told. It is breathtaking.
All of which to say, the trashing that follows has nothing to do with a general distaste for the raunchy. Vulgarity, under the right circumstances, is something we actually cherish. But we have very high standards, beginning with surprise.
The best dirty jokes have the listener thinking, "Where's this going? Where's this going?" Then, when the punch line comes, he should be bowled over by the payoff's inevitability. But he won't say "Of course!" because you can't say "Of course!" while you're laughing so hard snot is shooting through your nose.
With the above disclaimer duly noted, let's now consider the three Internet video spots to promote Howard TV, the inDemand VOD feed that will let subscribers watch Howard Stern's daily radio show and other assorted Howard material.
All three are dirty. And not funny.
Very not funny.
We'll prove that assertion presently, but first a glance at the media strategy. This is meant to be a viral campaign. Someone sees a spot on the Web, sends it to a friend, who sends it to five friends, and soon it spreads like wildfire among the love-to-watch-strippers-laugh-about-sex crowd that has made filthy Howard filthy rich. Anyway, that's the plan. We, for our part, are dubious.
Not on taste grounds, mind you. After all, anyone viewing the spots has been reached via natural selection. Nobody is apt to stumble on this material and inadvertently become scandalized. So in addition to not being able to criticize this stuff for being raunchy in general, we can't criticize it for being too raunchy for an unsuspecting audience.
Actually, if anything, the opposite is true. The ads are far less transgressive than the stuff Howard does on his show every day. But they're still appalling and, finally, here's why:
One shows a guy eating a clam. The clam has a beard.
Another shows a woman reaching for a stuffed beaver, which she sheers with an electric clipper.
The third shows a man with a pet monkey, which he spanks.
These, of course, are all literal demonstrations of euphemistic language referring to various sex acts and various genitalia. Now, let's just say Howard's audience is still hardwired to titter about naughty phrases. After all, he's somehow managed to trade on the same "I can't believe he actually did that on the radio!" dynamic for 25 years.
The problem is, even the dimmest mouth-breather among his acolytes will figure out what's going on in about three seconds, then has to see the gag played out for the next 27. So much for surprise. And since it's arriving from a friend via e-mail, there isn't even any sense of daring that has always been the center of Howard's appeal.
All three e-jokes, therefore, fall prey to a typically adolescent episode of premature e-joke-ulation. Which doesn't augur well for a viral campaign, because-come on-who would want to share that with his friends?
Review: 1.5 stars
Ad: Howard Stern
Location: New York