Huh? Were These Supposed to Be Funny?

She Spilled My CoffeeWhile at a screening for Pan’s Labyrinth last week (best movie of the year, by the way), this advertisement ran for a group called “Equality Rules”. Half the audience laughed at the over the top “Clerks”-ish situation, the other half was quite upset and even spoke against other people in the audience for laughing. You can count me among those that found the situation, choices of words and the presentation funny. You have to admit, with that setup and the way advertisements try to throw people, it could have turned into an ad for any number of things. The question is, was this first section of the ad intended to be funny, or were advertisers serious yet just too dumb to realize you dont mix PSAs explaining the horrors of abuse with clever or funny situations/presentation. Whatever it is, these ads are not the sole example of this “its not okay when X does it” goofiness. These other abuse ads for example, could easily have been a segment of “Family Guy”:

“She Spilled My Coffee”
“The New Numbers are Right”
“Pick that Thing Up!”

I’m used to drunk driving commercials for example, both trying to traumatize a person as well as trivialize the situation with humor. The talking head against a white background PSAs have had their own kitschy value. So what do you think is the best method of putting forth a message, and are these types of advertisements appropriate to show in theaters? I can imagine the superb ironic value of one of these ads running before a James Bond film.



  • I think it depends on who they’re targeted at. I’m going to assume they’re meant for people who are in those situations day to day. But having said that, that’s a pretty small percentage of the audience I assume. For the rest of us, I’d say they’re pretty ridiculous and funny. In fact, i’m finding it hard to believe that they’re not MEANT to be funny. The guy slamming the girls head down on the table…that’s something i’d say is pretty funny in the way that the fight between Will Ferrel and Christina Applegate was funny in Anchorman.

  • in the first one with the coffee, it seems out of a slapstick horror movie, and the punching noise isnt a thud but the sound effect for a cool action movie or something comic. and the way people talk, good god.

    I’m convinced the kid in the first ad i posted was trying to be funny, the way he delivered the ‘last think you need is a burger’ sounded so much like living out retail fantasies.

  • Yeah, people giggled when I saw that one. I think they thought it was a take on Clerks.

  • Oh, you mentioned that.

  • Goon

    even the choice of colors in these things, i mean they are totally setting people up to laugh. at least the last one with the Elderly person LOOKS like its going to be a serious PSA.

  • Goon

    also in the ‘coffee’ and ‘new numbers’ ones, the endings where they’re straightening ties, sitting down and being regular people again just further comes across as comedic… if they wanted to make it appear at the end like it was so wrong they should have had his eyes glaze over and have a blank evil stare or something and have the colors change… so many bad decisions.

  • It does seem a bit inappropriate for people to laugh at these things when you find out what the ads are actually for, but I think maybe that’s part of the strategy. The situations are so over the top that you’re like “WTF! This can’t be real!” and then they’re like, “But this stuff does happen behind closed doors”. Either way they’ve got people talking so I suppose that’s good!

  • Goon

    but if more people are talking about how stupid the ad is and now how stupid domestic violence is, what did they really accomplish?

    everyone still remembers the “this is your brain on drugs” ad, but who did that stop?

  • Goon

    in the end i think all this ad did was further my belief that absolutely anything can be funny in the proper context.

  • manicpanda

    The burger one and the coffee one are 100% hi-fucking-larious. When i got home from the theater i watched the burger one 3 more times.
    Here’s an effective spousal abuse ad: how about you just show someone beating their spouse? Or an abuse victim all beaten up and crying? Be blunt about it rather than use what would commonly be recognized as insane slapstick dark comedy. The ad guys seem to have forgotten that violence & abuse in **fake** situations is not only “different”, but comedy gold. How many hookers have i stabbed to death in GTA just for laughs? Yet real murders remain not funny at all. Because it IS different.
    Now if you’ll excuse me, i’ve got to watch the one with the office guy slamming that chicks head down on the desk. LOLOL

  • Goon

    whats more is that the comparison is silly. Having a spouse that is supposed to care of you that you have kids with beat you and verbally abuse you is considerably different than some random stranger wailing on you.

  • Zedd

    Wow, I didn’t find these funny at all. O_o

  • Goon

    just not funny, or did you take them seriously, Zedd?

  • Goon
  • Zedd

    I dunno, I was genuinely disturbed… knowing that women do live through that. And while it goes for absurdity, I didn’t find it to be an “lol” kind of absurdity.

    I’ve been studying gender roles in society, though… so maybe I’m in a more sensitive mindset. ;-)

  • Goon

    we’re not laughing at abuse, we’re laughing at the ad itself. its over the top, badly acted, and strangely made – snapping over a couple spilled drips of coffee, pouring it all over, comicly slapping a stranger than immediately sitting as if nothing happened. perhaps somewhere that situation occurred however the way it is presented makes it seem so far fetched in order to shock people that instead it makes me laugh the same way a bad action or horror movie would. its just cheesy, and it undercuts any point the ad is trying to make.