There really is no greater window to the American psyche and character than late night ads and infomercials. Nothing else helps us understand our idiosyncrasies and failures. Only in this country (maybe England, as well) could we create celebrity out of commercials. (Latest example? He smells different and is on a horse.) From the Maytag Man to the late Billy Mays, and from Clara Peller or the Snapple Lady to Vince the Slap Chop guy, we have an uncanny ability to create fame from nothing. Clearly, advertising in this country is a powerful thing.
However, it also shows another side of our collective persona: we are a nation of gullible idiots. The most recent case in point is something called the “EZ Cracker,” a rather archaic torture device supposedly designed to take the difficulty out of cracking and separating eggs.
One commonality amongst these ads are those few moments at the beginning of the ad where we are shown various scenes designed (hopefully) to make us sit up and take notice of some otherworldly dilemma. Said dilemma will soon be completely solved for us by the miracle product they are breathlessly waiting to sell us! However…
Pay any attention to these ads and you will notice that no matter how useful the gadget being sold might be, the people acting out our frustrations involving said activity the gadget is designed to end are, and this is only my observation, lobotomized hand models. At best.
Is it really that difficult to form a hamburger patty, Mr Mays? No, of course not. A piece of plastic wrap and the lid from a 32-ounce jar of mayonnaise will do the trick if you don’t have the patience to form them by hand.
Are blankets really that complex and difficult in relation to one’s arms? No.
But these product prove that when you have a fairly goofball idea and an audience of insomniacs (or better, people recovering from surgery that can’t sleep and are hopped up on pain meds) in front of their teevees with credit cards in hand, you can make a lot of money.
Sure, you might be saying to yourself that you are a lot smarter than the average bear, and as such are not vulnerable to such obvious pitchwork. That may be true, dear reader, but if I may note: Someone is. After all, if these adverts were not successful, would you know who the hell Billy Mays was at all? Or would there be a television show centered around the creation of these adverts on the Discovery channel?
So, whereas all advertising is designed to make us want something no matter how much we do not need the product, or how stupid the product really is upon reflection… What the hell makes those late night adverts and infomercials so… Compellingly ridiculous?
Seriously, what the hell made a blanket with sleeves, a super-absorbent cloth, or a knife that (supposedly) can cut a brick such national phenomena?
The advert for the EZ Cracker may help, in general terms. (One sidebar: the first “spokesperson” for the EZ Cracker? The Snapple Lady. Not kidding.)
First, we have the intro, which shows us that you are not alone! No, you are not the only person having trouble neatly cracking eggs, especially when you throw them at a frying pan! Or how about when we’ve all had to recover an egg once we’ve slammed a fork onto the egg, like some out-of-practice Nazi torturer? And don’t forget how everyone cracks an egg by squeezing it like a stress ball while simultaneously slamming it on the counter?
Clearly, these first few moments are designed to make us feel superior, and setting us up to feel inferior. Why superior? The examples of egg-cracking are so absurd that we all pretty much react with a jaded “oh, come on!” The inferiority comes at the next segment, which introduces the product.
At the introduction, to counteract any potential rejection of the product, they move to the phase where they explain just why you need this product! For the EZ Cracker, that particular reason is that it saves you from cleaning up poorly cracked eggs. And, to drive home that point, they use the same lobotomized hand models who were just playing handball with the eggs to crack them in segment one to clean up the mess.
These nitwads use a variety of items to clean up the eggmess, including a washcloth and a single paper towel. Ironically, no one uses a Shamwow.
Then we get another handful of demonstrations of how well the product is supposed to work, or how much easier it is to read now that you have sleeves. Then the more maddening aspect of the ad begins, and we are shown just how much we can do because of this miracle device!
Only now with the EZ Cracker, for example, can you make an eggwhite omelet, or make a meringue. Because, of course, there was just no way in hell you could ever do these things before, but now that you can (Shazam!) get into the egg…
But wait! There’s more!
Now that we’ve been lulled into feeling both superior to the product, and unable to live without, it… The kicker!
Not only do we get our egg cracking whiz of a device for only $19.95 (or, in another version, just two payments of ten dollars!), we get…
(Are you sitting down?)
A free gift!
The EZ Cracker has been advertised with two different free gifts: The Bacon Wave (designed to microwave a pound of bacon by standing the strips up in a bizarre truss), and the Egg Scrambler.
I have to admit that the egg scrambler looks more like an… Adult toy than a culinary tool. (And no, by “culinary tool,” I do not mean Rocco DiSpirito.)
Basically, you stick an egg onto this stick with a needle protruding from the top, and the needle vibrates enough to scramble the egg within the shell, which (exactly!) you then crack with your snazzy EZ Cracker!
Not so much. Considering my firsthand experience when icepick meets thumb, I am perfectly fine scrambling my egg with a fork in a bowl, which is probably far more sanitary than a hard to clean (without drawing blood, anyway) device like the Scrambler.
How these devices are supposed to sweeten the pot and make you pick up that phone and order this eventual kitchen sculpture is unclear, but it works.
The finale is usually designed to incite near panic, with the announcement that not only should you act on this great deal, but these products are not available in stores! (Again, anyone who has inadvertently wandered through the center sections of one’s local megamart or discount store can tell you they are not only available in stores, they’re cheaper!)
What makes these adverts so maddening is that they do work. Someone will buy the advertised product because at that moment, they have to have it! With this egg cracker, people will order it not realizing that (a) they will have to handle the cracked shells no matter what, EZ Cracker or not, and (b) a small saucer and a moment of care cracks the egg just as well, if not better, than said device. (And if you really need that thing to separate eggs, you can buy something much like the separating attachment for about $5 at your local discount-mart.) Normally intelligent people are stupid at times.
Don’t believe me? Look at that coffee you just got from your local CafeBucks. There is a warning on your coffee that (please… Sit down… We at the ICRVN don’t have legal counsel if this upsets you) your coffee is hot! Do you remember why? Yep some dipnugget spilled coffee on herself, and sued the restaurant for serving her… Hot coffee!
Warnings like that and devices like the EZ Cracker exist because someone is going to need one.
However, I have to say that even if you simply cannot handle cracking an egg without some sort of aid, the EZ Cracker may not be right for you. Search YouTube and a video comes up reviewing the EZ Cracker, revealing that it works, but only begrudgingly at best, and it really doesn’t do much of what is advertised (no!).
Pay attention, for example, to the part where it cracks a hard-boiled egg, and you might just notice that editing is slickly performed to not actually show them peeling the same egg they cracked. Not only that, but when they actually remove the egg from the two shell halves, you might notice the fact that they are removing a medium hard boiled egg from a large egg shell.
Kinda makes a difference, you know.
(By the way… How do the makers of the EGGstractor feel about the EZ Cracker? Just wondering…)
The EZ Cracker is also not dishwasher safe, making cleaning a bother, and therefore the device becomes a bacterial breeding ground. Fun for the whole family!
Every facet of life has been targeted by these silly products and commercials. From the “Perfect Brownie” pan to the “EmoryCat” de-clawer, any activity on any level of difficulty will inevitably earn its own infomercial product. Don’t believe me? Google “butter dispenser,” and see how someone managed to think pushing butter through a playdoh extruder was something we couldn’t live without.
Try “chillow” to see just what wonders science have done to remove us from the stress of flipping a pillow over!
Or, for that one thing you simply cannot live without, search “presidential knife set,” and thank me later.
But do it quick, this is a limited time commentary, and operators are napping.