My favorite joke of all time, you will probably not be surprised to learn, is from Richard Pryor. Edited in the interests of taste, it goes like this:
Pryor's wife comes home early. Walks up to the bedroom. Catches Richard doing the wild thing with another woman. Wife glares. Pryor improvises. "Who you gonna believe, [female canine]?" he cries. "Me, or your lyin' eyes?"
I think of that joke every time somebody—including us—writes about which ads have and have not been accepted to run during the Super Bowl (which means I think about it way too much). Pryor's bit, with its unabashed defense of that which is clearly indefensible, is such an apt metaphor for the process by which ads get the nod or the hook by the Gods of the Big Game.
Just looking at the list of 20-odd advertisers, I get the giggles. Because next to the humiliation of others and juvenile potty humor, nothing is funnier than hypocrisy.
Here's a primer on moral relativism, courtesy of CBS and the National Football League:
PETA = bad. This is a man's game, damn it. Who has the patience to listen to a bunch of whiny Hollywood types moaning about disemboweled puppies, dissected bunnies and mistreated female canines, even for half a minute?
Penile enhancement = good. League and network are sold on the worthiness of exposing an audience that includes millions of boys and girls (many of whom watch with their parents) to messages from men who can't get it up. So much so that they are taking ads from more than one erectile-dysfunction drugs.
Las Vegas = bad. Gambling is a major no-no—unless, of course, it's part of an integrated marketing deal with Sears or an on-premise promotion with Pepsi.
Beer = really good. We love you, man. Line 'em up, bartender. All 10 of 'em.
MoveOn.org = badder than bad. Political advocacy is even more unacceptable than gambling, especially if the spot trashes a president who is destined to be re-elected by a landslide that will make Nixon-McGovern look like a squeaker. (Besides, CBS's sudden sacking of the Reagan movie last year emphatically demonstrated that this net don't mess with a GOP administration.)
Anti-drug organizations = like, wow, man. Great. Responsibility is their middle name. In case you didn't get my point yet, last time I checked, alcohol was still a drug.
Super Bowl schizophrenia. I love this game!
The list of Super winners and losers is more confusing than a Pete Rose confession. Adding to the murkiness, the executions we're likely to see this weekend will suffer from their own lack of an ethical compass, regardless of the product or service being advertised.
No doubt there will be scantily clad singers. Out-of-control slacker youths. Gross stereotypes (it's as much Dumb Dad Day as it is Super Sunday). And, of course, a heaping helping of the humiliation of others and juvenile potty humor.
This whole sorry Super spectacle makes me yearn for baseball. Now there's a sport with no moral ambiguity whatsoever.
Anyway, I shouldn't be so naive, I guess. The Super Bowl and its attendant ads are part of our warped culture. It's all one big odious gestalt.
Which is why I have no problem lecturing my kid on the dangers of illicit substances while sipping on a perky little chardonnay from the Napa Valley. Or beginning this column with a joke about adultery but refraining from using the curse word Pryor used.
After all, that would be politically incorrect. I know, because I've seen it with my own two eyes.