Sure, humor is subjective—but some advertising over the years has been undeniably hilarious. Here are our picks for the 10 funniest mainstream commercials ever made (none of that "banned" European stuff), stretching from the '80s to today. Yes, we left out about 17 million other ads, probably including your favorite. Leave your objections and insults—along with your favorite funny ads—in the comments section.
- Apple, "Stuffed" (2007)
Click to view. While usually not laugh-out-loud funny, TBWA's "Get a Mac" ads for Apple, which ran from 2006 until 2009, were some of the most wryly humorous TV entertainment of their day. Built around an archetypal comic duo—Justin Long as the straight-man Mac, and John Hodgman as the bumbling-fool PC—the spots never failed to amuse. "Stuffed," from April 2007, was among the more visually outlandish, with an absurdly rotund PC complaining about how he's stuffed full of trial software that really slows him down.
- Holiday Inn, "Whale Song" (2006)
Click to view. A few years before becoming vp of everything Kevin Butler in the PlayStation campaign, Jerry Lambert starred as one of the "Business Guys" in Fallon's Holiday Inn campaign. A master of deadpan, Lambert stole the show in every spot, including this one, where he imitates the majestic humpback whale in his hotel room's comfortable—perhaps too comfortable—work space.
- Starburst, "Bus Station" (2007)
Click to view. Candy brands have embraced absurdist comedy in recent years, rolling out "oddvertising" that leaves the youth target in stitches. And when it comes to hilarious oddball characters, few can match Starburst's "Little Lad," the unnervingly sprightly berries-and-cream loving imp, played by Jack Ferver, from this TBWA\Chiat\Day spot.
- Skittles, "Piñata" (2008)
Click to view. Another amusing oddvertising spot from TBWA\Chiat\Day, this Skittles spot skewed darker, with a human piñata recovering from a vicious attack at the hands of a co-worker. Piñata Man's anguished cry at the end is probably the genre's singular high point.
- Bud Light, "Mr. Really, Really, Really Bad Dancer" (2003)
Click to view. Bud Light's "Real Men of Genius," from DDB Chicago, facetiously saluting the world's legion of unsung male heroes, is probably the best and funniest radio campaign of all time, and the TV spots were stellar, too. The faux-epic tributes featured great mock-serious voiceovers by Pete Stacker and over-the-top vocals by Survivor's Dave Bickler. Among the highlights was this spot, lauding crappy guy dancers everywhere.
- Budweiser, "Whassup?" (1999)
Click to view. Another campaign that would light up the culture, "Whassup?" featured Charles Stone III and his buddies groaning and bellowing the catchphrase at each other over and over. Simple, infectious, and hilarious, it originated as a short film before DDB got Stone and friends to remake it as a commercial. Before long, it seemed everyone in America, Budweiser drinkers or not, was parroting the phrase, while Stone was picking up multiple ad awards.
- Reebok, "Terry Tate" (2003)
Click to view. Slapstick violence livened up a familiar comic outpost—the drab corporate office—in this Super Bowl spot for Reebok starring Lester Speight as Terry Tate, a linebacker who thrives by viciously tackling colleagues when they mess up. It was conceived by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who made Tate a master of the one-liners. After flattening one worker who poured the last cup of coffee, he screamed, "You kill the joe, you make some mo!"
- Cadbury, "Gorilla" (2007)
Click to view. An animal spot with a twist. A gorilla is transported into a state of solemn euphoria by the Phil Collins song "In the Air Tonight." But the beast is just gearing up. As the song reaches the drum solo, he ferociously leaps into action, pounding his drum kit with the kind of emotion only iconic '80s music can evoke. Preposterous, wonderful, and weird, the Fallon ad gave Cadbury's advertising new life. And it got the song back on the charts, too.
- Wendy's, "Where's the Beef?" (1984)
Click to view. Grumpy old people and mild suggestiveness—comic staples on their own, they worked even better together in this legendary spot. The diminutive and inimitable Clara Peller, 81 at the time, created a cultural movement just by swiveling her head back and forth, looking bewildered and barking the catchphrase. Created by writer Cliff Freeman, art director Donna Weinheim and director Joe Sedelmaier for agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample.
- John West Salmon, "Bear" (2000)
Click to view. Animals and blows to the crotch—two more mainstays of advertising comedy, combined to great effect in this British ad for canned salmon by Leo Burnett. What begins as a nature documentary about bears fishing for salmon is interrupted by a John West fisherman running and screaming into the scene, determined to fight the bears for the best fish. And fight them he does, giving one a serious kick to the grizzlies.
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