Before They Were Famous: The 10 Most Regrettable Celebrity Commercials


Shed a tear for the commercial actor. It's a rough life when your career-defining role is "Extremely Satisfied Tampon User No. 3." Few escape this unique hell; even fewer climb to such fame that their early days as corporate shills are all but forgotten. Thankfully, though, Al Gore recognized this deficiency in embarrassing celebrity video/porn presentation technology and invented the Internet. Without it, we might never have seen these early performances from stars at their product-hawking finest.

Brad Pitt for Pringles

Role: Person Who Is Way Too Physically Attractive to Actually Use This Product

Synopsis: There's a vague narrative about broken-down cars and white people dancing, but it's lost in the quasi-Japanese bizarreness of the whole spot. Also, "Pringles: The Fever Reliever?" We're wary of any product that could share a tagline with Junior Strength MOTRIN.

Bottom Line: Sex sells, and if sexy people like the soon-to-be Brad Pitt use a product, why shouldn't we? If only we lived in advertising land, where eating greasy chips led to slow-motion gyrations with sun-kissed members of the opposite sex. Instead, all we got was this damned deep-seated self-loathing.

Bonus Moment: The high-pitched screeching of "We've got the fever for the Pringles!" halfway through will haunt your dreams for weeks to come.

Matt LeBlanc for Heinz Ketchup

Role: Joey Tribbiani

Synopsis: A young, struggling actor with limited range and no visible means of support tries to impress women by dripping condiments off his apartment roof.

Bottom Line: Besides providing further evidence that Joey Tribbiani is a real person and "Matt LeBlanc" is merely an elaborate tax shelter, this commercial proves another theory of ours: Glass ketchup bottles are the worst, most outdated invention, ever. Should it really take five stories of gravity to get a single drop of ketchup?

Bonus Moment: The flirtatious/creepy wink at the end, soon to develop into a catchphrase that we refuse to repeat here.

Elijah Wood for Pizza Hut

Role: One-Fifth of the Implausibly, Clumsy Suburban Family

Synopsis: No matter how hard lil' Elijah's dad tries, he just can't cook those hamburgers! They just come out small, shriveled and unsatisfying! Oh man, I bet that's coming up in the divorce hearings! If only they'd tried this exotic "peet-zah" instead.

Bottom Line: This ad resorts to a tactic typically seen in infomercials: Make your product's alternative/competition look so inhumanly hard, that to not buy your product would border on heresy. However, since most Americans know how to take a shower or how to cook a burger without losing a limb, Wood and his family just end up seeming criminally incompetent.

Bonus Moment: The family dog's bizarre, fang-baring cameo at about 16 seconds.

Sarah Michelle Gellar for Burger King

Role: Cute Little Girl Who Fucking Hates McDonald's

Synopsis: A cute Sarah Michelle Gellar discovers that McDonald's uses a pennyweight's less meat in its burgers than Burger King. Outraged, she sets out to inform the world, armed with only her crayons and a national, multiplatform marketing campaign.

Bottom Line: We have no idea why advertisers think a lisp and pigtails equals credibility. It's great that, between naptime and recess, kids like Gellar find time for consumer activism. But, do we really trust the market research of someone who just recently learned full-bladder control?

Bonus Moment: The burger comparison chart's adorably informative backwards "e."

Keanu Reeves for Corn Flakes

Role: Mischievous Caterer (the best kind)

Synopsis: A young Keanu Reeves is stuck in a dead-end job, catering banquets for the leisure class. Only two things sustain him: His love of interpretive dance and how pissed those bourgeoisie cocksuckers will be when they find their caviar replaced with corn flakes.

Bottom Line: We're sorry Keanu is a wage slave whose only joy is mischievously stealing bites of cereal, but it still doesn't make us want to buy Kellogg's bland crap flakes. We refuse to eat anything that can't hold its own in milk for more than 10 seconds.

Bonus Moment: Keanu's last-minute check to make sure the coast is clear before guiltily indulging in a spoonful of dry cereal.

Paul Rudd for Super Nintendo

Role: The "Cool" Early '90s Teen

Synopsis: Thanks to the infamous "Care Bear Backlash" of the late '80s, by the time 1990 rolled around, anything marketed to kids had to be "edgy." Here, the notoriously family-friendly (read: "square") Nintendo enlists a young Paul Rudd to shake up that wholesome image for their latest product, the "Nintendo Super-Happy, Fun-Time Game Box" (working title).

Bottom Line: Considering Rudd hasn't dropped below four levels of ironic detachment since 1995, his wide-eyed amazement at his surroundings (Trench coats! Smoke machines! SimCity!) seems less than sincere in retrospect. It's not exactly Rudd's fault, either-even to our young, pre-Clueless eyes, this ad stunk of cheese.

Bonus Moment: The cryptic "New Zelda and Football to come" disclaimer at the end of the ad.

Meg Ryan for Aim Toothpaste

Role: Gummy Cheerleader

Synopsis: Meg Ryan's cheerleader friends give her a an old-fashioned razzing over her "fancy" mint-flavored toothpaste, until it is revealed that Meg's good oral hygiene has apparently nabbed her a date with the dreamy Jack Reid. (Not revealed in the commercial: Meg puts out like a wolf in heat.)

Bottom Line: So, girls who use mint toothpaste are easy. Whatever. We still pity an era where women's locker rooms were portrayed as places of sweaters and serious conversations about fluoride, and not the misty, slow-motion fantasies we now know them to actually be.

Bonus Moment: "My dears, this is serious toothpaste." Enough said.

Seth Green for Nerf

Role: A Radical Dude

Synopsis: Despite the best efforts of Seth Green's haircut, Nerf guns are still pretty much the coolest things, ever.

Bottom Line: This ad makes it scarily apparent that it's now 2007 and Seth Green has not yet hit puberty. Also, from the smokin' fashions to the "NOT!" fake-out, it's a great start to our next article, "Things We Pretend Not To Remember About the Early '90s."

Bonus Moment: Mandatory Kids' Commercial Trope No. 23: Before all's said and done, a representative of the adult world must be taken down in a suitably humiliating fashion. Here, a mime falls into a pond. Man, does Nerf get kids, or what?

Morgan Freeman for Listerine

Role: Straight-Talking, Streetwise, Vaguely Racist Caricature

Synopsis: Lawdy, mastuh, sho' is hard being a po' ol' telephone repairman. Good thing 'dis mouthwash is such a powerful concoction! Now, who wants some of Aunt Jemima's pancakes?

Bottom Line: So the message is that even if something tastes bad, it can be good for you? We had no idea! Thank goodness Listerine commissioned such an informative and non-condescending minstrel show to get the message across.

Bonus Moment: The other guy's closing non-committal grunt of a response to Freeman's twisted, mouth-cleansing logic.

Bruce Willis for Seagram's Golden Wine Coolers

Role: Embarrassingly Over-Enthusiastic Guy Who Breaks Into Song and Dance

Synopsis: It's a classic commercial set up-this product is so great, that the mere thought of using it causes people to start hollering and gyrating like epileptics. Here, a pre-Moonlighting Willis stars as a good ol' boy who loves his wine coolers so much, that he and his jug band have to start an impromptu porch-front jam session.

Bottom Line: Ignore momentarily that Seagram's prize beverage will be a pop-culture punch line for years to come. Instead, focus on Bruce's slurred, "authentic-drunk" performance, which allows him to deliver the inexplicable tagline "It's wet and it's dry" with complete conviction.

Bonus Moment: If you look closely, tipsy Bruce Willis actually takes a swing at the guitarist 20 seconds in, and then tries to pass it off as a pirouette.

Scroll down for the next article


Forgot Password?