6 Celeb PSAs That Went Totally Off The Rails
In the history of the world, has a PSA ever actually worked? Did anyone ever watch a celebrity tell them something that they shouldn't be doing and immediately put it down? When the cast of Friends appears on your screen like a bunch of toothy, grinning, hell-people telling you not to smoke crack before that NBC rainbow thing flies over their heads, do you not just immediately start eating crack rocks like popcorn just because?
No matter, the PSA used to be an extremely ubiquitous method for delivering pretty obvious statements through the mouths of celebrities, whether we needed them or not. With so many of these produced over the years, there's no doubt that some absolutely dogshit messages and deliveries have come from them ...
Ultimate Warrior's Anti Smoking Breakdown
We would be shocked to discover this actually had a script.
This one is as brief as it is absurd. Choosing the Ultimate Warrior as the ambassador for an anti-smoking message is about as off-target as you can possibly get. So off-target that he decides to cut his anti-smoking promo by doing something that is probably even less healthy than just smoking the things to begin with, eating an entire pack of cigarettes to ... show you ... why it's not a good idea to put cigarettes into your body? I guess when you're filming PSAs with the roster of WWF wrestlers from the late '80s and early '90s, you have to take what you can get. There's no question that other takes involved the Undertaker jamming a heroin needle into his dickhole to demonstrate just how bad this stuff is for you, and they probably couldn't run the one where Yokozuna is just throwing boxes and boxes of condoms into the trash.
The Ultimate Warrior does accomplish the job of making you leave this PSA without the urge to smoke. But that's only because you are left with the urge to call in an immediate wellness check on this man before you go and have a cigarette to calm some of the stress this crap just gave you. I do love his passion for the message here, and it puts the usual, stale delivery that many celebrities put forth in these things to shame. You get the idea that he was going to give it 110% no matter what they needed him to rally against that day. Just have to give serious credit to the producer that switched him off of the Drinking Draino Is Bad video at the last second.
Spider-Man Encouraging Voter Fraud
You'd think a hero from New York in the early '90s might have more pressing things to do than promote voting.
We'll get to the crimes being committed by the web-slinger in a moment, but it's important to note that this PSA to encourage voter turnout is kind of terrifying. The tone is off from the very beginning. Spider-Man is darting around from place to place to essentially keep threatening the viewer while a cold, lifeless track hums on behind him. It looks more like a hostage video than anything encouraging. If I'm just over here thinking about voting and this weirdo in a bodysuit keeps popping up all over the place, quipping at me, I'm never voting for an NBA all-star ever again, let alone an election.
But Spider-Man isn't done with the whole using superpower for voter bullying thing; he takes it even further by quite obviously committing voter fraud at the end of the video. We see it all right there, clear as day, that Spider-Fraud putting his Hancock on the ballot, gloved and all. I'm pretty sure you're Peter Parker under there, and I don't think the Times Square Elmo is allowed to throw in an extra vote when he stumbles into the booth on election day. You just spent the last 20 seconds teleporting around telling us how we better vote and the importance of the right, then you go and commit a felony right in front of us.
After he finished this bogus vote, Spider-Man just started shooting his webs at everyone else's booths, sucking up their ballots and replacing their votes with his like some relentless voting maniac who will stop at nothing to just vote as much as possible until there is no voting left to be done. Legal or not.
Mac From Always Sunny Being Accosted About Smoking
Somehow no one noticed the unspoken message was “If a stranger hanging outside your school tries to pull out of the crowd, stop to chat!”
Before he went on to make one of the greatest comedies in modern history, Rob McElhenney was out there doing the young actor thing. It's hilarious to see a "young Mac" here being kind of straight-up harassed by a cameraman about smoking when he is just trying to get the hell out of his school day. Mac gives the cameraman bucketloads of attitude as the guy just won't stop weirdly asking this kid about smoking out of nowhere. After the cameraman keeps pushing, Mac throws out an agitated "Are we finished?" that leaves you thinking that he might actually throw hands if he gets just one more dumb question about smoking.
The best way to get a '90s teen smoking is to pull this kind of shit on them. Even if he had never smoked a cigarette in his life, when that cameraman showed up and started asking him about it in front of the entire school, you know he'd ham that shit up. "Do I smoke? Are you goddamn kidding me, dude? Yeah, I smoke. And I also drink. And I BAAAAANG. And I absolutely was not going to go home immediately from this to play GoldenEye until two in the morning with six other dudes in a sweaty ass basement and not touch a cigarette or a drop of alcohol or a woman until the later years of college because I'm the man, and I smoke and drink and bang and hate that little cheat Oddjob."
Pee-Wee Herman Says Crack is Whack
“Crack serious and not for kids,” says famously silly childhood entertainer.
There is not a single character in the history of film and television that more feels like a crack rock came to life than Pee-wee Herman. He is a sentient drug trip gift-wrapped in a bowtie. So to have him under the bright lights of this menacing PSA holding up some crack and telling us not to smoke the shit out of it seems disingenuous at best. I know that he was a massive star at the time of this PSA's filming, but they really could have gone with just about anybody else.
If the job of a PSA is to make you really think hard about the dangers of whatever they're railing against, I wouldn't put the drug effect's posterchild out there to tell us not to. Paul Reubens made a lot of money acting/looking like he was on crack in front of a camera, so when he breaks character to tell me not to smoke the stuff, I ain't buying it. They should have let Pee-wee take the PSA about fishing safety or something so far removed from his wheelhouse. I'd far more believe him telling us about why you need to be careful around outboard motors or setting the hook, stumbling around on deck in his suit and bowtie. This is like having Shaggy and Scooby-Doo warn us about the dangers of marijuana.
Don't Touch Mel Gibson's Vitamins
If we're going this high with the production value, think Spider-Man and the Ultimate Warrior could get back in here?
We take a detour from the usual anti-drug stance that these things loved to march out, to feature one that is ... anti ... making vitamins a drug. Mel Gibson stars in this spot about stopping the government from classifying vitamins as a drug. A bunch of government operatives storm into Mel's house and bust his ass for trying to take a Vitamin C pill. Shot like the action movies of the time, this one at least has a bit of a different energy and tone to it. Someone with a lot of money really did not want the government coming after their vitamins.
What's great about this is that it shows that if you have the money, the star, and the hard-on for just about any cause, you can make one of these. If I was a billionaire, I'd have Schwarzenegger on screens across the entire nation doing a shot-for-shot remake of Predator, but instead of hunting that bulldog-faced alien, he'd be going after people who don't say "thank you" when you hold the door open for them. A ruthless pursuit of those monsters that are far worse than any intergalactic species landing on our planet to hunt us down for sport, these are the real creatures we have to deal with.
Tubbs Devotes an Entire Movie to Being a Narc
What's better than a 30-second commercial yelling at you not to take drugs? An entire movie. That's exactly what Phillip Michael Thomas, aka Tubbs from Miami Vice, put out there in the '70s. Titled Death Drug, because if there's one thing that is clear from these PSA messages, it's that the people making them have absolutely no respect for the intelligence levels of the viewers or audience in general; Tubbs was out there showing the dangers of PCP through a tale about a musician whose life is ruined by the drug.
Though there are probably too many moments to choose from in this absolute piece of sloppy turd movie, his legendary freakout inside of a grocery store is the right place to start.
This is exactly what happens when people who likely have never touched a drug try to tell stories or send messages about using them. It's the classic Hollywood drug trip from the view of someone who doesn't know what the hell they're talking about. A time-honored tradition in all of this is the abrasive tone-deafness of this kind of preaching, whether it borders on portraying the drug as something that actually seems kind of fun, to something like this where it feels as though the person who made it learned everything they know about drug use and the effects of narcotics from going inside of a Ronald Reagan fever dream for too long. To dedicate an entire movie to poorly crusading against drugs is a level of commitment you almost have to respect. No message needs to be this long, let alone one about PCP. We can get the idea that it is a pretty terrible drug with just a few minutes, max; someone didn't need to go and roll two hours of footage to convince us.
I just really hope that somewhere, someone, was about to hit some PCP and ruin their life forever when Death Drug started to play on daytime TV, they put down the pipe, let the movie take them away, and went on to lead a fulfilling, beautiful life without this terrible drug playing any role. That scenario happened, and it makes Tubbs' life and career far more important than any actor in the history of the profession.
Top image: via YouTube