In the age of misinformation, some of the craziest ideas are well received. Especially if they are “gross and dangerous nonsense,” as the young comedian and writer Mekki Leeper put it, according to his latest Comedy Central special, Control Room.
In 2019, Leeper created a Squarespace website in 15 minutes, and on a budget of 1,000 dollars, created an “alternative medicine” company within a week.
He based his company on an entirely made-up premise that his product, a used tissue (that’s right, a tissue carrying someone else’s germs from sneezing), could make you immune to certain viruses when nestled into your nose and thoroughly inhaled. A bogus though apparently very convincing thing to do with your time and if you have $80 to spare. Yes, one tissue ran for $80, while it took Leeper less than $3 to package each one in gold tape with a fancy logo marked with its brand name, Vaev, meaning “tissue” in Danish. The tissue was marketed to work like a vaccine -- as stated on their website, which is still up by the way, “We believe that when flu season comes around, you should be able to get sick on your terms.” Those words hit kind of differently these days, don’t they?
And that’s just the beginning. Cue the commercial that Leeper produced with friends and hired actors for:
The young “entrepreneur” bought Instagram followers, created a Twitter account, and fabricated an obscure presence of a fictional 34-year-old Dane “CEO” Oliver Niessen, “running” the company. When asked for a phone interview with TIME Magazine and several other major news sources, Leeper assumed the role of the CEO from Denmark, causing The Talk, The Doctors, and even Steven Colbert to cover the story. The VaevTissue quickly became a commodity no one knew they needed. Or rather, were persuaded into. A dirtied, previously-blown tissue courtesy of the company’s hired go-to sneezers (yup, another sham) was the thing missing from people’s lives, according to way too many people who attempted to order the thing.
Of course, no one ever sneezed into these tissues, and they were never actually sold. The website was simply marked “sold out” to create hype around the idea of a European alternative medicine company and see how desired a product like this could be if presented, packaged, and promoted convincingly.
This self-proclaimed vaccine, if you will, backed by no scientific evidence or research, received the controversy it deserved, and in 2019, who would’ve thought a Twitter post like this could be so … almost on the dot?
Yet, a silly/disturbing thought remains: In the era of coronavirus, this social experiment would most likely fail with no question … right? Well, it’s hard to know given the fear Covid-19 has generated and paranoia it has installed in many people. Could a soiled tissue run on the market and reassure the public into thinking they’re making the safest choice? Although it’s difficult to know for sure, people can be coaxed for better or worse, as Leeper has shown, and it may only take one trend to revert us back to our feeble sheep mentality.
Top Image: VaevTissue