Can Whitney Survive Its Ad Campaign? A Discussion
Halle: Okay, here’s the thing. I understand that everyone has their own taste in comedy, and we can no more escape our own preferences than we can change them. Also, you and I are people who are (willfully) inundated with comedy all the time, so we probably have an even more specific view on many comedy-related things. Perhaps we are even, let’s say, persnickety
Adam: I would say we are DEFINITELY persnickety.
Halle: That being said…the Whitney ad campaign seems like something they had in a box in a storage room somewhere for 15 years that they just dusted off for this particular show.
Adam: Oh my god, totally. Sitcoms featuring standups, named after the standup! I just keep thinking about the show Jerry and George were trying to make for NBC on Seinfeld, and it was called Jerry. And even that was a joke back then!
Halle: Exactly. I’d like to cite one specific poster, if I may.
Adam: Please, by all means.
Halle: Which is the one which has a joke that goes something like, “Whoever invented morning sex forgot about morning breath.”
Adam: A hilarious take on modern romance!
Halle: Now, Whitney Cummings has a bit about not liking morning sex, so much so that she will instead cut a hole in a cantaloupe, warm it up in the microwave and slip a wig onto it so her boyfriend can have sex with that, instead. The difference between those two concepts is….unfathomable
Adam: Haha yes. But cantaloupe intercourse is a tough thing to put on a bus ad.
Halle: I guess! This is NYC, people! In my America, that’s on the side of every bus in Manhattan.
Adam: You should pitch the National Cantaloupe Growing Council.
Halle: “And then you just cut a hole in it, you see, but make sure you don’t put the wig on first so it doesn’t melt in the microwave.”
Adam: But that’s the thing, I am not sure ANY joke would work in the context they’re putting them in. I just don’t think that there are jokes funny enough to survive being put in a very obvious SETUP, PUNCHLINE format, on a billboard, with a smirking comedian, that you will see 100 times.
Halle: Yeah, that is a good point. So the question is, is this Whitney ad campaign really any worse than any other ad campaign, or is she just drawing ire for any other number of reasons (being a lady, being young, playing a character that is nominally supposed to be herself)?
Adam: Well the ones about being a lady also seem like they are from a time warp. “Ladies be talkin’!”
Halle: Not only ladies be talking, but ladies talk to punish their men! “That’s what you get for forming a relationship with me! I will use my brain and face to make sounds that you hate!”
It’s hard, because I hate that joke with such a white-hot passion, I can’t see outside of myself to why some people think that’s funny. Someone in a boardroom must have thought it was, right?
Adam: I guess there is a rich tradition of sitcoms about people in marriages in which they bicker all the time, from Archie Bunker on down. But this just feels way worse for some reason.
Halle: I think it’s weird that a show with a female protagonist has an ad campaign which has numerous jokes about women being awful.
The ad campaign in general makes me suspect that Whitney is going to be a completely bleached-out version of Whitney Cummings’ stand-up. And if that’s the case, then why would anyone watch it? The show is named after the comedian, you would hope that her ad campaign would in someway highlight what makes her show different and her voice special. Perhaps that is merely a fantasy.
Adam: Well, she has said that the show will be edgy and boundary-pushing and that’s why we should be on board with the laugh track and multicam setup. But I get the impression that just saying “morning sex” on a billboard is edgy for NBC.
Halle: Well, we know she wears a sexy nurse outfit in the pilot.
Adam: CAN YOU DO THAT ON TELEVISION??
Halle: That’s what a time traveler from 1952 would scream at the wall of TVs at Best Buy
Adam: WHO LET THESE WOMEN SPEAK WITHOUT FIRST BEING SPOKEN TO?
Halle: I’m going to be honest. I have on several occasions come home and watched Whitney Cummings’ stand-up on YouTube after seeing those ads. And whatever your personal preferences are, I don’t think anyone can argue that Whitney Cummings can’t write a joke.
Adam: Oh of course.
Halle: So I think it comes down to, how much is she (and writers who get how to use that voice) actually represented in the show vs. how much is going to be like that Garbage Town, USA ad campaign?
Adam: Right, do you think the show will be more like her standup or more like the ad campaign?
Halle: I don’t know. The clips that have been out so far look questionable, but I know that pilots are usually a poor example of the show they represent.
“It’s basically my stand up in the form of a narrative show, so if you like my stand up, you’ll love the show. All we do is talk about sex and vaginas and vejazzling about how the Kardashians are sluts and I’m in a freaking nurse costume trying to have sex with my boyfriend and he’s getting a concussion…its much edgier than the shows without an audience. I am absolutely going to get sued.”
Halle: The Sexy Nurse Association already has their lawyers on the phone.
Adam: Yeah, if dressing like a sexy nurse can get you sued, every frat party everywhere had better lawyer the fuck up.
Halle: Look, objectively, those things are topics and things I love, so my inclination is going to be to love this show. HOWEVER, the ad campaign seems to be very focused on how awful women are, what with that noise that is ceaselessly emitting from their throats.
Adam: Yeah, I really want to like it. I think that’s the problem: these ads are making it nearly impossible to think I will.
Halle: It’s just like, I feel as if I am Whitney Cummings’ target audience, being a lady of a certain age and race and access to TV. And the ads just made me want to smash them with a hammer.
I also think we should consider the fact that by making us talk about the show with terrible ads, we are in fact giving the show more publicity and compelling more people to watch it to find out if it’s bad. Which is a great plan, if you really want people to watch the first episode with no regard to anything else.
Adam: So you’re saying we’re being manipulated. That certainly seems possible, I think I am probably pretty easily manipulated.
Halle: I’m a Whitney truther, is what I’m saying
Adam: But yeah, not sure if it’s the best secret plan in the world to be like “Let’s make the worst possible ads so everyone talks about how much they hate the show before they’ve even seen it! Word of mouth!!!”
Halle: Yeah, I definitely don’t think it’s a good idea.
Adam: But maybe we are underestimating the power our published chatlogs have over the viewing public of America.
Halle: Ha, good point.
Also, if you look really closely at those Whitney posters, you can see a tiny owl.
Adam: The castle in the background has a penis for a spire!!
Halle: When Whitney flops down on the ground, the dust that drifts into the sky says, “Women need to shut their yappers!”
Adam: Haha the ultimate easter egg.
So bottom line, do you think these ads will hurt the show in the end? Will people be avoiding this show rather than seeking it out because these ads are so singularly horrible?
Halle: I mean, I think the fact we are even having this conversation makes me inclined to say yes. So, yeah, it’s just not helping anybody.
Adam: Well, here’s hoping the show is actually good and this is just a product of NBC’s crack advertising team. Because if not, if the show is really 22 minutes of these billboards, it will not be pretty.
Halle: I mean, it cannot be as bad as those ads make it look. I refuse to believe it.
Adam: BUT WHAT IF, HALLE??
Halle: Then those sexy nurses are going to have a field day in court.