Critics often cite low-budget infomercials and self-produced music videos as the primary forerunners of alternative comedians like Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, and while those comparisons are absolutely on point, there’s one key influence on the duo they’re missing: The Kool-Aid commercials of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Seriously, do you remember these things? Faces continuously, unnecessarily distort atop unnatural bodies as wacky sound effects ping-pong off funhouse sets that queasily blend the digital and practical. And then, inevitably, the Kool-Aid Man himself comes barreling through a wall with drinks for these overstimulated kids.
One particular fan of these brilliant, obscene creations is The Onion’s own Hassan S. Ali, who reached out to Robert Skollar, the man behind the commercials for some insight into the process that went into them. Unsurprisingly, the direction he was given by Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld—Kraft is the company behind Kool-Aid—was “do whatever you want.”
“When I got on the account, the world had changed a lot,” he told Ali. “Kids were watching MTV videos and playing video games. The whole world of technology and how they were consuming media was very different.”
He’s not wrong. This was the era of Earthworm Jim, Ren and Stimpy and Saturday morning cartoons. At the time, adults probably thought they were witnessing the ongoing destruction of the attention span—and, in a way, maybe they were—but weird-ass stuff like this sears itself onto impressionable brains. Skollar sums it up himself: “Breaking through walls was Kool-Aid Man’s irreverent destruction.”