It should come as no surprise that my latest idea for getting rich with barely any effort came to me while watching late night television. After all, late night programming is a treasure trove of information, whether from commercials for revolutionary home care products and innovative personal fitness solutions, or through all those infomercials featuring audiences who can barely contain their bladders in excitement over, say, a new battery-operated back scratcher.
Frankly, I feel sorry for people who, because they have 9-5 jobs or do not enjoy the pleasure of insomnia, are denied the fun of watching the commercials that only air on basic cable during the wee hours. While most suckers are wasting the night away in bed, resting up for another grinding day at the office, we late night viewers are busy learning how to blast our abs, grill the fat-free George Foreman way and "enhance" our masculinity, all while enjoying "hot chat" with other area singles and winning thousand-dollar settlements in fraudulent personal injury lawsuits.
All of today's over-the-top, low budget late night ads owe a debt of gratitude to the granddaddy of the genre, the Ginsu knife. Ads for Ginsu knives aired constantly during my youth, imparting important cultural lessons I wasn't getting in school. For example, from the ad's signature line I learned that, "In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife [video depiction of man karate chopping through two blocks of wood]. But it can't cut a tomato [video of hand karate chopping into a tomato]." At the time, everything I knew of Japanese culture came from Sunday afternoon creature double feature movies, so I was never entirely clear whether the ads were suggesting that Japanese people actually cut wood with a knife.
"It's no wonder their cities are helpless against the near-constant onslaught from men in crappy-looking monster suits," I recall thinking.
Still, as the commercials clearly showed, Ginsu knives were perfect for anyone whose unusual culinary demands required a kitchen knife that could cut through nails, tin cans, radiator hoses and, in rare circumstance, actual food. Also anyone who appreciated the whiff of exoticism that came with purchasing a vaguely Far Eastern-sounding product that was actually manufactured in Fremont, Ohio.
But, to borrow a line from the Ginsu knife ads, that was not all. We 1970s-era TV aficionados also regularly had our viewing interrupted by ads for big time recording artists I'd never heard of like Roger Whittaker, Zamfir ("Master of the pan flute") and Slim Whitman. As an ignorant kid, I assumed that these were just a bunch of has-been performers who could only afford to advertise their records during little-watched afternoon television shows. Once I grew a little older I realized the truth, which was that they were has-beens who could also afford to advertise during little-watched nighttime shows.
I admit that I always liked Zamfir because his name made him sound like some sort of crazed, pan flute-playing villain from a James Bond movie:
Bond: "You're mad, Zamfir! You'll never get away with this!."
Zamfir: "Oh, I think I will, Mr. Bond. With my giant orbiting speakers in place, the entire world will soon be hypnotized into submission by the strains of my haunting pan flute melodies. BWA-HA-HA-HA!!!!!"
My favorite ads, however, were for Slim Whitman's records, because they included the singular boast that Whitman had, "sold more records than Elvis and the Beatles combined." Eventually someone pointed out to me that this seemingly dubious claim was technically true since Elvis and the Beatles had never combined to put out an album. Either that or Slim was only counting records that the artists in question had sold personally, as he did regularly out of the back of his beat-up 1972 Chevy van.
But to get back to the topic of this column, which is my new get rich quick scheme, it recently occurred to me that many of the late-night ads these days aren't for actual products, but instead promote seminars viewers can attend to achieve a variety of laudable life goals, such as figuring out how to hear Donald Trump talk for an hour.
Of course, the people behind these ads are following a fundamental tenet of business success, which is that while you'll never get rich by attending phony-baloney self-improvement seminars, you can get rich by duping others into attending phony-baloney self-improvement seminars. I simply plan to take the idea one step further - which is why my fellow later-nighters will soon be seeing commercials for my ground-breaking self-improvement seminars on how to put together self-improvement seminars.
I figure that with this audience my idea can't miss, especially when viewers learn that if they act now, I'll throw in a free cordless back scratcher.