Tech

Happy Birthday to Saturday Night Live’s best fake ad yet.

I’ve been watching Saturday Night Live since the original cast in 1975, although I was probably way too young for the show at the time. The fake commercials have always been my favorite part. And I just happened to discover that Friday marks the fifth anniversary of what I believe to be that best fake ad the show may have ever done.

The ad ran on May 13, 2017, and begins with Kenan Thompson disguised as an elderly man attempting to use the Amazon smart speaker his children gave him.

“Alyssa, what time is it?” he asks. “Amanda!” Apparently the fault isn’t in the device, but in the fact that he can’t remember what to call the damn thing.

Fear not, the fake ad is hawking a new product from Amazon, “Amazon Echo Silver – for the Greatest Generation”.

It responds to any fairly Alexa-like name an older person could think of (“Excedrin!”). It patiently repeats answers over and over again, even if someone forgot the question. It dutifully reminds users that Satchel Paige died in the 1980s, lets them know what the young people fooling around on the street corner are up to, and helps them locate the lost phone (it’s in your right hand ).

If they’re shivering under a blanket and asking for the heating to be cranked up, it’s a useless reminder that the room is already 100 degrees. It also has an “uh-huh” feature that repeats this phrase over and over again whenever the owner tells a rambling, pointless story.

The ad itself is impeccably designed. On Thompson’s mantelpiece, alongside the Amazon Echo Silver, are ancestral photos, round glasses, and a bottle of the kind of men’s perfume your grandpa or papa would use. Kate McKinnon emerges as a white-haired lady buried under a hand-crocheted blanket, and again the props behind her are spot-on — a ceramic basket, statues of the Virgin Mary, black-and-white photos of young children who are probably now retired walk.

The fake ad does not offend older people. I had GI parents and they would have recognized themselves in the ad and laughed. It’s a universal truth that technology, which shows up after you’ve already lived much of your life, is sometimes difficult to understand.

And the SNL cast members in the skit all seem to take inspiration from beloved grandparents, not so much mocking them as honoring them. I watched an entire 90 minute show with Thompson, McKinnon, Aidy Bryant and the others playing these older folks struggling with modern technology.

When the ad first aired in 2017, I wrote a post about it, called it “brilliant”. A cautious reader immediately warned that “brilliant” is a big word for a late-night show skit. Five years later, I stand by my assessment.

Sure, you can back up the old-school bass-o-matic or even Colon Blow, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t watched any SNL sketch more times than the 2017 Amazon Echo Silver ad. Check it out if you haven’t, it’s hilarious. Alexa would give a big “uh-huh” at that.

https://www.cnet.com/culture/entertainment/happy-birthday-to-the-best-saturday-night-live-fake-commercial-yet/ Happy Birthday to Saturday Night Live’s best fake ad yet.

Chris Barrese

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