Back in my college years the talk show Late Night with David Letterman was a delightfully subversive, highly imaginative way to end the day. The writers were whip smart and the bits they did would have become viral sensations if today’s socially networks had existed back then. The other night I was out having a few beers with a friend ten years my junior who had missed out on the imaginative era of David Letterman and I mentioned a mock commercial that I often think about, whose title eluded me until now.
I sat down this morning to find that link to send to her and discovered that it was pretty difficult to remember any of the details that would help narrow my YouTube searches. I knew that Michael McKean had been in it and that it had been a musical and had probably been on Letterman’s show. It was a “making of” documentary about a musical commercial made for a multinational company. I also knew that it had a very funny actress in it that I kept thinking was Margot Kidder of Superman fame, but searching for that didn’t work.
I finally (re)discovered clips from David Letterman’s Holiday Film Festivals and from that point everything fell into place. The piece was shot by and starred the very funny Harry Shearer and featured Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Marcia Strassman (NOT Margot Kidder).
This film is proto Spinal Tap and you can see the great potential that lay ahead of these guys as you watch this video.
What’s most funny about this mockumentary is that it mockuments a “musical film” entitled “You Wouldn’t Believe Our World” which was commissioned by a multinational defense industry conglomerate (Majesco Industries) which was rebranding itself more simply as MJI.
I most enjoy how the actors discuss their work on this piece of corporate pap as though it were as valid an acting piece as a heart-rending Tennessee Williams play. It’s a very clever lampoon of the way that actors when left to their own devices can transform anything they participate in into high art.
And more than anything I love the emotional honesty they were able to convey in the hero song:
It hurts to be the one who works inside them,
whose heroism must remain unsung,
but you learn to bear the pain,
and go on making…
used around the world!
We hide our pride,
we keep it inside,
’cause now we’re able to say:
we’re part of M-J-I
And then Michael tosses in some doo-doo-doo-doo-doos and it’s just so hearwarming, the way those multinational commercials tend to be.
Watch it for yourself!