I have never liked those weird duets with dead people (Rod Stewart and Ella Fitzgerald, Barry Manilow and Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand and Elvis, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett … wait; no), and I have the same reaction to KFC’s new “please-buy-the-dead-guy’s-food” campaign. I like my beloved icons to stay in the ground, or vault, or urn, not to be resurrected to tell the world, “Hey, I died a long time ago, but I’m back and I’m tastier (or more harmonious) than ever.”
KFC’s new Colonel Harland Sanders is Darrell Hammond, the brilliant Bill Clinton impersonator from “Saturday Night Live.” The problem isn’t Hammond’s admittedly spot on impersonation of the Colonel; it’s that he’s saying he IS the Colonel. “I’ve been gone for a while, but I’m back America!”
No. You’re not. You’re Darrell Hammond, and you’re fabulous, but you know nothing of secret herbs and spices, and you have probably never even been to the Kentucky museum that honors Colonel Sanders. I have and, like the time I toured Graceland, it was pure-T life changing.
You could press a little button, and the Colonel’s wax likeness would talk to you. But there was no mention that on the 35th anniversary of his death, he would be coming back to get us to eat more chicken and boost shareholder value.
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In the new commercial, the faux Colonel Sanders opines about all the things that have happened since we last saw him. There’s a mention of the international space station and a weirdly hostile anti-cargo pants rant that seems out of place. The message? He’s baaaack, and he’d really like us to remember all the good times we had feeling sated and vaguely nauseous together back in the day.
Look, when Billy Mays, the OxiClean guy, died unexpectedly at age 50, the brand recruited Anthony Sullivan, an equally loud (and endearingly obnoxious) spokesman who still gives shout-outs to his predecessor, the TRUE OxiClean guy. He didn’t pretend to actually BE Billy Mays.
Perhaps KFC could’ve rounded up one of the Colonel’s kin to be a spokesman a la sweet Bindi, the crocodile hunter’s kid. Instead, we are supposed to buy fast-food chicken from a dead guy. Some leg-acy.
While we’re on the subject of lousy marketing ideas, consider the makeover that McDonald’s recently gave Hamburglar. The new guy is a real human, not a cartoon, and he is shockingly menacing beneath his creepy black mask. Frankly, and I hate to say this, he looks kinda rapey.
He has a two-day stubble and creepily clear eyes and covers his mouth with his index finger as if to say: “Shhhhh. Don’t tell anyone I’m here.” Wait. Maybe it’s Josh Duggar. He is out of a job right now.
I’m sorry. That’s a terrible thing to say about Hamburglar.
Marilyn Monroe shirts at the mall. Jackie Kennedy replica jewelry on QVC. Like the kid in “Sixth Sense” famously said: “I see dead people. And they keep trying to sell me all kinds of crap.”
CELIA RIVENBARK is a New York Times best-selling author and humor columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.