If you live in Canada, you’ve seen the gibberish tv advertisement for V_i_a_g_r_a. The makers of this drug are incredibly lucky to have a product that everyone knows. In Canada, it’s illegal to run an ad that ties a prescription drug to a particular disease, cure or treatment, but all they have to do is make sex jokes. How hard (wah-wah) can that be?
The premise for this series of ads is rather clever: you get a couple of dudes talking dirty about the sex they had the night before thanks to the drug, but have them talk in gibberish so that you can make them say what would otherwise be x-rated. Watch the video here:
In my opinion, the result is terrible. The dirty talk sounds nothing like a real language. You know they’re talking dirty, but if you had to translate the script into English, you’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint anything that was said. Knockertut? Dingle monkeyquank? Muftychuck wubble? They are no Tom Stoppard and this is no Dogg’s Hamlet. It all sounds like (ridiculous) nouns–no pronouns, no adjectives and no verbs. The ad company thought it’d be hilarious just to put funny words in there.
They were wrong. These ads insult my intelligence. I’m changing my prescription to c_i_a_l_i_s.
The ad would be way more effective if it sounded like they were talking a real foreign language. After all, the tagline is “The International language of v_i_a_g_r_a.” My best guess (and their only excuse) is that the ad company didn’t want to offend any nationality, so they chose not to make the language sound like any existing language.
However, there are plenty of ways to play the premise out without offending anyone. The simplest would have been to actually tape the ad in a foreign language but have had the actors intone PG words in such a way as to sound dirty.
The following script, or in fact any script, read in any other language could sound incredibly raunchy to an English audience. Any native speakers of the language would be in on an extra inside joke:
- I have to tell you all about V_i_a_g_r_a.
- This will be a secret just between you and me.
- Yeah, I just had a fantastic night.
Vinny wrote about gibberish in improv a while back. If you want to distill all the rules into one: make your gibberish sound like a real language. That includes varying sentence length, changing intonations, the occasional hesitation, referring to people and important things by repeated use of their names and adding gestures. It’s hard; it takes practice. To get the hang of it, eavesdrop on people speaking another language.
When Keith Johnstone was in town earlier this year, he ran us through a gibberish exercise where he had lines of gibberish written out for the players on slips of paper. That freed us from having to invent words and allowed us to focus on giving them realistic intonations. It worked well. The gibberish lines had been written by students in a previous workshop. Whenever a word like Monkeyquank turned up on a slip of paper, he’d have the players rip it up.