Hello, Little Leaguers. First, let me say sales of my book have severely dropped off. I know the gift-giving season is upon us, and I can’t think of a better stocking stuffer than my self-published autobiographical account of the demise of Hard Cheap Knock, From Wahpeesh! to “Wha Happen?”. You can purchase as many copies as you have loved ones in the store on this very website.
At any rate, it seems there was an incident down in the Hard Cheap Knock Archive the other night involving 7 teenage interns, a system of rolling, hand-cranked shelving, and a forgotten stash of my own personal inhalant recipe. You probably didn’t hear about it because the archive is in Puerto Rico. Not only did this incident result in, what even that country considers a “biohazard situation”, but also, if they found the right box, an EXTREMELY flammable one. There was one concoction I put together in the early 90s that was equal parts butane, nail polish remover, and ether.
There were only two survivors, one very damaged lad we’ll call “Mr. Cranks”, and Beau, who happens to be the only son of our original caretaker, Edgar. If Beau has a last name, I must have missed it in the El Mundo article. Or at least Google translate didn’t think it was important.
What’s important about this incident is that a not-insignificant amount of intellectual property was bled upon. We can’t sue Mr. Cranks while he is receiving a psychiatric evaluation, so Beau took it upon himself to reach out and try to “fill the gaps” left behind by some of this damaged material.
It’s been a while since Gundy held your hand and took you for a warm stroll down the annals of Hard Cheap Knock history. Allow me to take you on yet another joyride of multi-cultural faux pas, inhalant-inspired bad decisions, and ethnic appropriation.
Pop Quiz! How many product mascots can you name off the top of your head? Probably dozens. The Geico Gecko… Tony The Tiger… the Geico Hump Day Camel… that smug bitch, Toyota’s Jan… the Geico stack of bills… the Quisp alien…Maxwell the Geico Pig… that weird puppet who stole the soul of the old man who sleeps at Bob’s Discount Furniture…
How many INDIAN mascots can you name? I’m guessing zero.
Zero is just a notch less than the amount of research I assumed the Little Dookie corporation would put into the subject when they asked me to spitball a mascot for their newest savory snack – vegetarian samosas.
In 1993, I didn’t know an Indian from an Indian. It was a full decade since Ben Kingsley played Gandhi. I don’t even think I spoke to a person of Indian origin before 1995. I had the HCK caretaker, Edgar, type “india mascot” into Lycos and the first result was the Air India mascot, “Maharajah”. That’s right, I was Lycosing for the fast track to the bank.
I submitted sketches of what basically amounts to the Maharajah as a triangle wedge in all his quiet, contemplative introspection.
The blow-back was explosive.
Fun Fact – Research While On Inhalants
If you are calling a local escort agency in the early 90s, and you ask for “an Indian lady”, a marginally brown woman dressed as Pocahontas will show up at your door. If you have my reputation as a huffing deviant with said escort agencies, you would more likely get a woman in her 60s dressed as “Sack-of-jawa” which is basically an old lady in a brown bathrobe.
Thing is, due to my introverted, addict nature, preferring the warm rush of WD-40 being sprayed directly into my rectum to any sort of human contact, I’d insisted early on that the majority of my meetings with the Little Dookie ad execs were over the phone. To my surprise, Little Dookie was on the leading edge of overseas outsourcing and their overnight team was actually IN India. My sketches went far, physically, but they did not go far literally.
Luckily the American team was fairly sympathetic to my situation. They were, after all, American good ol’ boys who would support cultural appropriation whenever they saw it. They sent me back to the drawing board to adjust my designs to something more original. That means I actually had to do real work.
At the time, Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs was “white-hot”. Everyone was talking about “Slammin’ Sammy” in the Chicago area. Hitching a ride on this cultural phenomenon didn’t tax my brain too much and actually seemed like a good fit.
Was it a problem that Sosa hailed from the Dominican Republic? Couldn’t say. Those Desert Storm-loving, three-martini lunch American ad execs at Little Dookie filled their laps with drool at the sight of Indian culture made as American as apple pie. At the end of the day, brown was brown to them, whether it is skin color or a flaky savory crust. Plus if you add baseball to anything in the advertising world, and you can pretty much print money.
They fucking loved him. Sammy became the comic relief of the Savory Snack Squad. You needn’t look any further than the film Short Circuit to see that Indian guys were just inherently funny in the late 80s/early 90s. White actors were playing zany Indians in all sorts of movies. Even Daniel Day-Lewis.
Sammy even had his own catchphrase: “Show me the CHUTNEY!” Bizarrely, this pre-dated the Jerry Maguire movie by 4 years, so that studio may owe me some back royalties.
My fellow creators were completely on board when I suggested a “Return of Dhoti” issue of HCK wherein Sammy had a Little Dookie-sponsored two-page origin story. He even made it into The Official Handbook of the Hard Cheap Knock Universe. Sammy was looking like a home run!
The End of Veggie Samosas
Sadly, Samosa-related sales declined severely in the face of the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa’s “corked bat” controversy in 2003. The running gag was customers asking, “Is there cork in it?” and Johnny Carson even joked “Cork me the CHUTNEY!” in one of his monologues. That was kind of the end for Little Dookie Veggie Samosas.
Is there a moral to this story? “Be original”? “Don’t steal from other cultures”? “Don’t count your chutney before it’s batched”? I’m not sure. What I do know is, Sammy Samosa joined the Savory Snack Squad and kept me in WD-40 cans until my rectal hemorrhage in 2004.