I admit it, I am a fan of potentially offensive humor. I insist on the freedom to run risks when I make a joke, even though it is sure that sometimes it will not go over well. However, I am really wondering who the hell at Hacienda in South Bend, Indiana, thought that it was a good idea to reference the 1978 Jonestown Massacre in their billboard ad. Check out the article about the furor over this.
Now, strangely enough I am well familiar with humor about this tragedy (where 900 or so members of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple drank cyanide-laced punch in Guyana). My parents used to make poisoned kool-aid related jokes, perhaps even as far back as when I was six or seven (maybe even before). I’m not sure why, but it seemed funny when they did. They are at least part of the reason why I have the sense of humor that I do.
But, they weren’t advertising for a family restaurant. I mean, who is doing a billboard for a family restaurant and thinks that: “We’re like a cult with better Kool-Aid,” over a glass containing a mixed drink, as well as the phrase “To die for!” isn’t going to land them in a world of hurt. As much as I advocate the right to engage in risky humor, someone was seriously out of it if they thought this wasn’t going to cause the shit of public furor to rain down on their head.
It’s actually kind of funny that they went ahead and did this. However, at the same time I would have immediately thought that someone was going to get in trouble. And, sure enough, they did. For some reason, the article cites that some nobody named Patricia Barbera-Brown complained (no offense Patricia, but I’m not sure why they cited you by name other than wanting to use you for a quote since you appear to just be a normal resident of South Bend) and Jeff Leslie (vice president of sales and marketing for Hacienda) said Hacienda was pulling the ads and admitting they were a mistake.
So what’s the lesson here? Maybe you don’t want to use your edgiest jokes in billboards for family restaurants? Perhaps you don’t want to associate a normal business with a cult suicide/mass-murder? Don’t do advertising work completely hammered? I’m not sure. I think the situation is funny, but I’m not sure I see a real lesson here other than someone fucked up real bad. I mean, not even I would have pulled something like this. Not unless I wanted to get fired.
Now, if you will all excuse me, I feel a bit parched. Think I might go and get me a glass of something to drink.