The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Iraqi spokesman should
try a career as pitchman


April 10, 2003
By Franklin Harris

I admit it. I like Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf. Sure, he's the Iraqi information minister, and for all I know he could be a war criminal. But you just have to like a guy who can stand on a rooftop and tell you that U.S. forces are not inside Baghdad even as you can plainly hear automatic gunfire a few blocks away.

And he does it with a straight face.

We've all heard that the first casualty in war is the truth, but this is overkill.

So, if al-Sahhaf survives the war and doesn't wind up in prison, he should come to America. He can have a stellar second career as an advertising pitchman. He can be the new Joe Isuzu.

For those of you too young or too old to remember, Joe Isuzu, played by actor David Leisure, was the spokesman for the Isuzu automobile company during the mid 1980s.

Joe Isuzu's gimmick was to make wild claims about Isuzu vehicles, such as saying that an Isuzu Trooper has enough carrying capacity to hold every book in the Library of Congress. During the commercials, subtitles would tell viewers that Joe was lying, just in case some folks couldn't figure it out.

At the end of every ad, Joe would finish up with his catchphrase, "You have my word on it."

Joe Isuzu became one of the most recognizable pitchmen of the '80s. He was up there with the fast-talking guy who pitched Federal Express (John Moschitta) and the "Where's the beef?" woman (Clara Peller). Leisure parlayed the role into a regular job as the annoying neighbor on the sitcom "Empty Nest."

Now, imagine al-Sahhaf as Joe Isuzu. We'll call him Mohammed Isuzu.

He'll drive up in his Isuzu Trooper and say, "My Trooper has enough cargo space to hold an entire regiment of Republican Guards." Or maybe he'll say something like, "My Trooper was able to destroy 100 Yankee tanks!" and the subtitle will read, "Fat chance."

With the help of a good agent, al-Sahhaf could have a long and profitable career as a minor celebrity. From commercials, he could move on to gigs like judging "Star Search" contestants or cracking jokes from the center square on "Hollywood Squares." (If Whoopi Goldberg can sit in the center square, anyone can.)

If he plays his cards right, he can get his own TV movie on the USA Network.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking al-Sahhaf is one of the bad guys. He's going to need a major image makeover before anyone is going to buy anything from him, even an Isuzu. But I have a solution: pro wrestling.

In pro wrestling, the most likable babyface can turn into the most despicable heel almost overnight. And with even less effort, a heel can turn face.

The Rock first gained popularity as a heel. Then he turned face and became a movie star.

I ask you, what does The Rock have that al-Sahhaf doesn't?

Mohammed, I don't know if you still have access to the Western media over there, but if you're reading this, give me a call. We'll do lunch. You have my word on it.

In the meantime, keep your head down.

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