Many people have gotten used to saying almost anything they please about anyone or anything on any media platform. Sometimes there are consequences, especially when an individual is the subject of an off-color comment or poor choice of words. But much of the time there is no blowback at all, especially when the controversial or provocative remarks come from a comedian.
Indeed, in this era of media super-saturation it is almost impossible not to hear something potentially combustible about someone or something. For better or worse, one gets used to it. But I have to admit I was struck by the venomous attack Daniel Tosh launched against Walmart and Target in the episode of his riotously funny Comedy Central series “Tosh.0” that was telecast last night. He’s hardly the first person to make a joke or say rude things about either of these companies. But I can’t recall the last time I heard anyone rip into giant corporations in such specific ways and with such unrelenting gusto on an entertainment program.
Tosh had as a guest in the Web Redemption segment of his show a man named Joe Cantrell who was banned a few months ago from every Walmart in the world following a testy exchange in his local San Tan Valley, AZ store. Cantrell is big on ad-matching -- the act of asking a store to match lower prices offered by its competitors -- and when he did so at his local Walmart a dispute of some kind ensued. According to a report on ABC’s local affiliate that was featured on last night’s “Tosh,” four days later when Cantrell returned to the store three deputies handcuffed him, gave him a summons and notified him of the worldwide ban. Cantrell said he broke down sobbing at the time.
Cantrell’s situation proved irresistible to the “Tosh.0” team, which specializes in discovering footage of such events on the Internet and then bringing the individual involved onto the show to appear in its weekly Web Redemption segment.
Before introducing Cantrell, Tosh tore into Walmart (and, for some reason, Target) and its customers with the following comic diatribe, which had his studio audience in stitches.
“Attention 300-pound Walmart shoppers. That penny pincher is Joe, and when he tried to take advantage of Walmart’s everyday low price guarantee, those blue-vest bullies banned him for life. The average Walmart shopper dies 15 years early, so ‘lifetime ban’ is not as long as it sounds.
“Walmart is the most American store in the world, where the most patriotic people go to buy stuff made in China -- for the low, low cost of their dignity. They actually just opened a Walmart in China, so the children can see what they made! (This remark was accompanied by a photograph of dozens of children working in what appeared to be a sweatshop environment of some kind.)
“Walmart is for church-going fatties that like to make every dollar count before they blow the rest on scratch-offs. Lots of stores sell school supplies, but Walmart is the only one where you can also buy the assault rifle that will give your child a fighting chance to make it home alive.
“It’s more than a store. It’s a homeless shelter with a giant parking lot for Craigslist transactions.”
Tosh then took aim at Target.
“Target is just Walmart for democrats. You can act like you’re a better American, but don’t forget: They steal credit card info and hate gays.
“Just use Amazon,” Tosh concluded. “You’re going to pay $5 more for a toaster, but no one will throw up on you.”
A silly spoof of “The Price is Right” (titled “The Cost is Correct”) followed, featuring Tosh, Cantrell and models known as Tosh’s Tramps who suggestively stroked and licked prizes.
Before it was over Tosh took one more savage swing at Walmart.
The grand prize in the “Cost is Correct” Showcase Showdown was “Your own Walmart!” as announcer Todd Toddy declared. “Run every local business out of business with the only store that sells groceries and a whole lot of other crap at irresponsibly low prices! When you own your own franchise nobody can ban you!”
I’m not defending or supporting Walmart (or Target for that matter) by calling attention to this segment of “Tosh.0” I think Daniel Tosh and his team are brilliantly funny. (That’s why “Tosh.0” is regularly included on my Alternate Top-Ten Shows of the Year list.) But as I watched last night I couldn’t help but be reminded of how advertiser-supported television has loosened up in recent times -- in more ways than one.