In these economically challenged times, many of us are reinventing ourselves. For example, you may recall that I recently wrote about a CW speechwriter who is now an “energy healer.”
In another instance, publicists (like yours truly) are looking into careers in production, which is why I wrote about NATPE’S PitchCon.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to another clever and creative career move: Former Hollywood Reporter columnist and current Deadline.com contributor Ray Richmond is taking his talents as a print journalist to the fortune cookie business. Richmond is the author of several books, including The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to our Favorite Family. He’s also a frequent guest on radio and TV talk shows and is known in entertainment circles for his clever comebacks and quick wit.
“You will write a column about ‘The Smartest Cookies on Earth,’” said the message in one of the Super Accurate Fortune Cookies Richmond sent me. Well, how about that! The fortune was accurate. I am writing a column about the smartest cookies, which happen to be the same as the fortune cookies. But you probably already guessed that; and it’s that kind of humor that Richmond brings to the somewhat stale and stereotypical fortune cookie industry.
“I'd been making a good living as a full-time freelancer from roughly 1997 to 2010,” says Richmond. “But then things took a turn for the worse, due to the disintegration of the print media, and I realized I was going to need to reinvent myself. One day, I'd just finished a meal in a Chinese restaurant with my wife. I opened up my fortune cookie and it said, ‘Good things will happen for you in the future.’ I thought, wow, it simply isn't possible that a fortune can be any lamer than that—and that the message could literally have been written for anyone. That's when the lightning bolt hit: Hey, why can't they be targeted specifically? It immediately struck me that fortune cookies were a particularly unimaginative area of the literary spectrum and were ripe for creative growth.”
Super Accurate Fortune Cookies, which come packaged in quantities of 10 for $7.99 in cool Chinese take-out boxes, will officially launch in mid-August at www.smartestcookies.com.
One of the features that immediately sets the brand apart are the 10 different themes available, ranging from New Baby, Birthday and Anniversary to Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties, Weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvah and even one for people who celebrate sobriety.
“The fortunes inside each themed box speak to the specific event, so that the cookies are likely to be accurate to your life no matter who you are,” says Richmond.
The New Baby fortune box includes messages like, “Your friends who have dogs know exactly what you're feeling.” For Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the fortune on the front of the box is, “You are, or recently were, or soon will be in a room filled with Jews.”
Then there’s the “Original” package, which includes such fortunes as “Your Facebook friends lead much richer and more fulfilling lives than you,” “You have no gloves in your glove compartment,” and “If we told you, we'd have to kill you.”
Marketers have already discovered that award-winning journalist-humorist Richmond is also available to create custom cookie messages too—for new business presentations, for company Christmas gifts to A-list clients, or for that big red-carpet special event. Clever marketing and PR folk are welcome to write their own fortunes, and Richmond can produce them for a modest additional fee. Or you can hire him to write custom fortunes specifically tailored to your event.
“That will cost an extra few grand—hey, genius don’t come cheap, baby!” says Richmond with a laugh. “Or, you know, I’m sure we can work out something more reasonable—like turning over to me some precious family heirloom.”
Aside from being the creator of the company and head writer of the fortunes, Richmond also plans to serve as spokesperson for the brand. (There is already a hilarious video of him available on the home page of his website.)
“My strategy is to become the maestro of the fortune cookie world,” says Richmond. “If you can find a hat shaped like a fortune cookie, I'd like to buy it.”
I may not have Ray’s talent for writing fortunes or pitching cookies but I do know a great idea when I see—and taste—one. (Yes, the cookies are delicious.) So I foresee a long and successful future ahead for Ray and his Super Accurate Fortune Cookies—which, by the way, are 77 % more accurate than regular fortune cookies, according to leading fortune cookies authorities named Richmond.
To prove it, let’s give the fortune-cookie genius the last word.
“I predict, ‘You will make it all the way to the end of this column,’” says Richmond. “I know, pretty astonishing, right? It’s a gift.”