The Joke’s on E-Commerce

Did you ever wonder where old comedians go when their schtick no longer draws crowds? If you think Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, Phyllis Diller, George Carlin and Rich Little have simply vanished, then it may be worth a trip to Laugh.com.

The new comedy content and e-commerce site is the brainchild of George Carlin, arguably one of the most innovative comics of his generation.

Not only do visitors get a healthy dose of instant humor, they can also buy an array of products, from CDs by the veteran comedians to novelty items such as autographed photos of Heidi Fleiss.

What do Carlin et al. know that more serious e-tailers don’t seem to grasp? Maybe they understand that business and humor can go hand in hand — that the way to a consumer’s bank account is directly through the funny bone.

In fact, if the debut of Laugh.com is any measure of the viability of comedy and e-commerce, Messrs. Bezos, Dell, Case and their companies would do well to pay attention, or at least homage, to the masters.

Heavy-Handed E-tailing

How much doom and gloom do consumers really have a tolerance for when it comes to the plight, the demise, the failure and the waywardness of e-commerce?

Now that Alan Greenspan and his new protege, W., have assumed front page status with their unyielding pessimism about the U.S. economy, smart e-tailers might do well to offer online buyers a good laugh with their purchases.

The advantage of being an seasoned comic is hindsight. If you want to be a commercial success, online or offline, figure out what got the biggest laughs and the biggest bucks and simply put it through comedy rehab.

Click & Chuckle

In this case, just as these vets sold millions of vinyl albums in the 1950s and 60s, now they are offering new material on Laugh.com.

But this time the audience has the option of downloading MP3 files, watching video clips, purchasing CDs (including 12 new releases that will be offered on the site within the next 90 days), and reading about comedy by the gurus.

What a concept: fun and e-commerce.

Knock, Knock

To date, the unbearable heaviness of being an e-commerce wizard has been the domain of two groups: twentysomethings whose concept of running a business was seeing how different they could do it from their parents, or established players who somehow thought e-commerce had to be ushered in somber tones with the loftiest of goals.

Along comes George Carlin, offering consumers an opportunity to lighten up, spend some money and quit worrying about the “viability of the new economy.”

Carlin may be one of the savviest, but he’s not the first. A number of sites have similarly built their dreams on the formidable coupling of a good laugh and smart marketing.

Modernhumorist.com, for example, is setting a unique example for the marriage of clicks and bricks. The site is heavy on humor, but light on e-commerce. That’s a deliberate effort on the part of its creators, whose stated intention is to use the Internet to build brand awareness that will hopefully lead to a variety of offline profit centers.

Online Waterboy

Meanwhile, big names in comedy’s newest generation seem to recognize the potential of belly laughs in the cybersphere. Adam Sandler, a contemporary Hollywood heavyweight who already commands a whopping US$20 million per movie, is reportedly set to launch Shnorff.com, a site heavy on original comic material that will have an active e-commerce arm.

Despite his on-screen antics as a sometimes dim-witted, sympathetic character, Sandler is already known in the entertainment industry as a forward-thinking, adventurous businessperson.

Shnorff promises to rock. Expect others in its genre to follow.

Make ‘Em Laugh

The reason to offer comic relief in conjunction with e-commerce should be obvious to anyone who has followed e-commerce headlines lately.

First, new customers are leery of the Internet because of fear of the unknown. Second, there’s nothing fun about navigating through page after page, trying to figure out how to make a purchase.

Further, the main ingredient missing in the online buying experience is the human element. What’s more human that a good laugh shared between a comic and the audience? Humor is the great leveler, the one moment where young and old, male and female can share an ideology, a light moment and a good old therapeutic laugh.

Say, did you hear the one about the old vaudeville comic who can’t get a record deal? He’s on the Internet, hawking new material and laughing all the way to the online bank.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


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