Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cygnals: Crazy Joe: You'll be sorry!

From the pages of Cygnals Zine, Issue #8, Summer 1996.



For sixteen years, a bearded man in a black suit has been hard-selling his way into Toronto-area living rooms.

Crazy Joe (the only name he'll give) hit Toronto's Multicultural Television (now CFMT-TV, channel 47) with fast-talking, low-budget TV spots based on a simple formula: "A crazy guy dressed up like a rabbi, with a hat, with a beard, selling blinds, verticals, furniture and carpet," says Joe. Yelling breathlessly for 30 seconds, Joe ambushes the viewer and implores him to "shop at Crazy Joe's or you pay too much ... you'll be sor-ry!"

Why's this nut dressed up like a rabbi? "I'm an Orthodox Jew, that's the difference," he says. "I wear this suit with the hat all the time."

The no-frills, crazy-crazy-crazy, dressed-like-a-rabbi gimmick has inspired spoofs from the likes of SCTV, with a parody piece dubbed "Crazy Hy's." Joe saw it two years after it went to air, calling it "very, very interesting."

Joe's hard-sell style has been imitated by many retailers, including Toronto jewelry fanatic Russell Oliver. "Oliver came to me for interview," says Joe. "He came to me, he want to know how to present himself, but basically he took off on me." And how's Oliver doing, in the eyes of the master? "I don't know, but he'll never come close to me as a promoter."

And what about the Bad Boy, Blaine Lastman? Another nooobody. "He's doing the same schtick from 20 years ago, so it's only going the same routine back and forth."

Both Lastman and Oliver read from a prepared script, something Joe denies doing. "Everything is on spot," he says. "I do it right away, on spot. Not no scripts, nothing." He admits, though, it takes about two hours to crank out four or five commercials.

For the small-time journalist trying to track down the big man for a quick telephone interview, he comes across more like Surly Joe than Crazy Joe. With all the good cheer you'd expect from a skeptical, stressed-out businessman with an unrelenting schedule, Joe was hard to find in a good mood.

Once the interview got rolling, though, Joe was the same goofy guy we see on TV.

But...he doesn't understand what a zine is. I guess that'll change soon.
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Follow-up:
Crazy Joe's Wife Responds
Subject: Crazy Joes Article
Date: Sat, 03 Aug 1996 22:45:35 -0400
From: Chane Iczkovitz

Thank you very much for a copy of your "Zine".
Joe was very pleased with your article about him. He especially liked hearing the real audio of the interview.
He wasn't aware that you taped it. I have been trying to get him to advertise on the net for a while now without any success. Now, he's quite pleased to be on it.
I've tried explaining to him what a zine is, but I don't think he gets it.
I hope you sell alot of copies. Good luck.
Chane (Joes techhead wife)


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Bonus links!
Official Crazy Joe's Drapery site

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