Local Joe Jacoby, Mike Tyson Super Bowl ads spark major buzz

WASHINGTON — Anyone who ever saw Washington Redskins great Joe Jacoby’s wonderfully awful Theater Vision commercials in the early 1980s got a major surprise during Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast — a new, strange commercial featuring the not-yet-Hall-of-Fame “hog.”

Just as halftime began, an advertisement for Virginia-based Cyprus Air hawked gas fireplaces.

Jacoby, who most likely has not had formal training as an actor,  poses with a football, a glass of wine, a burning fireplace and an axe.

The offensive lineman, who last week was again denied entry to the National Football League’s Hall of Fame, says the same line twice: “Buy a gas fireplace.”

And Jacoby gets the kicker in the 30-second ad. We won’t give his punchline away, but it left some online wondering whether the genial giant was wielding the axe in a nefarious way.

Moments later in the same commercial break, an ad for regional plumber Michael & Son Services featured former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson, jumping into the ring to help his son, followed by the power puncher singing the plumber’s catchphrase.

Meanwhile, Jacoby’s 1983 TV ad for Theater Vision continues to delight.

How did the gas furnace company decide to feature Jacoby in its Super Bowl spot?

“One of the owners of the company was at the Redskins-Green Bay playoff game, and met Joe Jacoby there,” said Bill Downs, regional manager of Cyprus Air.

“The owner is a longtime Redskins fan, and encouraged him…we were definitely looking for a spokesman, and it was magic from there,” says Downs.

Jacoby’s prior commercial for the large-screen Theater Vision has long been talked about for the talented football star’s lack of on-screen finesse, but the company wasn’t concerned Jacoby is not a trained actor.

“Not at all,” said Downs. “No one in the commercial was a trained actor — they were all members of the company.”

“We didn’t have any doubt whatsoever that he would shine in our spot,” said Downs.

The company suggests Jacoby gave them a good deal for the use of his services.

“Joe loved the fact that we’re a a family-owned business, and he really helped us out when we needed him,” said co-owner Peter Demetri.  “He gave us a hometown discount.”

The other Super commercial, for Michael & Son, featuring  Mike Tyson and his son, Amir, had been in the negotiating stages for a year, according to company spokesperson Chris Thompson.

After several attempts to seal the deal, Tyson and the plumbing company were able to reach agreement a week before it was shot, on January 14.

“The stars aligned and everything fell in place,” says Thompson. “There was absolutely no signed contract until the day he flew in, and everything was agreed upon.”

The 30-second spot was shot by ESB Advertising at the Sphinx Club, in Northwest, D.C.  It aired between Baltimore and Charlotte, which encompasses the plumber’s service area.

“We had the place planned out, the ring in there, the crowd, it was just a matter of getting him there, agreeing to everything, and then shooting the commercial,” says Thompson.

Known during his career for his punishing punch and brutish behavior, including a 1992 rape conviction, Tyson has worked to rehabilitate his public persona.

“Now we’re seeing a softer side of him,” says Thompson.

During the commercial, Amir Tyson portrays a tired boxer, rescued when Mike Tyson enters the ring and knocks out his son’s opponent.

Thompson says it was fascinating to see Tyson interact with his son, including telling his son to shake hands with the actor portraying his opponent, among other ways of showing appropriate respect.

“It was nice seeing that,” says Thompson.

While everyone knows of Tyson’s punching power, Super Bowl fans also saw him singing  the plumber’s jingle — “If you can’t, we can,  Michael and Son.”

“We’d asked if we could have him sing the jingle,” said Thompson. “We played it for him a few times and he picked it up and went with it — it was pretty fun.”

A sales executive at WUSA9, which aired the game, would not disclose the price paid to air the spots, beyond “it was six figures.”

It’s also safe to say that the elder Tyson isn’t a trained vocalist either:

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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