Throughout history there was a sideshow/carnival character known as “The Geek.” This sad person ate light bulbs, bit the heads off live chickens and pretty much ate anything presented to him. Tyrone Power even made a movie called “Nightmare Alley” where he portrayed a Geek at the end of the film.

Eating was entertainment in the golden age of carnivals and street fairs, especially gluttony that involved live creatures and massive amounts of edible and inedible items. Sadly, this is what selling food on television has become. It seems that they don’t feed the on-air talent on the TV Shopping Shows for a few days and then let them loose on all manner of sweet and savory delicacies.

It’s disgusting to watch. I speak from experience since I was the host on what was TV’s first food selling show. Along with a co-host I presented 3 hours of goodies ranging from fancy chocolates to Filet Mignon and everything in between. No one had sold food on live TV before so we made some mistakes. While neither of us gorged ourselves, we took full bites. After a couple of hours it was pretty funny since both of us had a massive sugar and carbohydrate highs. (I might point out that neither of us ever felt compelled to dance.) Small bites became the way to survive an on-air eating fest.

I slept for hours after the show, unable to drive home which was only 20 minutes away. My co-host had to do another hour of jewelry after the food show. I don’t know how she did it.

But neither of us made pigs out of ourselves. I’ve witnessed many instances of this over the past few years where the hosts ate like members of the Donner Party at their first-non-human cookout. Like the good ol’ days of geeks and sword swallowers, eating is entertainment once again. Bring on the Geeks!

“But they’re selling lots of merchandise.” Yeah, they would sell a bunch if they were naked and smearing the food all over themselves, too. But I don’t think it would make for good TV or even a sustainable business model.

I had my fun with food on TV. I once ate a South Park influenced recipe while on-air with Isaac Hayes, tossing the “Chocolate Salty Balls” up in the air and catching them in my mouth. I turned to him and said, “Chef (the name of his character on South Park), I love putting your Chocolate Salty Balls in my mouth.” While I’m still getting memos for that comment, I never stuffed enough food in my mouth to clog a sink.

Does anyone on these channels know the Heimlich Maneuver? And is there a defibrillator on-set? Because some of the high fat content eating I’ve witnessed over the years seems to have heart attack written all over it. Just as I’ve suspected that Halloween is sponsored by The American Dental Association, I think these TV food shows have the backing of cardiologists.

Since eating seems to be so popular on the Shopping Channels I’m surprised that one of the major networks hasn’t come up with a Survivor-like show. Contestants would have to eat themselves out of a cell built of chocolate, coffee cake and candy apples. Instead of extinguishing someone’s torch they could have all the contestants hooked to a heart monitor and eliminate anyone who goes flat line.

The ultimate survivor would be dubbed “The Geek.” Instead of an acceptance speech, he or she would do a little dance. Anyone pooping their pants during this dance would be eliminated and immediately sent to the companion show, “Celebrity Scat.” If eating is entertainment then pooping must be high drama.

©2016 Steve Bryant – No portion may be copied, reprinted or broadcast in any medium without express written consent of the author.

TV Shopping Host and Coach, Musician, Author, Teacher.

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