Making your product talk is a risky move for any brand to take for a mascot. It can also a lazy one, especially if it’s very clear you just slapped a pair of eyes and some limbs on whatever it is you sell and didn’t even bother to come up with a real name. And yet this strategy has worked wonders with the M&M’s characters, by which I mean it’s created many terrible ads, especially the creepy ones with the pretzel, but also some fun ones, and it’s undoubtedly allowed the company to expand itself.
Nowadays, pretty much all of the M&M’s have personalities, I guess. The green one is slutty, the red one is an asshole, the blue one is…almond? And the yellow one is the goodhearted dope, I guess, the big one with the low voice who always looks kind of stoned if you ask me (which is brilliant marketing on Mars’ part if that was intentional).
For the most part, the red M&M is voiced by Billy West, and knowing his versatility and ubiquity he probably does all the other ones too under assumed names. Ah, but once upon a time things were different, my friends. Wikipedia tells us that the red M&M was originally voiced by the master of snide voices and everyone’s favorite smarmy critic, Jon Lovitz. Once you know that, it’s one of those things you just won’t be able to get out of your head, and I can only hope that somewhere there are some die-hard M&M’s nerds that are arguing over their favorite voice of red with the same intensity that only slightly more normal people spar over the differences between Kirk and Picard.
But we could go on about the personality of the Red M&M for thousands of words (god help us), and that’s not why we’re here. You’ve probably guessed that we’re talking about the original voice of the yellow M&M. Look at this spot, which I totally remember seeing on TV before I had any idea who B.B. King was, and watch the jigsaw puzzle snap into place.
Yup. That’s John Goodman. I think this was around the time of the ill-fated Blues Brothers 2000 movie, so this might constitute as subtle viral marketing. But compare that with this one, starring an even lazier candy-based character than the M&M’s, Mr. Chocola-ta-te (voiced by Phil Hartman!). I can’t image why he didn’t make return appearances, maybe as the foil to the M&M’s shenanigans, although for all I know he did. Nothing makes a good villain like someone who can melt week after week, right?
In all honesty, that commercial kind of disturbed me, and it probably would have bothered me more knowing that Goodman was still involved with this campaign. But it turns out he apparently has better things to do than rake in the zillions as a candy-coated peanut, and has instead become more notable as a fake spokesman for the scarier (but more tolerant) version of KFC.
In Lovitz’s case, he would of course go on to play a much more challenging character: an overenunciating asshole in a velvet jacket. Can’t wait for this guy’s Lifetime Achievement montage.
So there you have it: SNL is just a farm for actors to voice candy bars, or so it was in the 90’s anyway. Glad we blew the lid wide open on this one. By the way, care to guess who voices the Yellow M&M now? I’ll give you a hint. Imagine him with a cigar in his mouth.
Actually, forget I said that. Sorry.