Will women or men go for this one? Schweddy Balls is the latest ice cream offering from Ben & Jerry’s.
Released in a limited run in the United States this week, it’s loaded with fudge, rum and malt balls and references an infamous Saturday Night Live sketch that saw Alec Baldwin sending up National Public Radio as Pete Schweddy, a guest on a fake show called Delicious Dish.
As Mr. Schweddy proffers popcorn balls and rum balls from a family recipe, the silky-voiced hosts (played by comedians Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer) fire off increasingly lewd double entendres, straight-faced and seemingly unaware. The women wear their best Christmas sweaters: Somewhat depressingly, Schweddy Balls is a holiday flavour.
Debate is fomenting online about whether the company bastardized the sketch by changing Pete’s family name – which sounds like Schwetty in the sketch – to a less crude Schweddy. (For the record, NBC.com spells it Schweddy.)
No matter – the flavour is blowing up online, with even the stars of the sketch plugging the treat.
Alec Baldwin lost it on Twitter after the stuff was officially launched: "Mama Schweddy is proud of her boy. Schweddy Balls Ice Cream. From the secret Schweddy Family recipe," he wrote.
Even NPR employees got into the spirit, sampling the ice cream this week.
Eyder Peralta, an NPR writer and Cherry Garcia-diehard, was less than moved: “Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude, but the flavour – like the name suggests – was missing a bit of delicacy.”
Some NPR commenters weren't impressed either: “That was one of the dumbest SNL skits ever, marking their decline into juvenile humour. I'm not a prude, but I like my humour to be above the snickering 15-year-old level.”
Sean Greenwood, a spokesman for the company, denied it was “shock marketing.”
“It isn’t, ‘Let’s try to put a dirty name on a pint and sell it,’ but, ‘Let’s try to put a tie on a show that’s been running for 37 years,” Mr. Greenwood told Reuters.
“It’s really that kind of irreverence and double entendre that we like.”
Ben & Jerry’s has long employed pop-culture references for its flavours. There was Neapolitan Dynamite, Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream, Marsha Marsha Marshmallow, not to mention a ton of hippie references: Wavy Gravy, Cherry Garcia and at least two flavours devoted to Phish and Dave Matthews Band.
The company has also nodded to historical moments. Economic Crunch was named in honour of the 1987 market crash and Chubby Hubby was temporarily renamed Hubby Hubby as Vermont (Ben & Jerry’s home state) fought to legalize gay marriage in 2009.
A spokeswoman broke the bad news for Canucks: "We will not be selling 'Schweddy Balls' in Canada," Katharine Williams, communications manager with Unilever Canada wrote in an e-mail.
What do you make of the stunt? Vulgar, pre-emptive holiday marketing or good fun? Any SNL moments seem more worthy of an ice cream flavour?