Dr. Rick

Al Muskovitz talks about his favorite and most entertaining ad that is running right now.

In my Oct. 14 column, I bemoaned the fact that our radio and television airwaves have become saturated with nonstop, nails-on-a-chalkboard-annoying commercials promoting sportsbook betting. Thank you to the JN readers who reached out to me since then to share their own disdain. I knew I wasn’t alone.

I did want to add a little addendum to my diatribe that I didn’t include in my previous column simply because I had reached my word count. So please indulge me for a few extra words on the subject. (I’ll make it up to you with some lighter fare later in the column.)

Sportsbook betting is here, it’s legal and I’m not campaigning to have that form of entertainment “canceled.” But I think it’s worrisome that at the core of most, if not all, of the commercials are the ceaseless bombardment of incentives to entice you into gambling.

Sportsbook commercials woo you with deals like “risk-free” betting, deals that will “match your bet” or the lure of “bonus money,” just to name a few. If you weren’t a gambler before, you just might be seduced into being one or, regrettably, feed an already existing addiction. The promotional messages are always followed by a rapid-fire disclaimer at the end that includes an 800 number to call if you’re having a gambling problem.

Alan Muskovitz
Alan Muskovitz
Contributing Writer

Admittedly, sportsbook commercials aren’t really doing anything different than, let’s say pizza commercials, that offer two pizzas for the price of one. One is offering you the chance to line your pockets; the other is offering to line your arteries. Both whet your appetite, but the last time I checked, pizza commercials that are “feeding” my deep-dish addiction don’t offer an 800-help number.

At any rate, I just wanted to get that additional issue about sportsbooks off my chest. At the end of the day, whether it’s gambling or eating, it really is all about self-control anyway, right? I mean that’s why I’ve never been asked to lead a Weight Watchers meeting.

OK, I’m going to do an about face and share what are currently my absolute favorite commercials airing right now. Hands down it’s the entertaining television ads produced by Progressive Insurance.

You’re probably most familiar with the commercials that feature “Flo” and her team of Progressive Insurance representatives dressed in their white company aprons bestowing the virtues of Progressive’s coverage in a variety of humorous situations. I love those. But it’s the Progressive spots that feature life coach “Dr. Rick” that leave me laughing out loud.

Dr. Rick is a so-called pioneer in “parentamorphosis” who helps sufferers to “un-become” their parents. He takes his “patients” on group outings to perform exposure therapy to help change their behaviors learned by years of witnessing their own aging parents’ awkward and humiliating habits.

The patients of Dr. Rick I most relate to are those folks who have the uncontrollable urge to communicate with complete strangers in public places. Examples include a woman in an airport who witnesses someone running late for a flight and can’t help but say out loud: “Oh no, someone should’ve left home earlier.” Or the man in a hardware store who offers unsolicited advice to another customer looking at the same display. “If you’re looking for a grout brush this is…,” he says, before Dr. Rick intervenes and stops him from talking up the great virtues of a particular grout brush he’s holding.

I … am … that… grout brush guy. What can I say? I’m a kibitzer to a fault and, OK, I’m starved for attention. I’ve passed by folks walking teeny-weenie little dogs and said: “Lookout, killer dog on the loose!” which is usually followed by sympathy chuckles from the dog owners. I’ll turn to a parent holding a baby in line at Starbucks and say: “I’ll bet your baby can’t start their day without that first cup of coffee,” again followed by a respectful “ha, ha, ha.” Yeah, I know — pathetic.

But it was a similar “talking to a complete stranger” incident at a Starbucks just last week that may make me think twice, at least temporarily, from entering these awkward, uninvited exchanges.

I had joined a group of people waiting for their coffee orders to be finished. Among them was a mom with her cute son, maybe all of 5 years old, who was nattily dressed in a two-piece suit and shiny black dress shoes. And my impulsive self said: “Looks like your little businessman is getting ready for a long day at work.” The mom smiled and said: “Yes, thank you, he looks sharp, but unfortunately. we’re going to a funeral.” In Starbucks lingo, I felt like a Grande Moron.

I have an appointment with Dr. Rick next week. I hope he accepts Medicare.

Alan Muskovitz is a writer, voice-over/acting talent, speaker, and emcee. Visit his website at laughwithbigal.com, “Like” Al on Facebook and reach him at amuskovitz@thejewishnews.com.

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