Joe Sedelmaier

If you you watch carefully, you can see me in this old Joe Sedelmaier commercial from the 80s. I’m the guy with the blue suit behind the old man who gets his clothes ripped off. Old friends the Schwartz triplets are in this spot too.

One story I can relate was that as actors, we were all sitting on the inside of an airline as passengers and each of us got a cup with a wilted piece of celery in it. Then Joe chose an old guy to deliver a few lines. The poor guy just couldn’t get it right until the 64th take, two and a half excruciating hours later. Then the old guy nailed it (!) but the sound person screwed up and with that, Joe angrily swore and stopped shooting the scene right on the spot.

Sedelmaier, a Chicago-based director, is referred to as “the Fellini of America,” populating his ads with oddball characters he picked right off the street. He’s created hundreds of hilarious bits and won countless Clios and international awards in spots like Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef,” which became a national craze, Fed Ex’s “Fast Talking Man,” the controversial “Russian Fashion Show” and many more.

Sedelmaier, now retired, is in Ad Age’s “Top 100 People of the Century” and is also a member of the New York Advertising Hall of Fame. He is currently being saluted at the USA Film Festival, who are debuting Marsie Wallach’s biographical documentary about him, “Point of View” and was an official selection in the Sundance Film Festival. You can get a 30 minute reel of his genius work here.

“Originality,” he once said, “is the art of concealing your sources.”

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3 Comments on “Joe Sedelmaier”

  1. Kent Says:

    I thought at first you were referring to the guy standing behind the old guy who looks suspiciously like Trevor Horn from the Buggles era.

    You have my condelences that you did not become a household name like Clara Peller. But then, “It’s Clara Time” would not have been so deliciously fun to watch.


  2. As I recall, many commercial shoots followed that pattern — something screws up the perfect take. Or maybe it’s just that those occasions are the most memorable…

  3. Susan Says:

    Funny, I hadn’t thought about these commercials in years, but after seeing them, I remember how much I enjoyed them.

    Off topic a bit, but if I recall, there was a movie made by designer Saul Bass called “Why Man Creates”. I think it was made in the 60s; the first time I saw it I was probably 9 or 10. Made a huge impression on me. I wish I could find a copy of it. Your short films sort of have that quirky, lovely quality.


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