ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
It has been said that the best things in life are free, and that thought is the inspiration behind our Commercials for Nicer Living Project version 2-0-1-7. We asked you to tell us some of the things that make life just a little bit better, things that money cannot buy, and then we asked you to write ads for those things in 120 words just like you'd hear on the radio. More than 2,000 of you took up our challenge, and from your suggestions we picked just five to produce like commercials. Susan Stamberg is here to present two of them. Hiya, Susan.
SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: Hi.
SIEGEL: This is an updated version of a project that you came up with. I want you to remind us of the original Commercials for Nicer Living Projects.
STAMBERG: OK. In 1972, which was before you were born, Robert, for our non-commercial radio program we asked listeners to write ads not for toothpaste, deodorant, toilet bowl cleansers, but for things that really mattered to them, experiences or ideas, people, and we call them Commercials for Nicer Living. We produced some favorites, and we played them on the air just for fun. And it was so much fun that our program librarians got to thinking let's bring it back.
SIEGEL: So that's where we are, and what were some of the ads that people wrote this time around?
STAMBERG: Well, I'm going to go alphabetically - babies, balmy breezes, birds, bonfires, books, burnt toast, coffee, clothes fresh out of the dryer, generosity, laughter, letter writing and it goes on.
SIEGEL: Wow. And I understand that you had a team of judicious NPR staff to winnow through the submissions, but you, you alone, Susan Stamberg, cast the deciding vote. What did you pick?
STAMBERG: Well, I can't tell you. You have to hear one.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Hi, your dog here. I see you're sitting down reading a magazine. Have you given much thought lately to ear scratches? Here, let me help you by nosing aside that distraction and positioning my head right under your hand. There, isn't that better? Ah, my silky fur and the way I'm closing my eyes right now have been clinically shown to bring down your blood pressure and add years to your life. Wait, no, don't pick that back up. To get the full benefit of ear scratches, doctors recommend continuing for 90 consecutive minutes. Oh, all right, how about three? Ear scratches, yeah, that's the spot.
STAMBERG: That doggy ad, yeah?
SIEGEL: Of all the bodily sensations that we could come up with, that's the one that we're advertising right here.
STAMBERG: And it was written by listener Carrie Ghose in Columbus, Ohio. Now, here is a clue to the next one.
STAMBERG: What do you call the silence after a commercial about dogs?
SIEGEL: I give up.
STAMBERG: The pause.
SIEGEL: Oh, my gosh, Susan.
STAMBERG: I'm sorry (laughter).
SIEGEL: All right, I've recalibrated my standards for the next item.
STAMBERG: OK, you ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Are plain old knock-knock jokes just not funny anymore? Is the classic why'd the chicken cross the road not getting laughs like it used to? If so, try puns.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Yay.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Puns come in all types, such as what do you call an alligator in a vest? An investigator.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGH TRACK)
STAMBERG: Oh, God.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: If a friend starts telling bird jokes, remind him toucan play at that game.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGH TRACK)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: So try puns.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Side effects may include groaning, your friends getting annoyed, wanting to make more puns, making puns in random conversation, forgetting other kinds of jokes existed and people judging you. Ask your common sense before trying puns. If the situation does not call for them, it may result in many disgusted looks.
STAMBERG: If you're in need of a new kind of joke, try puns. They may be cheesy, but the results are grate.
SIEGEL: Oh, they're not great, but they were grated is what he means.
STAMBERG: Grated, yeah.
SIEGEL: I see.
STAMBERG: It's the highest form of humor.
SIEGEL: It really is the lowest form of humor, isn't it? Yes.
STAMBERG: Maya Khurana in Chicago wrote that. Robert, you want to hear some more? I have 2,000 of them.
SIEGEL: (Laughter) No because we don't want to squander all the joy at once, so we're going to reveal the other three commercials for Nicer Living next week on the program. Susan, thanks for joining us and for exposing us to these Commercials for Better Living.
STAMBERG: You're most welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF VAMPIRE WEEKEND SONG, "OXFORD COMMA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.