Washington D.C. at around eight o'clock and a Presidential aide is settling down for the evening when he notices that the television is broadcasting some very strange material. At first it looks like a commercial for Puerto Rico Airlines, but they wouldn't include footage of one man taking chicken on board the plane and another stuffing a dead body into the luggage compartment, would they? And then the following programme features a senator railing against America's slackening morals when he is suddenly assassinated. Something must be done!
But of course, when the aide goes to demand something happen about the murdered senator, he is told there is no such man and America's airwaves have been taken over by hoaxers. This flimsy excuse for a plot is what American Raspberry implelments as a framing device for what is purported to be a comedy, and it was yet another of those sketch movies that appeared in the cinemas of the seventies, the most famous of which was The Kentucky Fried Movie.
However, while the genre was used to get away with humour that you would never be allowed to produce on actual television, it was clearly shows like Saturday Night Live which inspired it, and sometimes they would take the form of a broadcast so as to place their near-endless stream of spoofs, quite often of then-current advertising, in a recognisable context. The Kentucky Fried Movie was by far the best of them, leaving the others trailing in a morass of obvious targets and the type of humour that nowadays would be termed as flying in the face of political correctness.
For some, tackling gags which rely heavily on prejudice, as this film does, would be enough to get the chortles flowing, but there's a meanspiritedness to much of the joking here that tends to freeze the laughter in the throat (cancer quips? Really?), unless the fact that they're going all out to break a few comedy taboos is funny enough for you. Look at the ads for holidays on other countries, for example, with black South Africans killing white tourists, or an Irish tourist board announcement from the I.R.A., nothing especially hilarious about that you might have thought.
And you'd be right, as there's only one decent laugh in the whole film, and that's the one where future Spinal Tap and Simpsons man Harry Shearer advertises CB radios (yes, it was the seventies), with his van breaking down and him calling for assistance, but not getting quite what he had in mind as a result. Well, the punchline is funny. Other than that, it is mainly parodies of popular commercials that we get, with American Express advertised by Martin Boorman (there just had to be Nazi jokes), or a cereal whose free gift is a dildo. There the odd take offs of TV shows, like a Charlie's Angels one where all the actors are incredibly fat, including the three female leads, but mostly there's a self-impressed air to American Raspberry that coupled with a lack of imagination means that it's pretty much a laugh free experience. And yes, that really is Warren Oates gunning down civilians. Music by Ken Lauber.