i loved this popcorn when i was a kid. my parents hated it (as they hate hell, all junk food,...), but they displayed a special sort of disapproval for its extreme, flamboyant artificiality. perhaps more so than any other 90s novelty snack, pop qwiz unabashedly embraced its own nature of unnaturalness; the kernels celebrated their commitment to being an edible product dashed with noxious-looking dye, marketed to the same kids who had the gustatory gumption to mix pop rocks with coke and leave mega warheads on their tongues to see if the candies really would burn a hole all the way through. kids who, giggling, sugar-high, swilled orbitz and big red soda at slumber parties, quickly washing them down with jolt (because as cool as they looked, they tasted even more disgusting). i’m ambivalent to admit: i was one of those kids.
back in the day, food was about novelty and daring. why just eat any old thing when you can ingest bright new chemicals and experience colors and textures and flavors that don’t exist organically? this ultra-processed (and proud of it!) food uprising was the greatest evolutionary leap in food consumption since the neolithic agricultural revolution. if you look at how much of the crap we eat today is the product of a marriage between advertising and laboratory experimentation, it’s obvious that pop qwiz was a fucking pioneer. and it was beautiful! avant-garde! pop art!
to this day i swear to the almighty adcampaigns you could *taste* the color of pop qwiz popcorn. it wasn’t anything like green=mint or blue=blue raspberry...it was something more complex. the savory flavor redefined the color. on the few occasions that i persuaded my parents to buy me this popcorn before it disappeared from store shelves, it was a profound snacking experience.
the first website i located about pop qwiz was this one. it contains excellent analysis of pop qwiz advertising, and the option to download the commercial for yourself at the bottom of the page. then i found the pop qwiz myspace page. it’s kind of clever...the snack’s astrological sign is listed as “capricorn.” it’s ridiculous how much that tickled me. i think i’m on some kind of high from lack of sleep and nostalgia-overload (exacerbated by the victory of successfully rediscovering one of those relics that may have only been fantasy and the feeling of validation that comes from confirming that it once existed in the external world). victory is nearly as delicious as yellow #5.
speaking of that feeling...i meant to write about this a while ago when it happened but never quite got around to it. this has nothing to do with pop qwiz, just a nice nostalgia-tangent. a couple years ago i watched the movie “dig!”, about the dandy warhols and brian jonestown massacre. there was a split second in one scene when the lead singer of bjm looked like someone...some person i remembered from either a movie or a show from long, long ago.
all i could remember was that this person had a big nose, dark hair, foreign accent, wore a striped shirt, and the show had something to do with cousins. i asked EVERYONE i could think to ask, passionately describing the few fragments (or possibly figments) of the show i held on to, and no one had any clue. i spent hours searching online, but with only vague descriptions it was impossible to find anything. i was incredibly frustrated and nearly convinced the memories were fabricated by my own meddling mind. this feeling remained intensely uncomfortable and lasted a long time, but i never gave up!
and then finally...there was an episode of the daily show on which jon stewart displayed a photo of balki bartokomous from the show perfect strangers. i knew in an instant it was him! mystery finally solved! i was so completely overjoyed. it still makes me happy to see this picture of balki’s sweet smiling face.
of course...he looks only a little like anton newcombe of bjm...but fuck it, that doesn’t matter anymore. newcombe was merely a catalyst.