Like Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic film The Room, Dan Helmer has released an ad that is so bad it might just be genius-level good.
Titled “Helmer Zone,” the ad follows the Democratic candidate, running in Virginia’s 10th District against Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, as he walks into a bar wearing a shirt that says “Veteran” across the front. Helmer is a veteran, in case you didn’t quite get the point.
A woman, who is Helmer’s wife playing the role of Helmer’s wife, challenges him to get Comstock—who for some unknown reason happens to be hanging out in the same bar, having ordered what appears to be a whiskey on the rocks with a dash of lime— to hold a public town hall. A cheshire cat grin on his face, Helmer chooses a different path. He will walk up to Comstock and, for some inexplicable reason, reenact the famous scene in Top Gun where Tom Cruise sings “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”
His wife pretends to be mortified.
And yet… IT WORKS!
Soon the entire bar is singing. Only, get this, Helmer’s changed the lyrics to make it political!!! And everyone seems to know the words: “You’ve lost that centrist feeling, ’cause you’ve been right-wing appealing.”
If this weren’t uncomfortable enough, Helmer adds a can’t-turn-away-from-the-car-wreck element by flexing his off-key vocal chords. It goes on for a painful minute or so until the actress playing Comstock leaves the bar.
The internet quickly dubbed it one of the worst campaign ads of all time. But Helmer’s eyeball-gouging chorus never leaves your head…. which seems to be the point.
In an interview with The Daily Beast on Monday, Helmer acknowledged that he may not be Luciano Pavarotti. But the point he wanted to make is that Comstock is not being held accountable to her constituents. And if off-tuned messaging was the way to get the message received, then he’s comfortable with the mockery he’ll endure.
“I wasn’t looking for a Grammy,” he said. “We seriously were thinking how are we going to creatively deliver a message about something important.”
Helmer claimed that part of the purpose of the ad was to demonstrate that “there is too much shouting and yelling in American politics,” and that he’s a “goofy but serious guy” who has served in a number of countries but also likes to sing both in advertisements and in the shower.
“I think when I sing in the shower I have a great voice,” Helmer said before asking The Daily Beast if he should audition for American Idol or The Voice. (Editor’s note: As a journalistic outlet, we are not in a position to offer career advice.)
Helmer also claimed that his singing was “at least on par with Tom Cruise.”
While the ad drew collective groans, Helmer and his team seemed to acknowledge that that was part of the point. In a crowded race, with eight Democrats in the primary, it was a way to draw attention to the campaign.
“Yes we know the singing is bad,” a spokesperson for the campaign dryly told The Daily Beast on the phone.
As for future spots, Helmer, a self-declared fan of classic rock, suggested that “Hooked on a Feeling” would be a good song to turn into a campaign ad. He’s just not so sure if it’s a great idea to do it so soon after this last one.
“I don’t know if I want to punish the voters of America by continuing to sing to them,” Helmer said.