Emotion, couch potatoes and decadence – that is how you keep the love affair going, even if it sticks in your teeth. On 21 March, the Carambar company – producer of the famous French soft caramel sweets – solemnly announced that it was going to stop putting jokes on their wrappers. As legendary as they were bad, the jokes of this candy company have, in the space of half a century, made a whole generation of French people both laugh and suffer: people who have grown up with Toto and who hurried to pour out their sadness on the brand’s twitter and facebook sites. Sensitive to this information, the media by and large covered the news as if they were writing an obituary.
A few days later, the company revealed ‘the end of the jokes' with the hashtag #itwasajoke’, betraying the writers of the heartfelt messages and the numerous letters which well and truly kicked the hoax in the teeth. Carambar did not stop its jokes in favour of ‘educational games’ as they had announced. The company celebrated spring with a tenfold increase in their fan-base on the internet and a potentially unprecedented viral marketing campaign, aided by the facebook page set up to protest the disappearance of the jokes: 'Touche pas à mon Carambar!', aka 'Hands off my Carambar!'
Funny sweets in rest of Europe
Suddenly, we can’t take the joke. If, after two paragraphs, you’re already asking yourself why France is more attached to a caramel candy than to Cyprus, you should know that it could well happen where you live too. In Italy, there is an ice cream called ‘baby animals’ (Cucciolone) which bambini have always loved. Cucciolone’s jokes are about as funny as Mario Monti, the Italian economist who is the outgoing prime minister, whilst you can find better jokes on sugar sachets in bars. In the UK, apart from in christmas crackers, the best of British humour can generally be found printed on the underside of the packaging of Penguin biscuits.
In Poland, the messages on the underside of fruit juice lids are also more old-hat than hilarious. Tymbark juice (since 1936) encourages people to ‘smile plus’, ‘to go get what you want’ or ‘to be joyful’. More famously, eighties and nineties Polish and Russian children loved Turbo chewing gum, which was produced by a Turkish company called Kent from the late 1980s until relatively recently, in 2007. There were no jokes, but inserts of various vehicles which were collected by everyone, 'the most important currency in primary school'. The German equivalent is arguably a chewing gum that comes with a transfer print that children can stick to the backs of their hands while chewing before the end of their morning break; it's temporary tattoos that get smiles in Germany, it seems.
Images: main Penguin bar (cc) Danny Nicholson/ flickr/ official site; in-text carambar courtesy of © Carambar facebook page; in-text; Cucciolone courtesy of © Cucciolone official facebook page; Penguin bar (cc) Christopher Read Photography/ flickr