The 55th Super Bowl is slated for Sunday, February 7 in a meeting between two teams who probably envy the 13 total championships the Green Bay Packers have won in their unmatched history. To distract us from the burning resentment of the Pack’s loss in the NFC Championship game, we thought it would be nice to disregard the football teams involved this Sunday and, instead, take a look back at the halftime shows—especially the forgettable ones. We still remember moments from Green Bay’s last game of the season, and it’s time for a little dose of sweet amnesia, baby.
Years before superstars like Lady Gaga, Prince, Justin Timberlake, and Paul McCartney enthralled under bright lights with the whole world watching, Super Bowl halftime shows brought no hype whatsoever. Looking back at some of the more mediocre acts, it’s almost like they were picked to ensure lower ratings and no interference with the bathroom breaks the fans had planned.
Acknowledging these duds of Americana might remind you of, say, the tribute to the forgettable presidents from the “I Love Lisa” episode of The Simpsons. Rest assured, we’ve got some metaphorical Millard Fillmores to roast here. (You’re next, Chester A. Arthur.) There are no winners here, so we’ll do this in no particular order.
Bob Jani (XIII and XVI)
The Chester A. Arthur of Super Bowl halftime entertainers, this man subjected people to Bob Jani Presents “Carnival: A Salute to the Caribbean.” The Salute took place in Miami during the Cowboys-Steelers game in 1979. There’s no video evidence of it on YouTube because no human has ever felt the urge to watch it again, let alone upload it.
An event producer from L.A., Bob returned four years later for the piss break extravaganza. Midway through Washington’s 27-17 win over Miami, he gave a humble offering called: Bob Jani Presents “KaleidoSUPERscope” with the Los Angeles Super Drill Team and the Los Angeles Unified School District All City Marching Band starring Tammy Aadnesen.
Oh wow…Bob’s act had more words in it than the number of points the Dolphins scored. Bob was not asked to perform again by the NFL and we can only assume that he later got busted for snorting drugs out of the KaleidoSUPERscope with the Super Drill Team.
Reenactment Of The Battle Of New Orleans (IV)
So, this is never going to make sense in 2021, but we’ll try. As the Vikings got a respite from getting beat by the Chiefs in 1970, a goddamn visionary’s idea came to fruition: have modern-day folks dress up like American and British soldiers from the War of 1812, and pretend like they’re shooting and killing each other with muskets and cannons. You know, give the people what they want to see. Hell, there was a big open field to use while the football players were gone for a little bit. It was all just too perfect. Why wouldn’t you reenact the Battle of New Orleans?
On Super Bowl Sunday, The Weeknd is going to have a performance once done by a battle reenactment. How crazy is that?
Up With People (X, XIV, XVI, and XX)
We’ve got nothing against nonprofit organizations, the performing arts, or multicultural unity. That said, Up With People really sucked at playing Super Bowls. Ever been around someone who smiles so constantly and aggressively that it gets creepy? That was Up With People.
Their aim was to kill with kindness, and the killing spree began in 1976 with Cowboys, Steelers, and fans as witnesses for “200 Years And Just A Baby: Tribute To America’s Bicentennial.” We try to embrace a positive mindset, but that sounds so painfully sappy that we’re having dry heaves instead of coming up with jokes.
In 1980, as the Steelers topped the Rams, they brought “A Salute To The Big Band Era.” Up With People makes us think of mediocre president William Henry Harrison, because dying of pneumonia in 30 days sounds better than watching this halftime show.
Undeterred by the first two performances, the NFL inexplicably brought Up With People in 1982 with “A Salute To The 1960s And Motown.” It should’ve been simulcasted with live footage of John Lennon and Shorty Long spinning in their respective graves.
These murderers of merriment gigged for the fourth and final time (for now) in early ’86 when the Bears got lucky and beat the Patriots. This year, Up With People called their act “Beat Of The Future.” We’re not sure if this title got spoofed by Mad Magazine, but we would’ve gone with “Beat Off the Future.”
Elvis Presto (XXIII)
This lip-syncing usurper of The King stunk up Joe Robbie Stadium in a cringe-y interruption of a classic 49ers win over the Bengals. As the ’80s drew to a close, the league and Commissioner Pete Rozelle had finally learned how to turn down Up With People at “The Big Game,” and they’d even featured past-their-prime yet legit musicians like the Beach Boys in 1987 and Chubby Checker in ’88.
That’s why “Bebop Bamboozled” with Elvis Presto was such an absurd step in reverse. A damn Elvis impersonator at the season finale in ’89 was a tone deaf and regressive move. When a brain trust of old, out-of-touch rich guys is calling the shots on entertainment they think people want to see, there is no limit to how much they can fail. Instead of 12 minutes of song-and-dance agony, a better use of Elvis Presto would have had him at center stage pretending to die on the toilet for a minute or two.
United States Air Force Tops In Blue (XIX)
The 49ers trounced the Dolphins in the finale of the ’84 campaign, and the mid-game diversion by the Tops In Blue was called “World Of Children’s Dreams.” Dudes, thanks for your bravery and service, but please stay out of our children’s dreams. Just leave that world alone.
The Tyler Junior College Apache Belles, Pete Fountain, And Al Hirt (XII)
Let’s break down the presentation of “From Paris To The Paris Of America” that the Cowboys and Broncos overheard in their locker rooms, somehow without quitting football forever during halftime of the Super Bowl in 1978. There’s no record of this one on YouTube either. Meaning that…nobody with any memory of whatever this was felt like it was worth the time and effort to share it with future generations. Nobody. Zero people, ever.
Blues Brothers (XXXI)
We close with the most recent entry, and an especially joyful memory of the Packers besting the Patriots for the Lombardi Trophy in late January of 1997. Saturday Night Live players John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd first performed as the Blues Brothers in 1978. They were a late night hit with real musical chops and outrageous showmanship, and the duo’s popularity peaked in 1980 with the release of their comedy classic. Sadly, Belushi lost his life to a drug overdose in 1982.
So almost two decades after the Blues Brothers were at their most relevant, lacking half of the iconic pair due to one guy no longer being alive, having missed playing The Big Game in 1980 when it would’ve made the most sense (but of course Up With People got the gig instead!), you’d think there would be no reason to have a washed-up, reformed Blues Brothers take the stage during halftime at the Super Bowl in nineteen-freaking-ninety-seven, right?
False. Aykroyd pushed for the making of an ill-fated sequel, The Blues Brothers 2000 (weirdly released in 1998) with John Goodman essentially taking John Belushi’s place as the band’s singer. Worse, for the Super Bowl event, Jim Belushi, younger brother of John, assumed the role of “Brother” Zee Blues and stole the mic for lead vocal duties at a spectacle that garnered an estimated 87 million viewers.
Jim got out snippets of “Everybody Needs Somebody” and “Soul Man” and sounded both gassed and lackluster. He gyrated his hips. Sweet merciful Christ, Jim Belushi gyrated his hips. You’ve been warned about that if you decide to watch the video below. The group then yielded the spotlight to Rock And Roll Hall Of Famers James Brown and ZZ Top, but we were left shaking our heads slowly at this Blues Brothers revival.
Forgettable president John Tyler took the place of his running mate William Henry Harrison in 1841 when Harrison fell to an untimely death. Jim Belushi got a spot in the Blues Brothers after John Belushi fell to an untimely death. Connect the dots, man.
We hope you enjoy a proper, current superstar when the Weeknd takes the mic at halftime on Sunday. Also, be like us and promise your friends and loved ones you won’t throw a lamp at the TV if Tom Brady wins another fucking Super Bowl.