The Relief Pitcher by
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Sure, “plop, plop, fizz, fizz oh what a relief it is.” *  Everybody knows it.  Only one of the many earworm ads from Alka-Seltzer.

But, of course, the iconic Alka-Seltzer ads featured little Speedy Alka-Seltzer. Bright-eyed and eager he pitched relief to the masses. Known far and wide, yes, but do you know Speedy's backstory?

Like the instrumental and accompanying video, “No Matter What Shape Your Stomach’s In”:

And the wonderful take-off on the Honeymooners, with “Ralph” complaining, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” and “Alice”, in that wonderfully sarcastic way of Audrey Meadows, intones, “You ate it, Ralph.”  Classic.

But, of course, the iconic Alka-Seltzer ads featured little Speedy Alka-Seltzer.  Bright-eyed and eager he pitched relief to the masses.  Known far and wide, yes, but do you know Speedy’s backstory?  Herein the sad, sweet tale of Speedy Alka-Seltzer.

Notwithstanding Al Gore’s claim that he invented Speedy as a grade school science project, Speedy Alka-Seltzer was the unexpected offspring of Alan Alka and Jane (“Two Cents Plain Jane”) Seltzer. Speedy dramatically appeared to a stunned Jane, who had thought it was just gas.  Jane wanted no part of poor Speedy and dispatched Speedy off to her sister Astrid, who took him in.  Astrid adored Speedy and found endearing Speedy’s inability to articulate the “tr” in her name.  Astrid was a wise woman, nurturing and supportive, and always there to reassure Speedy when Speedy confronted the taunts of Speedy’s contemporaries (“You’re no tablet, you’re just a pill.”) She encouraged Speedy to seek balance in Speedy’s life. Speedy succeeded beyond her wildest dreams and millions took to Speedy’s signature statement, “There’s a special place in heaven reserved for those who, in times of distress and upheaval, attain neutrality.”

But Speedy was lonely.  Speedy consulted a therapist who helped Speedy to see that an essential issue was Jane’s basic maladjustment.  The therapist suggested Speedy seek a companion.  Speedy enrolled in and found, to Speedy’s great dismay, that in looking at the various categories, “man seeking woman”, “woman seeking man”, “man seeking man”, etc., Speedy realized Speedy had no clue as to Speedy’s gender or orientation. Speedy went online in search of enlightenment, hoping to find orientation, but found none.  Speedy learned of gender reassignment surgery but was turned away, told that surgeons only did “reassignment” surgery and knew nothing of “assignment” surgery.  Distraught, Speedy sought Speedy’s aunt. “Aunt As’id,” he wailed, “whatever can I do?” Astrid helped Speedy to acknowledge and to accept what and who Speedy is.  She boosted Speedy’s confidence and even helped Speedy create a system of self-reference with preferred pronouns, “fe”, “fim”, and, of course, “fiz”.  Imbued with the confidence that this transformation gave fim, fe reconciled with fiz mother. Fe ran to embrace her. Jane dissolved in tears. Alas. So did Speedy.

The End

Closing Thought:  The geniuses at the ad agency who created Speedy to pitch Alka-Seltzer really dropped the ball.** They overlooked a perfect celebrity spokesman, a Natural*** if you will, for pitching an antacid product: Hall of Fame Detroit Tiger Al Kaline.  And certainly not an idea that comes out of left field.****  Kaline played right field. Just like Roy Hobbs.

– – – – –

* A good friend who was the creative director for a major ad agency tells me that the actual effective dose is just one tablet.  But some genius realized that if they promoted the use of two tablets it would double sales.  And besides, “plop, fizz” is pretty lame.

** Sorry

*** Ditto

**** Strike Three



Profile photo of Tom Steenburg Tom Steenburg
Retired attorney and investment management executive. I believe in life, liberty with accountability and the relentless pursuit of whimsy.

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. “‘Plop, fizz'” is pretty lame.” LOL! Brilliant, Tom…thanks for a fabulous early morning chuckle.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Hilarious, Tom. And, coming from Detroit. I’m all in for Al Kaline.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    OMG, Tom, this is so funny and clever! Thanks for giving me a much-needed laugh this morning. Oh, what a relief this was. And BTW, Al Kaline was a hero in my house growing up in Tiger country.

  4. Suzy says:

    Very clever, Tom! I had never heard of Al Kaline, so I had to google him to see if you had made him up like the rest of your characters. Unfortunately, he pronounced his name KAY-line, which isn’t as good for your joke. Maybe that’s why the ad agency didn’t think of him.

    • Tomato, tomahto. No, you’re right: he pronounced it KA-line. But they could have done wonders with it: Setting: a clubhouse interview with a sportscaster and Kaline:
      Sportscaster: “I’m here with AlKaline . .” Kaline: “That’s KA-line” Sportscaster: “KA-line? You mean we have a basic misunderstanding? Aren’t you known as an outstanding base runner?” Kaline: “Yes, but it’s still KA-line”. Sportscaster: “Whaddya know. Tell me, Mr. KA-line, what do you recommend as an antacid?” Kaline: “AlKA-Seltzer”.

  5. Jeff Gerken says:

    I couldn’t figure out where you were going with Speedy’s inability to pronounce the “t” in Astrid’s name, nor the refusal throughout the piece to use a personal pronoun for the little “entity”. But you wrapped it up perfectly, to my great amusement. I think you might be the funniest person in the WCE, the world of comedy lost when you decided to go to law school.

    • Whoa, Jeff. Thank you. As for comedic efforts, I haven’t let the law biz get in my way. I’ve spoken on many panels at conferences and workshops over the years and I haven’t hesitated to try a bit of comedy. Especially, as it happened all too often, I was on a panel right after lunch. Gotta keep people awake.

  6. Marian says:

    This is absolutely hilarious, Tom, and a much-needed laugh fest. Totally clever!

  7. Pretty witty, and punny funny Tom, thanx for the laughs!

  8. As someone who vividly remembers Al KAY-line, I was lost as to why he would be a good spokesman–until I saw your exchanges with other commenters. Given the plethora of Tiger fans around here, let’s also mention the other members of one of the greatest-hitting outfields ever: Charlie Maxwell and Harvey Kuenn.
    Congratulations on the extended scriptwriting. A worthy effort.

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