14. “What’s the word? Thunderbird! What’s the price? Forty twice!”

The episode:The Unearthly,” ep. 320

The riff: Delivered enthusiastically by Joel as two proper gentlemen toast to their youths with glasses of wine.

The explanation: This joke is a reference to a famous ad campaign for notoriously noxious “bum wine” Thunderbird, which is known as “The American Classic.” In the famous radio jingle, played in the inner city and targeted toward low-income African American neighborhoods, the lyrics go “What’s the word? Thunderbird. How’s it sold? Good and cold. What’s the jive? Bird’s alive. What’s the price? Thirty twice.” This, I presume, meant Thunderbird cost 60 cents at the time. Joel is either referring to a price increase on Thunderbird, or is more likely just misremembering the jingle.

Novelty factor: This one jumped out at me and made me laugh because I was familiar with this slogan already. This hilarious website devoted to bum wines taught it to me. Thunderbird is rumored to possess an especially foul flavor, even in the world of bum wine. Even the TV ads for the product practically admitted this, with James Mason saying “Thunderbird wine has an unusual flavor all its own.” This was apparently the best they could do. Note the YouTube comments: “Thunderbird has an unusual flavor reminiscent of wood alcohol, radiator coolant and Kool Aid,” and my personal favorite “Thunderbird goes especially well with being face-down in the gutter.”

11 thoughts on “14. “What’s the word? Thunderbird! What’s the price? Forty twice!”

  1. Pingback: 32. “Celebrate the moments of your life with General Foods International Ripple.” | MST3k Riff-a-Day

  2. Very much like the “Samuel L. Jackson Beer” commercial spoof by Dave Chappelle, except the spoof is much more true-to-life.

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  4. as I’m past 70 I was there when that add aired,,, my memory is still fine and remembers the price as “what’s the price?” “39 twice” because it was sold for .78 cents

    • I remember it was the cheapest wine you could find. Old Mr Boston Rum and Gin were the cheapest hard liquor you could find in the Boston area. The Old Mr. Boston distillery I used to make deliveries there was mostly mixing Vats .

  5. I was in a miss thunderbird wine contest held in the music hall Detroit Michigan trying to find videos or photos of that event.

  6. In my service days (67-70), the price was “fifty twice.” MD 20/20 was the stuff no one drank! Boone’s Farm, and Annie Green Springs were the popular, cheap wines and a lot of guys used bota bags to drink the wine. Fun on the SoCal beaches.

  7. Wish they still produced THUNDERBIRD….. The best that Glued that generation All Together!
    Please produce, and sell it Nationwide Again!!! The Bible of Wines.

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