"Try Ambien, the prescription sleep aid that helps you get a good night's sleep and possibly makes you more racist," says a narrator's voice, while video shots roll of various white people struggling to sleep. The faux ad aired Wednesday on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, a swipe at Roseanne Barr's "Ambien-tweeting" excuse for a racist tweet about a former adviser to President Obama.
Bee's spoof on typical drug commercials — complete with warnings about potential side effects — mocks the idea that a sleeping pill could cause racist thoughts. "I mean, you were already racist, but maybe Ambien made it worse?" the narrator asks toward the beginning of the ad, a puzzled-face emoji shrugging in the background.
The parody commercial comes just two days after ABC announced it would cancel Roseanne, the hit reboot of Barr's titular sitcom. And the person responsible for that abrupt termination is Barr herself, who tweeted on Monday: "muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby=vj." The "vj" in her tweet referred to Valerie Jarrett, a black woman who worked as a high-ranking adviser to Obama. Barr deleted the tweet, but plenty of people had already seen and documented the comment.
And as the Full Frontal commercial makes clear, Monday was by no means the first such offense from Barr. "Don't take Ambien if... you've previously tweeted racist things that your boss forgot about" says the narrator's voice. In the background is screenshot of a 2013 tweet from Barr that read, "susan rice is a man with big swinging ape balls." Like Jarrett, Rice also worked for Obama's administration, in this case as his national security adviser. Not incidentally, she is also a woman of color.
Barr wasn't the sole target of Bee's parody. "Until you know how Ambien will affect you, you shouldn't drive in urban areas, operate heavy machinery, or visit a Starbucks," says the narrator.
That last note of caution is a clear reference to the recent arrest of two black men sitting at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. A white store manager called the police in April, just minutes after the two men arrived, complaining that they had not purchased a beverage. The cops came, spoke with the two men, and ultimately led them out of the store in handcuffs. The story went viral and led to enormous backlash against Starbucks. In response, the coffee chain closed 8,000 stores Tuesday to run racial bias training for its employees.
The Full Frontal Ambien spoof ad also advises those considering taking the sleeping aid to refrain from doing so if they've ever asked, "When will there be a white history month?" or "used the phrase 'I'm not racist, but—'". Potential side effects include "clutching your purse as a person of color walks by" and "threatening to call ICE." The narrator also advises interested parties to talk to their doctor or peruse their ad in Wealthy Living.
"A great night's sleep and a convenient excuse are just one little pill away," says the voiceover signoff.
Following Barr's excuse that her racist comment about Jarrett came as a result of "Ambien-tweeting," the drug's manufacturer shot back with a tweet of its own. Sanofi US tweeted Wednesday that "while all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication." The drug maker also made clear that "people of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi."
Barr has taken heat from almost everyone for her racist tweet, and has apologized for it. But she sounded a defiant note on Thursday, tweeting, "One stupid joke in a lifetime of fighting 4 civil rights 4 all minorities, against networks, studios, at the expense of my nervous system/family/wealth will NEVER b taken from me."
Whether or not that holds true remains unknown. But one thing that Full Frontal has almost certainly taken from Barr is that she tried to excuse her racist comment by blaming Ambien.