Free Doritos, Instant Fame

Joe Herbert was grinning ear-to-ear Feb. 12 inside the Southeastern Indiana YMCA gymnasium in Batesville. He had about 50 people in a never-shortening line of admirers, all with either a Doritos promotional card with he and his brothers photo surrounded

If you gave me $1 million, I’d eat a lot of Doritos. Joe and Dave Herbert didn’t have to, but I bet they’d eat a million bags. They’re that happy.

Joe Herbert was grinning ear-to-ear Feb. 12 inside the Southeastern Indiana YMCA gymnasium in Batesville. He had about 50 people in a never-shortening line of admirers, all with either a Doritos promotional card with he and his brother’s photo surrounded by a sea of Doritos bags or, even better, a newly-open copy of their board game, Triviathon. They were on sale for the discounted price of $25.

You might have heard about the two brothers, both unemployed and living in Batesville, Ind. (pop. 6,000), imagining a TV commercial, filming it and submitting it to a contest sponsored by Frito Lay, maker of Doritos. Did I mention that the tasty, crunchy corn triangles dusted with nacho cheese flavor are my favorite snack food?

Anyway, after making it into the top five submissions, the Herberts entered a pool where online registrants on the Doritos Web site determined the best one, with a first prize of $25,000. The winner was to air during the Super Bowl telecast. Joe and Dave won.

Not only that, but Doritos offered a bonus of $1 million if the winning Doritos spot also won best overall commercial during the Super Bowl as determined by AdMeter. Joe and Dave won that, too, the first time anyone had beaten the perennial Budweiser favorite.

Their winning commercial (available online by searching “free Doritos” on depicts a guy throwing a snow globe through vending machine glass, gaining access to the free Doritos. It’s pretty funny stuff.

I met Joe Herbert in 2005 when we both were in a stand-up comedy training course at the Funny Bone comedy club at Newport on the Levee. He was a Web site designer with a passion for movie-making, something he and his brother shared and taught themselves.

Their family owned a softball field complex in Harrison, just over the border in Ohio. But the family sold the business two years ago, and Joe Herbert left his Web designer job to try his hand at movies.

I was a reporter doing a first-person story on stand-up comedy for a local magazine. Joe and I had a good group in our class, many talented people, and we often socialized together after classes. But something about him made me realize he was on a mission.

Maybe it was the fact that when he told me he did video production and I asked him to transfer some home movies from VHS to digital copies, he seemed underenthused and never called me back. Just a hunch, but I never took it personally.

It’s easy to think nothing but great things when you see a guy who took his dream and made it happen, taking advantage of some good luck along the way. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. So what does a town known for its coffin and hospital bed manufacturing prowess do when two of their own make it big? They throw a huge party.

Everyone in the line Feb. 12 wanted to talk with Joe Herbert, including many young people wide-eyed in the presence of their new beloved son and insta-celebrity.

Joe and Dave have been on The Today Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and were featured in numerous radio and newspaper interviews.

Even former Cincinnati Red and Big Red Machine hero George Foster was there to congratulate the brothers. It seemed a little odd, but he’s an old family friend from the days when they owned the softball complex.

Joe said he and his brother have been enjoying all the attention, calling it a “whirlwind” and feeling quite overwhelmed by it all. The mayor of Batesville gave the brothers a key to the city. That was after the full-on parade through the town, complete with floats and police cars and fire trucks.

What’s next? Well, Joe and Dave are in New York now hoping to boost sales and interest in their board game with their new-found fame. They’ll take the Doritos money and pay the actors and helpers who worked in the commercial for free, then use the rest to invest in their production company.

Joe says they have a script for a “serious movie,” but I couldn’t tease away any details other than Joe saying it’s not a “funny movie.”

“We’re not just comedy,” he said with a big grin. Joe Herbert doesn’t have to be. He’s already laughing all the way to the bank.

CONTACT JOE WESSELS: [email protected]
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