RVOD133 You Can Do Something About Acne

(1970, Educational/Short, color)


Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Sebum: The dirtiest non-dirty word ever

Rating: ****

In a Nutshell:

You can do something about acne. We won’t tell you what, though.


The views and opinions expressed by this short do not necessarily reflect those of the ACNE corporation.What is acne? A narrator explains at length about hormones, sebaceous glands, bacteria and sebum, making sure to say that last word as often as possible. Tightly focused spotlights feature prominently for some reason. Helpful diagrams, skin cell models and fun-loving, acne-pitted teens fill the rest of the short’s visual needs. Also noteworthy: a score that careens wildly between hyperactive banjos and porn-implying swank.

Having painstakingly revealed acne’s causes, the narrator now turns to methods of prevention. Some kids need more sun. Some need less. Some should avoid greasy foods. Others have outbreaks triggered by emotional distress. But what causes your acne in particular? Damned if the narrator knows.


There’s not much else to say about the short itself. The contrast between its specificity about acne’s causes and its evasiveness about methods of prevention is a little jarring. The frantic and often inappropriate soundtrack is a lot jarring. Beyond that, it’s about as boring as an educational short can be.

The riffers are only occasionally inspired by the score and don’t do much with the vagueness of the short’s advice, so it’s a mystery to me why the commentary works so well. A few favorite comments: When the narrator tells teens, “The world is your oyster,” Kevin clarifies, “The world is a slimy mollusk that, when eaten, can cause paralysis and death.” During a porn score/skin model combo, Bill purrs, “Oh yeah, show me the underside of your skin, baby.” While the narrator vaguely addresses skin grease, Mike suggests, “Use a washcloth instead of bacon.” A hilarious exchange about spotlights and many, many riffs on the word “sebum” are also worth mentioning. Despite the dull subject matter, the riffers hit all the right notes and keep the jokes flowing at a brisk pace, making this one of their funniest shorts in a long time.