15 embarrassing “before they were famous” commercials

From phone sex to bathroom products: vintage TV commercials featuring some of today’s biggest A-list celebrities.

“Before They Were Famous” posts are generally ten a penny. But we’re not interested in the “Oh look, Brad Pitt was still better looking than us even during those awkward teenage years” or “Wow, young Russell Brand has got a MASSIVE head!” photos. No, we’re after the commercial break’s equivalent of embarrassing family photos, which juxtaposition with later fame and manicured branding create a delicious effect.

Evangeline Lilly for Live Links (phone sex)

Before she was a Lost star, Evangeline Lilly was on G4TV. And before that, she was the model for this ad for some kind of phone sex thing. It’s even got that cheesy porn music. Oh my.

I guess Sayid fixed the satellite phone.

Keanu Reeves for Corn Flakes

What kind of event requires a seating placement for hundreds of people and nothing to eat but dozens of boxes of Corn Flakes? Who cares!? The point is, it’s young Keanu Reeves’ job to put all these boxes out while dancing around like a buffoon.

The best acting he’s ever done!

John Travolta for Safeguard Bath Soap

Before he was a big successful Hollywood gay, he pranced around singing and dancing for bathroom products. Imagine that.

Rub a dub dub, Barbarino loves to scrub. Not only his soapy body, but his best friends Bob and Johnny.

Brad Pitt for Pringles

Yep, before he got all famous and into adopting babies and stuff, Brad Pitt was pushing Pringles as a beefed up beach boy. As you can tell by the video, it’s clear that Brad wasn’t likely hired for his acting talent, but rather his ability to keep the prime Pringles target market (ostensibly, girls aged 12 to 25) glued to the TV screen with his ripple-y muscles.

The first rule of Pringles is: You do not talk about Pringles. The second rule of Pringles: You do not talk about Pringles…

Tina Fey for Mutual Savings Bank

This 1995 bank commercial pretty much sums up the poor fashion choices that were the 1990s. That short mom haircut and stylish floral vest just don’t do her beautiful personality justice.

Leonardo DiCaprio for Bubble Yum

The truth is out, Leo’s actual totem in Inception was a single package of Bubble Yum Bubble Gum. Check the video to see a Growing-Pains-era DiCaprio using his adorable teen looks to blow your mind with the bursting flavor of this outrageous gum.

someone give this kid an oscar!

Demi Moore for Diet Coke

How far would you go to get your Diet Coke fix? Well, if you’re a young Demi Moore, you’d climb out onto a high-rise ledge to get yourself some of the sweet, sweet soda. Thankfully, despite the ridiculous shoulder pads and apparent plummet to her death, lucky Demi seems to find love in the end.

Lindsey Lohan for Jell-o

Remember when Lindsay Lohan wasn’t such a sexy badass intent on just running around breaking rules and stuff? It’s difficult isn’t it?

Luckily we have this advert for Jello to remind us, try not to be distracted by Bill Cosby’s amazing rap and see if you can spot her.

Steve Carell for Brown’s Chicken

Admit it, you’re still seeing him as his later character of fame. But that’s just coping.

Times must be getting rough over at Dunder Mifflin

Morgan Freeman for Listerine

Here’s Listerine blatantly going after the “ethnic” market with a jivin’ Morgan Freeman.

Morgan was only 80 when they filmed this!!

Jack Black for Atari’s Pitfall

Little Jack Black looks about 200-lbs. lighter in this commercial for the early video game classic, Pitfall. While he may have put on a few pounds over the past couple decades, that unique enthusiasm he brings to the screen still holds true.

Lindsay Lohan for Jell-O

Here’s a sad reminder of innocence lost. Lindsay Lohan and her awesome hat team up with Bill Cosby to push Jell-O in this 1996 commercial. Though her appearance is nothing more than a cameo, I think it’s fair to say those little freckles of hers stole the show.

Bruce Willis for Seagram’s Wine Coolers

Hey, check it out — we’re just a bunch of fun-loving guy who like to sing and get tipsy off of totally manly wine coolers! While the advertising idea isn’t all that solid, what is solid is Bruce Willis’ corny dance moves and overly enthusiastic smile.

I don’t think you could get that much emotion out of Bruce these days if you ran a live current through him.

Seth Green for Snapp’s Hamburgers

Ooh… those expensive burger joints make me SO ANGRY!! Thankfully, a young Seth Green (circa 1991) and his enthusiasm for overcharging has shown me just how terribly those “other” hamburger restaurants are treating their customers. From now on, I’m getting my burger fix at Snapp’s (FYI – Snapp’s is now Rally’s)!

Bonus: Simu Lui for stock photography

Twitter recently discovered that Marvel’s Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience (CBC sitcom) & Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)) used to make ends meet by being a stock photography model. There’s mountains of this stuff, so here’s 5-6 of them.