Mandatory Credit: Photo by JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10554316n)
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during his primary night event at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA, 11 February 2020.
Sen. Bernie Sanders New Hampshire Primary Night, Manchester, USA – 11 Feb 2020

When was the last time a political ad got you truly excited? This one just might…in more ways than one.

A new series of “phone sex hotline” (note the quotes) ads from L.A. comedian, writer, actor, and producer Amber Schaefer aims to educate the public about Bernie Sanders’ policies such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal in the soothing, raspy, sexy voice of a 1990s phone-sex operator. Yes, it’s an actual number you can call: 1-833-NOT-ME-US, and we’re exclusively reporting it here on Refinery29 before they come out on Friday. You can check them out on social media and below.

Working with actors Paige Elkington, Kate Hollowell,  Demi Adejuyigbe, and Matisse Andrews, Schaefer captured the high cheese factor of these late-night ads and mixed them with dire issues that need addressing. “You know what gets me excited?” Elkington says as she clinks her handcuffs. “Criminal justice reform. Instead of spending $80 billion incarcerating predominantly poor Black and brown people, we should be investing in schools and jobs.”

Fresh off the heels of Sanders’ wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, the ads are meant to excite a base of young people who could care less about “typical” political ads and get them to educate their friends about climate change, healthcare, and more.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because Schaefer was in the news very recently for another Sanders-related project: (in a whispery voice) Bérnié, the People’s Perfume. Featuring a cap from a Bernie Sanders bobble head, it’s an ad for a (fake) luxury perfume featuring young people romping around on the beach being seductive, while destroying their student loan bills and medical invoices.

So, what are you waiting for? Call now. And read our interview with Schaefer ahead, in which she discusses her inspirations, whether this is the future of political ads, and more.

What was the idea behind making artistically driven material centered around Bernie Sanders?

“I’m originally from Vermont, and I’ve been a Bernie fan since I can remember. I supported him in 2016, and I support him now. What’s happening now is what I imagine a Patriots fan must feel like to see their team in the Super Bowl.

“I wanted to make these ads out of my anger at seeing people still talking about Bernie’s support in terms of ‘Bernie bros,’ because I felt like it’s erasure of women’s and people of color’s actual opinions — that whole narrative that girls like Bernie because boys think it’s cool. Women have always made up the majority of Bernie’s base. I believe in his policies, and I’ve donated to his campaign, but I wanted to take it a step further.

“With Bérnié, The People’s Perfume, I wanted to create something that was hopeful and feminine, that felt like the opposite of what you would usually see for a political ad, and also what people’s expectations are of what a ‘Bernie bro’ and Bernie supporter is.”

How did you come up with the concept of a phone-sex line?

“I wanted to provide a place where people could hear about Bernie’s policies — and make it funny. I had watched a bunch of 1-900 ads and fell in love with their cinematic universe, and just kept watching. There’s a lot of bad acting and a lot of sexualizing things that aren’t sexual, which is why in these ads we’re eroticizing prison reform and things that are dry on paper. I should add that I cry every day thinking about Bernie’s policies and everything he wants to do. To me, it’s not dry!

“It’s just about making it fun, because politics can be so intimidating, and it can be harrowing and bad and terrifying, and you can feel hopeless. So I wanted to make art that’s filled with joy and hope that I feel around the campaign. And I can’t express how thankful I am for all the talented actors and everyone else’s who helped me on this.”

Is the intent of the ads to excite existing supporters or introduce Bernie to new ones — or a little bit of both?

“For me, it’s about creating a sense of community and momentum and excitement. There’s so much excitement and momentum around this campaign, I want to keep it going. Even though Bernie is in the lead, we can’t stop working. I think there are some people who can be convinced, though. I’d be happy if this converted someone. I imagine someone watching the video and excitedly converting their friends.”

Do you consider it art, or a political ad, or something in-between?

“Both of them are living art projects. The Bernie ad is not nearly as funny or interesting without the beautifully designed website and Instagram and Twitter accounts, and it was important to me that the voice of the brand be consistent and that there’s a logo; you kind of take it all the way. I’ve written down rules of how the brand talks, the stuff coming from the account has to sound like it’s coming from a perfumery rather than Bernie supporters. And the ‘phone-sex’ ads just wouldn’t have been as funny without there being a working hotline.”

Were you aware that you’re marrying Mr. Income Inequality with a “luxury” ad when you made The People’s Perfume? Was that intentional?

“I’m glad you asked, because no one’s asked me that. We were shooting outside in nature — hence Green New Deal — but I wanted to make sure the ads feel luxurious. I think there’s a misconception about socialism that it means we can’t have nice things. I love nice clothes, I love designer clothes, I love perfume, I love lipstick. I also love talking about income inequality and prison reform. Democratic socialism is really just asking people not to economically oppress each other.”

What are your thoughts on the #HotGirlsForBernie movement?

“We started working on this before the hot girls hashtag, but that hashtag had the same concern that I had, which is to ask people to stop painting Bernie supporters as these white dudes because that’s not his only support. I’m actually in a group called Titsout4Bernie, which is a bicoastal group of women, we meet regularly online to talk about what we’re doing to help Bernie’s candidacy, basically do guerrilla grassroots online organizing.”

Do you think this type of tongue-in-cheek humor is the future of political ads?

“In an era where there’s so much media and you’re constantly inundated, you can’t make something generic with stock footage anymore. People won’t notice it. You have to make something that grabs people’s attention and is interesting and creative and meaningful. Bernie speaks so authentically, and we don’t live in a world where you can be cheesy and fake anymore, because we can Google it in two seconds and know that you’re lying.”

Have you heard of or been in touch with Bernie’s campaign?

“I haven’t heard from the campaign. In some ways, I would love to make Bernie ads with them for the rest of my life, but I also think there’s some value in me having distance from the campaign. I still want to make jokes like, ‘Medical bills in the thousands? Oh, baby, you’re going to make me come…to the voting booth.’”

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