Reverse mortgages often appear on television these days as part of a joke.
When now-President Joe Biden first announced his 2020 campaign for the office, the kickoff video was compared to a reverse mortgage commercial on both CBS and NBC late-night programming within the same week. During the Emmy Awards last year, Steve Martin cracked a reverse mortgage joke in a bit alongside his “Only Murders in the Building” costars.
Now, animated ignoramus Peter Griffin is getting in on the action by invoking both reverse mortgages and longtime company spokesman Tom Selleck in an episode of the long-running animated sitcom “Family Guy.”
Through his desire to obtain more cash to buy a toy, Griffin (played by series creator Seth MacFarlane) decided to look into a reverse mortgage after seeing an ad on TV featuring Selleck (played by a soundalike), appearing on behalf of a company called “Hey Alright Reverse Mortgages,” or H.A.R.M.
Somehow – despite canonically being only 45 years old – he qualified for and obtained the loan, but also managed to get his loan foreclosed.
The episode is rife with a lot of the misconceptions the industry has been aiming to quash about reverse mortgages for years. Characters liberally refer to reverse mortgages as “scams,” say that the “bank” has obtained ownership of the home and portray the circumstances of foreclosure as very broad. As a comedy show, the episode is light on details.
In a recent episode of the RMD Podcast, Eddie Herda – who was instrumental in the creation of several Selleck ads for American Advisors Group (AAG) – described his attitude when he sees comedians use the product as fodder for jokes. Basically, he takes it in stride since such jokes are certainly not designed to offer authoritative financial advice.
“There are people, I feel, who attack the product,” he said. “And those are people who are widely misinformed. I mean, even Seth Meyers had a lot of fun with it. And for that, [I say] thanks for the free advertising.”
Overall, Herda said he appreciates when comedians spend any of their time thinking about reverse mortgages.
“I love it,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you? We had Iron Sheik tweeting about reverse mortgages. And if you’re a WWF fan from the 80s, you know who Iron Sheik is. So when I see a character that I used to pretend to be as I was bouncing around as a youngster parroting or making fun of or commenting about our product or company, I think it’s actually to our benefit.”
One rare instance in which a reverse mortgage was not the source of a joke on television was in 2021, when a TV show posited that Martha Kent – mother of Superman – had used a reverse mortgage on her home to offer financial assistance to people who had been struck by a downturn in the farming business of her community.
Fiction can certainly cut both ways.