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Americathon (also known as Americathon 1998) is a 1979 comedy starring John Ritter, Fred Willard, Peter Riegert, Harvey Korman, and Nancy Morgan, with narration by George Carlin, based on a play by Firesign Theatre alumni Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman. Others credited in the film include Elvis Costello, Jay Leno, Meat Loaf, Tommy Lasorda, and Chief Dan George.

The premise of the film is that, sometime in the then-near future (1998), the USAmarker has run out of oil, and many Americans are literally living in their (now stationary) cars and either jog or ride bicycles to travel. The federal government, housed in "The Western White House" (a sub-leased condominium in Marina del Rey, Californiamarker), is near national bankruptcy and in danger of being foreclosed by a cartel of Native Americans in control of Nikemarker (which has been renamed "National Indian Knitting Enterprise"). President Chet Roosevelt (Ritter) hires television consultant Eric McMerkin (Riegert) to help produce a national raffle. Instead, they decide that the only way enough money can be raised to save America is to run a telethon, and hire TV celebrity Monty Rushmore (Korman) to host it.

The soundtrack features "It's A Beautiful Day" by The Beach Boys, "Get A Move On" by Eddie Money and "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" by Elvis Costello. Dorothy Stratten appears, uncredited, as one of the stage dancers. John Carradine was to have played "Uncle Sam" in this film, but his scenes were edited.

Satirical Predictions

Since the storyline was set 20 years into the future, several satirical forecasts were made. Surprisingly, several of them came true:
  • The People's Republic of Chinamarker embracing capitalism and becoming a global economic superpower.
  • Cliques of Native Americans becoming wealthy (although in reality much of their wealth would come from the gaming industry, mostly from tribal casinos and legally questionable tax avoidance strategies).
  • Nikemarker becoming a huge multinational conglomerate (In 1979, their "Tailwind" running shoe was just starting to gain popularity).
  • Vietnammarker becoming a major tourist attraction among Asia's wealthy and powerful.
  • The continued existence and popularity of The Beach Boys in 1998.
  • The creation of a "Western White House" (In reality it would serve as a vacation home).
  • The collapse of the USSRmarker.
  • The depletion of US crude oil production, which, according to Hubbert's Peak theory, was already underway for several years at the time the film was made.
  • Jogging suits becoming fashionable as casual wear.
  • Expensive specialty coffee becomes the norm (A panhandler asks for "$25 for a cup of coffee").
  • Reality television reaching absurd limits. (The telethon includes a boxing match between a mother and son).
  • An America with a devalued dollar and heavily in debt to foreign lenders.
  • The United Kingdommarker relying heavily on tourism for income (In the film, Englandmarker has been turned into a theme park named "Limeyland").
  • Network television deals with previously taboo subjects accepted as normal. (Monty Rushmore stars in the sit-com, "Both Father and Mother", and plays a cross-dressing single father in the titular role. The film's narrative also mentions "The Schlong Show", a game show where contestants are judged by their reproductive organs.)

Cameos & Inside Jokes

  • Director Neal Israel has a cameo as a protesting Rabbi holding a picket sign reading "The President Is A Yutz" (Yiddish for "a stupid, clueless person").
  • In a narrated scene where people are riding bicycles to a take-out restaurant, a sign reading "Chang Kai Chef - Communist Chinese Food" can be seen in the background. The menu sign offers such items as "Mao Tse Tongue on Rye", "Great Wall Meat Balls", "Gang of Four Combo", and "Teng-Tang". The bottom of the menu sign reads "No Russian Dressing. Stamp Out Imperialism."
  • In a scene where Eric McMerkin is reading a list of "Government Approved" performers, the names of "Proctor & Bergman" (the authors of the original play) can be seen fifth on the list, credited as "Comics".
  • The Del Rubio triplets can be seen performing "America the Beautiful" behind several posing bodybuilders.


A photo novel of the film was also released in 1979.

To promote the movie, in 1979 Ted Coombs roller skated across the United Statesmarker and back and gained a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Name usage

In 1984, New York Citymarker public radio station WNYCmarker sponsored a marathon of American music dubbed "Americathon '84".



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