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Joe Isuzu

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Joe Isuzu
First appearance1986
Last appearance2001
Created byDella Femina, Travisano, and Partners
Portrayed byDavid Leisure
In-universe information
OccupationSpokesperson of Isuzu

Joe Isuzu was a fictional spokesman who starred in a series of 1980s television advertisements for Isuzu cars and trucks. Created by the ad agency Della Femina, Travisano, and Partners, and directed by Hollywood director Graham Baker,[1] the segments aired on American television in 1986–90, reaching their zenith in 1987 after the character was featured during Super Bowl XXI. Played by actor David Leisure,[2] Joe Isuzu was a pathological liar who made outrageous and overinflated claims about Isuzu's cars, with one commercial even casting him as the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Joe Isuzu's satire of the advertising and automotive sales business met with some resistance within those industries among those who felt the character reflected poorly on them.[3]

Joe Isuzu was a major success, causing a significant jump in Isuzu sales the year he was introduced and maintaining those sales in the following years. In an effort to further boost sales and assuage concerns that Joe Isuzu was becoming more famous than the Isuzu vehicles he was trying to sell, Isuzu tweaked the ad campaign to make Joe more honest about Isuzu's benefits,[3] compensating with more assertive sales tactics, such as ambushing salesmen trying to sell other brands by mentioning Isuzu's superior performance to the customer and luring them to Isuzu. In 1991, after stagnating sales, Isuzu fired Della Femina, ending Joe Isuzu's initial run.[4] The campaign was resurrected briefly in 1999 and continued until 2001 to promote several cars such as the Isuzu Axiom.[5] A decade after Isuzu exited the U.S. market, Leisure reprised the role in a 2018 commercial for Johnny5ive, an Isuzu Trooper repairman.[6]

Famous quotes include these:

  • "Hi! (...) It's me, Joe Isuzu."
  • "You have my word on it."
  • "If I'm lying, may lightning hit my mother." ("Good luck, Mom!" appears on screen.)
  • "It has more seats than the Astrodome!"
  • "Hi, I'm Joe Isuzu and I used my new Isuzu pickup truck to carry a 2,000-pound cheeseburger."
  • "The Isuzu Impulse: faster than a speeding—[catches a bullet in his teeth]—well, you know."
  • "I swear on my mother's grave the quality of this Isuzu!" cell phone rings "Hello? Oh, hi Mom!"
  • "Hi! It's me, Joanne Isuzu, Joe Isuzu's twin sister." (Leisure appears on-screen in drag, with the caption reading "He's lying, and so is she.")
  • "Isuzu Trooper II, can hold the whole state of Texas!" ("78.2 cubic feet of it." stated on the bottom of the screen)


The character became a fixture in American popular culture. In 1988, Michael Dukakis, in a debate with George H. W. Bush during that year's United States presidential election, said, "If Bush keeps it up, he's going to be the Joe Isuzu of American politics."[7]

Leisure reprised his role as Joe Isuzu in a 1992 A&W Cream Soda commercial. True to form, Isuzu made outrageous claims about the soda.

In 2012, Daily Finance (a subsidiary of AOL) named David Leisure #15 of Top 25 Celebrity Spokespeople of All Time for having portrayed Joe Isuzu in Isuzu advertisements.[8] The same year, Leisure reprised the role in a series of mock endorsements of Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.[3]


  1. ^ D'Angelo, Carr (December 1988). "Pride & Prejudice (Director Graham Baker)". Starlog. No. 137. New York. pp. 65–72. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
  2. ^ "David Leisure - Other works". IMDb. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Rossen, Jake (March 24, 2016). The many lies of Joe Isuzu. Mental Floss. Retrieved August 25, 2021.
  4. ^ Wollenberg, Skip (May 9, 1991). American Isuzu Fires Ad Agency That Created Joe Isuzu Character. Associated Press. Retrieved August 25, 2021.
  5. ^ Krebs, Michelle (July 1, 2001). "BEHIND THE WHEEL/Isuzu Axiom; Joe Isuzu Is Back, and He Has a New Sport Utility to Sell". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  6. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Joe Isuzu is back in 2018. YouTube.
  7. ^ "An Icy Duke Edges Out Bush in a Taut Debate". TIME.com. October 3, 1988. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  8. ^ "Top 25 Celebrity Spokespeople of All Time". Daily Finance. AOL. January 22, 2012. Archived from the original on November 28, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2015.