16 Retro Employee Training Videos That Are Unintentionally Hilarious

Published On 12/07/2016 Published On 12/07/2016
wendy's grilling
"Wendy's Grill Skills" | Matthew Perdue/YouTube

Last year, Esquire's Dave Holmes unearthed a stunning promotional reel that Sizzler produced in 1991 for its franchisees. The nearly five-minute video was never meant to be seen by the masses, but thanks to Holmes and the angel who uploaded it to YouTube, more than 2 million Americans have now experienced that impressively sincere and patriotic anthem. It's a chief example of the joy to be had in mining for old corporate videos that are so bad they're good.

Many similar gems are floating in the ether -- this Ernst & Young attempt at team-building, for example, is almost too good to be true -- but my favorite breed of corporate video is the old corporate "enter-trainment" video, which some companies create to show new employees the ropes using visuals and lingo that quickly become dated. Just start working at Wendy's in the mid-'80s? The Duke of the Grill was there to guide you. Unsure of how to spot a shoplifter? Dick Deal had your back. Below, a look at more of our top training picks, some of which are, admittedly, more accidentally enter-training than others.

Matthew Perdue/YouTube

Wendy's Grill Skills

A TV that eats people. Singing meats. A burger rap that rhymes "lay it down" with "not scattered all around." Air-guitar spatula solos. Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's, demolishing conventional pronunciation. Miniature Rob Gronkowski.

Although those ingredients sound like they belong to a deleted Requiem for a Dream scene, they're actually all real things you'll find in this 1989 training-video-within-a-training-video (do-do-do-do-do-do-do, BUM, BUM), starring Bill, a boy who becomes a man when his Wendy's manager shifts him from fry duty to grill duty. The whole thing is beautiful, haunting, and damn-near perfect -- a lot like that stretch of time when Metta World Peace played for the Los Angeles Lakers. If you enjoy Bill's journey, you also need to see Wendy's musical takes on hot drinks, cold drinks, and chili.

The Burger Nerd/YouTube

Kentucky Fried Chicken-Cooking Procedure 

For a change of pace, watch this one from circa 1985, hosted by a Joe Pera prototype. Seriously, if you have trouble sleeping, ditch the ocean sounds and play this bad boy in the background -- you'll cure your insomnia and learn how to spin chicken like a goddamn magician (a magicken, if you will). Other things this nearly 14-minute tutorial will teach you:

Things it won't help you with:

  • Figuring out how to pull off that cool necktie
  • Finding the best way to ask your boss for more vacation days
  • Learning what the Colonel is really like behind the scenes

Blockbuster Training Video

Fair warning: If you watch this Blockbuster University Productions clip from 1990, featuring a straight-up lunatic named Buster giving smirky pointers to a perky employee through the TV he seems to be trapped in, you might also go crazy. But at least you'll know what I mean when I say, "True happiness looks like Max Headroom and Buster Sales duking it out in a Celebrity Deathmatch."


Blockbuster's Driscoll & Egbert

This two-part video from 1989, used in the days just before the arrival of Buster Sales, is a showcase for At the Movies parodists Jerry Driscoll of The Chicago Tribulation and Rodney Egbert of The Chicago Fun-Times that uses the movies and synth of the era to instruct new employees on Blockbuster's customer service policies. Part two trained a Blockbuster employee who resembled Candace Cameron how to shut down pretentious little brats:

Kid customer: Hey, I hated the ending of Casablanca. Do you have anything better?
Blockbuster employee: Yeah, how 'bout a knuckle sandwich?

OK, she doesn't really say that, but she does kind of throw a punch. Come for the enter-trainment, stay for Alfred, the movie store's resident psycho.


Nintendo's Power of Choice

Even though I wouldn't trust the weeks-old loaf of bread in my fridge with Ben, I found it impossible to turn away from his Wayne's World-y 1993 holiday demo. (And honestly, compared to Nintendo's 1991 version, this thing needs an Oscar more than Amy Adams.) His seminar comes with a Nintendo history lesson, the phrases "Nintendo nutso" and "radical fun, man," and a reminder that your childhood would've been a little better if your mom had just relented and gotten you that Super Scope.

Douglas Booth/YouTube

The McDonald's One About "McC"

In this taut psychological thriller, a wet-behind-the-ears Golden Arches custodian loses his marbles as he learns he's not working alone.


The McDonald's One About Smiling

One cashier's harrowing past with a car distributor scars him for life and nearly ruins this '70s-era Mickey D's for a solid five minutes. Flashbacks included. 


The McDonald's One With the Fake Michael Jackson

In 1984, Weird Al Yankovic released a parody of Michael Jackson's Thriller hit, "Beat It," called "Eat It." It won him a Grammy. Shortly thereafter, McDonald's followed suit by creating this instructional music vid, called "Clean It." It won our hearts.

ShowBiz Pizza.com (#3)/YouTube

Chuck E. Cheese's Walkabout Character Guide

"Some kids are a little hesitant about letting Chuck E. touch them." No kidding. There's a good reason we now have Five Nights at Freddy's.

Rad Universe/YouTube

FuncoLand Sales Game

If you thought the Upside Down was a freaky alternate dimension, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Quotes Yes/YouTube

Woolworth's Shoplifting Prevention

Join former pro-shoplifter Dick Deal (real name, hopefully?) on a deadpan journey into the mind of a thief, and learn some choice Dick Dealisms along the way:

  • "Why this store? Why this particular store? Better yet, why not?"
  • "In order to have a theft, you must have something to steal, and we have stores full of it."
  • "This lady just stole something to steal with! She seems quite pleased with herself."
  • "To steal the line, this man has taken the term 'support hosiery' literally."
  • "How many of you heard the rumor or old saying: It's impolite to stare at a pregnant lady? Now you know who started that rumor."
  • "If you can convince me this is shopping, I'll buy."
  • "If this phone call isn't from her lawyer, she's in trouble."
  • "We have two cashiers [colluding at the] same counter. I'm told that the one man didn't know what was going on. I was also told that he believes Botany 500 is a car race."

To watch this entire 18-minute clip is to learn the "Dick Deal dance," to enjoy the unpredictable commentary of someone best described as the John Madden of stealing.


Tower Records: Difficult Situations

First, pour one out for Tower. Then, skip to the end of the tape, where a blooper reel featuring Michael Scott's dad and a brief musical awaits.


Game Crazy Training Video

In the early 2000s, Game Crazy had the idea to stage one of its training videos like a big-league sporting event. It also had the idea to turn one of its employees into a sideline reporter whose vocab inexplicably included "hizzouse," "heezy," "boo-yah," "bomb diggity," and "crunk."

Nicolini Media LLC/YouTube

Hacienda Mexican Restaurants

Long live the three-legged analogy.

Watercooler Films/YouTube

Publix: Thank You

Honestly, this man hates shopping more than Mike Tyson hates hoverboards.


Gas 'n Fuel: Makin' It Happen!

And as a parting gift, here's a spot-on parody of the corporate training programs you have now hopefully come to love.

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Sean Fitz-Gerald is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment and always wears shoes to work. Find him on Twitter @srkfitzgerald.



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