Funny Failures: Unsuccessful Exercise Machines throughout History

An account of failed and forgotten exercise and weight loss inventions from history includes Bike to Nowhere, Early Pogo Stick, Early Pilates Class, Poor Man’s Bow Flexe, Tiny Paddle Ball Device.

picture of weight loss bicycle from LeonardoThroughout history mankind invented ingenious exercise and weight loss machines.  These machines failed.

Bike to Nowhere This early stationary exercise bike from 1599 was inspired by Rubens, invented by Leonardo da Vinci, and used by the entire De Medici family.  The absence of a seat led to irritability and several poisonings.  Weight loss was minimal.

Picture of a stickless pogo stick

 Early Pogo Stick

This early attempt at the pogo stick was a commercial failure due to the absence of the lower, springy part.

Pictured here, inventor Jacques Peugeau insisted his stickless pogo stick would lead to healthy fitness and hopped throughout much of France.  

Peugeau indeed lost a great deal of weight, due mostly to being penniless and starving.

Beard Theory Much later in life Peugeau would devise his spectacularly unsuccessful “follicular theory” of weight loss, based on the idea that a rapidly growing beard taps fat stores.

Photo of William Cullen Bryant for Failed Exercise Inventions

Above: Peugeau is shown demonstrating to his followers how to “urge” the beard to grow faster and burn belly fat first.  Urging hair growth on one’s back was purported to have the opposite effect, reducing the buttocks. Peugeau’s followers squabbled about which approach was most effective, splitting the group into two hairy (and fat) schools of thought that died out within a generation.

Woodcut of nobility urging troops to exercise

 Early Pilates Class Before they were called Pilates, the low-impact exercises were known as “rampart leaning.”  To make extra cash, the Duke of Bleubarry and his brother experimented with the exercise regimen in a plan to sell it to their wealthy (and portly) friends.  Testing with common workmen did not go well The brothers spoke only Dutch. The workmen, who spoke English, kept trying to guess what sort of work they were supposed to perform. They actually gained weight.  An utter failure.

Picture of a lever pulling on a cut tree


Invented around 1622, the “Poore Man’s Bow Flexe” purported “fitnesse, strengthe and a tiny gutte.”  Several units sold.  But the fuss of partially felling a tree and affixing the rope and handle left many of these exercise devices gathering dust in peasant attics.  Just like today.




Tiny Paddle Ball Device  Invented for fun and healthy exercise, this table top game proved much too difficult for the average player.  To save money, inventor Clive Blixter made the ball and the paddle so small that getting a “hit” became an exhausting ordeal.

Players did lose some weight but became irritated and frazzled.  See below:  the Count of Norway before and after a tournament.

                     Before                                                                                                 After

Photo of man with a mustache and neat hair

Photo of man for failed exercise equipment

Hair is mussed and composure frazzled by playing the Tiny Paddle Ball Device.

Ultimately a failure, Tiny Paddle Ball Device was later issued with a larger paddle and ball.  Still nearly impossible to hit twice, it continues to frustrate most.  (See Blazing Saddles for demo of “defective” paddle ball paddles.)

Like many failed exercise and weight loss inventions, Tiny Paddle Ball Device is now mostly forgotten.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Funny Failures: Unsuccessful Exercise Machines throughout History — The Industrial Age.

All photos courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Ten-inch paddle ball (not defective)

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Nick and Artie Show

Photo of The Nick and Artie Show  Nick Di Paolo   Artie LangeIf you love comedy, you probably already know Nick DiPaulo and Artie Lange.

In something of a comedy miracle, Nick and Artie now have a show together on radio and the internet.  

The only reason I am writing this post is that locating the Nick and Artie show was like finding the elephants’ graveyard.  

Even if you have Sirius you are not going to find Nick and Artie.  I know, I have Sirius.  I had to search for it.

The Nick and Artie Show is on a website.  Archived. Free.  What?

These two comedy geniuses are hiding out.  They have only 12,000 likes on their Facebook fan page.  What?  

This is the comedy equivalent of finding a cardboard box full of hundred dollar bills behind a dumpster.

Since I discovered Nick and Artie, I have been listening to their on-line collection of shows on my iPhone instead of Sirius.

Ostensibly, a sports talk program, the Nick and Artie show is the funniest material you will find for free, anywhere.  I have Sirius.  I’m listening to them instead of my paid subscription.

Who are Artie and Nick?

If you heard Artie on the Howard Stern show, you miss Artie as much as Billy.

If you’ve heard Nick DiPaulo, you know he is a comedian who will make your brain explode.

Example:  On the Oct. 4 episode of their show, Nick quotes a Don Gavin joke.  Have you seen those Vegas billboards with a 1-800 number to call if you have a gambling problem?  A guy calls the number and says, “The dealer is showing an ace and a three.  And I’ve got a nine.”

These two guys have very similar senses of humor, and memories like elephants.  

Nick is distinguishable from Artie because he has NOT attempted suicide.  Nick also seems moderately more responsible and acts as MC.

Other than that these guys are similar in intellect and wit, and they spend their time trying to crack one another up.  

Why would such smart guys devote themselves to being funny?  How can they know so much about sports, music, and every other thing?  How in the world did we get so lucky that Lange and DiPaulo found one another?  How can it be free on the internet?

If you found a cardboard box of hundred dollar bills behind a dumpster would you ask questions?  Just keep your mouth shut and enjoy.

These two guys in combo are like nitro and glycerin.  They talk about sports.  I couldn’t care less about sports.  I fall on the ground laughing listening to their show.  This is how funny these guys are:  their show is about sports but they will make you laugh if you don’t know a football from a mothball.

Nick and Artie are not “working blue.”  

There are no bad words.  For a club comedian, this is like speaking in haiku verse.  It is a tribute to their genius.  Yes, they engage in drug-related, not politically correct comedy.  But they do not use any word worse than “ass” or “hell.”  

Downside:  If you are not up on current events, or pop culture for the past 45 years, Nick and Artie will lose you on some of the references.  Upside:  You might learn something.

Their minds stuffed with knowledge, Nick and Artie skate near the edge of obscure references.  Artie seems willing to go for deep historical references, and Nick will call him on it, and then make his own call back to a joke made two hours ago.

Here’s the real truth.  Nick and Artie are operating at the edge of their craft.

And now their show is about entertaining one another.  If you can keep up, you will laugh until you can’t breath, just like Nick and Artie do when one cracks up the other one.  

If comedy had a “grand rounds” where you could watch a surgical procedure by two medical geniuses, this would be it.

There is not a phony bone in either of these guy’s bodies on this show.  They are relaxed.

They know, like hunters up in a tree, that laughs are coming their way.  

They relax.  They sit there and talk until the rhythm shows up and they start riffing.  Then the opportunities show up and they shoot the jokes in the head.

Nothing is rehearsed.  Artie was almost hearsed. But he’s alive, alive, oh.  

I cried when Artie almost succeeded in killing himself.  But I said this at the time, “One day Artie and the rest of us are going to look back at this and joke about it.”  That time has come!  

And nobody seems to know about it.  Well, I didn’t.

What else?  The show has snatches of excellent rock music on the front and back end.  I don’t know who is responsible for the song picks, but Artie heard a Styx tune on the opener and threatened to leave.  The announcer is funny, too.  It doesn’t have any commercials in the archives.  

OK. OK where is this comedy paradise?  It’s the Nick and Artie Show.

You’re welcome.

Get Mom a Fossil for Mother’s Day

Dinosaur toothSweets to the sweet, and a fossil to the person who gave birth to you so long ago.

Sure, everyone’s Mom collects fossils (and I’m not just talking about Dad!).  But Mom can always use more.  Take a look at these beauties.





 Yes, it’s a replica of a giant trilobite, shown here about to consume a can of Coke along with a tape measure to remind us how big a can of Coke is.  


What the heck is this?  It’s a Genuine Fossil Coprolite – Real Dinosaur Poop! Fun holiday gift!  Your mom undoubtedly has many dinosaur coprolites, BUT NOT IN THIS EXACT SHAPE.  

Wind speed, slope, diet, height of dinosaur, attitude — these factors millions of years ago shaped each chunk of fossilized dinosaur crap into a unique gift.  These magic events have been given the impressive name “coprolites” by actual scientists.  Comes with an identification card.  Hey, even you didn’t have one of those on that magic day long ago when you came out!  Okay, at least think about it. Great gift idea.  No two alike.


Can you imagine the look on Mom’s face when you present her with this actual replica of a Tyrannosaurus tooth?   I would bet you anything that her first words will be “What the . . . ”  And while you explain, she may say “I don’t deserve this.”   Expect a few tears.

  • Replica cast from original fossil from Hell Creek, Montana
  • Measures 8 x 4 x 2.5 inches.

How can a replica of TWO Tyrannosaurus teeth go for a price of one?  Mom may be scratching her head, too, and asking, “Where can I put this?”!

This damn thing was cast from an actual dinosaur fossil. The ad copy says it all. “Now you can own two T-REX Dinosaur Teeth cast from an original fossil in sturdy hydrostone.”  What is hydrostone?  No idea, but it must be pretty good with a name like that.

Okay, enough with the replicas.  Score this actual fossil tooth for Mom at a price so low you have to click on the photo to believe it.  It’s from a Spinosaurus!  What is a Spinosaurus?  No idea, I missed a lot of Flintstones episodes because I had school.  

Oh, here it is from the ad copy.  “They are from the Cretaceous period (65-136 million years ago).” “Called “spiny lizard” because it had a series of spines up to 6 feet long coming out of its back vertebrae.”  Makes sense when you think about it.

And dig this,”Its arms were smaller than its legs so it mostly walked on two legs.”  Can you imagine mostly walking on two legs because your arms were pretty small?  

Freaky deaky doo!

And Mom will not know what hit her when she gets this actual fossil Spinosaurus tooth.

Here’s a photo of a SpinosaurusPhoto of spinosaurus dinosaur






Photo credit