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‘If you do not want to read my nonsense below...’

The accidental art of Auckland’s best weekly pizza discount email newsletter.

‘If you do not want to read my nonsense below...’

Mar 6, 2024 Cheap Eats

“Good morning Pizza Eaters,” the email begins. “It is Tue-tue-Tuesday.” A few lines of text about $10 pizza are followed by a bold serif font spelling out a question: “Famous Events that happened on Tuesday?” 

A short list follows. The first item on the agenda: “September 11 2001”.

Other notable Tuesday events, according to this email: the Challenger space shuttle’s disintegration shortly after take-off, the Black Tuesday stock-market crash of 1929, Elvis Presley’s death and D-Day. Oh, and Barack Obama’s election. 

That’s the entire list. Why were they all terrible except the Obama one? Why was 9/11 first?

Feeling completely disarmed is not unusual upon the opening of a $10 Tuesday promotional email from Calimero Pizza (stores in St Heliers, Sandringham, Devonport and Ponsonby). While they are nominally sent out every Tuesday to remind you, the pizza eater, that today is Tuesday, which means that pizzas are just $10, they function in practice more like a stream of consciousness from Calimero’s owner, Jeremy, funnelled straight from his brain to the digital page and usually signed with his name.

Here’s a typical entry: “One of our suppliers got let down with a large ham order and we were able to pick up a bunch of ham at a good price (a rare win),” it reads, promising $10 large Hawaiians until the ham runs out. “Find pineapple on a pizza offensive and don’t want to feel disadvantaged? That is cool, we are also doing $10 Large Ham and Cheese Pizzas. Don’t like ham and don’t want to feel disadvantaged? You are disadvantaged in this one…” 

The slightly formal syntax, the straight-talking warning for ham haters feeling left out, the dot dot dot signalling in no uncertain terms that ’nuff said — it’s perfect. “A supplier in need is a friend indeed,” Jeremy finishes. “A supplier with cheese is better…” Indeed, my friend, indeed.

I have been receiving Jeremy’s emails since early 2022, when I moved into a house more or less across the road from Calimero’s Sandringham branch. The pizzas are good — fairly standard bases, but with a really pleasing array of topping options to choose from, including an entire separate Brazilian menu, all at a decent price point. I ordered one online and I must have inadvertently added my email to their mailing list. This, of course, happens often and, like most of us, I usually delete the resulting unwanted additions to my inbox without opening them. But when one particular email landed in my inbox on 29 March 2022, I couldn’t resist the subject line: “Calimero — Bam! I don’t want pizza with my Oscar!”

What would I find inside? Naturally, I had to find out. “Good after morning pizza eaters,” it began. I would soon learn that this is Jeremy’s customary greeting (tailored to whatever time of day he’s scheduled to send the newsletter at). “If you do not want to read my nonsense below then just remember it is $10 Tuesday tonight at Calimeros.” Boy, did I want to read the nonsense. 

It was the morning after Will Smith’s instantly infamous slap at the Oscars, and social media was infused with a kind of ‘bird in the assembly hall’ manic energy — the meme potential was too good, the opportunities for jokes too fertile to pass up. But what followed was unlike anything I was seeing elsewhere online. 

“Not that I was watching live (I have a life) but the Oscars were way more interesting than normal last night,” Jeremy wrote of the slap heard around the world.

“There should be nothing funny about men with a combined age well exceeding 100 (although we acknowledge that Will Smith has not aged since 1997) making jokes about wives and then socking each other. But we can make an exception to this because;

– It is actually funny

– Let’s face it, as far as slaps go, it was more WWE than UFC

– Their combined net worth in millions exceeds their combined age.

 So it is okay…”

Then, the pièce de résistance, this bespoke image-based meme: 



This was followed by a short interlude about Mike Tyson and also Mike Tyson’s neck, finishing with this image:



What on earth did any of this mean? The memes made no sense: the wording was vague to the point of meaninglessness and the relationship between The Slap and the pizzas wasn’t just tenuous — it wasn’t there at all. No explanation was offered for why we should assume Mike Tyson would be pro pineapple on pizza. But instead of being annoying, the absolutely back-breaking reach made to shoehorn the topic du jour into selling mid-range pizza in Auckland was perfectly endearing. 

The exactly calibrated oddness is why it worked — it felt so strange, confusing and potentially off-putting that it had to be genuine, rather than some slick campaign drenched in three layers of irony, dreamt up as a marketing stunt for a chronically online audience. Possibly inadvertently, Calimero had stumbled into one of the most sought-after brand requirements of the digital age: authenticity. 

After “Calimero — Bam! I don’t want pizza with my Oscar”, the Tuesday newsletter became mandatory weekly reading for me. 

“I went to Singapore & Came back with a haircut” — immediate open. “Pizza Fit for a Queen?” sent five days after Queen Elizabeth died — I’m listening. “No More Tuesday Emails for this Guy! They took my job!” — alarming for this fan, but turns out it was just about ChatGPT. This was followed the week after with an email titled: “A beautiful woman eating a pizza and drinking a thick shake with her daughter while skydiving with their pet tiger”.

I had to know who was sending these. Did he know how funny he was? Who was this guy? For the last year and a half, I’ve been imagining an older man (something about how he didn’t tend to contract words, instead writing ‘it is not’ or ‘you are’, scanned as boomer to me), possibly Brazilian (they did have that whole other menu, after all). Someone kind of grumpy but goodhearted, with a gregarious nature and politics that leant conservative (on Chris Hipkins taking over as prime minister: “I have always said, ‘bugger having that job’.”). I perhaps unfairly assumed he didn’t know how to use a computer very well. I imagined someone mildly eccentric — a real character. I pictured him with white hair and a bushy white moustache.

I met Jeremy Medlin at the Coffee Club in Mission Bay on a Sunday morning in early summer. A 38-year-old Dunedin native, he bought the Calimero franchise with his Brazilian wife Talita Sena in 2019 — the third set of people to own the business after the first outlet was established in St Heliers in 1992. Medlin has freckles, strawberry-blonde hair and fair eyelashes. He is about as close to the Platonic ideal of a Pākehā bloke as you could find. Talking to him is nothing like reading his emails.

I asked about the 9/11 email, explaining how much it had shocked me and made me laugh. Had he meant it to be funny? “I can’t remember writing that,” he says. “That’s probably something that wouldn’t get through my filter now.” He laughs a little awkwardly. “Oh jeez, I’m embarrassed now.”

But he likes that I like the newsletter so much, that I think it feels strange and genuine. “Email newsletters are all pretty much the same now right, they use the same format, same photos, basically saying as little as possible,” he says. “I didn’t want to make it like a normal newsletter, I wanted people to read them.” It’s true: most email newsletters from brands have the same, slightly insipid tone, as if your most boring and positive friend has got in touch to insist that you hang out this weekend. Calimero’s are more like a text you might get out of the blue from your dad — off-kilter, amusing and containing a lot of extraneous detail.

“The ones that get the best reception are always the ones I’ve written in my head in advance,” Medlin says. “But you kind of run out of things to say. 

“You slowly run out of topic materials — you always try to link it back to pizza, but it’s not always possible.” He learnt the hard way not to comment on political comings and goings — the pizza eaters made it clear that they didn’t want politics with their pizza.

I tell him the endless pursuit of inspiration and the slightly desperate feeling of ‘is this worth writing about?’ is one most professional writers know well. Also like most professional writers, Medlin seems endlessly curious about the world. We talk about climate change (he thinks it’s real but isn’t going to be as bad as feared), the state of the media (he misses being able to read the Otago Daily Times in the morning and then be done with the news for the day), how Wikipedia was built (he’s a fan of the NPR podcast How I Built This, which recently featured the Wikipedia founder) and Bitcoin (it’s fascinating but too much of it’s scammy, he reckons). 

And I think this is why the newsletter has, in all its perfect oddness, been so successful at capturing my attention and heart: because Medlin writes about what he thinks is interesting in a voice that could only be his, rather than guessing at what I, the reader/consumer, might like to hear, and pandering to that using the same blandly friendly cadence of every other corporate message trying to grab your attention in the digital realm. That register is extremely easy to write in — I’ve done it many times myself when I’ve had to produce sponsored content. It’s amazing how easily you can write 500 to 700 words of pure nothing to try to sell a product; and, in truth, so much of what we come across every day, in our inbox, in our social media feeds, in between the real articles in our newspapers and magazines, is ad copy pretending to be writing in the hopes its flimsy disguise might hold long enough to make you read it. 

Of course, at the end of the day, Medlin is hoping you might buy a pizza; there’s no amount of pontificating by me which can obscure that fact. But the pizza feels like an excuse to write, rather than the writing being merely in service of pizza. There is real joy in these newsletters — an unselfconsciousness which gives them an almost diary-like quality. They’ve got personality. The very fact that they seem, frankly, kind of bad at selling you a pizza is what makes them so delightful; an almost accidental kind of art. 


Calimero, 59 Long Dr, St Heliers; 412 Sandringham Rd, Sandringham; 163 Victoria Rd, Devonport; 113 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby; 


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