Proof that you can buy
happiness … for 24 cents.
By Jake Bronstein
When people see my Fun Idea Machine (a
vending machine I’ve filled with plastic
bubbles, each containing an idea for having
fun) they usually ask me the following questions:
1. Where did the idea for the Fun Idea Machine
I consult for ad agencies developing fun ideas to
market products. So the idea of a vending machine
that could sit behind my desk and “sell ideas”
seemed like the kind of thing executives visiting
my office would enjoy.
2. How did you build the machine?
Toy dispensers are pretty cheap: $80 brand new
on eBay. From there, all I had to do was make the
signs to stick to the inside glass. Originally it read,
“Fun ideas: $1,000 and up. Consumer engagement:
3. So what’s in the machine?
At first, nothing — it was just a prop. Clients would
come in and ask if they could use it, and I would
chuckle, “Sure ... it runs on quarters ... you’re going
to need 4,000.” Everything changed when I brought
it out to the street to take some pictures for my
business cards. People kept stopping me, asking
if they could use it.
4. So there’s nothing in it?
Au contraire. I realized I was onto something.
I rushed back to my office, ordered a box of toys
and the eggs to put them in, and went to work filling
it up. Obviously I had to change the price — the
machine requires two quarters — but even that
seemed excessive. So in addition to putting a fun
idea in with each toy, I put in a quarter, and a penny
58 Make: Volume
that you could leave heads-up for someone else to
find (nothing is more fun than making someone’s
day). Put in 50 cents, and you get back a toy, a fun
idea, and 26 cents. Fun, right?
5. What are your favorite ideas?
Having taken the machine out now about 30 times,
made more than 400 ideas to put inside, and sold
almost 4,000 “Funballs,” I can tell you my favorites
come in two categories. The first are things people
can do right now, things that if they try, their friends
will see and say, “I wanna do that.” Like the “shaky
face” or “high jump” (search for these terms at
zoomdoggle.com to see what they are).
The second are things they might not do, but they
remember a time when they would have, a time
when they knew that fun was just something you
do, regardless of the time or place. Somehow adults
forget — they “make fun of,” which is taking the fun
out of, instead of “having fun with.”
6. Are you going to start a Fun Idea Machine
I got a call from a vending machine business owner.
He wanted to know how much it would cost to
franchise the idea. I told him it’d be cool to have 10
machines out there and make a couple bucks …
but it’d be cooler to have 1,000 machines even if it
meant people were stealing the idea. I don’t have
the patent on fun. The machine is just a fun thing for
me and the people who use it. The funnest idea of
all is to make one of your own. I promise you won’t
Photograph by Jake Bronstein
Jake Bronstein was one of the founding editors of FHM
magazine’s U.S. edition. He keeps a blog about fun called
zoomdoggle.com and can be found at