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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Give him credit for this: Ed McMahon has a good sense of humor.
The 85-year-old celebrity who recently faced foreclosure on his Beverly Hills mansion and is a high-profile victim of the current U.S. housing slump, has found a new job -- portraying a rapper in a video advertisement about how to avoid bad credit.
A company that sells credit rating data to consumers said on Thursday it had hired McMahon, well-known as Johnny Carson's long-time sidekick on "The Tonight Show" and as the host of TV talent contest "Star Search," to portray himself -- as a rap singer -- in two videos it plans to launch on the Web in early October.
McMahon told Reuters that he thought the idea of him as a rap star was funny and the concept for the ads "brilliant," but added that they have an important message, as well -- that if he can run into trouble, anyone can.
"That's the appeal, that you're not alone, so why not spread that good word around?" McMahon said. "There is hope. There is help. There are situations that can be improved.
In photos taken from the video, McMahon is dressed in baggy clothes and wears flashy gold jewelry.
In the first video, titled "Big Check," McMahon and his bodyguard cruise through a neighborhood looking for past winners of a million-dollar sweepstakes McMahon once promoted to see if they will give some money back to McMahon.
Part two is "Ed McGangsta," and it finds McMahon having undergone a financial rebirth because the company has helped him put his financial house in order.
Charles Harris, senior vice president of marketing for FreeCreditReport.com, said his company got the idea after watching McMahon appear on the "Larry King Live" TV talk show this summer when he discussed his foreclosure problem and took the blame for not managing his debt better.
"We thought right away this is somebody whom anybody can relate to," Harris said, adding that portraying the 85-year-old as a rapper was consistent with the company's use of humor in previous ads.
McMahon made headlines this past summer when he defaulted on a $4.8 million mortgage on his six-bedroom home. At that time he was said to be $644,000 in arrears on the debt.
McMahon blamed his problems on having broken his neck about 18 months earlier, leaving him unable to work. He continued to borrow against the home to help pay his bills.
In late August, McMahon found a buyer for the home and avoided foreclosure. And now, he is back at work.
"A dear friend said, 'I just found out what the best medicine for you is, working,' McMahon said. "Working again is making me feel good all over."
Editing by Eric Walsh