I’m really asking for it now. Telling you what’s funny. You know what’s funny, right? You don’t need anyone telling you what you should be cracking up about. Oh, but man, do I know funny! I truly get the difference between everyday funny and cream of the crop funny. All right, so we all have our own tastes in humor. What reaches in and launches us into uncontrollable belly laughter is probably a matter of our culture, cumulative personality and life experiences. Attitude definitely factors into it. Corny to one is clever to another. Well, try to check your judgement in the coat room for the next 700 words or so while I tickle your funny bone. Most of all, open yourself to a chuckle or two and a grin or three. Starting with these five, here are some of the best bits I’ve seen.
10. Airplane–I speak jive
As they are referred to in the Airplane screenplay, two Jive Dudes are trying to be understood by the straight-laced white flight attendant. It becomes obvious the attendant could use an interpreter. Enter Barbara Billingsley, who played the WASPy mother of Beaver on Leave it to Beaver. She still looked and dressed like June, the last person we would expect to be able to bridge the gap across these cultures. “I speak jive,” she assured the attendant. She promptly demonstrated her fluency to the satisfaction of all involved.
9. Smothers Brothers–Mom always liked you best
Tom and Dick Smothers are famous for their comedy breaks from their traditional folk songs and they peaked in the years when they had a weekly network variety TV show. They were hip and hilarious. One of their most iconic bits was during one of those song breaks during which Tom would complain, “Mom always liked you best.” This would lead to several minutes of witty exchanges in the inimitable style these brothers originated. Dick would start in annoyed dismissal of Tom’s accusations, then asked repeatedly why Tom had this disturbing impression. One of the biggest laughs came when Dick pulled a reversal and asked, “Do you know why Mom liked me best? Sure she liked me best. Why not?” Tom is looking puzzled and then says innocently, “I didn’t know Mom liked you best.”
8. I Love Lucy–Harpo Marx and Lucy in a mirror image
Lucy was impersonating Harpo because she didn’t want Ethel to think she missed seeing Harpo at the Ricardo home. Unexpectedly, Harpo showed up at the apartment, dressed exactly as Lucy was, of course. She was seen by Harpo as she slipped behind a partition. He started doing a mirror image routine he had done in a Marx Brothers movie and Lucy came out from the partition precisely as he emerged opposite her. She mimics his every move. He tries to throw her off, but she knows the bit well. It’s a classic to this day, over sixty years later.
7. George Carlin–Baseball and Football
Carlin’s brilliant observational humor was pure genius in this bit that compared these two great American sports. Baseball is characterized as a happy, frolicking feel-good game while football is shown to be more like war. His description of baseball is light and airy. His football voice is deep and stern. A few quotes to illustrate this:
“Baseball is played on a diamond in the park, the baseball park. Football is played on a gridiron in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium. Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life. Football begins in the fall, when everything is dying. In football, you wear a helmet. In baseball, you wear a cap. Football is concerned with downs. What down is it? Baseball is concerned with ups. Who’s up? Are you up? I’m not up. He is up. In football, the specialist comes in to kick. In baseball, the specialist comes in to relieve someone. In football, you receive a penalty. In baseball, you make an error. Whoops!”
6. Caddyshack–Dalai Lama’s promise to Bill Murray
Murray’s character, Carl Spackler, tells the story of caddying for the Dalai Lama in the Himalayas. After a bad round, it appears to Carl that he’s going to be stiffed.
And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.
I couldn’t hope to do these comedic gems justice by cramming all ten into one post. I’ll take you up to Number One next time, so be looking for laughs in the meantime. Oh, what the hell, make it a habit!