By staff writer JD Rebello
September 20, 2006
I joke a lot about the intellectual capacity of women in this space, and for that I’ll never apologize. But there’s a method to my madness. 1) It’s always fun for shock value and it doesn’t get you into nearly as much trouble as a race comment. 2) At least five of my female friends will IM me with some variation of “This is why you don’t have a girlfriend.” And 3) I’m insecure. Deep down I realize that women are smarter. And you can find this in your everyday conversation. Okay, so women babble on incessantly about other people. But what do guys do? We talk about our fantasy football teams like we know the players on them. We get involved in complicated discussions about taking a nasty shit and why we’re nicknaming it “The Grizzly.” And most of all, we quote movies. A lot.
I may need a statistician to back me up, but is it wrong to presume that at least 70% of male conversation is culled from the spawn of a Hollywood screenwriter? It is in the case of my guy friends. Any situation that somewhat resembles a scene in a movie or TV show, we plagiarize like a journalism major from UMass-Amherst. And God forbid, a lot of other guys are doing it too. Anything we ever learned about avoiding conformity is thrown out the window when some kind of quote craze occurs. Anyone remember Rick James? That shit spread faster than AIDS in Ghana.
“Anyone can say, ‘60% of the time, it works every time,' about a nasty smell. But how many can follow that up with ‘Desperation is a stinky cologne?'”
Anyway, if a lot of people are doing it, odds are a lot of people are doing it wrong, so let’s establish some rules for quoting movies or TV shows. As usual, don’t put too much stock in these as I could be wrong. I’m not wrong, but for the sake of argument, I could be.
1. Keep it brief.
Bill Shakespeare once said “Brevity is the soul of wit.” The longer you say something, the less likely it’s going to be funny. Take movies. I guarantee the vast majority of your favorite comedies clock in at under 100 minutes. Imagine if they made a comedy as long as Braveheart. Even Will Ferrell couldn’t save that. The underlying philosophy of quoting is simple: get in, get out, get on your way.
While sitting at a pizza place, my friend Rob once decided to try and quote Steve Buscemi’s entire tipping rant from Reservoir Dogs verbatim. The discomfort in the room was staggering. Rob messed up whole lines, stuttered, tried to repeat himself. The atmosphere was deader than Anna Nicole’s kid. Hey, you’re not doing monologues. You’re trying to get people to say, “This situation has comedic potential. Hey, that quote really applies. Good show, old bean.” Yes, my friends talk that way because we’re all 1920s-era aristocrats.
2. Know your source.
This is 2006. If you’re still quoting Ace Ventura, you’ve got problems. Hell, quoting Old School would be dated. You want to be innovative. My friend Mark recently turned his AIM profile into a big roll call of fuck you’s, listing every company that rejected him for a job. (I’d have done the same but AIM has a word limit.) At the end he singled out his co-op job, followed by this ditty. “You’re on notice!” Some of you get it. Others don’t. Therein lies the rub.
There’s nothing better than subtle comedy, particularly if you’ve got an in. Shit, anyone can say, “60% of the time, it works every time,” about a nasty smell. But how many can follow that up with, “Desperation is a stinky cologne?” Creativity is a beast that must be fed.
On another branch, be careful what you quote. If you ever attempted to quote Sex and the City in a room full of guys, you better hope you brought a buttplug. And stay away from all chick flicks. Even if you said “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” and were trying to be ironic. That’s dangerous ground. Guys look for any reason to single you out and referencing Dirty Dancing is like bringing Jennifer Garner as a date to a NAMBLA meeting.
My suggestion is to know how people deal with irony. There’s an easy test I call the “Homophobe Litmus.” It can be described as follows: If you pretend to be gay with a male friend and he gets all freaked out, don’t do the irony. If he plays along and it gets to the point that all the girls at the table are whispering “tendencies…” then you’re gold. Also, it helps if both of you are straight. If the guy is gay, all bets are off. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but well, some of my readers aren’t terribly bright.
3. Following up a quote is OK, but only under the following circumstances.
A. You’ve provided the original quoter with enough time to finish.
Say somehow a Junior Mint gets involved in your life. If someone says: “Who’s going to turn down a Junior Mint? It’s chocolate. It’s peppermint. It’s delicious!” You have to provide enough of a window before you blurt out: “It’s very refreshing!” Otherwise you’re a bad friend. Might as well go bang his sister. Another side effect of this is jinxing each other and saying the same thing at the same time. Makes you look co-dependent. It’s on par with walking with your buddy and accidentally grazing his hand with your own. Not good stuff. Bad stuff.
B. You know the quote well enough.
It’s the “bullpen mentality.” Your buddy is Johan Santana, mowing guys down for eight innings, and you’re trying to be the closer. Are you Joe Nathan, lights out? Game over? Or are you Heathcliff Slocumb? Shaky. Ill-composed. Black. Not everyone can handle the fireman role. Shit, any schmo can be a starter. Matt Clement is a starter. And he has a Fallopian tube.
C. You feel the need to correct him.
As a comedy writer for a site that just passed the Peter Pan guy for unique hits, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. If one of your buddies wants to bring up the time in Family Guy when they played “I never…” and Quagmire gets plastered, he better get it right. He better know that the fourth line involves Home Depot, illegal aliens, choking and masturbating. If I hear him say Bed Bath and Beyond, I take out my red pen and stab him… AP style! (Ahh, journalism humor.)
4. Sometimes overkill is a good thing.
I took a trip to Florida a couple of years ago, right around the time Dave Chappelle did that Lil’ Jon skit on his show. (Those who remember that skit have an idea where this is going.) For 1200 miles, my guy friends and I said little to each other outside of “YEAH! OK! WHHHAT?!” And it was close to dead around South Carolina, until my friends Amber and Michelle formed a constituency to kill us.
“Okay, you guys really need to stop saying that!” they screamed from the rooftops.
“That is sooo getting old,” was the cry from the audience.
“It’s been 15 minutes. Time for another pee break.” Do girls really need to piss that often? Christ.
So what happened? Lil’ Jon had new life. Based solely on annoying the girls, the Lil’ Jon quotes were, to paraphrase Frank Costanza, like a phoenix, rising from Arizona.
Now, if a joke is sufficiently killed, don’t be a bitch and tell someone they killed it. Nobody wants that. I’ve stopped being friends with people who’ve accused me of killing a joke. Just don’t laugh and hope he takes the hint and goes away. Unless, of course, your buddy is a writer for “The War at Home,” then no, he won’t take the hint. You have to kill him. With piano wire. Leaves less of a mess.
5. Girls: It is very sexy when you quote.
Not really a rule, but I didn’t want the whole column to be penis-centric. I don’t know what it is about girls quoting movies or TV shows. It’s like last week when I saw a cute blonde girl wearing a Richard Seymour jersey. Shit, anyone can throw on a pink Tom Brady jersey, but Seymour? That’s hot. And the same goes for a girl who loves a good reference. I was at a bar a few weeks back and we were debating whether or not to order shots. She overheard us and said “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Instead of being a typical girl and saying, “I like shots because then I can cry and get attention!” she related to us, came down to our level.
Anyway, she brought the house down and we ordered shots, and later when I threw up on a cop’s horse, I remembered it was all thanks to Shawshank.
Girls, listen, if you want to get with a guy, these are very easy maneuvers: reference movies, obscure football jerseys, umm, know about beer other than Miller Lite, know a little about American history, respect our Madden and fantasy teams, or better yet play Madden or start a fantasy team. There are a few others, I forget. (And please don’t read too much into me finding it sexy when girls take on the characteristics of my guy friends. Seriously, don’t.)
Follow these rules, or you’re on notice!
Damn. I killed it.