Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cracking Wise

Some time ago back in the before time at JS, I wrote about the improbability of Karl Marx making it as a Marx Brother. I couldn't imagine him getting half a sentence through explaining "Surplus Value" without the boys destroying him. They certainly wouldn't keep him as a pet a la Zeppo or Margaret Dumont While Karlo would be droning on about the alienation of the worker from his labour Harpo would snip away the bottom of his beard and hand it to a blushing Margaret Dumont to use as a merkin. Groucho would then set it on fire, retrieve it and light his cigar. Then put the flaming merkin back. Which brings me to the cigar chomping man and a few other heroic wisecrackers.

Say, can I buy back my introduction to you?

Groucho was the champion of the witty retort, the razor put-down, the leer, the eye-brow wiggle and basically anything to get a rise out of people. So who else do I rate?

Gotta have Bugs.

Yooh hoo! Say Mac, are you looking for me?

Bugs was master of outwitting a series of bungling fools and giving them a few cool jibes. He was one of my faves. He was tres smart.

As was Colonel Hogan.

Carter, get Klink's car ready. I have a date.

Bob Crane played this role to perfection. Never ruffled and always had an ace up his sleeve. He wasn't averse to giving the Krauts a verbal pasting.

Finally we have Hawkeye.

Hey, Frank! Kellogs want their diploma back.

Hawkeye was great when he had Trapper, Henry and Frank to play with. He was good when BJ came along but with Winchester on board it became all tosserish. Without Henry and Frank the lameness was never going anywhere but north. Hawk simply became too damn preachy, which should have been left to Mulcahy.

I haven't kept track of wise-cracking heroes over the past couple of decades mainly because sitcoms tend to be more ensembles consisting of insipid unfunny people attempting to wring the obvious out of the even more obvious. They don't seem to have a defined front man with the sharp quip and the cunning plan. I may be wrong and you bunch of wisenheimers are free to set me straight. To quote Groucho.
- Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know.


  1. Hawkeye went downhill once they started letting Alan Alda start writing and directing.

    The closest thing to them these days are funnily enough both acting as doctors. I am thinking Dr Cox from Scrubs and House from... you know... House. They don't seem to do that seemingly off the cuff, quick, one-line put downs as well as your examples do.

  2. Naut - yeah, ALda got way too smarmy. Dunno about House but I see your point about Cox.

    Lermie is in town for a week. Gonna go and have a beer with him shortly.

  3. well we do have the wit of Homer & Peter Griffin

  4. I'd suggest Steve Waugh - 'You just lost the world cup' et al - and Jezza Clarkson. Not technically sitcoms, though Top Gear is funny as hell and the Strayan cricket ensemble has been laughable for some considerable time.

    Regards to Lermy, don't let him take you to a gay bar, spend all your money and start a nuclear war.

  5. B5 had some good ones,

    "This is the White Star Fleet. Negative on surrender...we will not stand down."
    "Who is this? Identify yourself."
    "Who am I? I am Susan Ivanova, Commander, daughter of Andrei and Sophie Ivanov. I am the right hand of vengeance, and the boot that is going to kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth ... I am Death incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me."
    White Star opens fire on Earthforce fleet
    Ivanova and Earthforce Advanced Destroyer Captain James, Between the Darkness and the Light

  6. They don't make 'em like they used to, Therbs.

  7. I thought of one...Alan Shore in Boston Legal, played by James Spader.

  8. Uamada - I'm thinking Pete Griffin should make the grade.
    Doc - Steve Waugh had that latent comedic genius. Clarckson does come up with some good ones, particularly in relation to bicycles, the environment and electric cars. Had a couple of quick beers on Friday with Lermie. He's doing fine.
    Bangarrr - missed that one. "God sent me" has always been a good excuse to open fire.
    Abe - I reckon its more nostalgia than anything else and I'm trying to avoid that sort of sentimentality. I avoided Boston Legal mainly because of Shatner.

  9. Hank Hill. Not as subtle as some, but his insults are basic, overt, and timeless. The way he (or I should say Mike Judge) can simply tell someone to "stop being a jackass" is so much better than anyone else saying the same thing.

  10. You are so right about Alan Alda.