Sideband #15: Funniest moments

An earlier Sideband references the, “These go to eleven,” bit from This is Spinal Tap. As I mentioned, some people I know consider it one of the funniest bits in all of film, but the phrasing I just used should clue you in that it’s not mine.

Make no mistake, I do consider it a classic moment, a very funny moment, and a moment that has become a cultural icon. But it didn’t make me laugh until I hurt too much to laugh anymore. And that begs the question, “So what are those funniest moments?”

There are three that spring to mind. In one of them, I laughed so hard I literally fell out of my chair!

That one was Bill Cosby‘s dentist routine. The one where he’s talking with a jaw full of Novocaine (which, in fact, is a brand name for procaine; I never knew that until just now when I looked up the spelling of Novocaine). It’s on the Himself album (and movie) from 1982. The whole bit is hysterical, but the part of talking after Novocaine just slayed me. Laughed so hard I—no fooling—fell out of my chair.  Until then I didn’t realize that was literally possible.

The next is the movie Airplane from 1980.  From the opening credits (remember the plane’s tail as a shark fin?) and throughout the film, I laughed until my sides hurt, and I was too exhausted to laugh any more.

To this day it remains one of the funniest movies I can think of. And who knew Leslie Nielsen was funny? Until then he’d always played serious roles. Same with Peter Graves (also hysterical as the pilot). And what a cast; exactly like the actual disaster movies of the day (which it parodied brilliantly), it was wall-to-wall stars.

There are so many great bits. Ted Striker’s drinking problem, Elaine Dickinson and the auto-pilot, Steve McCroskey (“I picked a bad day to give up sniffing glue.”).

It was (nearly) the first (and in my heart, best) of the Zucker, Zucker, Abrahams movies. (Their first was an odd-ball movie, The Kentucky Fried Movie, which was pretty funny, although it doesn’t survive the test of time nearly as well as Airplane.)

Another contestant in the three-way tie for funniest movie is Monty Python and the  Holy Grail from 1975. Here, again, laughing so hard I had to stop because I was exhausted and it hurt to laugh any more.

The opening credits (the moose jokes) had me, and it just got funnier from there. (I confess I was always a little let down by the ending, although, really, where could you go from there?).

Holy Grail and Airplane have both provided a rich set of cultural icons that have been used and repeated ever since.

Holy Grail provided killer rabbits, bridge guardians with questions about swallows and Knights who say, “Nie!”

Airplane began the whole spoof movie business and launched Nielsen’s comedy career.

The third place spot is a two-way tie. The first one (going by date) goes to a somewhat unknown Bill Murray movie. I don’t mean Groundhog Day, although that is a favorite of mine (and it’s hardly unknown). I mean The Man Who Knew Too Little!

This is your basic “mistaken identity” film (Murray is mistaken for a top hit man while believing himself to be participating in a live audience-participation improv theatre gift from his brother.)

What makes the film brilliant, beside the basic comedy shenanigans, is how adroitly the mistaken identity stuff is handled.  It’s never forced.  All the dialog makes perfect sense to both characters, and it’s perfectly organic to the situation, but also perfectly taken to mean two different things.

Tied with this is the delightful Galaxy Quest, which asks the question, “What if an alien race watched our Star Trek TV series and—because they lack any sense of fiction or untruth—took it seriously as a documentary?” And what if they needed a hero such as Captain Kirk to save their planet from a terrible enemy? And what if they came to earth and got William Shatner?

The film is a brilliant parody of the Star Trek world; its actors and fans alike. To me, it works on three levels: First, it’s a pretty funny science fiction movie all on its own. Second, it’s a delightful parody and deconstruction of Star Trek. And finally, it’s a loving tribute to both the show, the actors and the fans.

Plus, it stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub and Enrico Colantoni (who you man not recognize as the photographer Elliot from the fun TV show, Just Shoot Me!).  With a cast like that (Alan Rickman! Sigourney Weaver!!), it just has to be tasty as all get out.  And it is.

This devolved a bit from funniest moments to funniest films, but that’s okay. Life is a process, and the journey is everything.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

15 responses to “Sideband #15: Funniest moments

  • Chyina

    I agree with all of this! I love Eddie Murphy’s “Ice Cream Truck” routine from Delirious, that’s one that gets me every time. Galaxy Quest is one of the those that would be on my best lists. I’m going to have to watch that again tonight. 😀

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Delirious (that’s the one where he’s wearing that red leather suit, right?) is a very close second to Cosby’s Himself! Both are classic comedy “albums!!”

      • Chyina

        Yep red leather and hot spot lights. I can’t image a worse combination for sweating and trying to take the outfit off at the end of the show, lol.

        I remember I had several of Cosby’s LPs. It was great listening to them. Kind of like I prefer to listen to a baseball game on the radio rather than watching. It allows for imagination to take the reins.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yes! That was the magic of those old radio programs… somewhat like books, they provide a framework and you fill in the details.

      • Chyina

        Agreed. Not that I don’t like the innovations to TV, movies, online books and so forth (I would still be first in line for a hallo-deck). But they still don’t beat our own minds when it comes right down to it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Definitely, and different forms of storytelling aren’t exclusive, obviously. I love books, but I also love movies (and plays, and poems, and (good) TV shows, and so on). I’ve experienced some interactive virtual reality (mostly at Disney World of all places), and it’s quite cool.

        But I never believed in the holodeck (thought it was dreck). One of my favorite pieces (published in two other venues before WordPress):
        https://logosconcarne.com/2011/08/20/why-i-hated-the-holodeck/

        Why Picard didn’t weld the doors shut, I’ll never understand. 😀

      • Chyina

        I’ve experienced VR once, years ago. I don’t remember where it was, though it wasn’t Disney World/Land, because I haven’t been to either of them. It was pretty cool though.

        You stepped onto an open round platform (complete with railing, as not to walk off) and put on a pair of “glasses” that remind me of the ones from the Jurassic Park movie. It was very blocky (not a word I know but still accurate). No real scenery aside from holodeck style grid done in blue and black. There was a second station where another person could be placed into the VR world. Both you and that person were also blue with little detail (such as eyes, hair, clothes, very basic).

        It was… trippy, and made me feel off balance, though it was still cool as hell, lol.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Sounds like the stuff at WDW might have been a bit more advanced, but not hugely so. It was closer to what you described than what you see in movies (and it was certainly no holodeck!). There are two basic types at WDW: the helmet kind and the non-helmet kind where you’re surrounded by screens. One example of the latter: we all sat in a (real) rubber raft that was mounted on an assembly that tipped and rocked it. The screens show you zipping through underground river channels. You have paddles which will speed, slow and steer the raft. The other, we were all on a ship’s deck, complete with an array of cannons, and we were hunting pirates.

        The helmet kind take you on various adventures. One we were riding some sort of personal flying vehicle, in another it was a Star Wars kind of thing; we had light sabers! In those you could turn and see your own people. They weren’t super hi-rez, but what you saw did reflect what they were doing.

        But my favorite was you used a special computer console to design your own rollercoaster. Then you’d sit in a little “car” and actually ride the coaster you’d designed. The car was on gimbals, so if your coaster went upside down, so did you. That was a blast!

      • Chyina

        The roller coaster one sounds awesome! I love coasters.

        I think I was on something similar to the raft thing, but nowhere near as fancy. We sat in seat like you would at a normal theatre. Then they played a movie of race cars, a coaster, and I think one other thing, but I don’t remember. Anyway, the seats vibrated at certain points in the movies, that was it, lol.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        That’s the pretty standard “ride” stuff. The difference in the VR is you have some control over what happens. In that raft one, for example, you controlled with branch of the river you took by using the paddles. I think you could also speed up and slow down sometimes.

      • Chyina

        I will have to see if there is something like that here in Oz and book a trip. There aren’t any amusement parks near me so it would be a trip to get to one. 😛

      • Wyrd Smythe

        If there aren’t any now, I suspect they will become more and more common over time. The stuff I was describing at Walt Disney World, that was almost 10 years ago!

      • Chyina

        That’s the beauty of it. All the things that seemed so cool and new years ago, become more common. 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Which is why kids today get such cool toys!

      • Chyina

        Amen to that. Thank god I’m still a kid at heart! 😉

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