As a writer I enjoy a well-turned phrase and as a slacker I enjoy a good movie so it stands to reason that I’m a huge fan of great movie quotes.
As a smart aleck who likes to be funny but lacks imagination or originality I collect great movie lines like Mickey Rooney collected ex-wives. Rooney, who was married eight times, famously said, “Always get married in the morning, if it doesn’t work out you haven’t wasted the whole day.” Not all great quotes come from movies.
As a humorist I’m partial to comedies and funny movie quotes are my absolute favorites. There are hilarious movies that are so clever that the make you laugh without many quotable one-liners, while others are full of quotes that are hilarious even taken out of context.
I recently made a Facebook post that simply read, “Favorite quote from the movie Airplane!” and the one-liners started rolling in. The script of that movie was so full of great lines that 37 years after it came out, it’s still quotable.
Ted Striker: Surely you can’t be serious.”
Doctor: “ I am serious…and don’t call me Shirley.”
Since the first time I heard that line in 1980, every time someone starts a sentence with the word “surely” I always think “don’t call me Shirley” and way too many times I’ve said it out loud. It’s funny if you’re talking to you’re brother-in-law over a beer but not so funny if you say it to a judge during a divorce hearing.
It’s always fun to use the line, “I haven’t felt this awful since we saw that Ronald Reagan film” during a visit to the doctor’s office, they may look at you funny but it’s usually pretty harmless. On the other hand it’s almost impossible to find the proper context for quoting the line, “Have you ever seen a grown man naked?” Here’s a hint; Cub Scout meetings, prison and over beers with your brother-in-law are really bad choices…so I’m told.
Mel Brooks is a comic genius and if I were forced to stop using Blazing Saddles quotes, I wouldn’t have a hell of a lot to say. I can’t even guess how many times I’ve welcomed people with a “laurel and hearty handshake” or reminded coworkers that we had to “protect our phony baloney jobs, gentlemen.” In my generation “authentic frontier gibberish” was a freshman core requirement in college. Harrumph!
Shouting, “Baby please, I am not from Havana!” at a table full of friends just after your date whispers something in your ear will usually get you a laugh and it will always land you in the dog house. It’s twue, it’s twue.
My kids grew up thinking that it was customary to say, “Somebody’s gotta go back and get a shit-load of dimes” when you picked up the check after dinner at a restaurant. On his first semester break home from college my oldest son smacked me on the head and told me I wasn’t as funny as I thought. Harrumph!
Astonishingly, even 43 years after the movie was released, I can’t use some of the best Blazing Saddles quotes in this column. My absolute favorite line from Blazing Saddles is one I almost never quote because it’s as inappropriate as it is funny. The movie itself is probably the only time that line was ever in context and they bleep it out on basic cable…it’s probably the most racially and culturally inclusive line in the movie and it’s censored for our own good. Someday society will catch up to Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor.
I’m running out of room and there are so many great quotes I haven’t mentioned. I could fill a column just on one-liners from Arthur. There are just too many funny lines in that movie to pick a favorite so just watch it again, you’ll be glad you did because, “It doesn’t suck.” Yup, that line came from Arthur.
If you’re bored at work try to get through an entire business meeting using only lines from Young Frankenstein without anyone noticing. It can be done, just be really careful before using “What knockers!” …it’s tough to pass that one off in a power point presentation.
In one of the many books I never finished there is a character called Hollywood who speaks only in movie quotes. It’s a semi-autobiographical piece about whacky door-to door salesmen entitled “What Knockers!” Do you see what I did there?
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at email@example.com.