Yes, I quote a lot of TV show or movie lines during the course of my average day. I do this because it’s easier than making the effort to say something original. I find that many of these lines are used as metaphors or shortcuts in speech, and if you know me, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. If you don’t know me, you’re generally confounded, which I often find funny, and my therapist finds hostile.
Since this blog is about television, I limited the quotations that mean the most to me to lines from television. The original list I wrote had 56 separate lines that I came up with while sitting in a jury room waiting for my number to be called, which never happened. There are ten lines here. I may, someday, write about the ones that didn’t quite make the top ten.
- “Fill in ‘pizza’ where it says, ‘machine gun.’” MASH “The Incubator” Season 2, Episode 12 – Aired: 12/1/1973
Background: Hawkeye and Trapper want an incubator for the hospital, but they’re told that it’s not standard issue for a MASH unit: it’s a luxury. Hawkeye comments that it’s not like they’re asking for a pizza oven, and the officer from HQ says that they can get one of those. Henry asks how and is told to fill out a standard form and “fill in ‘pizza’ where it says, ‘machine gun.’”
Influence: I use this phrase a lot at work as a shortcut for explaining that we can use something familiar as a basis for starting something new. Many people where I work fear new things, while I get bored with old things and search for new ways of doing things. I try to draw analogies with systems or procedures that they already know to make the newness not seem as daunting. Usually I get quizzical looks when use the line, however I’m used to it at this stage in my life.
- “No Job. No Friends. No Home. John=Microscopic Amoeba.” Late Night with David Letterman Viewer Mail segment, circa 1984-85
Background: In the early days of David Letterman’s Late Night show, a viewer named John C.sent a letter that accused the talk show host of thinking that he was actually important. The letter explained that there were billions of living beings on this planet, and the earth was an insignificant rock orbiting an ordinary star in this galaxy, which is one of billions in the universe, so Letterman was “not hardly” [sic] important at all. Dave responds by showing a short educational film that shows how he is actually quite important and powerful, while John C. is actually a loser. On the screen pop up the quoted words above.
Influence: Somehow this line has morphed in my life to, “No messages. No mail. No friends. No life. I=amoeba.” I use this line whenever I arrive at home from work to find no mail in my mailbox (which happens occasionally) and no messages on my answering machine (which is usually the case). Now in the world of Facebook, I extend that whenever I log on and see that no one has written or responded to anything of mine.
- “It’s a hungry, thirsty, thirsty day.” Superfriends, 1973.
Background: The actually line is: “Hungry? Thirsty? What a day, what a day; a hungry, thirsty, thirsty day!” I don’t remember anything else about this episode.
Influence: That line has stuck in my head for nearly 40 years. I use it whenever I see that my cats’ food or water dishes are nearly empty.
- “Fascinating.” Star Trek. Various episodes.
Background: Spock’s catchphrase, used countless times, on the original Star Trek.
Influence: Really? I’m influenced by Mr. Spock? I use this word practically every time I’m told something I don’t expect. It could be a story that goes in a direction I didn’t predict or a painfully honest personal impression someone I know reveals about me. It’s often used as a placeholder to fill time while I try to figure out how I really feel.
- “I bet your name and the words, ‘state hospital’ come up in the same sentence a lot.” David Letterman’s Holiday Film Festival “But I’m Happy” short film by Michael Keaton, 1985
Background: David Letterman hosted a film festival in 1985 that consisted of several celebrities having the opportunity to express themselves however they wanted. Dave himself did a film, and Paul Shaffer and the band did a music video. Michael Keaton did a film about what would happen if he suddenly lost all his money had to get a “real” job. In the story, he gets a job dumping fish heads and entrails with a nut-job played by Clint Howard. After this odd fellow delivers a particularly strange line, Michael Keaton responds with the above quotation.
Influence: I often use this line when someone I know says something that I find baffling or otherwise doesn’t make much sense. It’s very handy in these spots.
- “For $100, I’ll follow you around and tell you what time it is.” Making the Grade, said by character Gus Bertoya (George Wendt), 1982
Background: This was a sitcom that focused on a group of teachers in a high school. George Wendt (pre-Cheers) played Gus the gym teacher. Another teacher complains that his new watch, which cost him a hundred bucks, had stopped, and Gus responds with the above line. I don’t remember anything else about this show, but I thank imdb.com for jogging my memory as to the name of the show.
Influence: I think my sister and I are the only people who actually saw this episode. I use this line all the time when someone tells about how much they spent on a particular item. Coincidentally, just last week at work, I got into a conversation with one of the people on my staff about watches, and she went online and brought up some of the more extravagant watches that cost tens of thousands of dollars. You now know how I responded.
- “Alex, welcome to rock bottom.” Taxi “Alex Goes off the Wagon” Season 5, Episode 3 – Aired: 10/14/1982
Background: Alex used to be a compulsive gambler, and he falls off the wagon and starts gambling again. He begs the Reverend Jim for money, and Jim tells him a story about how he hit rock bottom doing drugs. He uses this story to explain how Alex has now hit rock bottom.
Influence: When I saw this episode, it was the first time I had heard the phrase “rock bottom.” To this day, whenever I hear anyone using it, I immediately think of this scene from Taxi. This is a great scene that shows what a great actor Christopher Lloyd is. He’s able to simultaneously keep up the buffoon character of Rev. Jim while saying something profound.
- “This is trania. I hope you relish it as much as I.” Star Trek “The Corbomite Maneuver” Season 1, Episode 11 – Aired: 11/10/1966
Background: Captain Kirk and two others beam over to an alien ship that almost destroyed them. The ship is run by a young Clint Howard (how the heck did Clint Howard appear in two of these entries?), who offers his visitors an orange drink (presumably alcoholic) as a friendly gesture. Though the character is played by a child, it was voiced by an adult to give the illusion that the alien was a small adult instead of a child. The dubbing job of the adult actor, however, is so bad as to make the whole scene laughable.
Influence: My family uses this whenever introduced to a strange orange drink. At one point, the line had morphed into, “Have some trania,” but when we saw the episode later and realized we got it wrong, we adjusted the quotation.
- “Saaaaaay.” Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Background: MST3K is a show where a man and two robots are forced to watch bad movies, and they make funny comments as they sit there to help ease the pain. They generally use the line in the context of reacting to an attractive woman who just came on the screen, as in, “Saaaaaay, who’s the new girl?” They will also use it for men if the actor tries (usually unsuccessfully) to look or act sexy.
Influence: I use this line all the time in the same context, though for irony’s sake I may do it more for men than women.
- “Hate the game. Hate the people who play it even more.” The Kids in the Hall. Season 3, episode 4.
Background: David Foley is drinking a beer in a country club lounge when Kevin McDonald approaches with a bag of golf clubs. David asks him how his game was, and Kevin asks if David plans on playing later. Then comes the above line.
Influence: I love, love, love this line. I use it whenever anyone offers me something I don’t drink (like beer or coffee) or asks me if I like a particular kind of activity or just about anything else. I’ll say the line, pause, and start laughing—partly because it cracks me up and partly so the other person knows I’m not serious.