Sunday, October 28, 2007

You Have No Idea, I Think I Peed a Little, and Other Overused Jokes in Film and TV

Ever since Jeremy Irons uttered the famous words “You have no idea” in the movie “Reversal of Fortune,” the phrase has become a standard punch line in hundreds of movie and television scripts. It’s an easy joke, as you can put almost any question in front of it and you’re guaranteed a laugh.

“You’re a rather odd person, aren’t you?”
“You have no idea.”

“Is your mother a bad cook?”
“You have no idea.”

“This phrase is horribly overused, don’t you think?”
“You have no idea.”

You’ve probably heard this expression many times without even realizing it. Maybe you even laughed at the reference in every single sitcom it’s ever been employed in. But now that you’re aware movie and television writers use it repeatedly, you’ll be more tuned in to how many times you actually hear it.

Another phrase/joke that has been drummed into our heads is “I think I peed a little.” I can’t even remember what movie or TV show this first appeared in. But soon after that, the joke was used so many times it wasn’t funny anymore. The saying usually occurs when someone is laughing very hard and can’t seem to stop long enough to control their urinary functions. The first time it was used, it was very funny. The second time, it was mildly amusing. But now that it’s become a standard expression in pop culture, I’m beginning to wonder if our nation has a much more serious problem on our hands. Since so many people seem to be affected by Uncontrollable Bladder Syndrome.

My point is, I’m tired of writers going for the easy joke. When I hear the same kind of dialogue and jokes used over and over again, it’s an insult to my intelligence. It’s like saying “You’ve heard this joke before, but you’re so dumb, you won’t realize it’s the same joke if I change the words around a little.” Well, guess what? We’re not that dumb. We know when someone is ripping off an old joke to fill a space. It makes for boring television.

Sitcoms are the worst examples of repeated dialogue. The same writers tend to be moved around in Hollywood, shuffling from one sitcom to another, or one drama to another. So it’s understandable that they bring their same style with them from project to project. But do they also have to bring the same jokes? Can’t they come up with something original they haven’t used before? No wonder there aren’t many sitcoms on television right now. The writers have obviously run out of fresh ideas, and the public is tired of the same recycled material.

But that’s just me. What overused phrases have you noticed on TV or in films?


jodi said...

I read this and other posts with some amusement, and I realized I'm rather pop-culture illiterate. This isn't a surprise to me, but the two overused jokes you mentioned made me blink. I heard someone use that "peed a little" quote on something the other night--obviously it wasn't memorable enough that I remember WHERE. I thought it was funny, but I haven't any things I can offer in terms of overused jokes.
This could be because I don't watch sitcoms--which I don't find amusing--and the only humour-based show (sorry, I'm Canadian and we spells queer up here...) that I watch are CanCon: Air Farce, This Hour has 22 Minutes, and the Mercer Report.

I do watch The Family Guy sometimes, although some of the pop references go over my head, but I adore Stewie, evil baby tyrant. I've never, EVER seen Seinfield--I tried to watch it once, shrugged after five minutes, and went elsewhere. Actually, on further reflection, the Red Green Show, now finished, had a litany of running jokes that appeared in each episode--and that made them somehow funnier. But I believe Red Green probably broke all the rules. Who knew duct tape could be funny?

You're a very pithy and good writer, and I'm glad you came visit--because it sent me to visit you in return. I will go check out the Plainfield site after I'm finished my current assignment work for the day. (having a tea break now).

Henson Ray said...

I'm not familiar with the Red Green show, but didn't Kids in the Hall come from Canada? They were great.