All 238 Jokes in Top Secret!: The Greatest of All the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker Movies

The ZAZ (Zuck­er, Abra­hams, and Zuck­er) movie Air­plane! land­ed in the­aters back in 1980 with the wet PLOP of an over­filled colosto­my bag, pos­ing ZAZ as the only con­tenders who ever got any­where near Mel Brooks’ bril­liant sendups of var­i­ous film gen­res (Blaz­ing Sad­dles, Young Franken­stein, High Anx­i­ety, Silent Movie, Space­balls, etc.).

The ZAZ group’s sec­ond film, Top Secret!, appar­ent­ly caught movie­go­ers off guard because it was noth­ing like Air­plane!

Air­plane! was a spoof of the wild­ly pop­u­lar dis­as­ter movies of the ear­ly ’70s: Air­port, The Posei­don Adven­ture, Earth­quake, Tow­er­ing Infer­no, etc.: huge ensem­ble casts, expen­sive spe­cial effects, pre­dictable-but-enjoy­able char­ac­ter arcs.

Air­plane! hijacked the genre with well-known actors who had lots of seri­ous films under their belts: Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Neil­son, Robert Stack, Ethel Merman–but had them deliv­er s0me of the fun­ni­est per­for­mances ever filmed dead seri­ous, with­out crack­ing a smile. But Air­plane! was also a spoof of a spe­cif­ic fla­vor of dis­as­ter movie: An air­lin­er that’s in seri­ous trou­ble. It’s a great for­mu­la for yank­ing at the heart­strings: Put a bunch of every­day folks trapped togeth­er in a plane and see what hap­pens when they all face pos­si­ble death.

Top Secret! is almost pre­cise­ly the oppo­site: It’s a bunch of obscure/unknown actors nav­i­gat­ing their way through a whole bunch of movie gen­res: Top Secret! spoofs WWII flicks like The Great Escape and Force 10 From Navarone; action movies cum musi­cals like a lot of Elvis Pres­ley movies; and action/spy movies like the James Bond fran­chise. Rather than an ensem­ble cast of stars, all the actors were lit­tle-known char­ac­ter actors or new­bies on their way up (such as Val Kilmer, obvi­ous­ly), with the sole excep­tions of Omar Sharif and Peter Cush­ing in brief bit parts.

YMMV. but I think Top Secret! is still the best film ZAZ ever made. I’ve always loved that they avoid­ed the Tyler Perry/Madea method of mak­ing the same film over and over, or even mak­ing the same genre of movies (i.e., dis­as­ter movies) over and over. But the main rea­son I love it is because they stuffed so many jokes and sight gags in the film you can hard­ly breathe, much less swing a dead cat, with­out being assault­ed by anoth­er dozen fun­ny things.

I recent­ly stum­bled across a Bullshit.IST arti­cle rank­ing every every sin­gle joke in Air­plane! They list­ed 178 jokes, and when I read the list I could­n’t think of any jokes in the movie they missed.

But it also raised a ques­tion for me: How many jokes are there in Top Secret! ?

It’s always seemed to me that Top Secret! had far more jokes than Air­plane!, but I did­n’t have any sol­id num­bers sup­port­ing my opin­ion.

Now I do. I present to you my list of all Top Secret! jokes, winks at gen­res, sight gags, fourth-wall breaks, and any oth­er laugh-induc­ing moments I could find. So far I’ve cat­a­loged 238 laughs as opposed to 174 for Air­plane!

I’m going to post this on, so if you think I’ve missed any­thing or dis­agree with any of the jokes I’ve list­ed, please let me know in the Fark dis­cus­sion thread.

Now, with no fur­ther ado, here are the 238 fun­ny bits I’ve list­ed from Top Secret!


  1. As Agent Cedric fights the Ger­man sol­dier atop the train, the Ger­man sol­dier demol­ish­es a bridge as the train pass­es under­neath.
  2. A sol­dier parks a motor­cy­cle, then ties its reins to a rail like it’s a horse.
  3. The sol­dier takes off his hel­met and the chin strap stays attached to his face.
  4. When Gen. Streck opens the telegram, the let­ter­head says “East Ger­many: Bet­ter Gov­ern­ment Through Intim­i­da­tion.”
  5. The “Find Him and Kill Him” rub­ber stamp.
  6. Major Crum­pler says Leonard Bern­stein had to can­cel his appear­ance at the cul­tur­al fes­ti­val.[1]
  7. Teenagers run­ning on the beach car­ry­ing surf­boards and shot­guns.
  8. A very brief glimpse of a dog pulling a young girl’s swim­suit down that looks like the Cop­per­tone sun­tan lotion logo.
  9. Girls on the beach throw­ing clay pigeons for the surfers—not from behind them, but in front of them and in the line of fire.

    Guns ‘n’ Ros­es ‘n’ Surfin’!
  10. A surfer shoots a beach umbrel­la between two sun­bathers.
  11. A surfer shoots down a man on a hang glid­er.
  12. A girl sits up on the beach, leav­ing holes in the sand where her breasts were.
  13. A surfer shoots down a fight­er plane.
  14. The Top 40 tracks list has three Nick Rivers songs (“Skeetin’ U.S.A,” “Skeet City,” and “Your Skeetin’ Heart”), along with sev­er­al more nonex­is­tent songs, includ­ing “Beige Tones” by Pro­col Harum, “Enough Already!” by The Rolling Stones, “Boy Is She Great” by Aretha Franklin, and “Theme From the Nose,” by Bar­bra Streisand.
  15. A surfer shoots off the top of a palm tree.
  16. Mag­a­zine cov­ers and head­lines include U.S. News & World Report (“Will Nick Rivers Take Over Amer­i­ca?”), and Guns & Bul­lets (“My Daugh­ter Is Dead, But So Is THE BURGLER”).
  17. In the crowd of surfers run­ning on the beach there’s an elder­ly woman in a blue dress.
  18. Madi­son Square Garden’s mar­quee says:


  19. News­pa­per head­lines: “Rivers to Play East Ger­many Fes­ti­val,” “Sci­en­tists Pro­long Orgasm To Dou­ble Fig­ures” and “Mete­orite Lands Near Baby.”
  20. The land­scape Nick’s paint­ing from the train is blurred.
  21. Martin’s news­pa­per: The Dai­ly Oppres­sor, with a jack­boot logo.
  22. The Dai­ly Oppres­sor’s top head­line: “Die Fes­ta­latin Cul­turen Eine Big Dealen.”
  23. The Ger­man lan­guage tape phras­es: “A pen;[2] a table; the pen is on the table; there is sauer­kraut in my leder­ho­sen; I want a Schnau­zer with my Wiener Schnitzel.”
  24. Nick assures Mar­tin he’ll be a good cul­tur­al ambas­sador, and that he knows how to say, “Is your daugh­ter 18?” in Ger­man.
  25. When the sol­diers and dogs cor­ner a man on the train plat­form, one of the dogs is a Mal­tese, not a Ger­man Shep­herd.
  26. Right after the man is shot, it’s revealed that the sus­pi­cious pack­age he was car­ry­ing was just dog bis­cuits.
  27. Nick tells Von Horst he put Von Horst’s name on the Mont­gomery Ward mail­ing list, which appar­ent­ly is a dread­ful insult or some­thing.
  28. A sol­dier slams the com­part­ment door hard enough to shat­ter the glass.
  29. When the train plat­form pass­es by the win­dow it’s because the plat­form is mov­ing, not the train.
  30. When the train starts mov­ing, Mar­tin sees a tree mov­ing along with the train; a com­muter runs up behind the tree and jumps on it.
  31. The map scene shows the train trav­el­ing from France to East Ger­many and stop­ping in Berlin; then a car leav­ing the train sta­tion, stop­ping at lights while oth­er cars go by; then the map turns into a Pac-Man game.
  32. The East Ger­man Women’s Olympics team:

      1. The code phras­es for Agent Cedric and the blind sou­venir ven­dor:
        Agent Cedric: “Do you know any good white bas­ket­ball play­ers?”
        Blind Sou­venir Ven­dor: “There are no good white bas­ket­ball play­ers.”
      2. Agent Cedric has to pre­tend he’s look­ing at the blind sou­venir ven­dor’s prac­ti­cal jokes: A fake flower sprays his face with ink; an explod­ing cig­ar blows up in his face; and a can of whipped cream blows up in his face.
      3. Agent Cedric is ordered to meet The Torch at the Howard Johnson’s on the cor­ner of Der Fuehrer Strasse and Goebbels Platzen.
      4. Agent Cedric (bend­ing down to scoop some­thing off the side­walk): “Wait: You dropped your pho­ny dog poo.”
        Blind sou­venir ven­dor: “What pho­ny dog poo?”
      5. The East Ger­man nation­al anthem:

        Hail, hail, East Ger­many
        Land of fruit and grape.
        Land where you’ll regret
        Any try to escape.
        No mat­ter if you take a run­ning jump or tun­nel under the wall,
        For­get it, the guards will kill you, if the elec­tri­fied fence doesn’t first.

      6. Agent Cedric’s taxi is smashed into a cube with Cedric inside, a la the movie Goldfin­ger.
      7. Nick has din­ner at Café Gey Schlüf­fen, in the Hotel Gey Schlüf­fen.
      8. Nick sticks his gum to the under­side of a waiter’s tray.
      9. When the restau­rant pro­vides Nick with a suit and tie, they strip him down to his under­wear in a foy­er in full view of every­one else.
      10. Nick’s manager’s voice is heard, echo­ing, as Nick reads his note; it turns out he’s sit­ting next to Nick speak­ing through a mega­phone.
      11. Mar­tin orders the ‘84 Rip­ple Blanc for Nick (the movie was released in 1984, so ‘84 Rip­ple Blanc would be mighty nasty).
      12. More code phras­es:
        Hillary: “Who do you favor in the Vir­ginia Slims tour­na­ment?”
        The blind sou­venir ven­dor: “In women’s ten­nis I always root against the het­ero­sex­u­al.”
      13. Hillary gives the blind sou­venir ven­dor a let­ter that has to be in New York by Tues­day, which turns out to be a Publisher’s Clear­ing­house sweep­stakes entry.
      14. The som­me­li­er hands Nick the ‘84 Rip­ple Blanc cap to smell it like it’s a cork.
      15. The ’84 Rip­ple Blanc eats through the glass.

      16. As Nick and Hillary dance, the dance gets weird­er and weird­er.
      17. Hillary’s uncle escaped from the U.S. in a bal­loon dur­ing the Jim­my Carter pres­i­den­cy.
      18. “I know a lit­tle Ger­man; he’s sit­ting over there.”
      19. The wait­er rec­om­mends pork bel­lies mar­i­nat­ed in pig entrails or the roast swine knuck­les poached with flam­ing hog balls.
      20. Hillary’s name means, “She whose bosoms defy grav­i­ty.”
      21. Nick’s name is just some­thing his dad thought of when he was shav­ing.
      22. Hillary: “Some things are bet­ter left unsaid.”
        Nick: “Like what?”
        Hillary: “You know, some­times when you blow your nose into a tis­sue and you put it in your purse, then a lit­tle while lat­er you have to reach in there for your lip­stick or some­thing and your hand goosh­es into it and it goes all over…”
        Nick: “Okay, okay; you’re right: Some things are bet­ter left unsaid.”
      23. Var­i­ous shots of the orches­tra look­ing con­fused and play­ing a mile a minute while Nick sings “Tut­ti Frut­ti.”

        The Dev­il Went Where?
      24. Three elec­tric gui­tar play­ers and two sax­o­phone play­ers sud­den­ly appear in front of the orches­tra.
      25. The kitchen staff, includ­ing a chef with a meat cleaver and a dead chick­en, danc­ing to the music.
      26. The piano play­er puts his foot on the keys like Jer­ry Lee Lewis and the bass vio­la play­er plays on his back with his feet in the air.
      27. At the end of “Tut­ti Frut­ti,” an elder­ly gui­tarist wear­ing a red ban­dana smash­es his gui­tar and amp.

        Take that, The Man!
      28. “Your hog balls, sir.”
      29. Agent Cedric shows up in Hillary’s hotel room; he’s trapped inside the smashed taxi with his face stick­ing out of one end and his feet stick­ing out of the oth­er.

        Got any aspirin?
      30. Agent Cedric starts cough­ing; Hillary opens a can of Hawai­ian Punch and pours it into the cube.
      31. Agent Cedric tries get­ting into the glove com­part­ment of the smashed taxi; he honks the horn and sets off the wipers and wind­shield sprayer, both of which hit him in the face.
      32. Hillary leans over Agent Cedric with her breasts push­ing into his face; the taxi’s anten­na rais­es and the horn honks.
      33. The male bal­let dancers have huge pro­trud­ing bulges in their tights.

        Is that a foot­ball in your tights or are you just hap­py to see me?
      34. A man in Nick’s box seat hands out sodas and hot dogs.
      35. The male bal­let dancers lift the female dancers, who stand on the men’s huge pro­trud­ing bulges.
      36. The male bal­let dancers stand in two rows so the female dancers can run along their giant pro­trud­ing bulges.
      37. Nick’s hand­print dis­torts the policeman’s face even after the police­man push­es him away.
      38. When the police­man falls into the audi­ence, a male bal­let dancer miss­es a cue and a girl loud­ly crash­es off­screen.
      39. In the audi­ence a man gets his face stuck in between a woman’s thighs.
      40. Jan­i­tor clos­et with a jan­i­tor stand­ing inside.
      41. The Prop Room is full of pro­pellers.
      42. When Hillary looks down from the bal­cony at the traf­fic below, it’s minia­ture cars with mice caus­ing traf­fic acci­dents.
      43. When police try to get into the Prop Room a pro­peller is block­ing the door.
      44. Nick scratch­es the 20th hash mark on his cell wall and tells Mar­tin he’s been locked up for 20 min­utes.
      45. Mar­tin: “I’ve tried every­thing: The embassy, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment; the con­sulate; I even talked to the UN ambas­sador. It’s no use: I just can’t bring my wife to orgasm.”
      46. Nick gives Mar­tin a box labeled “Anal Intrud­er,” which con­tains a small jack­ham­mer and sev­er­al attach­ments.

        Com­e­dy is not pret­ty.
      47. Nick’s cell has a food proces­sor on a shelf above the sink.
      48. The priest at Nick’s exe­cu­tion: “In domi­ni patri­um spir­i­tus mor­bidum dio madre, Omni Gal­lia divisa est in tres partes, Cor­pus delec­ti, Quid pro quo, Veni, vidi, vici, Nolo con­tendere, Habeas cor­pus, Rick Dureus, Ipso fac­to, Pro for­ma, Pari passeu, Hic, hike, hoc, Huius, huius, huius, E pluribus unum, Ouriyay oin­gay ootay etgay ied­fray inthe air­chay, Tem­pus fugit, Caveat emp­tor, Coitus inter­rup­tus, Mitzi Gaynor ad nau­se­am, Amen.”
      49. The guards exe­cute the priest, not Nick.
      50. Gen. Streck (talk­ing on the phone): “What is the con­di­tion of Sergeant Kruger? Yes, I see. Very well, let me know if there is any change in his con­di­tion.” (Hangs up.) “He’s dead.”
      51. Nick’s tor­tur­ers: Bruno, who is almost blind and has to oper­ate whol­ly by touch; Klaus, a moron who knows only what he reads in the New York Post.
      52. Klaus is hold­ing a copy of the New York Post with a head­line read­ing “Mani­ac Stalks Olivia New­ton John.”
      53. Gen. Streck tells Nick that Mar­tin did­n’t know Ger­many has 220-volt cur­rent instead of 110-volt cur­rent; Von Horst holds up the dam­aged, smok­ing Anal Intrud­er jack­ham­mer.
      54. Gen. Streck: “He was found in his hotel room impaled on a large elec­tri­cal device. Our sur­geons did what they could, but it took them two hours just to get the smile off his face.”
      55. When Nick spits at Gen. Streck there’s a shot of the spit fly­ing clear across the room.
      56. Nick dreams he’s back in high school and has missed his final chem­istry exam. When he wakes up to find Bruno and Klaus are whip­ping him, he smiles and says, “Thank God!”
      57. Gen. Streck is read­ing Her­man Goering’s Work­out.

        I don’t judge.
      58. Von Horst: He won’t break. They’ve tried every­thing. Do you want me to bring out the LeRoy Neiman paint­ings?”
        Gen. Streck: “No; we can­not risk vio­lat­ing the Gene­va Con­ven­tion.”
      59. Gen. Streck’s feet stay propped up on his desk when he stands up.
      60. As Bruno and Klaus drag Nick down a hall­way, Bruno bumps into the wall and wan­ders away.
      61. When Nick tries to escape his cell, he finds a crow­bar sit­ting on the toi­let.
      62. Nick crawls into a vent, then slides back into the cell from a dif­fer­ent vent.
      63. Nick crawls into a third vent, then finds him­self in the med­i­cine cab­i­net, then the toi­let. He final­ly slides out of a vent in Dr. Flammond’s lab.
      64. Dr. Flam­mond: “A year ago, I was close to per­fect­ing the first mag­net­ic desalin­iza­tion process so rev­o­lu­tion­ary, it was capa­ble of remov­ing the salt from over 500 mil­lion gal­lons of sea­wa­ter a day. Do you real­ize what that could mean to the starv­ing nations of the earth?”
        Nick: “Wow! They’d have enough salt to last for­ev­er!”
      65. Dr. Flam­mond: “Then one night, the secret police broke into my house, tore me from my fam­i­ly, ran­sacked my lab­o­ra­to­ry, and brought me to this dun­geon.”
        Nick: “That sucks!”
      66. Dr. Flam­mond: “If they find out you’ve seen this your life will be worth less than a truck­load of dead rats in a tam­pon fac­to­ry!”[3]
      67. When Von Horst is try­ing to call the fir­ing squad that’s about to shoot Nick, an old woman using a walk­er very slow­ly is approach­ing the ring­ing phone, a spoof of a pop­u­lar com­mer­cial at the time.

        I’m com­ing! I’m com­ing!
      68. The audi­ence at Nick’s con­cert holds up signs read­ing “Vel­come Neek.”
      69. Nick throws his under­wear at the girls in the audi­ence (as opposed to women throw­ing their under­wear at Elvis or Tom Jones).
      70. Nick pulls a girl out of the audi­ence and sings to her; she faints and Nick lets her crash down on the stage.
      71. Dyan Can­non is lick­ing her lips at Nick from the audi­ence.
      72. Nick’s back­up singers have to restrain him from com­mit­ting sui­cide by hang­ing him­self, stick­ing his head in an oven, and lying down on a rail­road track.
      73. Hillary res­cues Nick by using a sus­pend­ed gui­tar to lift him off the stage.
      74. Nick yells at a bunch of parked bicy­cles to scare them away, the way he would if they were hors­es in a West­ern.
      75. Streck’s car­ri­er pigeon has a leather fly­ing hel­met and a tiny brief­case to hold its mes­sages.
      76. Hillary tells Nick she once taught a course on Black His­to­ry in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Blaupunkt.
      77. Hillary’s pic­ture of her father shows him water­ski­ing with a woman on his shoul­ders.
      78. When Hillary and Nick are kiss­ing in the park there’s a large stat­ue of a pigeon behind them, which gets peed and pooped on by peo­ple who fly in.
      79. The pigeon stat­ue poops a huge poop too.
      80. The entire Swedish book­store scene is filmed back­wards.
      81. The Swedish book­store own­er’s left eye stays huge after he stops look­ing through the mag­ni­fy­ing glass.

        What has been seen can­not be unseen.
      82. The Swedish book­store own­er’s glass­es also have a huge left lens.
      83. Hillary tells Nick it’s okay if he couldn’t get it up, but it turns out she’s read­ing a book to him.
      84. Hillary tells Nick her sto­ry about being strand­ed on an island with Nigel, a spoof about Blue Lagoon.
      85. Nigel appears to be spear­ing a fish, then throws bananas to Hillary.
      86. Hillary takes oranges off a tree and puts them in a bam­boo shop­ping cart.
      87. Hillary and Nigel’s house was held togeth­er with dried sea­weed and snot.
      88. Their house has a remote-con­trolled garage door and a mail­box in the front yard.
      89. Their trop­i­cal island is affect­ed by San­ta Ana Winds?
      90. A long, slow pan of Hillary and Nigel kiss­ing on the beach shows many extra hands, feet, and oth­er body parts.
      91. Nick became an orphan when he got sep­a­rat­ed from his moth­er at a depart­ment store and she nev­er came back for him.
      92. The store had a semi-annu­al Lincoln’s birth­day sale.
      93. And a pre-teen mater­ni­ty depart­ment.
      94. When Nick plays the com­mer­cial jin­gle he’s just wav­ing his hand around in front of the gui­tar.
      95. Nick’s Macy’s song:

        Are you lone­some tonight?
        Is your kitchen a sight?
        Is your wardrobe all run­down and bare?
        Is your lip­stick all smeared?
        Are your stock­ings not sheer?
        Do they make your legs show all your hair?

        Do the tears on your pil­low roll down as you turn?
        Do they short out the blan­ket and make the sheets burn?
        Is your heart filled with pain?
        Will you come back again?
        Shop at Macy’s and love me tonight!

      96. Nick and Hillary embrace and smash the gui­tar between them.

        Pag­ing Pete Town­shend!
      97. The horse, not the wag­on dri­ver, is doing the singing.
      98. When the horse starts cough­ing, Hillary asks the dri­ver if the horse is all right. The wag­on dri­ver says, “He caught a cold their oth­er day, and he’s just a lit­tle hoarse.” (rimshot!)
      99. As the wag­on leaves the horse starts singing “A Hard Day’s Night.”
      100. Nick: “Is this the pota­to farm?”
        Albert Pota­to: “Yes; I am Albert Pota­to.”
      101. Albert Pota­to opens the peep­hole at the top of the door, then clos­es the peep­hole; when he opens the door, he’s about 4 feet tall.
      102. As we pan over the French Resis­tance, most are point­ing guns at Nick and Hillary, but one is point­ing a can­non; anoth­er has a leather vest with numer­ous throw­ing knives and the next is wear­ing a vest loaded with sil­ver­ware (he’s bran­dish­ing a soup ladle).
      103. When Nigel appears, he’s wear­ing a loin­cloth and a cut­tle­fish neck­lace, and he’s glis­ten­ing with oil.
      104. Hillary grabs a tape mea­sure and mea­sures Nigel’s bicep (he help­ful­ly flex­es it); then as Nigel talks to Nick, she stands up star­ing in awe at the mea­sur­ing tape, hav­ing clear­ly just mea­sured his tal­ly­whack­er.

      105. The French Resis­tance mem­bers’ names: Du Quois, Cheve­li­er, Mon­tage, Detente, Avant Garde, Déjà Vu, Crois­sant, Souf­fle, Escar­got, Latrine, and Choco­late Mousse.[4]
      106. When Déjà Vu is intro­duced, he says, “Have we not met before, mon­sieur?”[5]
      107. Choco­late Mousse is smok­ing a cig­ar; when he’s intro­duced he eats the cig­ar like it’s a pret­zel stick.
      108. As Nigel orders the men to pre­pare for action they excit­ed­ly toss around irrel­e­vant French phras­es (“Arc de Tri­omph!”, “Cor­don Bleu!”, “Zut alors!”, etc.)
      109. Hillary: “Nick, I want to explain…”
        Nick: “What’s there to explain?”
        Hillary: “But I just want to say that…”
        Nick: “Look, Hillary: I’m not the first guy who fell in love with a woman that he met at a restau­rant who turned out to be the daugh­ter of a kid­napped sci­en­tist, only to lose her to her child­hood lover who she last saw on a desert­ed island, who then turned out fif­teen years lat­er to be the leader of the French under­ground.”
        Hillary: “I know. It all sounds like some bad movie.”
        (They both freeze, then very slow­ly turn to look at the cam­era).

        The hor­ror, the hor­ror.
      110. Nigel: “Come, my dar­ling. Let me show you what I’ve done with the fall­out shel­ter.”
      111. Choco­late Mousse uses a pow­der horn to pour pow­der in the bar­rel of a machine gun.
      112. Déjà Vu is pack­ing a knap­sack with a bot­tle of Head & Shoul­ders sham­poo, Pep­to Bis­mol, a hair dry­er, and a base­ball and base­ball glove.
      113. Déjà Vu: “Do not take it so hard, Nick. Life is filled with its lit­tle mis­eries. Each of us, in his own way, must learn to deal with adver­si­ty in a mature and adult fash­ion.” He sneezes into his hands, looks at his hands, then screams and leaps through a win­dow.
      114. Nick (pick­ing up a bot­tle from the table): “Mind if I have a swig of this?”
        Choco­late Mousse: “Go right ahead!”
        Nick (takes a swig, then chokes and spits it out): “What the hell is this stuff?”
        Choco­late Mousse: “Gaso­line!” (He laughs and drinks from the bot­tle).
      115. As Hillary and Nigel put their clothes back on in the fall­out shel­ter, Nigel describes how he was picked up by a freight ship and the sailors sex­u­al­ly abused him.
        Hillary: “It must have been awful!” (she embraces Nigel).
        Nigel smirks at the cam­era.
      116. Latrine, wound­ed, stag­gers in: “We nev­er had a chance—it was a slaugh­ter!” (the run­ning gag here is that Latrine keeps stag­ger­ing in wound­ed, and some­one yells, “Latrine!”)
        Déjà Vu: “We must put a stop to these after­noon foot­ball games!”
      117. They scat­ter as the Ger­man army attacks the farm­house. Three men are play­ing foos­ball; one stops to update the score before they scat­ter.
      118. The men run to the right, then to the left, then stop to tap dance.
      119. Du Quois backs up against a wall next to a win­dow; Déjà Vu backs up against the win­dow until Du Quois grabs him and pulls him away.
      120. Nigel looks out a six-paned win­dow, then breaks the sin­gle unbro­ken pane before shoot­ing.
      121. Déjà Vu bends his pistol’s bar­rel try­ing to break a win­dow­pane.
      122. Choco­late Mousse shoots a can­non while hold­ing it under one arm.
      123. Albert Pota­to is too short to see out the win­dow, so he jumps up repeat­ed­ly to shoot.
      124. Déjà Vu takes a sledge­ham­mer to the win­dow; the ham­mer breaks into pieces.
      125. Nick and a Ger­man sol­dier play Tic-Tac-Toe by shoot­ing X’s and O’s in win­dow panes.
      126. A grenade lands in the mid­dle of the floor; as Du Quois jumps on it, explo­sions throw four oth­er men out win­dows and into the ceil­ing.[6]
      127. Ger­man sol­diers crash through the door and start fight­ing the Resis­tance hand-to-hand. We cut to Choco­late Mousse shoot­ing errat­i­cal­ly at them with a machine gun, then cut back to the Resis­tance stand­ing next to a pile of dead Ger­man sol­diers.
        Du Quois: “Nice shoot­ing!”
      128. When the Resis­tance meets in Der Piz­za Haus, Déjà Vu hangs his rifle on a coat stand.
      129. Choco­late Mousse is hold­ing his Tom­my Gun at the table.
      130. Der Piz­za Haus has a Hitler clock.
      131. Du Quois: “Well, Mon­sieur Rivers. It seems that you have become, how do you say, indis­pens­able?”
        Nick: “Indis­pens­able.”
        Du Quois: “That’s what I thought.”
      132. Peo­ple in the back­ground pick up slices from a piz­za, stretch­ing cheese all over the room with­out break­ing free of the piz­za.
      133. Latrine (slam­ming a Streck’s dead car­ri­er pigeon down on the table): “A trai­tor in our midst!”
        Déjà Vu (look­ing at the pigeon): “Well done, Latrine! I see you have dealt with him appro­pri­ate­ly!”
        Du Quois (open­ing the bird’s tiny brief­case): “Not the bird, you fool; this is a car­ri­er pigeon on its way to Ger­man head­quar­ters!”
      134. Nick (when two teenagers ask him if he’s Nick Rivers): “You must have me con­fused with some­one else. I’m Mel Torme.”
        Du Quois: “That was close!”
      135. Nigel: “How do we know he’s not Mel Torme?”
      136. Nick spins on a throw rug until it drills a hole in the floor, then re-enters by the front door.
      137. Déjà Vu knocks a milk­shake off the table and into Du Quois’ lap.
      138. Nick runs up a wall and does a back­flip.
      139. As Nick sings “Straight­en it out!” the bar­tender takes off his toupee, spins it, and puts it back on.
      140. Two guys stand­ing on a table are spin­ning their girl­friends around like they’re dead cats.
      141. Albert Pota­to (whose head’s down at the lev­el of the table): “This is not Mel Torme.”
      142. As the Resis­tance jumps out of the plane there’s a U‑Haul sign paint­ed on the side.
      143. Déjà Vu’s hold­ing a Duty Free bag as he jumps.
      144. Hillary (as Nick drifts by her on his para­chute): “Oh Nick!”
        Nick (rais­ing back up): “Yes?”
      145. Hillary (still para­chut­ing) turns away from Nick; Nick (also still para­chut­ing) approach­es her from behind and touch­es her shoul­der.
      146. As Nick and Hillary (both still para­chut­ing) embrace and kiss, a blaz­ing roman­tic fire­place appears behind them on its own para­chute.
      147. As the Resis­tance scouts the prison, a crick­et gets loud­er and loud­er until Choco­late Mousse smash­es it with a giant mal­let.
      148. As Nigel looks at the prison with binoc­u­lars, a herd of cows step over the edge of the lens­es and appear to be walk­ing inside the binoc­u­lars.
      149. As Nigel draws the plan with a stick in the dirt, minia­ture trees, cows, sol­diers, a fence, the prison, and a mod­el train appear.
      150. Nigel insists upon wear­ing the back half of the cow cos­tume; Du Quois says, “Fine; be an ass­hole!”
      151. The cow cos­tume is a real cow wear­ing boots and spots paint­ed on it.
      152. Du Quois moos from inside the cos­tume with a French accent: “Mieu!”
      153. A sol­dier whips the cow and Nigel yells, “Ouch!”
      154. Nigel groans with plea­sure as a calf suck­les the cow cos­tume.
      155. Leaves rus­tle and crunch as Nick, Choco­late Mouse, and Déjà Vu walk through the woods; Nick shush­es Choco­late Mousse and Déjà Vu and they’re all abrupt­ly silent.
      156. When Déjà Vu checks the time, his watch is as big as a pie plate.
      157. The cow puts on a stetho­scope to pick the lock on the gen­er­a­tor shed.
      158. The cow takes a drag on a cig­a­rette.
      159. The switch to cut the pow­er for the elec­tric fence is labeled Das Fen­cen Switchen.
      160. As Nick crawls under the fence he sees a sol­dier stand­ing in the way, but it’s just a pair of emp­ty boots.
      161. Choco­late Mousse throws a grap­pling hook straight up; when it starts to fall Choco­late Mousse, Nick, and Déjà Vu scat­ter, scream­ing.
      162. When Choco­late Mousse throws the grap­pling hook again, it snags Déjà Vu’s shirt
        and flings him up the side of the prison.
      163. As Déjà Vu clings to the edge of the wall, Nick and Choco­late Mousse climb up and over and Déjà Vu, step­ping on him.
      164. Choco­late Mousse punch­es a sol­dier, who goes over the wall and shat­ters like pot­tery when he hits the ground.
      165. A guard on the wall walks by, clue­less, as Déjà Vu and anoth­er guard fight nois­i­ly in the court­yard below.
      166. Déjà Vu and the guard con­tin­ue fight­ing; Choco­late Mousse tag-teams Déjà Vu and steps into a wrestling ring made with barbed wire.
      167. Choco­late Mousse takes the guard out with WWE moves, yelling, “Viva le France!”
      168. As Déjà Vu and Choco­late Mousse, dis­guised as guards, goos­es­tep down the hall, their boots fly off.
      169. A bull notices Nigel and Du Quois walk­ing by in the cow cos­tume and pur­sues them to the theme from
      170. The bull mounts the cow cos­tume and Nigel screams.
      171. Nick (open­ing the cell door): “ Flam­mond! Come on; we’re tak­ing you out of here.”
        Dr. Flam­mond (pil­ing dirt on the floor with a spoon): “How iron­ic; anoth­er day and I would have com­plet­ed my tun­nel.”
        Nick (look­ing under the bed and see­ing the New Jer­sey tun­nel): “Nice work!”
      172. Hillary takes a hand­ker­chief from Nigel’s coat and sneezes out a pigeon; five more pigeons come out of the coat.
      173. Nigel’s stiff bow­legged walk after being mount­ed by the bull.
      174. When Nigel picks up a rifle lean­ing against a tree, the tree falls over.
      175. Nigel: “I was exposed to the works great thinkers: Karl Marx, L. Ron Hub­bard, Fred­die Lak­er.”
      176. Gen. Streck’s giant phone.
      177. Mil­i­tary vehi­cles race by, dri­ving in a cir­cle.
      178. Choco­late Mousse: “Where’s the truck?”
        Nick: “Where’s Hillary?”
        Déjà Vu: “I’m hun­gry!”
      179. Du Quois: Nigel made me go back to the meter shed; ordered me to set off the alarm.”
        Déjà Vu: “And what does he want us to do now?”
        Du Quois: “Noth­ing, you numb­skull; Nigel’s a trai­tor!”
      180. As Ger­man sol­diers approach in a truck, Choco­late Mousse holds out his hand and some­one off­screen hands him a machine gun like giv­ing a scalpel to a sur­geon.
      181. The truck skids out of con­trol as the dri­ver slams on the brakes. It comes to a stop, bare­ly touch­ing a Ford Pin­to, which explodes.[7]
      182. Du Quois yells, “Latrine!” as Latrine stag­gers into the scene, wound­ed, and col­laps­es on Du Quois, lean­ing against a log. Du Quois pops back up from behind the log.
      183. Du Quois: “Nick, whether you make it back or not, that plane must take off with Flam­mond at 1800 hours.”
        Déjà Vu: “That’s why we rec­om­mend you be there at least 45 min­utes before depar­ture, espe­cial­ly at this time of year.”
      184. Déjà Vu kiss­es Nick on both cheeks as they depart, leav­ing large lip­stick prints on Nick’s cheeks.
      185. Déjà Vu (as he and Du Quois, Dr. Flam­mond, and Choco­late Mousse leave in the still-burn­ing truck): “You’ve got to hand it to the Ger­mans: They make great cars!”
      186. Nick jumps a motor­cy­cle over a barbed-wire fence, a nod to Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.
      187. Nick winks at the cam­era, then accel­er­ates as the motor­cy­cle emits the Roadrunner’s “Meep meep!”
      188. Nick jumps the cycle over six bus­es.
      189. Nick stands on the motor­cy­cle like it’s a horse as he jumps on the truck con­tain­ing Nigel and Hillary.
      190. As Nick and Nigel bat­tle over Nigel’s pis­tol and the steer­ing wheel, we also see their hands fight­ing for con­trol of the truck’s stereo.

        Dri­ver picks the music; shot­gun shuts their cake­hole!
      191. Nick and Nigel fall off the truck, land­ing in a riv­er. They punch each oth­er, then Nigel hits Nick with a barstool. Nick lands on a table and kicks Nigel as we see they’re in a West­ern-style saloon at the bot­tom of the riv­er.
      192. Nigel crash­es into the bar and grabs a pis­tol; the bar­tender hits him with a bot­tle as he shoots at Nick (remem­ber this is all under­wa­ter!), who leaps out of the way as a chan­de­lier crash­es to the riv­er bed.
      193. A group of cow­boys play­ing pok­er duck under the table.
      194. Nick dances in a Muhammed Ali-style rope-a-dope, punch­es Nigel, then grabs Nigel’s nip­ples and throws him through the saloon’s win­dow as the Bonan­za theme plays.

        Pur­ple nur­ple!
      195. A girl lying on the bar gur­gles “Good-bye” as Nick dusts off his hat and leaves through the (under­wa­ter!) saloon’s swing­ing doors.
      196. Hillary zooms down the road on Nick’s motor­cy­cle, her hair fly­ing out behind her. When she stops to look around for Nick, her hair is still point­ing behind her.
      197. When Nick walks out of the riv­er his hair and clothes are dry.
      198. When Hillary sees Nick, her breasts glow like light bulbs.
      199. As the Resis­tance waits to board their plane, Déjà Vu and Choco­late Mousse use the RAF sym­bol on the side of the plane to play darts.
      200. As Hillary jumps off the motor­cy­cle to embrace her father, she push­es Nick and the motor­cy­cle over with a loud crash.
      201. Hillary: “For as long as a sin­gle man is forced to cow­er under the iron fist of oppres­sion, as long as a child cries out in the night, or an actor can be elect­ed pres­i­dent,[8] we must con­tin­ue the strug­gle.”
      202. Déjà Vu: “Go with Nick. Don’t wor­ry about us. We will hear his music on the Voice of Amer­i­ca. We will hear it in the hearts of the peo­ple and in ele­va­tors every­where.”
      203. Hillary: “Things change. Peo­ple change; hair styles change. Inter­est rates fluc­tu­ate.”
      204. As Nick and Hillary kiss, their tongues grope around in each other’s cheeks.
      205. As Hillary hugs every­one and says good­bye, she hugs Scare­crow from The Wiz­ard of Oz.
      206. Jokes in the cred­its:
        • Cred­its for:
          • Focus Puller
          • Clap­per Loader
          • Focus Loader
          • Clap­per Puller
          • Puller Clap­per
          • Clap­per Clap­per
          • Flip­per Flap­per
          • Hab­er­dash­er
        • Hey Did­dle Did­dle: The Cat and the Fid­dle
        • Foreez: A Jol­ly Good Fel­low
        • This Space For Rent


[1] Bernstein’s par­ents were Jew­ish and fled Rus­sia before he was born, so the chances that Bern­stein would per­form in East Ger­many, to put it mild­ly, are exceed­ing­ly slim.

[2] The Ger­man for the terms doesn’t seem to match the Eng­lish trans­la­tions; I sus­pect the Ger­man in the entire film is full of jokes but I don’t speak Ger­man. If you do, let me know what it says!

[3] How much is a truck­load of dead rats in a tam­pon fac­to­ry worth, any­way?

[4]  Who is, of course, black.

[5] Déjà Vu is played by Jim Carter, who also plays Car­son on Down­ton Abby.

[6] I’ve seen this movie at least 30 times and I still don’t get this.

[7] When Top Secret! was released, Ford was recall­ing Pin­tos because some of them explod­ed after rear-end col­li­sions.

[8] When Top Secret! was released, Ronald Rea­gan (a for­mer movie star) was Pres­i­dent.

‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,’ by Kurt Vonnegut. Sort Of

Don’t judge. There was a lot of coke-fueled art back in the ’70s.

I cred­it (or blame, as the case may be) my friend Todd and my friend Rob for turn­ing me on to The Hitch­hik­er’s Guide to the GalaxySo let’s talk about Kurt Von­negut.

Von­negut1 was one of those impor­tant authors who make you feel vague­ly guilty, giv­en that you’ve nev­er read any of his stuff except maybe Slaugh­ter­house-Five. And while some of his stuff is dystopi­an or mild­ly sci-fi, where do I get off say­ing he, not Dou­glas Adams,2 is respon­si­ble for a sprawl­ing sci-fi epic like The Hitch­hik­er’s Guide to the Galaxy?

Stay with me here: In 1965, Von­negut pub­lished God Bless You, Mr. Rose­wa­ter, which includ­ed a lengthy excerpt from a fic­tion­al nov­el titled Venus on the Half-Shell, by a fic­tion­al author named Kil­go­re Trout.3

Kil­go­re Trout showed up fre­quent­ly in Von­negut’s work as a lit­er­ary alter ego for Von­negut him­self, but Trout’s name was also a poke at Von­negut’s friend, sci-fi author Theodore Stur­geon:4I think it’s fun­ny to be named after a fish,” were Von­negut’s exact words (he may have been a great writer but appar­ent­ly part of him nev­er left mid­dle school).

Anoth­er sci-fi author, Philip Jose Farmer,5 was so amused he snagged the Venus on the Half-Shell excerpt in God Bless You, Mr. Rose­wa­ter and fluffed it up into an entire book.

And so, in 1975, Venus on the Half-Shell hit the book­stores, just three years before The Hitch­hik­er’s Guide to the Galaxy began on BBC Radio. The byline read Kil­go­re Trout, but the author was real­ly Philip Jose Farmer, using char­ac­ters cre­at­ed by Kurt Von­negut.

Got all that?

What does this have to do with Dou­glas Adams or Hitch­hik­er’s Guide to the Galaxy? Adams was a huge fan of Von­negut, for one thing. That’s not tan­ta­mount to pla­gia­rism, of course. But if you’ve ever read, lis­tened to or watched Hitch­hik­er’s Guide to the Galaxy, you’ll notice some star­tling par­al­lels:

1. The Everyman Galactic Wanderer

Some­one for­got to explain this to the cov­er artist.

Both sto­ries fol­low the adven­tures of an every­day schlub snatched from his every­day schlub’s life into an inter­galac­tic adven­ture. HHGTTG stars Arthur Dent, who worked in a small radio sta­tion before roam­ing the cos­mos in a bathrobe.

VOTHS, on the oth­er hand, stars Simon Wagstaff, a folk musi­cian who likes wear­ing fad­ed jeans and com­fy old sweat­shirts. He has curly dark hair, a big nose and looks a lot like Kurt Von­negut.

2. The Earth Gets Destroyed by Bureaucrats

When Hitch­hik­er’s Guide begins, Arthur Dent is lying in the mud in front of his house, block­ing the bull­doz­ers that have shown up to demol­ish his house. At the begin­ning of Venus on the Half-Shell, Simon Wagstaff and his girl­friend are hav­ing sex on the head of the Sphinx in Egypt.

Oh. This would be a good place to explain that accord­ing to Von­negut, Kil­go­re Trout was a hack who wrote a lot of thin­ly-dis­guised porn and was pub­lished most­ly in adult mag­a­zines.

And Philip Jose Farmer was the per­fect ghost writer for Trout, giv­en that Farmer’s favorite themes were sex, reli­gion, aliens, sexy reli­gion, alien sex, reli­gious sex, sexy reli­gious aliens, alien reli­gious sex, sex as wor­ship, alien sex wor­ship, wor­ship­ful sex with aliens—you get the idea.

Any­way, Arthur and Simon are both mind­ing their own busi­ness when aliens show up and destroy the Earth: The Vogons blow the Earth out from under Arthur to build a hyper­space bypass, while in Venus on the Half Shell, the Hoonhors decide Earth is too pol­lut­ed and clean things up by trig­ger­ing a world­wide flood, a la Noah. Turns out they cleaned up Earth a few thou­sand years ago already but are unhap­py things are already so dirty again.

3. Pursuing the Ultimate Question With Neurotic Robots in Stolen Spaceships

Arthur man­ages to snag a ride on a Vogon ship and lat­er winds up roam­ing the galaxy on a ship called Heart of Gold, which was stolen ear­li­er by one Zaphod Bee­ble­brox, looks like a giant run­ning shoe, and is named after a Neil Young song.

Con­verse­ly, Simon leaves Earth on a Chi­nese ship chris­tened Hwang Ho, which looks like a giant chrome penis and is named after the Yel­low Riv­er (remem­ber what I said about Philip Jose Farmer being a religious/alien sex fiend?).

Arthur is trav­el­ing with a small hand­ful of human and alien friends, plus a neu­rot­ic robot named Mar­vin, who resents being a low­ly main­te­nance robot when he has a brain the size of a plan­et, and Eddie, a ship­board com­put­er who tries way too hard to be cheer­ful.

Simon’s on the go with Anu­bis and Athena, his dog and owl, plus a neu­rot­ic robot named Chor­wk­tap, who has free will and far too much intel­li­gence to enjoy being a sex robot (this does­n’t stop her and Simon from hav­ing lots and lots of sex any­way–ref. P.J. Farmer, the sci-fi sex fiend author, again). Tzu Li, the Hwang Ho’s com­put­er, is just a com­put­er, despite Chork­tap spend­ing all her free time try­ing to prove Tzu Li is self-aware but shy.

Our heroes have the fastest space­ships ever made and a uni­verse to explore, so they set out for some answers:

“What’s the ulti­mate answer to, you know–life, the uni­verse and every­thing?” Arthur wants to know.

Simon’s ques­tion is this: “Why were we cre­at­ed only to suf­fer and die?”

4. The Genius Vermin Secretly Running the Show

As they trav­el and enjoy var­i­ous hijinks in pur­suit of the truth, Arthur and Simon dis­cov­er the Vogons and Hoonhors are just what they appeared to be at first glance: Clue­less, care­less and cal­lous bureau­crats. It turns out there are mas­ter­minds behind the scenes who have been run­ning things all along, hyper­in­tel­li­gent beings every­one mis­took for harm­less or annoy­ing ver­min. They don’t real­ly mean Arthur or Simon any harm, but they aren’t exact­ly nice to them either–the ver­min mas­ter­minds, it turns out, are using Arthur and Simon as part of exper­i­ments to answer the same ulti­mate ques­tions.

In HHGTTG, Arthur dis­cov­ers mice are the most intel­li­gent beings on Earth. They’ve been manip­u­lat­ing sci­ence all along while pre­tend­ing to be lab­o­ra­to­ry test sub­jects; in real­i­ty they’re pur­su­ing the answer to life, the uni­verse and every­thing.

Drink beer for all eter­ni­ty with cock­roach­es? Meh. I’m fine with that as long as we don’t have to share glass­es.

Simon, on the oth­er hand, dis­cov­ers a myth­i­cal alien race called the Clerun-Gow­ph, who acci­den­tal­ly pop­u­lat­ed most of the uni­verse with messy sci­en­tif­ic out­posts that dumped waste prod­ucts into the pri­mor­dial soup of the plan­ets they were study­ing. And the Clerun-Gow­ph, Simon is shocked to learn, are cock­roach­es.

This is a huge blow to the ego: Arthur dis­cov­ers he’s noth­ing but a test sub­ject in an exper­i­ment run by lab­o­ra­to­ry mice, while Simon real­izes all life on Earth is just, as he puts it, the end of a process that start­ed with cock­roach crap.

5. The Planet-Sized Computer

Every seek­er of truth needs an Ora­cle, and our heroes are no excep­tion. In HGTTG, it seems Earth and all life on it were an enor­mous com­put­er built in pur­suit of the answer to life, the uni­verse and every­thing (I know, I know — it was built to specif­i­cal­ly help ask the ques­tion after anoth­er giant com­put­er gave an accu­rate but use­less answer — the point is that the whole plan­et is a com­put­er).

When Simon, on the oth­er hand, final­ly meets the Clerun-Gow­ph, he dis­cov­ers they built a plan­et-sized com­put­er to answer all the ques­tions there are. Hav­ing noth­ing left to dis­cov­er or learn, they decide to quit exploring/fertilizing the galaxy and devote them­selves to drink­ing beer.

6. The Useless Answers (spoiler alert!)

At long last, our pro­tag­o­nists are about to learn the ques­tion to their ulti­mate ques­tions. The prob­lem is that in both cas­es, the answer is use­less:

  • Arthur’s ques­tion: “What is the ulti­mate answer to life, the uni­verse and every­thing?”
  • Answer: “42.”
  • Pos­si­ble alter­nate answer: “We apol­o­gize for the incon­ve­nience.”
  • Simon’s ques­tion: “Why are we cre­at­ed only to suf­fer and die?”
  • Answer: “Why not?”

Don’t give me that look. I said they were use­less answers, did­n’t I?

Some Disassembly Required

I know how to prove that men and women are fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent:

Put a man and a woman into sep­a­rate rooms alone with a new appliance—say, a bread machine—and watch what hap­pens. The woman will make some bread. On the oth­er hand—bear in mind that this is a brand new appli­ance, right out of the box—the man will take the bread machine apart to see how it works.

There’s a corol­lary here: I have a sermon/demo I’ve pre­sent­ed in var­i­ous church­es, where­in I break a stack of con­crete blocks, then talk about how break­ing con­crete blocks with your bare hands is just exact­ly like becom­ing a Chris­t­ian and going to heav­en.

After I’d done it a num­ber of times I real­ized that when I said looky here; I’m going to smash all these con­crete blocks with my bare hands, the audi­ence response is divid­ed right down the mid­dle between men and women:

The men would say, “Cool!”

The women say, “Why?“1

I’m not sure what dri­ves men to take things apart. Maybe some psy­chi­a­trist has it fig­ured out. If so, I bet the psy­chi­a­trist is a man. Why? For the same rea­son psy­chol­o­gy has tra­di­tion­al­ly been a male pur­suit: Psy­cho­an­a­lyz­ing peo­ple is very much like tak­ing them apart to see how they work.

I think the dri­ve to take things apart is genet­ic, not learned. For instance, I saw a TV show once about Under­writ­ers Lab­o­ra­to­ries. This com­pa­ny takes new prod­ucts, dis­as­sem­bles them down into mol­e­cules to see how they’re designed, and then fig­ures out inge­nious ways to break them.

Under­writ­ers Labs pays the guys in white lab coats you see on TV com­mer­cials who build a robot arm to open and close a refrig­er­a­tor door 38 bil­lion times in two weeks. All guys, mind you—you nev­er see women in the com­mer­cials. These are the men who send cars hurtling into con­crete walls at 90 miles an hour to see what will hap­pen to the dum­mies inside.

I’ve often dreamed about work­ing for one of those com­pa­nies that blow up build­ings so that they col­lapse into their own base­ments.

Odd­ly enough, their research has con­clu­sive­ly proven over and over again that the dum­mies (sur­prise!) get demol­ished. But for some rea­son, they still find it nec­es­sary to crash an aver­age of 10 cars a week.

Don’t tell me it’s all about safe­ty and research—these guys are hav­ing the time of their lives. I’m not sure why Under­writ­ers Labs even both­ers to pay them; most men would prob­a­bly work there for free. I know I would.

I’ve often dreamed about work­ing for Under­writ­ers Lab­o­ra­to­ries. I’ve also dreamed about work­ing for one of those com­pa­nies that blow up build­ings so that they col­lapse into their own base­ments (c’mon—you have, too, haven’t you? Let’s see a show of hands, guys … I knew it!).

My favorite destruc­tive fan­ta­sy, though, involves work­ing for one of the big auto man­u­fac­tur­ers. Their research depart­ments have teams that secret­ly buy com­peti­tors’ cars. Then they com­plete­ly dis­as­sem­ble the cars and mount all the parts on sheets of ply­wood, which they hang in a ware­house.

You must under­stand, though—when I say they dis­as­sem­ble a car, I’m talk­ing a lev­el of dis­as­sem­bly rarely seen on this earth. If a butch­er ren­dered a cow the way these guys take on a car, he would need 17 square acres of coun­ter­top. Every sin­gle part in the car is bro­ken down com­plete­ly: The door locks are tak­en apart into piles of tiny springs and wafers. The engine is trans­formed into a heap of pis­tons, rings, bolts, bush­ings, springs, valves and bear­ings. The starter motor is unwound to see how much wire is in the arma­tures.

Every hook, pin, screw, nut, bolt, gear, spring, bush­ing, sta­ple, clip, clamp, strap and wire in the car is unfas­tened, until the engi­neers have thou­sands of parts to cat­a­logue and mount on the boards. They even unstitch all the uphol­stery, sep­a­rate glued-togeth­er pieces, and cut all the welds apart until they have the orig­i­nal pieces of met­al that make up the body and frame.

They say this is done to help them bet­ter under­stand their com­peti­tors’ designs. But it sounds like a labor of love to me. I bet they draw straws to see who gets to take things apart and who has to do the paper­work.

Yep, I’d be real­ly good at that sort of thing; I’ve always been a cham­pi­on dis­as­sem­bler myself. When I was 8, my par­ents gave me a watch. I pried off the back to see how it worked (and my moth­er has nev­er quite for­giv­en me). Since then, I have dis­as­sem­bled elec­tric razors, toast­ers, an elec­tric knife, radios, car stere­os and tape decks, a vari­able speed drill, an elec­tric gui­tar, a See ‘N Say, and any­thing else I could get my hands on.

Last year I sawed an 8‑foot-wide alu­minum satel­lite dish in half.

When I was 19, I took the engine out of my car and put it back. It was so much fun I did it again a year lat­er. Last year I sawed an 8‑foot-wide alu­minum satel­lite dish in half (don’t ask).

I sup­pose (I said don’t ask!) I can under­stand why, when my par­ents gave me a bicy­cle for my 24th birth­day, my moth­er looked me right in the eye and with a straight face said, “Now don’t go tak­ing this apart to see how it works!” She need­n’t have wor­ried. Bicy­cles were kid stuff; I was in the big leagues by that time.

The all-time high­light of my decon­struc­tion­al­ist career was when I mur­dered a piano. My room­mate, George, had bought an old upright piano for $100. This beast was made by a Ger­man com­pa­ny called Gul­bransen, and it was so heavy it took eight peo­ple to move it into our house. I think mov­ing one of the rocks at Stone­henge would have been eas­i­er. The piano’s wheels left ruts in the wood on our front porch, it was so heavy. In fact, I think the Ger­mans designed that piano to hold pill­box doors shut against ene­my mor­tar fire in World War II. It was that kind of heavy.

Any­way, after we all got her­nias mov­ing this bat­tle­ship anchor of a piano, George dis­cov­ered it had six keys that did­n’t work at all. The remain­ing 82 were so far out of tune they made my dog howl when we struck them. George called a piano tuner, who came over, lis­tened to the piano, and then left, laugh­ing so hard he was drool­ing.

Need­less to say, George did­n’t want to take the piano along when he got ready to move out a year lat­er. The prob­lem was that he had no way to dis­pose of it, and he was too kind­heart­ed to sell it to some oth­er sucker—I mean, vic­tim.

So while George was at work one evening, I decid­ed to sur­prise him: I took the piano apart and put it in a Dump­ster in a park­ing lot behind our house. I used pli­ers to cut the strings; a crow­bar took care of every­thing else (cham­pi­on dis­as­sem­blers don’t need hun­dreds of tools; that’s for wimps like Tim Allen).

Over the course of an hour or so that night, my friend, Dave, and I stealth­ily car­ried the dis­mem­bered piano to the Dump­ster, arm­load by arm­load. Final­ly, only two pieces were left: the back frame, which was made of huge oak beams, and the harp, a thick steel frame­work over which the strings had been stretched. These pieces weighed sev­er­al hun­dred pounds each and were the only parts that were dif­fi­cult to maneu­ver into the Dump­ster.

The Dump­ster squat­ted at the end of the alley like a land mine as George and I glee­ful­ly peered out the upstairs bed­room win­dow.

George near­ly had a heart attack when he got home and found noth­ing but a major dent in the car­pet where his piano had been.

At 5 a.m. the next morn­ing, George woke me excit­ed­ly. One of those trucks that picks up Dump­sters and turns them upside down to emp­ty them was rum­bling up the alley toward the Dump­ster. The Dump­ster squat­ted at the end of the alley like a land mine as George and I glee­ful­ly peered out the upstairs bed­room win­dow.

The dri­ver posi­tioned the load­er’s arms in the slots on the Dump­ster’s sides and turned on the hoist. George and I clutched our sides with laugh­ter as the truck­’s engine roared—and noth­ing hap­pened. The dri­ver scratched his head and put the hoist into a low­er gear. With the truck­’s engine bel­low­ing in protest, its sus­pen­sion groan­ing and the hoist’s gears screech­ing, the Dump­ster slow­ly left the ground.

As we held our breath, the Dump­ster turned over, the lid flipped open and the harp and frame tum­bled out into the truck­’s bed, which—and I knew God loved me when I saw it—was emp­ty. The harp and frame land­ed flat in the truck­’s bed with a resound­ing, thun­der­ous boom. The rest of the pieces slid out on top, crash­ing and rat­tling into a heap atop the frame.

The noise echoed up and down the predawn street; lights began appear­ing in win­dows. The dri­ver and his helper stag­gered out of the truck, hold­ing their ears, and climbed the side of the bed, no doubt think­ing an aster­oid had just land­ed in the truck.

They looked over the side of the bed in aston­ish­ment. I could hear them excit­ed­ly ques­tion­ing each oth­er: “How on God’s green earth did a piano get in there?” the dri­ver said in amaze­ment.

I closed my eyes and sighed wist­ful­ly, know­ing I would prob­a­bly nev­er again expe­ri­ence a moment so sub­lime this side of eter­ni­ty.

‘Frogs,’ aka ‘Why Sam Elliott Wishes He’d Been in a Porno’

♬ Hel­lo my hon­ey ♬ Hel­lo my baby ♬ Hel­lo my rag­time gaaaal! ♬

I like frogs.

Not real frogs, in a ter­rar­i­um as pets. They aren’t exact­ly cud­dly. I do like frogs’ legs, though. They aren’t cud­dly either; just deli­cious.

It’s just some­thing I like col­lect­ing. Frog stuff: Frogs on T‑shirts; Far Side car­toons that fea­ture frogs; ceram­ic frogs. Some folks col­lect Match­box cars; some folks col­lect com­ic books. I col­lect frogs.

I was in Tope­ka, KS—my home town—last week. And there’s a sports bar in Tope­ka called Jere­mi­ah Bull­frogs. They have a cool frog stat­ue at the door and framed Far Side comics and lots of oth­er frog stuff. So when­ev­er I vis­it Tope­ka I have to vis­it Jere­mi­ah Bull­frogs.

JBs recent­ly moved to a much larg­er build­ing, which I was glad to see, what with all the local­ly owned busi­ness­es around the coun­try dri­ven out of busi­ness by the pan­dem­ic.

With the added space came more frog bric-a-brac, includ­ing an amus­ing sign for Gooch’s Best Bull­frog Feed, and this movie poster:


Yes, you read that right: It’s a movie titled Frogs, and it stars Sam Elliott and Joan Van Ark.

What kind of movie would you expect based on this poster? We’ve got a cou­ple lurid taglines: “TODAY—The Pond! ; TOMORROW—The World!” and “It’s the day that Nature strikes back!”

We also have a frog with a human arm dan­gling from its mouth like a cig­ar.

An even more turgid poster for Frogs reads “A TIDAL WAVE OF SLITHERING, SLIMY HORROR DEVOURING, DESTROYING ALL IN ITS PATH! A ter­ri­fy­ing sto­ry of times to come when Nature strikes back!

It looked like a real­ly cheap hor­ror flick to me, and when I looked it up—yep, it’s a bad hor­ror movie released in 1972 with a bud­get of about $37.

Based on the posters you’d expect giant frogs to be run­ning around eat­ing peo­ple, like Night of the Lep­us with frogs instead of rab­bits:

(Some­times I won­der if this was the inspi­ra­tion for Mon­ty Python’s Killer Rab­bit of Caer­bannog.)

Or frogs hijack­ing an air­port con­trol tow­er and mak­ing planes crash like Die Hard 2. Maybe frogs killing peo­ple and assum­ing their iden­ti­ties, like Inva­sion of the Body Snatch­ers, or stab­bing women in the show­er à la Psy­cho, or even zom­bie frogs.

My Best Half won­dered aloud if Frogs would be self-aware campy fun, like The Tox­ic Avenger or Attack of the Killer Toma­toes or Killer Klowns From Out­er Space.

Shoot, they could have gone for a microbud­get hor­ror flick with some inter­est­ing new ideas, even if it was dirt cheap: Like Phan­tasm, with the fly­ing brain-slurp­ing met­al balls and the extreme­ly cool Hemi ‘Cuda; or Evil Dead, with Army of Dark­ness and the S‑Mart boom­stick, both of which spawned fran­chis­es despite bud­gets that would­n’t even fund a high school cafe­te­ria for two days.

They clear­ly weren’t inter­est­ed in break­ing any new ground on this, and any­one they pla­gia­rized would be too embar­rassed to sue. So I expect­ed Frogs to be so bad it was fun to watch.

Alas, Frogs was instead so bad it plum­met­ed WAY past “so bad it was good” ter­ri­to­ry and was just real­ly, real­ly bad.

I found the whole movie on YouTube for free. Appar­ent­ly none of the stream­ing ser­vices will touch Frogs. Maybe they’re embar­rassed by it, but I think it’s more like­ly they’re inca­pable of scru­ples or embar­rass­ment; they just real­ized they’d nev­er make a pen­ny by stream­ing it.

So I watched it. Now you don’t have to. No, don’t thank me. I’m just doing what any self­less hero would do.

Here’s the “plot”: Sam Elliott plays Pick­ett Smith, a pho­tog­ra­ph­er pad­dling around a swamp in a canoe and tak­ing pic­tures of trash in the swamp. (Here’s how brain­less this movie was: They missed a per­fect chance to have a Native Amer­i­can guy stand­ing there cry­ing, but they blew it.)

His name was Iron Eyes Cody. Meet­ing Pres­i­dent Carter ruined Cody’s career: He could­n’t stop smil­ing.

Pick­ett Smith is the only char­ac­ter name I can remem­ber, and that’s only because, while I was strug­gling not to slip into a coma, I thought his name was Wil­son Pick­ett for a minute, which remind­ed me of “Every­body Needs Some­body” from The Blues Broth­ers, which in turn gave me a few sec­onds of fond nos­tal­gia before I real­ized I was total­ly off-track, which led to the kind of bit­ter dis­ap­point­ment we all felt when George Lucas was smart enough to hire Lawrence Kas­dan to write the screen­play for The Empire Strikes Back and part of Return of the Jedi, so we were all pumped to see The Phan­tom Men­ace until we dis­cov­ered Lucas decid­ed he could just write all the screen­plays with­out Kas­dan’s help, which led to ghast­ly abor­tions of dia­log like Anakin Sky­walk­er, try­ing to suave his way into Pad­me’s pants by say­ing “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irri­tat­ing and it gets every­where” and WHAT THE HELL WAS LUCAS THINKING?!?

Sor­ry. I swear, by Crom’s crunchy crotch crou­tons; so many fond hopes and dreams scut­tled by a badass Jedi knight and heart­stop­ping­ly pow­er­ful and evil Sith lord who whines, lit­er­al­ly, about sand in his box­ers.

Where was I? Joan Van Ark plays a sim­per­ing air­head who does noth­ing. I mean that lit­er­al­ly: For the entire movie she just stands around doing noth­ing. Noth­ing at all. I sus­pect they paid her enough to show up but not enough to make her want to do any act­ing.

There are some oth­er char­ac­ters, but they’re all as life­less and use­less as Joan Van Air­head.

Any­way, Elliott comes across a fam­i­ly liv­ing in an old ante­bel­lum man­sion on an island in the mid­dle of the swamp. I’d say it looked like an old plan­ta­tion house, but in a swamp? I mean, if you’re run­ning a plan­ta­tion you need to have cot­ton or tobac­co or some­thing to har­vest. What would they har­vest in a swamp?

The minute Elliot shows up, weird things start hap­pen­ing; from there on out they appar­ent­ly couldn’t decide between rip­ping off a teen slash­er film, with idiot teens being mur­dered one by one, or rip­ping off Hitchcock’s The Birds, except with frogs.

I say that because there were dozens of cut­away scenes of the lawn out­side the house swarm­ing with frogs, which were obvi­ous­ly being thrown in front of the cam­era by off­screen frog wran­glers.

Here’s where the fun starts: The char­ac­ters start dis­ap­pear­ing and wind­ing up dead. The frogs are here! TODAY, the World!! A TIDAL WAVE OF SLITHERING, SLIMY HORROR!

Wan­na know how many peo­ple the frogs kill? I kept track. Here’s how many peo­ple the frogs kill:


Oh, the movie does have a respectable body count: About a dozen peo­ple, plus hints about this being a world­wide frog­poca­lypse. Here’s how the idiots die:

Idiot 1: A guy goes fish­ing and gets killed by a rat­tlesnake.

Idiot 2: Next a guy look­ing for the first dead guy gets offed by—I’m not mak­ing this up—a rat­tlesnake bite, fol­lowed by fronds of Span­ish Moss on a weep­ing wil­low: The fronds come to life and stran­gle the poor bas­tard. This is fol­lowed by him being devoured by scor­pi­ons (scor­pi­ons? In a swamp?), a bunch of lizards and baby croc­o­diles, and final­ly taran­tu­las, which set about eat­ing him and cov­er­ing him with webs.

Idiot 3: A matron­ly old nin­ny wan­ders around in the swamp try­ing to catch but­ter­flies. She also gets a rat­tlesnake bite fol­lowed by oth­er crit­ters devour­ing her.

Idiot 4: Mean­while, one of the oth­er stu­pid adults is won­der­ing if the miss­ing matron­ly nin­ny is in the green­house. While he’s look­ing around in the green­house, a gecko starts knock­ing things off a shelf like an ornery cat.

It goes beyond cat mis­chief, though: Some­one has thought­ful­ly left a dozen or so large, frag­ile glass jars of var­i­ous poi­sons stored on flim­sy shelves. They ooze all over the place, dis­solv­ing stuff faster than Alien blood and fill­ing the room with tox­ic gasses; the dumb guy in the green­house dies about 3 steps from the door, through which he makes no attempt to escape.

Idiot 5: Anoth­er idiot takes his boat to a mari­na across the lake. He stop to gas up the boat, where­upon a Komo­do Drag­on (in an Amer­i­can swamp?) bites the rope teth­er, mak­ing the boat drift off. The idiot jumps in to swim out to the boat an gets attacked by Ana­con­da-size snakes, which, unlike Ana­con­das, live in an Amer­i­can swamp and which also, unlike Ana­con­das, are ven­omous.

Idiot 6: Idiot 5’s wife sees him leav­ing, runs down to the shore to beg him to come back, gets her feet stuck in the mud, and winds up feed­ing alli­ga­tors.

Mean­while, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark, a cou­ple of use­less kids and an old fart in a wheel­chair bar­ri­cade them­selves in the house. Elliott says, “We should leave.”

The old fart in the wheel­chair says, “I ain’t leav­ing!.”

So Elliott and Van Ark and the use­less kids pad­dle Elliott’s canoe across the lake. There they dis­cov­er what hap­pened to the plan­ta­tion house’s ser­vants, who fled ear­li­er:

Idiots 7 thru 11: Well, actu­al­ly, they just find a cou­ple of suit­cas­es in a park­ing lot, so we don’t know what hap­pened. This must have been scary back in ’72, because when they spot the suit­cas­es the sound­track plays a scary crash sound thingy like King Kong just showed up.

Idiot 12: And final­ly, we see the old fart in his wheel­chair look­ing around in ter­ror as the off-screen frog wran­glers start throw­ing frogs through the win­dows instead on the lawn out­side.

So the old fart keels over dead, even though none of the frogs touched him.

Thus endeth Frogs.

Most actors have an embar­rass­ing com­mer­cial or short-lived sit­com role in their past that they’d rather for­get. Sam Elliott has been in a cou­ple bombs and weird movies, such as The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Big­foot (I’m not mak­ing that up either).

I bet Sam Elliott wish­es he’d been in a cheap porno rather than Frogs.

Here’s the whole movie if you’re a glut­ton for pun­ish­ment:


Assisted Twister

You’ve heard this say­ing: “If you don’t like the weath­er in (wher­ev­er you are), just wait five min­utes and it’ll change!”

This, my friends, is Fake News. I’ve lived in, or spent enough time in, enough states to get an idea what the weath­er is like: Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton (State and DC), Col­orado, Texas, Ari­zona, Flori­da (and Aku­mal, Mex­i­co and Guangzho, Chang­sha, and Hong Kong).

But I grew up in Kansas.1 Kansas is the only place where the “wait five min­utes and the weath­er will change” joke applies. In fact, Kansas is the only place I’ve ever lived that has weath­er at all, and I can prove it. To do so I need to talk about cof­fee:

Back some mum­bledy-sev­en years ago, I worked after­noons at the state hos­pi­tal and got off at 11. Depend­ing on how much mon­ey we had, my friend Rob and I would either dri­ve around and drink beer till the wee hours of the morn­ing, or go down­town to Pore Richard’s, pay for one bot­tom­less  cup of cof­fee each, and drink cof­fee till the wee hours of the morn­ing.

Pore Richard’s was a restau­rant and café where you could spend a lot of mon­ey on steak or lob­ster or oth­er pricey munchies, or you could spend $1.25 on a cup of cof­fee and get refills until you start­ed to vibrate.

Being broke, and giv­en that Nin­ten­do and iPhones and Android and X‑Box and restau­rants with dozens of TVs show­ing every chan­nel there is at ear-shat­ter­ing vol­ume were all years in the future, we had to find some­thing else to do. So we’d talk and argue and talk with the servers and argue about things with them, all of which are alas becom­ing lost arts.

But most often we would whip out Road Notes and get busy.

Road Notes was a big 200-page col­lege-ruled spi­ral note­book (sev­er­al, in fact; I still have about 10 of them and I’m pret­ty sure there were more).

And upon the pages of Road Notes we would inflict song lyrics; goofy draw­ings; vignettes; short sto­ries writ­ten back and forth between us, two para­graphs apiece; all man­ner of things.

One night I was noodling around in Road Notes and the Wham song—oops; I mean the WHAM! song—“Careless Whis­per” came on our table juke­box, which meant some­one at one of the oth­er tables had dropped a dime in their table juke­box.

Then it came on again. And again. And again. Now, I like this song and I liked it back then. It wasn’t as bad as some­one play­ing “What’s New Pussy­cat?” 21 times in a row, but it was wear­ing thin. I sac­ri­ficed a dime from pet­ty cash (aka the serv­er-tip­ping cash) to play some­thing else, but some­one in the restau­rant had just bro­ken up with some­one else and was drown­ing his or her sor­rows in a tsuna­mi of dimes to hog the juke­box.

Rob grabbed Road Notes from me and start­ed draw­ing. A minute lat­er he hand­ed back a pair of draw­ings. One was a cred­i­ble forgery of the old “Loose Lips Sink Ships” poster labeled “Care­less Whis­per,” except the sol­dier gab­bing at his girl­friend had a bull­horn aimed right at Hitler and was blow­ing his hair and mus­tache off.

Next to that was a draw­ing of a bald woman, labeled “Hair­less Sis­ter.”

I said, “Hair­less Sis­ter”? Rob said, “Wait; don’t tell me you haven’t heard this. The Hair­less Sis­ter song? On Dr. Demen­to?”

I hadn’t, but I did lat­er: Hair­less Sis­ter was a spoof of Care­less Whis­per, in which a high school guy’s sis­ter shaves her head, and her broth­er is singing about how he’ll nev­er go to school again, because an embar­rassed mind can do no learn­ing.

So I grabbed Road Notes back and drew an old woman yelling “Get me some pears!”, labeled “Pear­less Spin­ster,” which set off a pret­ty damn good pun war, which end­ed like this:

After sev­er­al more rounds, Rob drew a pic­ture of Dee Snider with a corkscrew stick­ing out of a big lump on his arm. It was titled, “Twist­ed Blis­ter.”

I looked at him and said “Twist­ed Blis­ter”? You HATE Twist­ed Sis­ter! What song is this, We’re Not Gonna Lance It? He snick­ered and said, “Your move!”

I made a few false starts and then inspi­ra­tion struck: I drew a pic­ture of a house with a tor­na­do head­ing its way. There was anoth­er tor­na­do on the oth­er side of the house.

The first tor­na­do was say­ing, “Help me wreck this house!” The oth­er tor­na­do said, “Sure!”

I titled it Assist­ed Twister.

I pushed Road Notes back at Rob. He looked at Assist­ed Twister and start­ed to laugh. So did I.

Before long we were both howl­ing and falling out of the booth and try­ing very sin­cere­ly not to wet our pants and/or have asth­ma attacks.

Assist­ed Twister. Com­ing soon to a restau­rant near you.


So I—yes, I know it’s a hor­ri­ble pun. But that was wh—What? Look, you had to be there. Any­way, we—okay, shut up and sit down. You don’t have to like a bad pun. You just have to respect its courage to be seen in pub­lic.

So let me abrupt­ly change the sub­ject:

I men­tioned ear­li­er that I lived in Ore­gon for a while. I went to col­lege in Ore­gon, in fact. One day I was walk­ing to a class with some­one, and he said, “You’re from Kansas? Weren’t you alla time scared of tor­na­does?”

I said, “You’re from Port­land in spit­ting dis­tance of five vol­ca­noes; ain’t you alla time scared of the floor being lava?”

If you live in Port­land, you can’t wait five min­utes for the weath­er to change: Port­land doesn’t HAVE weath­er. All the weath­er folks on the news have to say is, “Fore­cast: Damp. Cur­rent con­di­tions: About to Rain, Rain­ing, or Just Stopped Rain­ing.”

Arizona’s just the oppo­site: The weath­er in Prescott Val­ley is always mild and sun­ny (unless you’re in Phoenix, where the weath­er is always boil-your-eyballs hot and sun­ny), except that in Prescott Val­ley it rains a few weeks late in the sum­mer, which they call “Mon­soon sea­son,” like they’re in Tahi­ti.

But Kansas—Kansas, my friends, has WEATHER. Back in about ’91, I remem­ber try­ing to dri­ve to work one morn­ing, but it was so cold the trans­mis­sion flu­id was like molasses and the car couldn’t move an inch.

Lat­er that same win­ter, on New Year’s eve, I left work at 11pm and it was a balmy 75°. When the sun came up on New Year’s day it was 20 below zero, and a lot of peo­ple couldn’t get to work because the tem­per­a­ture extremes made a grain ele­va­tor explode, cov­er­ing I‑70 with a 30-foot-high wheat­drift.

Lat­er that spring I was attempt­ing to dash from my car to my house dur­ing a nasty thun­der­storm, and I took a rac­quet­ball-sized hail­stone to the nog­gin that almost knocked me uncon­scious.

I’ve seen it cold enough in Kansas you could spit and it would freeze before it hit the ground. I’ve seen it hot enough that recent­ly resur­faced roads soft­ened up, leav­ing cars mired in asphalt.

Kansas folks are tough enough to deal with apoc­a­lyp­tic weath­er, but Kansas just doesn’t get any respect.

In Dia­monds Are For­ev­er, the evil vil­lain Blofeld asks Bond, James Bond, how he should set about extort­ing the world with his giant space laser.

“I sup­pose I could destroy Kansas,” Blofeld says, “but it would take years for any­one to notice!”

Hyuk hyuk hyuk. But con­sid­er this: If Kansas was destroyed, all that real weather—frozen spit, boil­ing asphalt, Mama-said-knock-you-out hail­stones and tor­na­does, oh my—would have to hap­pen in oth­er states, where peo­ple talk about how the weath­er changes every five min­utes but don’t have a clue what’s in store for them.

Think about that the next time you’re mock­ing Kansas with your hilar­i­ous Wiz­ard of Oz jokes.