Comedy has drastically changed over the years. Today, we are inundated with graphic comedy that capitalizes on gross-out gags, vulgarity, and lots of farts. Don’t get me wrong, all of these things have their merits, but sometimes — more often lately — the field seems a bit saturated. For every Neighbors, there are 10 movies that completely miss the mark and overload us with vulgar humor.
Steve Martin, one of the best comedians to ever live, is a genuine “funny guy” who successfully blended stupid and vulgar humor. The balance seemed to always be intact. So, let’s rewind back to 1979 to take a look at some of the best quotes from The Jerk.
“Well, if this is out there, think how much more is out there. This is the kinda music that tells me to go out there and BE somebody!”
Ultimately, The Jerk is about a young boy-man who wants to experience the world. He wants to see the sights and meet the people. But what’s the catalyst? Rhythm, my friend. Rhythm. Navin feels the beat of the world around him, and it’s enough to catapult him out of bed and into the great playground of stupidity.
“See that? That’s sh*t. See that? That’s Shinola.” – Father
Navin always had a tough time detecting if things were bullsh*t or real. After having his dad tell him a blatant difference between a branded leather product and a pile of sh*t on the ground, Navin proceeds to step right on in it. Atta boy, Navin. We love you. Through the whole movie he seems to think he sees through the sh*t, but he’s always getting conned (eg: cat juggling by way of Father Carlos).
“I rigged it.”
Here, Martin shows off some impressive physical comedy chops as he confidently strides back to the phone to let the authorities know that he has handled a trio of credit-card theives thanks to something he saw in a movie. Feel free to watch the clip fully OR fast-forward to 2:05 and watch the best “I’m a bad-ass” walkaway/laugh of all time immediately followed by the realization that maybe he didn’t have it all under control.
Steve, we’re not worthy.
“The new phone book’s here… I’m a somebody now.”
One of the most well-known lines from this movie is the “phone book” line. Navin Johnson is somebody, and damn it, he’s going to be somebody. He’s moving up in the world and not looking back. How do we know this? His name’s on page 73 of the phone book for all to see. Hey, it’s pretty cool to see your name in print like that, no matter what book it’s in. Right?
“He hates these cans!”
Possibly one of the “dumbest” scenes in the entire movie (and that’s obviously saying a lot), Navin’s battle against the defective cans can be played on a loop pretty much infinitely. Another second-tier quote from this scene is M. Emmett Walsh’s famous “die, gas pumper!” line while he’s trying to shoot down Navin, who he found in that precious phone book.
“When I was a kid, my mom told me THAT was my special purpose…”
Nearly everyone’s been there, but it just seems so much funnier when we all get to see Navin find out about his “special purpose.” Patty’s a rotgut, low-down lady who doesn’t care about a damn thing. Well, maybe one thing, but not much else. So, why not pair a character like that with an idiot from the sticks? Again, a solid mixture of two comedic characters who are night and day that result in some serious laughs.
“You Belong to Me”
Finally, Navin finds a nice girl (Bernadette Peters’ “Marie”) and one who can play a mean trumpet.
“250 big ones.”
As The Jerk develops, Navin’s “rural dummy” routine transforms and he soon becomes an arrogant “rich idiot” thanks to the invention of the Opt-Grab eyeglass aid — a payoff that is a great reflection on the first half of the movie, because we probably would have decided to turn on Navin if we hadn’t already fallen in love with the big idiot.
“He doesn’t realize he’s dealing with sophisticated people here.”
Fresh after beating up some racists, Navin goes out for a nice meal with Marie, but he isn’t going to be fooled by old wine or plates with snails on them.
The Disco Scene
Too many good lines to pick just one as Navin’s “rainbow” finds its end and Marie mourns the pending loss of all their “stuuuuuuuff” thanks to Carl Reiner and his class-action lawsuit. By the way, while Martin co-wrote the script and had a massive influence on this film, Reiner deserves a lot of praise for his direction, as does Carl Gottlieb, who worked with Martin on concocting the story and writing the script.
“That’s all I need!
Another well-known line and sequence from The Jerk, the walkout scene following Navin’s seeming downfall. He came into the real world with nothing and he’s leaving it with…. well, a few parting gifts. Simple, yet genius comedy.