When Jon Lovitz showed up at the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget back in 2008, I remember thinking to myself, “Where the hell has this guy been?” The question was valid because the former Saturday Night Live star spent most of his time following the end of NewsRadio making forgettable cameos on TV shows like Friends, Just Shoot Me and Two and a Half Men while playing meaningless characters in Happy Madison dreck like Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star and The Benchwarmers. Hell, even since that roast, Lovitz’s best work has come as recurring characters on Hot in Cleveland and New Girl, while his only real starring effort was Byron Allen’s Mr. Box Office, which somehow managed to fly under the radar despite co-starring Gary Busey.
As Lovitz proved on SNL, he was never supposed to be a leading man, but he definitely had the tools to be one of comedy’s most hilarious supporting men, as long as he was presented the right roles. He displayed that time and again in hit movies like Big, A League of Their Own, The Wedding Singer and Coneheads, as well as in the underrated The Great White Hype and especially Mom and Dad Save the World, which was one of the most ridiculously wonderful comedies to be made in the 90s. Additionally, Lovitz’s work on NewsRadio and his cameos on Seinfeld and The Simpsons were always memorable enough, but when it comes to the guy simply getting the eternal respect that he deserves, it all comes back to The Critic.
While it started as a complete flop on ABC, The Critic was a simple animated series with a splendid premise – Lovitz starred as the voice of Jay Sherman, a fat film critic whose life was a mess. Like most beloved cult classics, The Critic was ahead of its time in terms of tearing pop culture to shreds, but fortunately Fox saw enough in it to give it a second season after ABC dropped it after the first. Of course, The Critic only lasted one season on Fox as well, which I believe began my long, spectacular hatred of TV network executives. The title was eventually revived for the Internet in 2000, in a series of short clips, but even then it didn’t get the love that it truly deserved.
Maybe that was the only sign us loyal fans would ever need to prove The Critic was just never meant to be, but I still refuse to believe that today. In this absurd age of too much information, with so many people readily sharing their opinions on an unprecedented level, The Critic is needed now more than ever. Even in syndication, an endless loop of all 23 episodes would be a refreshing change from Friends, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, and even Seinfeld.
My proof for this theory is this list of 10 quotes from The Critic that I still readily use today, 20 years after the show first debuted.
“Buy my book!”
Any time a friend of acquaintance promotes his or her new book on Facebook or Twitter, I say this out loud three times. I also have a running joke with a musician friend of mine so whenever I see him, I shout, “Buy my album! Buy my album! Buy my album!” Nobody ever gets it, but that has never stopped me at anything.
“You got a very valid point. But on the other hand, shut up!”
Almost every character on The Critic had a great stream of quotes, short of Alice and Margo. Duke Phillips is in my Top 3 with Jay, obviously, and Franklin Sherman, whom we’ll get to in a bit. A parody of Ted Turner, Duke was the classic balls-before-brains businessman who didn’t give a crap about anyone else’s opinions. Basically, he’d be perfect for a resurrection in 2014.
“A vive Jay Sherman, a vive Quebec.”
This line is my natural reaction to almost any mention of something French, French Canadian or anything Canadian in general. Sure, it doesn’t make sense in most instances, but say it one time and you’re almost guaranteed to randomly blurt it out in casual conversation. People will give you strange looks and then you just have to reply, “Good night, everybody!”
“I’m about to take off my shirt. A feeling of mild nausea is normal.”
Say these beautiful words to that special lady right in the heat of passion and you’ll be on the road to pure, unending ecstasy. There’s also a slight chance that she’ll ask, “Huh?” and then realize the mistake that she’s made. That’s a pretty priceless face, too.
“On the Shermometer, this film rates an absolute zero… BRRRRRR!”
The alternative idea to listing these favorite quotes of mine was to rank the fake movies created by The Critic, from Rabbi P.I. to Crocodile Gandhi, in terms of which ideas I’d like to watch the most. Then I realized two things: 1) There are way too many of them to choose, and 2) They’d all tie for first. Okay, maybe Beverly Hills Robo Canine Cop and a Half 2 would be at the top of my list.
“We’ll just have to find out what you are good at. In my case, it’s complaining about movies that bring happiness to idiots.”
Simply put, this one basically describes the bulk of my daily routine. I just get Jay Sherman, I guess.
“I ate a cheesecake, I took a nap, what more can one man do?”
This is always a good one for when you’re being nagged to get something done, be it at home or work. It’s especially relevant if you in fact just ate an entire cheesecake, in which case you should be extra confident while you say this, because you are a man who believes in accomplishments and honesty.
“Thank you for the pizza, Mr. Sherman.”
This line is only effective when delivered in the child Klingon voice and with a very serious face. Although, it gets harder and harder to trust that a pizza delivery guy won’t stab me in the throat and wear my skin to sleep in my own bed, but it’s always worth it with the hope that one of them will eventually get the reference.
For a while, this greeting was supplanted by Arrested Development‘s “Hey brother” as my go-to alternative to “Hello” or “Hi,” but that Avicii song ruined that for me, because people always thought I meant, “Heyyyyyyy brotherrrr,” and I can’t let people think that I’m an eCig kind of guy. Also, I’m a bit of a hipster at heart, so returning to “Hiiiiiiiiiii guyyyyyyyyyyyy” is good for my spirit or something.
And then there’s Franklin Sherman, whose quotes were all so perfect that they find their way into almost every conversation. Sure, the mailman thinks I’m insane or an asshole, but if you can’t look at a man and say, “You understand the silverware? Cuckoo!” without drawing a crooked eye, then what’s the point?
“PENGUINS CAN’T FLY!”
It’s not as much fun to yell things on a plane as it used to be, even if it’s just a nonsensical statement about the fact that penguins are flightless birds. That’s why I now stick to Franklin’s two best one-word statements in situations of excitement…
In my humble opinion, Franklin’s animated performance was a million times better than Jim Carrey’s performance. But nothing was ever as great as Franklin’s alter ego…
Aside from learning how to play one, reenacting that scene is the best thing a person could ever do with a guitar. And the best thing about The Critic today, July 21 or Jon Lovitz’s 57th birthday, more than 20 years after it debuted? You can watch every single episode on YouTube. Have fun wasting the rest of your day, friends.