Obsessed with trivia as I am, I like to think that I have a keen eye for certain off-hand references in films. Christopher Guest's 1996 mockumentary Waiting for Guffman has two little background details that I find very amusing, for no reason in particular. I think it is the fact that just as there are no extra words in a poem, there are no extra set pieces on a film. So the decision to insert these aspects was a conscious choice on behalf of Guest (or whoever does his sets.)
The first is an OK Soda machine in the school gym the cast is using for rehearsal. OK Soda was Coca Cola's abortive early-90s attempt to capture the hearts of Generation X and engineered by the same brilliant minds responsible for the New Coke fiasco. OK Soda attempted to play to their disaffection with an disaffected but anti-bleak ad campaign (“OK Soda does not subscribe to any religion, or endorse any political party, or do anything other than feel OK.”) and featured a self-consciously minimalist design; it resembled a cross between pop art and the Brand-X “BEER” cans in Repo Man.
The second is the copy of Waiting for Godot, in reference to the film's title, under Corky's drink on the lefthand side. Incidentally, the only reason I recognized it is because it is the same printing as the one I found in my grandmother's house when I was fifteen. I've yet to see that cover appear anywhere else but that bookshelf and this film.
Oh, and the post title comes from one of my favorite visual gags of all time:
Unfortunately, due to my status as a scholar, I will not be always able to provide you with well-researched posts tempered in the furnace of my wit and even, on the rarest of occasions, proofread. I've spent this weekend avoiding writing papers on Samuel "Slick" Beckett and John "Peanuts" Donne. Having finished the latter, I am now in the process of avoiding the former, while catching up on all the reading I neglected avoiding both.
I was going to provide you with a clip of Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw, which is a sexual revolution-era British farce. It is, honestly, one of the funniest things I've ever read. Beats out Oscar Wilde in every conceivable manner, beginning with Orton's realization that writing every line as a shining example of wit is tiresome and off-putting. I've never finished The Importance of Being Earnest, but I am devouring Orton's. Unfortunately, every clip I've found on YouTube completely misses the point of this being an English play, meant to be performed dead-pan (think John Cleese in Fawlty Towers) and not like an overblown Alfred Jarry revival. On the other hand, I might be completely wrong. Either way, I don't like it and I'm not going to subject you to something I don't like.
Anyhow, in lieu of that, but keeping theater in mind, here is an excerpt from a filmed production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot. The scene is Lucky's speech, performed with the manic calmness one would hope was the playwright's intent. I've been lucky enough to see the play performed live twice, the second time revived on Broadway. I can honestly say I was excited: Nathan Lane was playing the part of Estragon. I've seen him in several (or maybe just one other) stage production and he is more impressive in person than I've ever seen him on the screen. When you watch him, he makes sure you know that he is Nathan Fucking Lane, Actor!, without chewing the scenery or taking away from the performance of the other actors or the workings of the play itself. Imagine my surprise when the role of the sadistic Pozzo was being performed by one of my favorite actors ever, John Goodman. Goodman, who has mastered the role of terrifying-nice-guy, is a pleasure to watch doing anything at all; I'd love to see him make breakfast in the same way I'd love to hear Patrick Stewart read the phonebook. The contrast between his intimidating heft and pleasant face and tone is absolutely ominous. For those of you who have only experienced him in, say, Roseanne, go rent Barton Fink to see, to straight-up feel what I am talking about. He won't scare the shit out of you, but build up a wall of dread like a mason. Hell, go rent it anyway. It's a fantastic movie.
Anyhow, here's the clip (unfortunately featuring neither Lane nor Goodman):
(...and here's a higher quality version that, unfortunately, does not allow for embedding.)
Oh, and for shits and giggles, here is Sesame Street's take on Beckett and Godot. (Which is not all that different from the Onion's opinion.)
(Fawlty Towers photo thanks to the Age)