Episode 126: They’ll Get Past It

The Overthinkers commemorate Leslie Nielsen and reflect on his career and the changing face of comedy.

Matthew Wrather hosts (until his Internet connection fails) with Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Jordan Stokes to commemorate Leslie Nielsen and to reflect on his career and the changing face of comedy, and then to pitch one another rom com plots.


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20 Comments on “Episode 126: They’ll Get Past It”

  1. Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

    For some reason, this episode wasn’t automatically posted at midnight as it should have been, which is a fitting end to this week’s comedy of technical errors.

    Very sorry it’s late!


  2. Bob in San Diego #

    Thoughts on Leslie Nielsen after I finish listening to the Podcast (Like what you guys have to say so far, but have things to add) but I just want to mention the death of Irvin Kershner who quite possibly changed the landscape of movies forever. As the director of Empire Strikes Back, Mark Hamill has stated that although Frank Oz made Yoda look and act great, it was Irvin who brought out the superior acting in Hamill (You can make fun of Mark, but when he talked with Yoda I believed he was talking to an actual person).

    That is the first time I can remember actors working with a puppet in such a believable sense. Yes, ‘puppets’ were used a year before in Alien and nearly a decade earlier in Jaws however I feel there is a huge difference between being afraid of a puppet and feeling human compassion for a puppet. Also, if there wasn’t a Yoda there wouldn’t be a realistic Flight of the Navigator, Terminator, Gollum, Falco or Navi.

    While ‘A New Hope’ was a game changer in how Sci-Fi movies are made and summer tentpoles were established, ‘Empire’ showed that Sci-Fi can be taken seriously and with Godfather 2 it showed sequels can be great. A lot of that had to do with Irvin Kershner and I thank him for that.


  3. Chris #

    What Spin Doctors song was playing? Two Princes? Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong? Pocket Full of Kryptonite? My guess is Two Princes. Also, I am reminded of the outstanding line from the season one finale of Venture Bros, “Can’t you hear the road calling “Little miss, little miss can’t be wrong?”

    When you were discussing Leslie Nielsen, it sounded like it was posited that Police Squad! was his first foray into comedy. It was Airplane! that got him started on his sort of new career. The whole premise of that film was that they hired serious, dramatic actors to lend gravitas to all the silly lines. They even used actual lines from some airplane disaster movies that, in the new context, felt like jokes. It wasn’t just Nielsen, but Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, what have you. I mean, Graves was in Stalag 17! Bridges was in High Noon! To an older audience, that film had a different appeal I would imagine. I knew guys like Nielsen, and even Bridges who also went on a Nielsen-esque comedy kick late in his life, first and foremost from their comedies. I missed out on that whole level of those comedies until years later.


  4. Chris #

    Also, I found Mark Lee’s “I don’t like people” character rather confusing. For starters, and while this was probably (I hope) unintentional, it sounded like the typical caricature of a mentally handicapped person. Also, at the moment in time what was needed was a socially awkward character, not a misanthropic character. A misanthrope may hate most people, but that doesn’t mean they have any issue in social situations. After all, was this not Daniel Plainview’s best asset as a businessman? He was tremendous at smooth talking people.


    • lee OTI Staff #

      Sorry if there was any misunderstanding. That was meant to be in the voice of someone who’s painfully awkward in social situations, not a mentally handicapped person. If I were going for that caricature, I think I would have opted for the Down-syndrome “Corky” voice, which would have been real classy, I know.

      Man, I haven’t thought of the show “Life Goes On” in a long time.


      • Chris #

        I certainly didn’t think that was the direction you were going in, but it sounded close enough to send off vibrations, and not good vibrations, the kind that give you excitations, either.


  5. cat #

    Was Fidelity by Regina Spektor the credits song Pete was humming? Because that was from 2006.


    • Chris #

      If the sleuthing I did is correct, the song is indeed Fidelity by Regina Spektor. There is also apparently a song by Neon Trees in the movie, another band that wasn’t around in the 90s. Still; Spin Doctors! That oozes 90s credibility.


      • fenzel #

        CORRECT! “Fidelity” by Regina Spektor. Nice Sleuthing!

        Here’s the music video for the song from back in the day:


        And yes, the Spin Doctor song was Two Princes.

        Apparently Jake Gyllenhall did a bunch of work to try to develop the soundtrack to the movie, and the director said he’d take into account and basically just threw out all his recommendations.

        “Love and Other Drugs: The Lost Gyllenhall Soundtrack” would probably be a pretty cool download from iTunes.


        • fenzel #

          And by “back in the day,” I mean 4 years ago.

          So it feels old, but not THAT old.

          Wow, yeah, kinda sloppy, that.


  6. RichardR #

    Re: satirizing Michael Moore.

    I haven’t seen An American Carol because it looked awful, but in Team America, remember Michael Moore was portrayed as a suicide bomber. And it totally worked and was hilarious as well as…strangely apropos? But that could be because Team America worked hard to skewer conservatives and liberals alike.


    • fenzel #

      Nah, I don’t think it worked because of political balance. Political balance doesn’t really make things funny or not funny.

      I didn’t find that part of the movie very funny though, so what do I know?

      The core to humor is truth – there has to be some grain of truth in the joke. So maybe people who harbor the secret belief that Michael Moore is actually some sort of threat to the country find it funny? Maybe people who think he is totally ineffectual find it funny? I tend not to think either, so I don’t see much in the portrayal that connects with me.

      But that’s the risk of topical humor, I guess.


      • Gab #

        You know, I don’t think the Michael Moore depiction was a parody of Michael directly, but rather at the people genuinely convinced he’s a threat to the country. Showing him as a suicide bomber is funny to people that think he’s harmless- I’d imagine people truly afraid of the guy would be made uncomfortable by how he’s shown in that movie. Not really having an opinion on the guy still explains why you don’t have much of a connection with it, though. I guess I just thought the opposite of why he was shown like that.


  7. Tom #

    Interesting that Pete brings up the idea that we might want to see the “distilled” version of the later Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker type comedies. On the Airplane! DVD commentary track (definitely worth a listen if you’re a fan), the creators discuss the editing process they used for the movie. Essentially, as they tell it, they took the rough cut to college campuses, played it, and recorded the audience by audio. Later, they would play back the audience audio synced with the movie. Any joke that didn’t get a laugh from the audience was cut, no matter how much they liked it. (This also helps explain how the movie comes in at a relatively svelte 88-minute run time.)


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      Eighty-eight minute runtimes, alas, seem to have gone the way of Airplane!-style comedies, and like them, they deserve to be revived.


  8. Timothy J Swann #

    Two things:

    Nielsen and Kershner are two deaths. Who completes the Celebrity Death Trifecta?

    Scary Movie 3 – a Zucker affair rather than a Wayans affair, which I think it is important to note (Scary Movie 3 and 4 are Zucker, every other X Movie is Wayan) – has some really wonderful bits of Nielsen. The line about someone telling the President is still beautiful.


  9. Peter Tupper #

    The Big Lebowski was another 1990s period piece: Walter ranting about the first Gulf War, cell phones the size of lunch boxes (not to mention pagers), and pre-Internet porn on CD-ROMs. There wasn’t a particularly 90s soundtrack, though.

    Regarding parody: I believe that you can’t parody certain things directly because they are already absurd. Eric Idle was in a movie that parodied the Beatles called The Rutles. It didn’t work, mainly because the true history of the Beatles is just so bizarre and absurd that directly parodying it is redundant.

    By comparison, This is Spinal Tap works as comedy because it is about a failing, third-tier band that wants to be KISS, rather than a direct parody of KISS itself. Not only is failure funnier than success, it lets the movie work on more topics than just one.


  10. Maddy #

    Another 90s period piece is Rent, both the film adaptation and the musical. It takes place from ’89 to ’90, but that’s still 90s. Especially since it opened on Broadway in ’96, so culturally it’s definitely associated with the 90s.

    The producers tried to make the movie version feel present-day when it came out in 2005, but it didn’t make sense that way. The neighborhoods referred to in the movie are no longer than same as they were in the 90s; a lot of the areas occupied by homeless and/or underprivileged people in the musical have been gentrified since. Also, the fashions, music styles, and all of the characters claiming that the AIDS epidemic is completely unacknowledged by the media … it just doesn’t feel like a story that could happen in 2005. I think it would’ve been a better film if the directors had more solidly committed to making it an early 90s period piece. Or if they hadn’t insisted on re-using all of the same actors from the original Hollywood production, even though it had been 10 years since the musical had first opened on Broadway. Almost of the characters are supposed to be young twentysomethings, and it was a little weird to see 30-year-old faces trying to pull that off … especially since film is significantly less forgiving than theatre about that type of thing.


  11. Gab #

    On Parody: IMO, parody only works when it gets at more substantive aspects of the character, genre, etc. being parodied. Sort of what you said, Fenzel: it’s much more affective to go after Bill-O’s propensity to be a bully than his bulbous nose. I think it’s more about going for forests instead of trees. A more enjoyable Michael Moore parody could still be totally bulky and fit, so long as he was saying the right things. Weird Al goes after substantive aspects of the careers of his targets, as another example, too: in “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” he goes after how Nirvana’s lyrics are indiscernible a lot of the time.

    I know I’m nitpicking, but when it comes to “cutting out” and Nolan, I don’t think including scripts he didn’t film is fair when judging the quality of his output. If you’re talking about what was actually produced and determining if all of his films are golden or whatever, including scripts he DIDN’T film is a little unfair. I do agree that perhaps the stuff he filmed as a student is fair game, but I’d control for his being a student at the time if I was running it through analytical software. I guess my reasoning is if they wrote it but changed it, clearly they somehow realized it wouldn’t work or would be “bad” or some jazz- therefore the Nolans aren’t making crap at all, let alone choosing to.

    Sigh, the “they’ll get past it” exchange made me desire another Clichemaggedon.

    Okay, I won’t spam the comments with yet another YouTube link, but if you have a few minutes to spare, search for DeStorm Back to the 90’s.


  12. Squin #

    I’d just like to pop in here and state that I have had the the good fortune to meet Leslie Nielsen in person, twice, he seemed to be a great guy, and was probably my favorite comedic actor, he will be missed.


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