Annie Dear: The art of the perfect put-down
Not, by any means, to make light of the current situation – after all what joy is there to be found in an out-of-control virus, the action of one horrible police officer (and those who stood around and watched), the ensuing riots, and the Dem-Rep pushy-shovey – I’ve come to the realization that what we need is a show of true wit.
No, I speak not of political views, I speak of the art of the truly inspired insult and insightful social commentary.
Dennis Miller is the only true wit I’ve come across for many years: “As opposed to watching the Oscars, I’m opting to kayak solo across the Pacific with a rabid raccoon loose in the leg space.” You have to laugh.
Churchill was a master at it: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Remember this was back in the '40s and ’50s. Imagine how far the lie can get nowadays? Not to be politically insensitive, but it becomes a game of Chinese Whispers. What starts off as “XYZ told an untruth” becomes “XYZ hanged by foreigners from the oak tree out the back” in the blink of an eye.
And never forget Churchill’s rejoinder to the lady who proclaimed he was drunk. “Madam, you are ugly. Tomorrow I will be sober, and you will still be ugly.” Not kind, not nice – but a beaut nonetheless.
Australia’s own ex-Prime Minister, Paul Keating, was not without chutzpah in dishing it out either. “He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up” was one of his greatest ones.
Entertainers back in the day were far more entertaining than they are now I find. Billy Wilder shot out to an unfortunate actor “he has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” Groucho Marx was possibly the greatest wit of his day – “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” Mae West had a classic: “His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”
Mark Twain was an expert at the art. “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”
I’m not exactly slow off the mark, but I usually find myself coming up with the perfect zinger far too late for it to have any effect at all. I did pride myself in one particular moment though. Sydney is crowded and therefore does not boast the open parking lots we take for granted in the Midwest, so on-street parallel parking is the order of the day.
Having parked quickly and efficiently, I checked my wing mirror to make sure it was safe to open my door. A driver appeared suddenly, apparently from the bowels of the Earth, and leant on his horn while he showered me with abuse something akin to “you stupid fat cow.” Leaving my door ajar, I leant down and uttered through his open window “Sir, if we’re passing character judgments, I will refrain, as you don’t have one.”
Hmph. Take that you bugger.
Annie Dear lives in Lee’s Summit. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.