Memory: It’s a Blessing and a Curse

Part of my profile description on social media includes, “Sick memory for movie, TV lines and what you said.” This is not an exaggeration. I even remember what employers said from the last century, first date dialogues, song lyrics and useless stuff I hear from passersby. Movie and TV lines are my constant, mental accompaniment.

Recently, I was plagued with my inability to identify the source of a TV line that kept popping into my head. I knew it was from a well-written sitcom because those are the lines that linger. I knew the character was slightly frightened and slightly defensive when he or she said it but I just couldn’t put my finger on the character or the show. The line was, “Sure, Mac, sure, sure.” Now if you’re not like me and you don’t suffer from tens of thousands of lines and phrases freely floating through your mind, at the ready with any association with the present moment – or not – you might not understand. If I’d had anyone around me when this, “Sure, Mac, sure, sure,” wafted to the top of my inner circle of thought and I’d ask, “What’s that from?” And most would reply, “I don’t know,” and move on. Noooooo! I can’t. I mean, I don’t stop everything and obsess about it, other than a quick internet (- as of June 1, AP Style book announced the word “internet” is now lowercase -) search to see if it will appear, but my brain will keep retrieving it for days, if necessary, until the puzzle is solved. And yes, I am single.

A lot of times, those memorable lines are from “I Love Lucy,” if it’s a sitcom. That show has been on every day of everyone’s lifetime and is so much a part of our culture that, “Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splaining’ to do,” is part of our vernacular. But I tried plugging in that line to Lucy and nothing surfaced. Any show with tight, clean, smart dialogue was a contender so it could have been from “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “M.A.S.H.” :Frasier,” or “Seinfeld.” “It’s nice to be nice to the nice,” I just heard Steven Tyler say on “Ellen” the other day. It’s from Frank Burns on “M.A.S.H.” Out of the blue, Charlie Pierce contributor to “Esquire Magazine” said in an interview, “Happy and peppy and bursting with love,” which is from the original sitcom “The Odd Couple.” Neither had to attribute the lines for me nor did they. But I knew. For people like us, its like a secret language. And now I have two more fellow dialogue-memory, freak friends. It’s not surprising we all work with words in one form or another.

But I do the same thing they do. I interject lines from these shows, as well as movies, on a daily basis. I don’t need anyone to get the reference. But what a delight when someone does. So off the top of my cluttered head, here are some of my favorites. If you know the show, jot me a line below:

[In response to a sneeze] “You’re so good looking.” No? Sadly, that never caught on. How about, “These pretzels are making me thirsty.” Or “Ahh, Bach!” “Citizen’s arrest, citizen’s arrest.” “We are psychiatristsnot pugilists!” (That’s a gimme.) “But you are, Blanche, you are in a chair!” “Oh, no, it’s completely baked.” “Fasten your safety belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.” “Keep going, teacher lady.” “I’m not going to be ignored!” “Tick tock, Arnie.” “You mean it’s in the house!?” “Grey Flannel… I don’t know why!” [Sobbing] “She came all the way from O-HI-O!” I will offer extra credit for the other lines I’ve peppered into this post and in the title.

But back to the ear worm that prompted this writing, the line that bugged me for days. Eureka! I was just getting into bed the other night experiencing that mental transition between tasks and shutting down the mind for sleep, perchance to dream, when it suddenly came to me! It was Barney Fife! You, know, Don Knotts’ character from the 1960s’ “Andy Griffith Show.” That’s a show more seamless in plot, character and dialogue than most to have followed the fifty years since it aired. Barney said the line in “Barney and the Governor,” where the governor plans to congratulate Deputy Fife in person for the nerve to issue the governor’s car a parking ticket. But poor Barney becomes an inadvertent drunk, victim of town drunk Otis who disposed his remaining moonshine in the jail’s water crock.

Exactly like it was looping inside my head. Relief at last.





R Is For Carl Reiner #atozchallenge

Carl Reiner is an American treasure. With a comedy career stretching into it’s eighth decade, where do I begin? First, if you are over six years old and do not know who he is, you have already missed out on added joy in your life. Carl Reiner is one of the inventors of sketch comedy and TV sitcoms. His television presence goes back to the first black and white glimmers in American living rooms as a costar on arguably the most golden show of TV’s “Golden Age,” Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, in which he was part of the comedy gold ensemble with Caesar and Imogene Coca, as a writer and actor. He also created and starred in The Dick Van Dyke Show, still my favorite sitcom. If you have seen it, you might know him as Alan Brady, the arrogant and egotistical star of the fictional show for which Van Dyke’s character writes.

Fast forward to this century and you might know Carl Reiner from Ocean’s Eleven, as the older guy with the “medical event.” He just published his latest book, “I Just Remembered,” and has done the book tour, appearing on Conan, CBS Sunday Morning and Bill Maher. At ninety-five there is not only no slowing down for him, he is as relevant and funny as ever. I follow him on Twitter, although his wit may go over some troll heads. A mind like his is rare and a delightful journey every time he appears. Here he is on Conan, where he coins a new social media term, the selfishie:

If you know what’s good for you, you will follow him on twitter @carlreiner. Here are some of his recent tweets:

Watching the Oscars, I was once again happy, as I was last year, not to hear my name read in memorial.”

If won uses two many homonyms, don’t ewe think it ‘s a might child dish? Eye due and sew should ewe. “

Went to 4 yard sales & not 1 owner would sell me his yard but all wanted me to buy the junk that was in it.”

If Dr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) could not find a way to stay, what chance have we earthlings? “May flights of angels sing him to his rest.'”

Excited to report that the brilliant & witty Bill Maher has agreed to a write a preface for my new bio. Wanted Mark Twain. but unavailable.”

I thoroughly enjoy everything about this man but for me, Carl Reiner’s greatest contribution is the Dick Van Dyke Show. It’s smart, sophisticated and, thanks to Dick Van Dyke, brilliant physical comedy, a template for all future sitcoms. The writing and timing is so impeccable, it’s as funny the first time I see it as it is the fiftieth time. Reiner created and wrote the show, which is based on his real life. The characters bloom with realism and it’s that honesty in the humor of every-day life and the brilliant dialogue that are still so damn funny today.

Besides creating and writing the show Reiner occasionally appeared as Alan Brady, a star of the fictitious Alan Brady Show. In this link, his head writer’s wife, played by Mary Tyler Moore, comes to apologize to him for revealing his baldness on network TV. The comedy timing is incomparable.

Here's the Dick Van Dyke scene where Carl Reiner as Alan Brady deals with having is baldness revealed on national TV:
Click link above to watch the Dick Van Dyke scene where Reiner, as Alan Brady, deals with his baldness exposed:

Please indulge me a bit more with sharing a couple of my favorite scene from Dick Van Dyke. I know you have ninety-five years of brilliance, Mr. Reiner, but this is President Obama’s and my favorite show. Frankly, most episodes are just too good for a snippet and are worth watching in their entirety. But I edited a few hilarious scenes of Van Dyke’s physical comedy that stand alone well:


Don’t Trip Over That Mountain” (where Rob sprains his entire body and tries to conceal it from Laura)


My Husband Is Not A Drunk,” in which Rob is unwittingly hypnotized to go from drunk to sober every time a bell rings.


Pink Pills and Purple Parents,? a flashback to when Laura first met Rob’s parents and takes a few too many tranquilizers to help her cope.

Carl Reiner deserves this blog post all to his own but he would disagree and remind me I would be remiss not to mention his son is Rob Reiner, director of “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Stand By Me,” “A Few Good Men” and “When Harry Met Sally,” in which his wife Estelle Reiner said the famous, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Carl will fight me again for not mentioning how he and Mel Brooks still have diner together every night, being best friends of more than six decades and now both widowers.

I could obsess about this post more than any other because I respect this man that much.But it’s “R” in the April blog a day challenge and I’m tired! Carl Reiner, you inspire me to write better, see the funny, take risks and get up every day just in case.