Most Funny Movie Ever Made: The Jerk
Most Funny Movie Ever Made
There are hundreds of candidates for the Most Funny Movie Ever Made. There are those who declare Some Like It Hot orThe Producers or Raising Arizona or Animal House or Arthur or Beverly Hills Cop to be the funniest movie ever made. My own personal list of candidates for funniest film includes: Airplane!; Caddyshack; Being There; and Lost in America, but the funniest movie ever made is: The Jerk.
The Jerk was released thirty years ago, and was the first feature film ever made by Steve Martin. It was made for a mere $4.5M, and it grossed more than that in its first weekend. Animal House was the only other film that had accomplished this at that time.
I have seen many published lists of the funniest movies ever made, and The Jerk consistently finds itself listed between 20th and 89th. I don't know their criteria, but I keep it simple: how many times do you laugh out loud during the film?
The Jerk is a rags-to-riches-to-rags story, in which Steve Martin plays a dim-witted character named Navin Johnson. Navin believes he was born a poor black child, that he is part of a large and loving family, and that this is where he belongs, but it is revealed to him as a young adult that he is in fact, adopted.
One utterly hilarious scene shows the whole family playing music and dancing, and and it's obvious that Navin is the only one present with absolutely no sense of rhythm.
His mother breaks the news thus: "Navin, it's your birthday, and it's time you knew. You're not our natural-born child." Navin responds, "I'm not? You mean I'm gonna STAY this color?" His mother soothes him by saying, "Navin, I'd love you if you were the color of a baboon's ass."
The Truth About Life
Navin decides to leave his family, and he heads off to the big city to seek his fame and fortune. Before he leaves, his father gives him some wise words of wisdom: "Lord loves a workin' man; don't trust whitey; see a doctor and get rid of it."
He Hates These Cans!
Navin gets his first job at a service station in the town where he's living. The most exciting moment of his life, up until this juncture, is when he sees his name in the phone book for the first time.
When a crazy sniper randomly picks Navin out at the service station, and starts shooting at him with a high-powered rifle, Navin misunderstands what is happening. Navin says of the sniper: "He hates these cans. Stay away from the cans."
Navin Finds His Special Purpose and then True Love
While Navin is working at the gas station, he helps a customer fix a problem with his glasses that eventually leads him to fame and uber-riches as an inventor. Before his invention is produced, marketed and makes him a kingpin of the business world, he runs off with a carnival. While there Navin, still a virgin, is seduced by a biker chick and this experience makes him believe he has finally found his "special purpose" that his grandmother told him all people have.
Navin's work in the carnival was as a weight guesser. The biker chick lures him into her filthy trailer. Navin says: "What a great place! You know, you can tell so much about a person from the way they live. Just looking around here I can tell...you're a genuinely dirty person."
The biker chick tells him she wants to guess his weight and grabs his buttocks. Navin says, "Hey! You're really trying to be accurate!"
After this experience, Navin writes about it to his grandmother back home in Mississippi. Grandma reads his letter aloud to his parents: "My dear family, guess what. Today I found out what my special purpose is for. Gosh what a great time I had. I wish my whole family could have been here with me. Maybe some other time as I intend to do this a lot. Every chance I get. I think next week I'll be able to send some more money as I may have extra work. My friend Patty promised me a blow job. Your loving son, Navin."
Upon hearing the letter, his father says, "That Patty must be a sweet girl." His mother adds, "God bless her."
The biker chick tattoos his name on her buttocks and when she shows this to him he says, "First I get my name in the phone book and now I'm on your ass. You know, I'll bet more people see that than the phone book."
Navin soon meets his true love, Marie, played by Bernadette Peters. Peters was one of Martin's best friends and he wrote this part just for her to play. Martin said "The truth is that I wrote the part with Bernadette in mind, even though I really didn't know her that well at the time."
The Jerk Finds Love
Here I will present a piece of the dialogue between Navin R. Johnson and Marie:
Navin: "Now be totally honest. You do have a boyfriend don't you."
Marie: "Kind of."
Navin: "I know this is our first date, but do you think the next time you make love to your boyfriend, you could think of me?"
Marie: "Well I haven't made love to him yet."
Navin: "That's too bad. Do you think it's possible that someday you could make love with me and think of him?"
Marie: "Who knows, maybe you and he could make love and you could think of me."
Navin: "I'd be happy to be in there somewhere."
Navin Goes Broke
Navin and Marie eventually marry and settle into an extravagantly rich lifestyle. But his invention, the Opti-Grab, has a flaw that leads to a class action suit that bankrupts Navin.
There is an interesting scene where Navin has been evicted from his mansion and has a hard time deciding which items are most important for him to keep as he heads out the door.
Navin says: "Well I'm gonna to go then. And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need you. I don't need anything except this. And that's it and that's the only thing I need, is this. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that's all I need. And that's all I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one - I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that's all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair."
The Jerk has a happy ending, which I won't spoil for those who haven't see the film. I love comedies and believe comedy to be up there with sculpture as the most difficult of arts. No movie has made me laugh out loud as often as The Jerk.