Archive for the ‘Humorous Essays’ Category

ESSAY – HUMOROUS: Great Quotations and Their Origins


©1986 by David Lefkowitz


Never before in one volume have people said so much about so little. All this and less may be found in “Great Quotations,” a handy reference guide to pithy phrases you’ll never drop at a cocktail party.


DERIVATION: A common American expression, used as a surprised afterthought following mistakes or accidents.

EXAMPLE:  Q: “Mr. Kennedy, what really happened when you and your secretary went over the bridge?”

A: “Oops.”


“Squeeze my shoe; my lips are bleeding!”

DERIVATION: The most famous line of dialogue never spoken in a play. Thought to embody sado-masochistic/homosexual overtones, the line was censored from Act I, Scene II of William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello.

EXAMPLE: OTHELLO: Let him do his spite. My services which I have done this signiory shall out-tongue his complaints.

IAGO: Squeeze my shoe; my lips are bleeding!

OTHELLO: `Tis yet to know.

COMMENTARY: Shakespeare allegedly defended the line as a mythic expression of political angst.  (see footnote)

FOOTNOTE: Queen Elizabeth didn’t buy it either.


“They’re all disemboweled?”

COMMENTARY: Asked by Frank Shaw, principal of PS 92, East Orange, NJ.


COMMENTARY: Answered by Joseph “Moon-Unit” Wilson, substitute teacher at PS 92, East Orange, NJ.

“Shame. He was this close.”

COMMENTARY: Principal Shaw again, when asked why tenure had been denied to Joseph Wilson of Teaneck, NJ.


“Oh God, Oh God! Don’t stop!”

DERIVATION: Six months B.C. Attributed to the biblical Mary, rendering her conception something less than immaculate.


“Sheep are moist.”

DERIVATION: From an 18th Century Greek sex manual. (Chapter 26: “Bovine Fondling”)  (see footnote)

FOOTNOTE: It is not advisable to mention this phrase to most Greeks as they will A) deny it and B) kill you.


“Here. I’ll prove it isn’t loaded.”

DERIVATION: The late Jon-Erik Hexum.


“Gee, I wish I had herpes.”

DERIVATION: LeRoi Gumm, famed 20th century leper.


“We know the sound of one hand clapping. But what about the smell?”

DERIVATION: Alan Watts, shortly before he was treated for Zen burnout.


“They cut it off when you were born. Ha ha!”

DERIVATION: Sophocles to his little sister, Ethel, during a particularly heated game of Doctor. Thought to be the birth of modern psychology.


“Where’s the beef?”

DERIVATION: The last words uttered by Larry Skubble before he was murdered by a deranged short-order cook at a Burger King in San Ysidro, California.


“You mean I’ve got another one?”

DERIVATION: Laszlo Czyzrzyck after he had accidentally coughed up a lung during band practice.


“All men are created equal.”

DERIVATION: One of many hypocritical gaffes in a famous document drafted and signed by a bunch of white slave owners.


“As women, we demand equality!”

DERIVATION: (variant of the previous) Apparently distorted by the press, the actual line was, “We ant superiority, but we’ll settle for equality. For now.”


“There must be a water shortage. All we’re getting is steam.”

DERIVATION: Mendel Cohen, posthumously awarded the 1943 prize for Most Naïve German Jew.

“Is it in yet?”

EXAMPLE: (most recent usage): Karen, Michelle, Susan, Lisa, Abby, Jennifer, Phoebe, Laurie, and Lori (the twins), Brenda, Mary Ann, Heidi, and Bruce.


“How much?”

DEFINITION: The method by which Marlon Brando chooses film roles.


“This is going to hurt me a lot more than it’s going to hurt me.”

DERIVATION: Leng, just before stabbing his Siamese twin, Ling, to death with a breadknife.


“We give up!”

DEFINITION: Traditional rallying cry of the Italian Armed Forces.


“If I could walk that way, I wouldn’t need a . . . scotch tape dispenser!”

COMMENTARY: Voted the strangest punchline to an old joke for three consecutive years, 1973-1975.



DEFINITION: Generally accepted as the only word Sylvester Stallone can pronounce.


“If my great grandmother had wheels, she’d be a bus.”

DERIVATION: Origin and meaning unknown, but a great favorite of mine.


“Now this won’t hurt a bit.”

COMMENTARY: Studies have proven that 99.5% of the time, the phrase is a flat-out lie.


                                      .                        !”

DERIVATION: Helen Keller’s first complete sentence.


“The End”

DERIVATION: Cliché, but it says it.



Composed just for fun in April 1984 and reworked in final form on Jan. 16, 1986, this was (and, I believe, remains) a merry “compendium of fictitious quotations and their strange origins” Here’s the tagline from the original manuscript: “Great Quotations and Their Origins” is a humorous compilation of pithy phrases that never quite made it into Roget or Rosten.

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(c)1984 by David Lefkowitz

The night before we had finally finished shooting in my apartment. I had the starring role in a short film my friend was directing for a Junior Narrative class at NYU, and I let him use my apartment for any domestic scenes that needed to be shot. The amount of equipment necessary to produce even a short film is staggering, and to my roommate’s chagrin, all of it was neatly stacked in his bedroom while we worked in my room and in the kitchen.

For this reason, and also because of the insanely pressurized nature of a shooting schedule, all the equipment had to be out of the apartment and into the rented van by the next afternoon. Since we had finished filming at 6am, the cameraman and PA caped out at the apartment and caught a few winks. Unable to tolerate the crowded situation, I commuted home to Long Island, slept for about three hours, and then headed back.

The van was already half-loaded when, bleary-eyed, I returned. (One good thing about being an actor, at least I didn’t have to help.) Peter, the cameraman, was slumped over a parking meter, and I was about to do t he same when this short, ugly, stubby little fat woman with a dog walked by. She stopped, looked at us collectively, and said, “Where did you learn to drive?”

Peter and I looked at each other, shrugged, and decided that this fat woman was not to be listened to, but was interesting nonetheless. “Where did you learn to drive?” she repeated.

“Why?” we muttered, even though neither of us drove the van.

“It’s parked up on the sidewalk. You’re ruining the sidewalk.”

Indeed, the right front and back wheels of the van were a good inch and a half onto the curb. “These are million-dollar sidewalks, that’s what this city costs! I pay taxes, and you’re damaging it!”

“Gosh,” said I. “We’re really sorry.” No, I didn’t suppress a smile.

“Yeah,” I’m sure you are. It’s a disgrace, ruining the sidewalks.” Her dog, a friendly and surprisingly well-fed and kept creature, sniffed some litter and farted.*

Peter closed his eyes and decided not to bother dealing with this woman. I was completely beat, too, but I couldn’t let the moment slip away. And besides, she started it.

“What about your dog, huh lady?” I retorted. “Where’s your pooper-scooper? Here he is shitting up your beloved sidewalk; isn’t that against the law?”

Let me take this quick opportunity to note that this woman wasn’t some vagrant loony. She was just your typical middle-aged, slightly psychotically civic-minded bitch with an obvious contempt for today’s youth.

“I’ll make you eat it!” sneered this model citizen.

Now, I am not above the immature put-down response, either. “Only if you taste it first.”

“Go to hell!”

The drama had reached the crisis point of no turning back.

“Eat shit and go to hell!” she said, reaffirming her moral stance.

This promised my first below-the-belt response. “You too, FAT woman.”

The phrase didn’t anger her any more than the other things I’d said (much to my dismay), but her facial reactions were fun to observe anyway.

“Drop dead.” The fat woman turned and started walking down the street.

Kind of disappointed with such a flat climax, I let her get halfway down the block when I raised my head, raised my hand in the air, and yelled in my best Shakespearean oratory style, “FUCK YOU, FAT WOMAN!.”

This stopped her.

She stood in the middle of the street, back towards me, and considered her options. I looked at the comatose cameraman and begged him to join me, i.e., follow the woman some more and annoy her with great vigor. Peter nodded, smiled, and sank back over the parking meter.

The woman slowly turned around and looked at me. I smiled and waved. I know this got her mad because she then thrust her head and body back, worked up some saliva, and spat harshly in our direction. Somehow, that made the whole scene seem complete, and I nodded in appreciation. The middle finger I gave her was denouement.

Nothing earth-shaking, I’ll admit. But I’d give anything to see that fat woman again. There are so many better insults I could heap upon her, so many more obscene gestures. I might even threaten to fuck the dog. She’d believe it, too.

Wherever you are, fat woman, I love you. You’ve given me a joyous memory, a dramatic event, and another reason not to live in the city. Je t’aime.

*(Actually, the dog didn’t really do this. I just wanted to heighten reality a little.)



[April 2020] This unpublished piece, penned Sept. 25, 1984, was written as an assignment for B. Rodney Marriott’s Text Analysis class, which I took during my first semester as a graduate Dramatic Writing student in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Film & Television program. I’m guessing the object of the homework was to pick a real-life scene that had a “dramatic event” and contained the elements of narrative structure similar to those in the scene of a play.

Was great finding this again! Laughed out loud at the farting dog (veracity be damned) and was reminded how instantly ornery I can be to anyone who crosses swords with me when I’m in a mood. Years later, I once lost my mind a little and spat at an anti-abortion promulgator near Times Square. Her co-religionist nearly broke my arm, so I’d say the fat woman got off lucky.

Oh, and the short film, “Tofu Lizard Mama,” directed by Phil Halprin and lensed by Peter Agliata, is kinda cute and watchable on youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_nHbpOaYME.

ESSAY-A Dramatic Event-09-84

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