Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Crane Transposition

I used to get annoyed back in the day when people would describe Frasier as intelligent or highbrow comedy. Frasier was a mainstream sitcom where the setting was highbrow; the jokes themselves were the same setups and punchlines you could find in Cheers, Friends, Bewitched, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air or a hundred other network sitcoms, but with a degree from Harvard. For example, consider the following scene.

Marty: Oh, hey, while you're there, could you pick me up a bottle of something fancy for my friend's retirement party?
Frasier: I think you mean sophisticated. Fancy is a contraction of fantasy, in the sense of desire and whimsy, hardly something one would expect or want to find at an all night liquor store.
Marty: Roz, could you pick me up a bottle of something fancy for my friend's retirement party?
Roz: Sure, what does he like?
Marty: I don't know. He's a retiring cop, just pick out anything that'll get him drunk.
Frasier: Just pick out anything!? Well maybe at the same time we can pick out a new suit for him without knowing his size, or, or pick out a condo in Florida without knowing his finances, or pick out a new car without knowing his driving habits. (Pause) Or his feelings about cup holders.
Marty (looks past Frasier at Roz): Wine. Get him red wine.
Frasier: Pinot noir? Cabernet sauvignon? Malbec? Shiraz? Sangiovese?
Marty (in desperation): Roz?
Roz: You know this can go on all night, why don't you just come with us?
Marty: ugh, that's what I was trying to avoid.
(All head to the elevator)Frasier: Oooh, I forgot merlot.

Fairly standard Frasier shtick. The salt of the earth old man gets frustrated with his over educated son and appeals to the slightly more normal producer to try and avoid the pedantry. Laughs ensue. However the scene is not actually from an episode of Frasier but rather from The Big Bang Theory episode "The Hofstader Isotope", which in its original form reads as follows.
Penny: Oh hey, while you're there, could you pick me up a few comics for my nephew's birthday?
Sheldon: I think you mean comic books. Comics are feeble attempts at humour featuring talking babies and anthropomorphised pets, found traditionally in the optimistically named 'funny pages'
Penny: Leonard, could you pick me up a few comics for my nephew's birthday?
Leonard: Sure, what does he like?
Penny: I don't know. He's thirteen, just pick out anything
Sheldon: Just pick out anything!? Well maybe at the same time we can pick out a new suit for him without knowing his size, or, or, pick out his career for him without knowing his aptitude, or pick out a new breakfast cereal without knowing his fiber requirements. (Pause) Or his feelings about little marshmallows.
Penny (looks past Sheldon at Leonard): Spiderman. Get him Spiderman.
Sheldon: Amazing Spiderman? Ultimate Spiderman? Spectacular Spiderman? The Marvellous Adventures of Spiderman? Spiderman 2099?
Penny (in desperation): Leonard?
Leonard: You know this can go on all night, why don't you just come with us?
Penny: Ugh, that's what I was trying to avoid.
(All head down stairs)Sheldon: Oooh, I forgot Sensational Spiderman.
The Big Bang Theory has jokes with geeky words in it spoken by people dressed like geeks (occasionally guest starring actual geeks), but that doesn't make it geek humour. Just saying.

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