Home Contact Biography Works Media News

Jane Recommends
Who Hates Whom / Bob Harris

Who Hates Whom: Well-Armed Fanatics, Intractable Conflicts, and Various Things Blowing Up A Woefully Incomplete Guide by Bob Harris

"The geopolitical equivalent of scorecards that get hawked at ball games. Only Bob could make a user’s guide to our increasingly hostile world this absorbing, this breezy, and—ultimately—this hopeful."
~ Ken Jennings, author of Brainiac


Jane in Print
Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon's Firefly Universe, edited by Jane Espenson

Flirting with Pride and Prejudice: Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece, edited by Jennifer Crusie and including Jane Espenson's short story, "Georgiana"

Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly, edited by Jane Espenson and Glenn Yeffeth

Jane in DVD

Jane in DVD

Now Available:
+Battlestar Galactica Season 3
+Dinosaurs Seasons 3 & 4
+Gilmore Girls Season 4
+Buffy: The Chosen Collection
+Tru Calling
+Angel: Limited Edition Collectors Set

Jane in Progress


Home » Archives » May 2006 » Talking Dirty for Money the Classy Way
[Previous entry: "Also check out "Must Love Jaws""] [Next entry: "Squiggy and the Sea Creatures"]

05/22/2006: Talking Dirty for Money the Classy Way

When I was in college, I lived in a place called Wolf House. It was co-op housing at UC Berkeley. And it was, I'm certain, exactly like you're imagining it. A microcosm of 27 people sharing unisex bathrooms, heating bologna directly on the gas flames of the stove and only occasionally falling out of second story windows. I loved it. There was something about coming home to find a vigorous hacky-sack game *in the living room* that I miss.

Wolf House was full of smart-asses. I learned there to be very careful with word choice. (And not just because my Midwestern references to "pop" were routinely misheard as "pot.") This was the kind of crowd where you didn't want to refer to anything as "hard" or "up" without hearing a boner joke, and lord help you if you had anything to say about an actual beaver. Twisting words into something sexual is a comedy standard. Those years would serve me well.

Here are three television jokes I can think of instantly that use this technique. The first is a classic exchange from Friends. It went approximately like this:

I'm over you.

When were you… under me?

This one was really quite sweet, since Ross doesn't really intend the sexual re-interpretation, but finds the syntax leading him into it. Here's another. This one is from the sitcom Cybil, reconstructed from memory:

Do you think either of us will ever fall head-over-heels in love again?

I think at our age, the best we can hope for is heels-over-head.

I like this one because the image is SO outrageous. Finally, here's one I wrote for the Buffy ep "Harsh Light of Day," in which Anya is trying to seduce Xander. She thinks having sex with him will help her forget him. It's a little unusual since she's re-interpreting her own language:

It's the secret to getting you out of my mind. Putting you behind me. Behind me, figuratively. I'm thinking face-to-face for the event itself.

Of course, these are all really just examples of taking a common idiom and then interpreting it literally. Sex wouldn't have to come into it. Doug Petrie, for example, got comic mileage out the phrase "making money hand over fist" in a Buffy episode without bringing sex into it at all.

But sex does seem to make these more memorable. (American Dad reinterpreted the song title "Come On, Eileen" into the dirtiest punch line ever. I will remember that for a very long time.)

The best way to find these jokes in your own writing is just to pay close literal attention to what you write. If you do this, you'll notice idiomatic speech all over the place that doesn't make literal sense. Then take it literally. This is, of course, how those guys at Wolf House did it… they listened with their ears attuned to filth. And you can too!

LUNCH: a convenience store spicy tuna hand roll!


Get Blog Updates Via Email

Enter your Email

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz


Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program
UC Berkeley
Jane recommends you also visit BobHarris.com



May 2006

Valid XHTML 1.0!

Powered By Greymatter
Greymatter Forums

Home | News | Works | Biography | Frequently Asked Questions

Site design Copyright © PM Carlson
This is a fan site owned and operated entirely by PM Carlson with the cooperation and assistance of Jane Espenson. This site is not affiliated in any way with Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox or ABC.