Archive for the ‘The Put-Downs’ Category

“You are the doofus.”
October 2, 2010

A syllable-smacking put-down for when you must call someone’s attention to their poor performance (and there’s no better way to get someone’s attention than to call them by name).

Elaine’s sudden appointment to the head of the clothing-catalog company where she worked inflicted her with doubt about her abilities–doubt that Jerry seconded but Kramer karate-chopped with Zen-like confidence. With that confidence now her own as her business took off, Elaine got Jerry on the phone to inform him that he’d just usurped the throne of Kramer, long since crowned the “hipster doofus.”

What’s in a name? “Aloof,” “goof,” and “genius”–that’s what’s in this name. Yes, genius. Kramer’s bulb sometimes shone dimly, but it shone brightly just as well (e.g., inventing a beach-smelling cologne that Calvin Klein picked up). And that gives you total name-calling immunity with this moniker. If the recipient is a genius, you’re reminding him that he too is human–prone to doofus-ness. If he happens to be a doofus, then you’re not just telling it like it is, you’re telling him there’s hope–hope that there might be genius in there, waiting to appear. Either way you’re golden, because this isn’t “constructive criticism,” as they say; this is a critical compliment.

And all hail Kramer for giving us a better oxymoron.

From “The Foundation”
Episode 1, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 16:13

“That’s kooky talk.”
September 22, 2010

A witty comeback (or put-down, depending on your timing) for those times when you need a harmless way to tell someone that they don’t know what they’re talking about—even if they know what they’re talking about.

Kramer’s decision to start managing his time better in the shower sent him to Jerry for feedback on his shower time. When Jerry said he was out in ten minutes–a wash-and-rinse sprint compared to Kramer’s sudsy marathon (he was taking about an hour)–Kramer replied with the conviction of a man who thought Jerry was a kook.

You don’t know what you’re talking about is one of those irresistible lines, as gratifying as a piece of well-placed profanity. And, like profanity, it comes in various euphemistic shapes and sizes (e.g., “You’re crazy!”). What makes Kramer’s line the ideal substitute for this classic accusation is the disarming nature of the word “kooky.” If you’re right in your accusation, then kooky—so reminiscent of cookie (and what’s more harmless than a good cookie?)—will keep the conversation light enough to allow the listener to get out of that hole they just dug for themselves.

If you’re wrong, then you’re the one who just stepped in it…to the splashing sound of laughter all around you.

From “The Apology”
Episode 9, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 2:40

“You’re Schmoopie!”
August 13, 2010

A chameleon-like comment (observation, put-down, etc., depending on the context) to use on people who’ve really opened their hearts for their loved ones, and–Moses smell the roses–it’s one of those heart-shaped box of chocolates.

Soon after Jerry and Shiela, his latest love interest, took up this sugary manner of addressing one another, they strolled unwittingly down their Candy Land lane until George and Elaine nearly vomited from all the gumdrop comments that kept falling on their heads. When Jerry clued them in that he and Shiela might be on the outs, George couldn’t help upchucking all over the schmoopie-ness: “People who do that should be arrested!”

People who do that (i.e., the die-hard romantics) demand that others tolerate their greeting card life–where words rhyme but have no reason–and schmoopie is their piece de resistance. People who can’t stand that (i.e., the saccharine-intolerant) can learn from George and Elaine’s derision: call out the schmoopie. You witness a couple locking lips like their ship is going down and you interrupt: “Hey–Schmoopies. Would you mind….”

Just be careful not to overextend yourself in calling out the schmoopie–and don’t focus so much on any one person or couple that your calling-out becomes a “death to schmoopie” campaign. You may end up dating or even marrying one of these people someday.

From “The Soup Nazi”
Episode 6, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 1
Timecodes for the scenes: 00:45, 1:10, 15:15, ad nauseam

“You’re quite breathtaking.”
August 4, 2010

A flat-out put-down (disguised as a flattering observation) to use in lieu of what you really want to say…which would take the listener’s breath away–huffing at the horrible insensitivity of your comment, that is.

Vacationing with friends who had a baby, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer finally got a good look at that baby and–Gehhh. Evidently the baby (which we never see) would have made some of the world’s ugliest leaders (de Gaulle, Golda Meir, etc.) run up a tree. Enter the handsome family doctor, Ben, who refers to Elaine as “breathtaking” and now she really likes him. When Ben then pays the baby the same compliment–Errr?–confusion builds in Elaine until Ben later explains, “Well, you know, Elaine, sometimes you say a thing like that just to be nice.”

The initial reactions of Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer to the baby–in front of the baby’s parents–said it all, about the predicament most of us face when telling others what we really think about them: Jerry and Elaine masked their repulsion; Kramer’s reaction, witnessed in another episode that included this baby, was to snap his head back as if he’d just been hit, literally, with an ugly stick.

Wish for it though we might, we can’t all be Kramer, whose life was, as George once put it, a “fantasy camp”—weekly activities that included mooching off neighbors, sex without dating…and giving opinions without repercussion. We can’t, for example, tell that micromanaging boss what Kramer once told an actor friend of Elaine’s, “Why don’t you just give up?

Dealing with people’s feelings involves a number of reactions that typically fall between two options: you might suck the air out of the room (e.g., “No soup for you!”) or you might blow smoke into it—using “breathtaking” at will, to describe what you will.

From “The Hamptons”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 7:20

“You know, sometimes when I think you’re the shallowest man I’ve ever met, you manage to drain a little more out of the pool.”
July 19, 2010

A picturesque put-down to use on the superficial people in your life who could stand to be pushed into a pool–clothes and all, unexpectedly, right when they’re making some grandiose point.

Plunging headlong with Elaine into the classic “real or fake?” debate about a certain female body part, Jerry thought he’d ended the discussion with the upper hand. Elaine one-upped Jerry by telling him, in this indirect but illustrative way, to get real.

The analogy takes a monochromatic put-down (“You are so shallow”) and colorizes it with sarcastic flair. Substitute “shallowest” and the “pool” part with any number of similar put-downs that give rise to suitable analogies (e.g., “Just when I think you’re the loudest person I’ve ever met, you manage to stack a few more speakers on the stage”).

Just be sure to properly fit your put-down into the shallow/pool construction, or the analogy for your situation will be the classic throwing yourself from a stage and into the pool of a crowd—who promptly sidestep as you face-plant onto the floor.

From “The Implant”
Episode 19, Season 4
Seinfeld Volume 3, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 6:00

“You ve-dy, ve-dy bad man.”
July 14, 2010

A point-blank put-down to use on those whose antics cause such a rise in you that a mere head-shake in their direction just won’t do—you’d like to send them to their room too.

Jerry’s friendly advice to Babu about how he should run his Pakistani restaurant ultimately put the restaurant in the toilet. The wrath of Babu manifested itself in a simple, tossed-in-translation comment—You bad man—accompanied by glaring eyes and one index finger held high and wagging, a little metronome of fury still ticking momentarily even after the comment was done.

Mimicking Babu’s accent is not a problem; keeping yourself from laughing while you do the full Babu is. On the accent: separate the word very into two syllables and change the “r” to a “d” (ve-dy). On the straight face: see the “Inside Look” for this episode on the Seinfeld DVD for inspiration from Babu himself, actor Brian George. If you prefer a quicker look, here it is: even the professional couldn’t keep a straight face the first x number of times he did this—so if you don’t get it right the first time, keep at it.

Not to worry if you never get it right: those on the receiving end of the wrath of You shouldn’t be able to keep a straight face either when you give them this finger.

From “The Cafe”
Episode 7, Season 3
Seinfeld Volume 2, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 19:45

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