Not so fast.
August 17, 2009 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Everybody who knows the origin of this gag, take one step forward... Not so fast, internet.

Where has this gag been used/what are it's origins?

I remember initially hearing it (seeing it?) as something like a military setting where the general(?) says , "Everybody whose mother is still alive, take one step forward...Not so fast, [name of soldier]."

Or alternately, "Everyone who's still a member of [organization], step over the line...Not so fast, [ousted member]."
posted by StopMakingSense to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I remember seeing that joke in Mad Magazine. It was one of their "XXX articles you've never seen" series where they got self-referential and did "Mad Magazine articles you've never seen". Dave Berg contributed to it, with "The Lighter Side of Death" and I'm pretty sure that was in one of the cartoons he included.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:55 PM on August 17, 2009

I'd like to put in an early vote in for Monty Python. (and will now go off to find some kind of "proof") Seem to recall it was actually set in a school?
posted by Suspicious Ninja at 11:10 PM on August 17, 2009

Hmm, found:
...the story—I’m going to shorten this up a lot—where the captain called the lieutenant in and said, ‘Do you have a Jones in the company?’ He replied, ‘Yes, sir.’ The captain said, ‘Well, his mother died. Let him know very gently.’ So the lieutenant called the sergeant in and said, ‘Do you have a Jones? Jones lost his mother. Call the company together, and break it to Jones very gently that he lost his mother.’ So the sergeant called them all together and said, ‘All those with mothers, take one step forward.’ And then he said, ‘Not so fast, Jones. Not so fast.’
Which isn't Monty Python, and isn't how I remembered it, but is what you're talking about (I assume). I'm sure there are much older versions, but that was the first one I stumbled across. More looking needed.
posted by Suspicious Ninja at 11:26 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Not so fast" was a Goon Show catch phrase - can't recall which episode this joke might have been in though
posted by girlgenius at 11:29 PM on August 17, 2009

It was also used in a 1975 episode of The Goodies. "All those working for the Goodies Clarion and Globe, step forward. Not so fast, Bill."
posted by andraste at 12:06 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I believe this is decades old, based on seeing it in a "treasury of jewish humour" type book at my grandparents' house in my youth. It was an old book in the 80s. If it appeared in a Goon show then my guess is that it has its roots in WWII if not earlier.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:40 AM on August 18, 2009

I thought I saw it in "It ain't Half Hot Mum" in the 1970s.
posted by taff at 3:56 AM on August 18, 2009

I remember seeing the Mad Magazine version, that would've been '69-'70.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:13 AM on August 18, 2009

This doesn't help much but I'm potuguese and I've heard this joke in portuguese ever since I was a kid (in fact I just googled it and it's all over Brazil too). That would be the late 70's, early 80's. Considering that Portugal was a very self-contained dictatorship for most of the 20th century, almost no foreign media got in because of censorship and so on, I'm guessing this must be from some even earlier period like WWI. I'm imagining a vaudeville act.

There's a variant: "Everybody whose mother is not alive, take one step forward...15 days in jail for disobedience, [name of soldier]."
posted by lucia__is__dada at 5:27 AM on August 18, 2009

Here is a citation of the joke from what I believe is an Italian journal of American Culture studies, in 1972. I think the journal credits it to "tradizione orale".
posted by ManInSuit at 6:41 AM on August 18, 2009

Monty Python?? Sometimes I despair. Look, all these hoary old vaudeville-style gags do in fact go back to the palmy days of vaudeville, over a century ago, and almost certainly much further back. Pretty much any obvious form of fourth-grade humor like this (that's a description, not a putdown—I always laugh at this stuff) goes back to time immemorial. They probably made jokes like this in the Sumerian army. Believe it or not, humor didn't start when you started watching TV.
posted by languagehat at 7:55 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't come up with an exact citation, but I'm certain I saw this in an Abbot and Costello movie from the 1940s -- maybe Buck Privates? I'm sure it probably dates back much further than that...
posted by nonliteral at 8:15 AM on August 18, 2009

The Big Book of Jewish Humor (maybe the book i_am_joe's_spleen remembers) lists a version, although it only credits it as "a classic".

The Three Stooges short Mummy's Dummies (1948) has a version:

"Again thrilled with them the King's offers his daughter Fatima's (Dee Green) hand in marriage. “May the lucky man take one step forward.” Larry and Moe step backward, leaving Shemp shaking the King’s hand as he is stuck marrying the homely princess."

But it doesn't have the "not so fast" line.
posted by sharkfu at 8:35 AM on August 18, 2009

I also remember it from a treasury of Jewish humor my grandparents had. I am pretty sure the crux of the joke is tactfulness. Something like the sergeant is told to tell Smith his mother died, soe he calls out "Hey Smith, your mother died." Whoever told the sergeant to inform Smith of his mother's death is appalled, and sends the sergeant to Tactfulness Training (or something). A week later, Johnson's wife dies ...
posted by troywestfield at 1:32 PM on August 18, 2009

They did this in an episode of South Park too! Episode 0403 - Quintuplets 2000. "Everyone with a grandmother step forward... Not so fast girls."
posted by bendy at 4:16 PM on August 18, 2009

The slight variation I know, tracking troywestfield's version, is from a joke book from 1978 called "Englishman Jokes for Irishmen" by Des MacHale:

"English Sergeant-Majors are known throughout the world for their tact and sensitivity. When Private Smith's father died, his Sergeant-Major lined up the regiment and said, 'Smith, your father's dead,' whereupon poor Private Smith promptly fainted. The Sergeant-Major was told that in the future he should break the news just a little bit more gently, so when Smith's mother died a few months later, the Sergeant-Major drew up the regiment again. This time he said: 'Those with one parent alive, take one pace forward--Smith, where do you think you're going?'"
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 11:58 AM on August 31, 2009

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