Something-Something Roots
April 8, 2010 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Where does the joke: "Something Something [Something] come from?

I wondered after reading in in the Merlin Mann-penned list posted to the front page in Feburary. mullacc made a comment to the effect of:

""something something [something]" is the most elegant joke structure known to humans."

Strongly agree. I wondered whether Merlin might have borrowed it from Jordan Morris on metafilter's own YoungAmerican's 'Jordan Jesse Go' podcast, but it seems unlikely despite Mr. Morris' great talents and sculpted physique, that he came up with the contruction. Surely there are earlier examples of a comedian/writer making this self-referential joke: eliding the set-up to get right to the obscure or ironic reference for comic effect (Something Something Boo-ya Tribe, or Something Something Airplane Food). But where? It's somewhat google-resistant, aside from the latest Family Guy parody release Something (x3) Darkside. Help!

Something-something Grateful Masses.
posted by Potomac Avenue to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
More seriously, it seems to me that this joke has been around in some form for eons. It's a variation on the "missing beginning, making the ending seem ridiculous" idea.

something something airplanes shooting a monkey down

something something space torpedoes

something something woodchipper
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:44 AM on April 8, 2010

Isn't this also a variation of Mumble, Mumble...[strange phrase]
ala Rowley Birkin of the Fast Show.
posted by vacapinta at 7:53 AM on April 8, 2010

It's a short story in two words. The story goes like this. The speaker is a guy who's trying to pitch a concept. He's done it before, in fact he's done it maybe too many times, and he's jaded, but it's in his blood. Maybe he's 40, hair thinning, wearing too cheap a shirt. He sold a script once, it was pretty good, and he gave up his job for it -- in fact truth be told he gave up her for it -- but it didn't break him, no, he figured he could make it in LA, people do, why can't he? So he's standing there, and he knows there has to be more to the story than just his middling concept idea, which might be 'the astronaut is an alien' or 'telepathic children.' He knows that's how the game is played. But he also knows his audience; his audience knows that's how it's played too. They're in on it together. Maybe the guy in front of him is wearing a slightly nicer shirt but that's because he's made it, or at least made it a little -- but he's not made it so far that he doesn't have to listen to our protagonist pitch. And the speaker knows this. The speaker is saying, essentially, look, here is my pitch; I am going to tell you the unconstructed, partial piece of my idea; I know this is not how it normally works but you and I, we have a bond. We've both sacrificed more than we should've to get here, and we don't need to play the whole game. In fact, I consider you enough of a friend, despite our differing roles in life and maybe our different stations, that I want to bring you into this. Maybe you used to pitch concepts too. So you know what it's like to be hunched over a desk at 4 am trying to think of the whole thing when all you have is two brilliant words, trying to distill the essence of genius down into something that can be blurted at a man in a suit in an elevator before the number dings to his floor. So I'm asking you a favor and also showing some nonchalance here, that we are going to be playing this game together for a minute, that either through exhaustion (maybe we've been pitching ideas back and forth for a little while here) or through being drained by the game itself, we've come to a place where I want you to pretend. I want you to just skip the front part, put whatever you want in there, maybe you can help me out with that, but here's the meat of the concept. The monkey shreds on the guitar. See? Now you and I, coconspirators, we're outside the game; now we can finish it together. The desperation and the enervated sense of bathos and bitterly lowered expectations hangs in the air unspoken.
posted by felix at 8:02 AM on April 8, 2010 [8 favorites]

Back in 1994, The Simpsons did a "something something" joke during a Treehouse of Horror. Different structure but same basic idea. Here's a Youtube link.
posted by Diskeater at 8:28 AM on April 8, 2010

There is of course the Family Guy "Empire Strikes Back" parody, "Something Something Something Dark Side," the title of which comes from Seth McFarlane imagining the Emperor trying to come up with a menacing speech: "Something something something, dark side. Something something something, complete."
posted by kindall at 8:35 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

On an episode of The Bob Newhart Show (the one where he was a psychologist in Chicago), there was a very funny episode where he and his old college pal The Peeper (Tom Poston) went back to their old burger-and-beer joint before attending a Loyola basketball game. Nothing was quite the same as they remembered it - the beer wasn't ice cold and was a bit flat, the bar now sold frozen sandwiches instead of two-inch-thick burgers. At one point Peep said to Bob "We should sing our old school song - how'd it go.....'Something something rah-rah-rah!'" Bob shook his head and said "No, that was the school fight song. The school song was 'something something alma mater.'" "Boy, they don't write 'em like that anymore," Peep commented. Later he lifted his mug and said to Bob "Let's sing our old drinking song. How'd it go again?" Bob thought for a moment and said "I think it was 'something something down the hatch'."

Dunno if this was the first use of that joke, but it's the first time I heard it, and this was back in the late 1970s.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:24 AM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well, there are certainly very similar older incarnations like yadda yadda yadda (Seinfeld) and blah blah blah fishcakes (Hissyfit, Televison Without Pity, etc.). Both of those are more than a decade old.

And The Straight Dope traces similar constructions back at least as far as the 1940s.
posted by MsMolly at 10:30 AM on April 8, 2010

My favorite version of this came from Brak Presents the Brak Album Starring Brak where he has a song that goes, "Unforgettable, that's what I am. So forgettable. Something, something ... HAM!"
posted by Kimberly at 2:29 PM on April 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

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