"Is it Sybil?" I dunno, is it?
January 30, 2012 10:47 PM   Subscribe

"Is it Sybil?" Help me understand this dated reference in a Rita Rudner joke from the early 90's.

I'm translating an old Rita Rudner HBO special and this joke has me stumped. I'd just like to be able to understand what it means. She says:

"I spend sleepless nights worrying about baking soda. Do you know about baking soda? It can do anything. It puts out fires. You can brush your teeth with it. It’s a deodorant. It’s an antacid. Is it Sybil?"

Yes, that's the punchline. It gets a huge laugh.

So if anyone knows what the heck she's on about, please chime in.
posted by Silky Slim to Media & Arts (13 answers total)
Best answer: Sibyl was a movie about a woman who delveloped 13 personalities

posted by Cranberry at 10:51 PM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Here's the link. Sybil has been the news lately, putting a whole new spin on the joke.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:52 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, all!
posted by Silky Slim at 10:53 PM on January 30, 2012

Yeah, it's a reference to the movie/book. Baking soda can be used in a million ways, so it has a lot of personalities.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:54 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

(So to speak. This is not to compare it to DID.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:54 PM on January 30, 2012

Response by poster: Looks like it was a pretty ancient reference even when she made it! And still everyone got it, just from a common first name! Pretty remarkable.
posted by Silky Slim at 10:55 PM on January 30, 2012

Best answer: It was pretty iconic.

Tidbit: in the movie, Joanne Woodward (aka Mrs. Paul Newman) played Sybil's (Sally Field's) psychiatrist. Woodward herself had played a girl suffering from DID in 1957's The Three Faces of Eve.
posted by likeso at 10:59 PM on January 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

There came a time where the thick mass market paperback version of the book was everywhere, in every bookstore, every used book store and thrift shop, every doctor's office, used as a tire brick and doorstop, just everywhere. You couldn't go a day without seeing a dogeared copy somewhere during the day. That may have influenced or given more life to the joke at the time of that Rudner special.

This book and cover.

I guess it is now a lost pop culture meme.
posted by caclwmr4 at 11:11 PM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

The original Sybils were also sort of split personality figures - the earth bound voices of a deity. Except that there were a number of them.

Good luck finding a suitable translation!
posted by rongorongo at 2:33 AM on January 31, 2012

It wasn't an ancient reference in the early 90s. It was pretty pervasive. I remember it being an insult in high school then, and I know that it was used as a punchline on various sitcoms too. (Not that I can remember any specific ones right now, of course).
posted by cabingirl at 6:46 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

It was pervasive enough in the 90s that it would never have occurred to me it wasn't a joke someone would get now.
posted by looli at 8:42 AM on January 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

Sybil Exposed on the Blue.
posted by knile at 3:33 PM on January 31, 2012

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