And no, it’s not in The Jerk. It’s not in Borat, or What Stays in Vegas, or Sophie’s Choice, or one of those silent film from the 10’s that people laugh at so they look academic. The funniest scene in film history is actually in Robocop, and I’m being absolutely serious about this. I am typing this with a funereal scowl on my face. Never has something this hilarious been treated with such an impressive degree of seriousness. I swear. Don’t believe me?
Here’s proof: The other day I was drinking a Dog Fish Head 120 Minute IPA while flipping through Showtime when I came to Robocop. It was at the scene where our hero tries to arrest Dick Jones at OCP headquarters only to learn of a hidden fourth directive that keeps him from arresting anyone with a leather chair in his or her office. Come to think of it. . .and I’m digressing. . .Robocop and Ironman basically have the same plot with reversed (or is it crosswired?) economic ideologies. Both are about suit-reliant heroes who have to deal with being symbols of the very kind of technology that’s causing the problem in the first place. Both have to confront double crossing old men. Both have friends who are in positions of law enforcement. The only difference is that Robocop is blue collared, and Iron Man is silk sleeved. Oh, and Robocop is a LOT better.
Anyway, ED-209 shows up and starts kicking Robocop’s titanium-alloyed ass. This is when you really need to start paying attention so you can see the funniest thing in film history. The fight moves into the stairwell. Robocop makes his way to the bottom but the ED-209 is having some trouble. It turns out OCP spent a billion dollars building something that couldn’t walk down uneven elevations. But this isn’t what’s funny. Oh, no! Just keep watching. The ED falls down the stairs and writhes like an upside down cockroach. Ok. . . .Now! Look in the background at Robocop. He makes this totally out-of-character facial expression that suggests a four year old who has spilt the milk on his parent’s new carpet. Then he scampers off like a cross between a ballerina and one of those striped-shirt thieves from old French cartoons. It’s a fucking riot. A two-ton brute who typically can’t move faster than a Terrence Mallick film suddenly has a spry skip in his step. Oh! and that Who Me? expression! HI-LA-REE-US
The moment took me completely out of the film, but it also reminded me of what made this original so good in the first place. Robocop is totally asymmetrical to the rest of the genre. It’s about serious stuff, but it’s not a serious film. It’s a social critique, but it’s smart enough to recognize its own intellectual limits, and yes, it’s limited by all the old genre conventions but, like Robocop himself, it searches for its own brand of self-awareness, and finds it.
Then again, maybe I was just drunk. . .