' ' Cinema Romantico: Ray of Light

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Ray of Light

Topper Harley: “Interesting perfume.” 
Ramada Thompson: “It’s Vicks. I have a cold.”

This is probably not the funniest thing in “Hot Shots!”, the 1991 lampoon directed by Jim Abrahams, the ‘A’ of “Airplane!’s” Team ZAZ. It is probably not one of the 25 funniest things in “Hot Shots!” Maybe it’s the 48th funniest thing, or the 49th funniest? Maybe it’s not even in the Top 50? Who knows? Why am I trying to rank things? The point is, because “Hot Shots!” is so committed to making you laugh every second that sometimes jokes can run right over one another, leaving jokes to slip through the cracks, this one included. And so, on an awful day in an increasingly awful America, where it was becoming clear the Federal Government was abdicating its responsibilities and willing to write off thousands and thousands of American lives in the name of The Economy, our One True God, when My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife and I could simply take no more bad news and found “Hot Shots!” showing on STARZ and I heard this joke, it was, reader, I swear, like I was hearing it for the first time.

I laughed, immediately. But my laugh also kind of carried on, not like a Mariah Carey hitting a high note but in the manner of Mariah Carey hitting a high note, continuing on past when you would have thought it might end, because I was simultaneously processing the inherent comedy of the line and how I had not remembered the line. “That’s funny,” I literally said aloud. “Yeah,” My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife confirmed with impressive incredulity.

Team ZAZ’s “Airplane!”, according to Helen O’Hara’s “Best Movies of the 80s”, had 2.6 jokes per minute, making it 223 jokes in 84 minutes. I could not track down the laughs per minute of “Hot Shots!”, alas, but rest assured, there are enough that 29 years later I was able to discover, on the day I needed it most, another one. Glory hallelujah.

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