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Tagline: So funny you'll laugh your head off.

Pizza: Joe Peeps

Preshow Entertainment: Big Les: Problem Child



REPORTER: "I appreciate you letting me observe that brain operation today."
DOCTOR: "It would have been more complicated if they needed one, but since you wanted to observe my technique..."

Such is the Mad Magazine/slapstick humor of what, back in 1983, critic Gene Shalit called "Steve Martin's funniest movie!" Gene Shalit had a stupid mustache, a quirky persona, and a big Jewfro. I don't, though I aspire to all three. But we do agree - THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS is Steve Martin's funniest movie. Of course, I had hope back then there may have been funnier Martin movies to come, but as time passed, and he gave us fare like THE PINK PANTHER, THE PINK PANTHER II, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, and CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN II, all hope to beat his BRAINS is gone.


Steve Martin plays Dr. Hfuhruhurr (don't pronounce it wrong, he'll correct you), a top surgeon who has invented the Cranial Screw-top Method of brain surgery. Hfuhruhurr ends up marrying Dolores (a brilliant and underrated comic performance from Kathleen Turner), a black widow husband-killer who he accidentally runs over, then uses his screw-top method to save. Dolores teases Hfuhruhurr by sucking his index finger, then making excuses for not having sex with him. Attending a medical conference in Vienna, Hfuhfuhurr meets Dr. Necessiter (David Warner), who has his own way of doing brain transplants. Also in Vienna, a serial killer is on the loose - "The Elevator Killer." And just like in the movies they're parodying - our hero, his cohort, his wife, the killer and a new love interest, Miss Ulmalmahay (a disembodied brain in a jar, voiced by Sissy Spacek), will all merge.


Committing 110% (100%, for all you nitpickers and pedants), Martin's relentless in getting the laughs. From facial expressions to absurd dialogue to body movements, he's always right where he should be - a wild and crazy, and limber and wacky guy. But it's not just Martin that's funny in this movie; the usually stoic David Warner is wonderful as the fellow brain surgeon Necessiter, especially when small talking with Hfuhfuhurr about his condo. Also making me laugh, Necessiter's butler (that's a good name for a band!), played by Paul Benedict. Oh yeah, and there's a secret cameo that is just killer. Steely and sexy, as she was in BODY HEAT two years earlier, Turner's femme fatale is the perfect match for Martin.

In one scene, when a cop realizes that both he and Hfuhfuhurr are speaking English, he calls to his partner, "You can stop the subtitles now," then tells Hfuhfuhurr that it's better now because there's more room down there (on our screen). These occasional AIRPLANE!-y jokes were prevalent at the time, though I could have done without a few, like having the Lone Ranger and Tonto in the OR's observation room. Other jokes are more subtle, like a Senor Wences reference when Martin lifts the lid off of a jar containing a brain. But even gags like that seem to work well within the whacked out character of the script. Because you still get lines like this one, spoken by Dr. Necessiter during an argument on morality with Dr. Hfuhfuhurr: "If the murder of twelve innocent people can help save one human life, it will have been worth it!"

Here's other stuff that tilted my Funny Meter:

  • The poem POINTY BIRDS, as mentioned in the masthead, and re-mentioned again here: Pointy birds, pointy pointy. Anoint my head, anointy nointy.
  • When Dolores sees the hired help for the first time, they're standing next to the flowers: Dolores: "What are those assholes doing on the porch"? Hfurfururr: "Those aren't assholes. It's pronounced 'azaleas'."
  • How about those road sobriety tests in Austria? After touching his hand to his nose, and walking a straight line, Hfuhfuhurr is handed three oranges and asked to "juggle these, do a tap dance, and sing "The Catalina Magdalena Lupensteiner Wallabeiner song."
  • When the police are trying to break the door down to Dr. Necessiter's condo, they knock on a neighbor's door. POLICE: "Excuse me, can we borrow a battering ram?" NEIGHBOR: "You will return it?"
  • Because alluring Dolores never sleeps with him, Hfurfururr is in a constant state of sexual frustration, to the point of humping a doorjamb as he attempts to tongue kiss an X-ray of a skull. When a colleague questions him about the lack of sex he's having, he responds defensively with, "I'll have you know that in the finger sucking department, I am extremely satisfied."
  • Here's one I thought works better if you see it. Well, actually, all of these do, but especially this one: http://youtu.be/mkcKQmr7kRc
  • "Get that cat out of here!"
  • And my favorite, the payoff to the Elevator Killer gag. When I first saw this in the 80s (honestly, and sadly, I'm not sure it'll hold up now) it made me not just laugh out loud (kids: in pre-"lol" days, you actually had to laugh out loud), but wail. I had to stop the, umm, you know, the VHS tape. (NOTE: One of The Elevator Killer's victims is Estelle Reiner, wife of Carl Reiner, mother of Rob Reiner, and the "I'll have what she's having" HARRY MET SALLY woman.) Speaking of Carl Reiner...

THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS is one of three Steve Martin films directed by Carl Reiner, whose autograph I hold tucked away (thanks Leslie!) in a filing cabinet. While both ALL OF ME and DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID are funny, neither of these two Reiner/Martin collabs come close to the wall-to-wall comedy of BRAINS. Even with its more than terrible 80s synth music, BRAINS holds up very well. I don't know why this movie got lost over time, while other 80s comedies like GHOSTBUSTERS and SPINAL TAP are still incredibly popular. Must be people's aversion to silly. But although it's certainly silly, it's also certainly funny. Really funny.

"When are you scheduled to have your
hands surgically removed from your face?"

Preshow Entertainment: Big Les: Problem Child

Comedienne Big Les channels Eddie Murphy's stand-up years in her Showtime special BIG LES: PROBLEM CHILD. Relatively unknown, at least when we viewed it, Big Les - let me put this simply - is hysterical. Sure, they're all standard stand-up topics, mostly racy ones, but this is the case of it being the singer, not the song. With her towel to swab herself down (she gets a bit sweaty), Les seems to enjoy her show as much as we do. Her lines are punched with face gestures and the occasional cartwheel. You heard me...cartwheel.

Big Les, whose real name is Leslie Jones, opens with a smart move - making fun of herself. Once she does that, she has license to go after anything. Sassy and swaggering, confident and committed, she's an in your face comic; and as if to drive the point home, she ends her act among the crowd, pressing her face against audience members, grilling them, insulting them, or doing both. I don't normally like that wall broken, but I have to admit, she's just so fucking funny when she does this. She actually had audience members falling out of their chairs.

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