Can Someone Please Explain This Joke To Me? (Re: Heist and Roger Ebert)

Kelly W

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Hey all,
I have not seen Heist, but I've read Roger Ebert's review. In it, he says:
DeVito's wounded reply is one of the funniest lines Mamet has ever written: ''Everybody needs money! That's why they call it money!''
On Ebert & Roeper this weekend, he mentions it again and Roeper agrees that it's a really funny line.
I just don't get it. What am I missing? Does this refer to something else in the movie? (Like I said, I haven't seen it.)
I keep repeating the word "money" over and over. "Mo-NEED"... "Mo'-ney"... I don't know... What's the gag?
This is driving me nuts!
Thanks in advance!!!
-Kelly
 

Mark Turetsky

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It's a David Mamet joke line. It doesn't really make sense. Sort of like the line in State and Main about getting along "like dykes and dogs." What do the two have to do with each other? Nothing. Is it funny? If you just embrace that it's a nonce line, yes.
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Craig S

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The line is funny in the film, mainly because of DeVito's delivery.
I also wonder if it's meant as a reference to an earlier DeVito role - "Larry the Liquidator" in Other People's Money. That character made a lot of similar statements about money.
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Jason P

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Man, I was watching that over the weekend and had absolutely NO clue what the hell they were talking about.
Glad someone cleared it up.
 

Michael Reuben

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Sort of like the line in State and Main about getting along "like dykes and dogs."
That line made perfect sense too, but I think the mods would like to keep this forum PG-rated.
Spoiler:Think about how dogs, when they're friendly, like to lick people.
M.
 

Mark Turetsky

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Michael, the cast of State and Main certainly wouldn't agree with you. If you listen to the DVD commentary, they puzzle over what the "dykes and dogs" line means, and conclude that it doesn't meet anything.
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Ross Williams

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Actually I've got to disagree about the "dykes and dogs" line. I have quite a few lesbian friends, and most of them do have quite an affinity towards dogs. I guess it's a little known stereotype. First time I heard that line, it had me cracking up.
I haven't seen Heist yet, but I'm sure the "money" line has some sort of meaning. I'd need to hear it in context to know what it is. I think Michael is on the right track with his explaination.
Mamet is a strange bird. It's almost like you have to be on the same wave-length with him to enjoy his films. His dialouge and the performances he gets out of his actors are not quite like anybody else's. I'm a fan of his work, but even I don't like all his films, because of some of these oddities.
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Iain Lambert

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You know what, Kelly? You're so f***in' Money and you don't even know it.
(I'll just be sniggering in the corner there with the other Swingers fans, shall I?)
 

Michael Reuben

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Michael, the cast of State and Main certainly wouldn't agree with you.
I know, but the cast doesn't always have the last word. I notice you're a New Yorker, so bear with me for a minute:
One of the hottest off-Broadway tickets right now is for the one-woman show Elaine Stritch: At Liberty. It's a series of autobiographical reflections by one of the living legends of the Broadway stage. (Occasionally she does films. In Small Time Crooks, she plays the society matron that Woody's character tries to rob.)
One of Ms. Stritch's signature numbers is "The Ladies Who Lunch" from Sondheim's Company. In her current show she reveals that she had no idea, for the entire time that she was drawing critical raves singing the song, what the line about enjoying "a piece of Mahler's" referred to. Since she'd never heard of Mahler the composer, she decided the line must refer to a fancy bakery (as in "a piece of Mahler's" cake). It was years before she learned what the line really meant.
Moral of the story: Even the greatest actors don't necessarily understand their lines!

M.
 

John_Lee

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I saw that line in the trailer clear back when 'The Score' came out and hated it. I couldn't get past the fact that the line is classicly begging the question. Basically saying money is so important, they called it money, which of course is a term for something important. I knew the line was out of context and held out hope that the line would turn out to be funny because De Vito's character was an idiot who talks out his 'hind quarters.'
 

Michael Reuben

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I knew the line was out of context and held out hope that the line would turn out to be funny because De Vito's character was an idiot who talks out his 'hind quarters.'
Not an idiot, but certainly a blusterer, a cheat and a bully. The line suits the character, IMO.

M.

[Edited last by Michael Reuben on November 13, 2001 at 02:13 PM]
 

Mark Turetsky

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I'll grant you that his cast doesn't always understand each and every one of their lines, being an actor myself. Believe me, being taught by Mamet's followers, I've come to learn that people who work with Mamet consider him a strange bird, despite his being their mentor. I got to meet him once, and he's full of bizarre stuff like that. He uses all the same bizarre euphemisms that his characters do. I suppose you have a point about dykes and dogs, and also perhaps the money line makes a certain amount of sense. I just prefer to think of them as nonsense lines, which are jokes by the mere fact that they seem to be joke-like lines. Don't forget that Mamet draws his inspiration from non-realists like Pinter and Beckett. Anyway, that's what I gotta add.
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Kelly W

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I don't know if anybody's still interested in this, but I thought I'd post it anyway.
At least I wasn't the only one who wanted clarification as to what made this so funny...

Both of these come from Roger Ebert's Movie Answer Man column.
January 13, 2002
Q. Re your item about the line in David Mamet's ''Heist,'' ''Everybody needs money! That's why they call it money!'' I was wondering myself what was so funny about the line. You quoted Louis Armstrong but you didn't give us an answer as to why YOU thought it was so funny because, I guess, some of us are probably too dense to ''get it.'' Could you please enlighten us anyway on why you think it's so funny? To me, the word has no meaning beyond its literal meaning.
Binh Ha, Waterloo, Ontario
A. Of course it has no meaning beyond its literal meaning! That's why it's so funny! This is the question that will not go away. Juan-Jose Pichardo of Chicago also writes: ''No, really, explain Mamet's money joke.'' I cannot explain it. I can only laugh at it, and quote Gene Siskel, who liked to say, ''Two things are not debatable: eroticism, and comedy. If you don't think it's sexy, or funny, there's no way I can change your mind.''
In a way, I guess this clears it up... sort of.
-Kelly
 

Bergan Peters

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I dont think this line is funny. I think fart jokes are funny though so...go figure.
 

Greg_Y

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I haven't seen this film yet but I found the humor in that joke. The humor is in the absurdity of the assertion. It's not a pun.
 

Mark Evans

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Hmm, maybe it's just me, but I find that line really hilarious, and got a good laugh out of it in the movie too. It's hard to explain why, but it really makes a certain amount of sensible nonsense when you think about it.
Everybody needs money! That's why they call it money!
The gist of the line is just classical circular reasoning, and the fact that money, cash, currency, what have you, is what people want in life. If we all valued, say, moose, you could have DiVito say 'Everybody needs moose! That's why they call it moose!' and it would mean the same thing.
Money just happens to be the name for what we spend to get things, therefore everybody needs it. It's not why they call it that, but the joke suggests that the name has everything to do with it. I think the joke is in the very suggestion, but maybe that's just me...
Great, now I'M confused...
 

Seth Paxton

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Mark, I agree 100% with your explanation. I haven't seen the film, but the first time I saw the trailer I thought the line was funny with that very reasoning.

Just a circular logic joke where the character so accepts the meanings associated with the word that he thinks that explains why they named money as "money". I don't think he literally thinks that btw, just one of those goofy things a person says when trying to convince someone of something.
 

Graeme Clark

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Not
I figured it was as Mark explains it. To me, there's just nothing funny about that. I was hoping that there was something there I wasn't getting, and Eberts answers to the questions weren't helping (with some jokes, if there is an element you don't understand, it can usually be explained so a person can at least "get it" even though they may not find it as funny if they need an explanation).
Even with the explanations here, I still feel I'm missing something... but I guess that feeling will go away.
Everybody needs humor, that's why they call it humor. Just not this type.
 

JoeDelan

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Sometime people really want to believe that something is there, and all the time there was nothing...
 

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