Pop Culture

Alec Baldwin delivers dialogue to die for

Coffee’s for closers …” — Blake, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” 1992
With three words, Blake, a real estate “motivational speaker” from the “main office” relieves Jack Lemmon’s beat-down Shelley Levene of not just his remaining shreds of dignity, but his humanity as well. This now-famous partial phrase spewed out as a profanity-free oasis in a vitriolic torrent of expletives. Yet, it’s these few words that forever haunt the nightmares of any moviegoer who ever worked sales. Baldwin delivered the line in his trademark 30-year malt scotch voice, with just a splash of New York accent. And if you think any actor reading David Mamet’s script could do justice to this line — consider that Mamet wrote this part specifically for Baldwin. The “Blake” character doesn’t exist in Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

— Mr. Armstrong, scoutmaster, “Saturday Night Live,” 1994 Recently, I almost came to blows with a dear friend over whether the above quote or “Schweddy Balls” from the National Public Radio sketch is the funniest thing that ever came out of  Baldwin’s mouth in like, the 80 skidillion times he’s hosted “Saturday Night Live.” Readers may recall this particular skit because of its controversial nature — the only time Adam Sandler’s recurring “Canteen Boy” inspired hilarity. Also, Baldwin’s dedication to the role of a naughty, finger-sucking, red-silk-underpants-removing scoutmaster resulted in a disclaimer accompanying this skit’s reruns, revealing Canteen Boy as a 27-year-old who still enjoys scouting. No matter. If Baldwin’s scoutmaster doesn’t make you blow milk out your nose, there’s something wrong with you.

– Dr. Jed Hill, “Malice,” 1993 An otherwise convoluted and forgettable thriller written by future “West Wing” and “Sports Night” scribe Aaron Sorkin is fused in the pop culture consciousness thanks to Baldwin delivering the above line with frightening flawlessness. (Though, Anne Bancroft’s cameo as Nicole Kidman’s drunk mom is pretty scary, too.) As Dr. Jed Hill, Baldwin plays a proto-House super surgeon who accidentally-on-purpose yanks out secret lover Kidman’s lady parts during a bout of drunken surgery. When he delivers this line on the witness stand during the resulting malpractice trial, there isn’t cheap alliteration enough to describe its force. Suffice it to say, you’ll still find it quoted in many a sitcom and death metal song alike. Furreals!

“Barb, honey... we’re dead. I don’t think we have very much to worry about anymore.”  — Adam, “Beetle Juice,” 1988Winona Ryder’s character Lydia is oft-credited with the best lines in this Tim Burton film. (For example: “My whole world is a dark room. One. Big. Dark. Room.”) More sophisticated fans might go with Otho quotes or obscure lines from underworld characters, while those with simpler tastes stick with Michael Keaton’s bombastic title character quotes. (For example: “I’ve seen ‘The Exorcist’ about a 167 times, AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT!”) It’s a credit to Baldwin’s ability that Adam’s lines aren’t often repeated. With his low rumble and syllable-striking annunciation, Baldwin can easily channel the scariest characters on the movie screen. In the above quote, he plays with 100 percent believability, a loving (albeit dead) husband whose chief problem is that he is completely not scary at all.

“It’s after six. What am I, a farmer?” — Jack Donaghy, “30 Rock,” (Episode 7: “Tracy Does Conan”) Dec. 6, 2006 Team Tina Fey wrote it, but this line, delivered with such subtle astonished distaste, would fail to stand alone in its hilarity had it been delivered by anyone else but Baldwin. Rumor has it he can be a pill to work with — or even be around — but this brief clip from the “30 Rock” commercials is enough to reinforce why no one else in the Universe is suited to play network executive Jack Donaghy. Even 100 percent out of context, this line reading its gut-bustingly hilarious. It slayed me in the commercials before I even caught the full episode. And I’m not alone. It’s so popular in Internet searches that one need only type, “It’s after …” in the search field, and Google will happily complete the line.

Helen A.S. Popkin writes the Technotica column at msnbc.com.

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