DEFENSIVE PLAYS: LINES FROM THE
Comedy, wrote Freud, is sadism. For this reason, nothing quite tickles like the backtrack gag. In it’s classic form it’s a simple “Er, I didn’t mean you; I meant some other marine biologist”. But the backtrack always works best when someone attempts a U-turn only to become increasingly desperate.
Like when Tina Fey finds gum under her table in Baby Mama, Amy Poehler’s wide-eyed denial soon goes on the offensive: “I don’t know! Maybe you stuck some of it under there. Bitch, I don’t know your life!”
Or when Will Ferrell “agrees to disagree” after his attempts to impress Christina Applegate with historical factoids in
Anchorman come to nothing: “Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means a whale’s vagina . . . I’m sorry, I was trying to impress