According to Jane Espenson, clams are one-liners or comic concepts that have gone stale from overuse. Now, that was a new one on me. I knew the term was used in music for a bum note, and for the ultimate usage in that context, one need only review a transcript of just one of Buddy Rich’s infamous rants at his band (in this excerpt, it’s the trombonist getting the brunt).
You’ve got your f—kin’ horn so far deep in the f—kin’ bell, we don’t need to have a band here tonight. You afraid you won’t be heard? Everybody can hear your f—kin’ clams out there. You don’t need a mike for that. You’re takin’ up too much f—kin’ time blowin’ what? Shit!! You stand out here all night tryin’ to blow your f—kin’ brains out… when it comes time to play, what do you play? Clams!! You got nowhere to f—kin’ go tonight the next set because if I hear one f—kin’ clam from anybody, you’ve had it! One clam and this whole f—kin’ band is through…tonight!!
Yeah, Buddy was a real sweetheart.
Anyway, anyone who writes comedy for a living has written a clam, but we all recognize that they’re awful, and so when we’re together in a room, we’re supposed to keep ourselves from using them. In my room, we usually call them “badump bumps,” but I think Jane’s got a better, clammier term.
Here’s a short list I came up with, as well as some additions from friends. Feel free to use the comments section to add your own. As for definitions, I’m pretty lenient. It could be a single line of dialogue, or it could be a setup and payoff.
Maybe if we shine enough light on these things, we can eliminate them from the world.
The Inside Voice: “I’m sorry…did I say that out loud?”
The Freudian Slip: “Hey, Carol, I see you’re wearing some new boobs…I mean boots!”
The “Mr.” Insult: “Oooh, check you out. Mr. Big Man! Mr. Crazy hat-wearing guy!”
The Nutty List: “All I know is I want to eat a steak, get laid, and play some golf…not necessarily in that order.”
Dante’s Clam: “This is the date from hell!”
Albert Hoffman’s Clam: “This is like Ice Capades on acid.”
The Apollo 13: “Houston, we have a problem.”
The Ignored: (as the character is being talked about) “I’m standing right here…”
The Fork-Dropper: “Check please!”
The Optimist: “Well, I thought that went pretty well…”
The Invisible Puke: “I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.”
The Dismissive Segue: “Anyway….” (typically after another character goes off on a long, complicated rant)
The Factory: This is a visual one. Someone gets hurt in a factory, and a worker flips the “Days Since An Accident” sign back to 0.
The Upward-Looking Rejoice: “Thank you, God!”
Okay, now it’s your turn, li’l clamsters. As they come in, I’ll cull and add your contributions here in the main article.
As promised, here are some new ones.
The Circulation: “I can’t feel my legs!”
The Contradiction: in response to a question like “Where were you last night?”, two guys say something like “At the office!”/”Playing golf!”
Someone Called: any form of “Patti LaBelle called. She wants her hairstyle back.”
The Stealthy Insultee: “He’s such a fat, stupid, idiotic—he’s right behind me, isn’t he?”
Excited Confusion: “Mom, Jared Leto is visiting my school tomorrow!” “Oh my God, honey, that is fantastic news!…….Who’s Jared Leto?”
The Translation: “Isn’t my dress great?” “Yes, if by ‘great’ you mean ‘nauseating’.”
The Countdown: “I’m leaving now, and I’m NEVER COMING BACK AGAIN!” The character exits, and a remaining character says “And 5, 4, 3, 2…” At which point the first character re-enters.
The Calculator: “You do the math.”
The Jerry Maguire: “You had me at Idiot” or “You had me at rectal thermometer” or some “comedic” version of “You had me at hello.”
The Thesaurus: “The meteor disintegrated!” “Yeah, and it blew up into a million pieces too!”
The Grocery Store: “Clean up on aisle 3!”
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