Walk this way (humor)
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"Walk this way" is a recurrent pun in a number of movies and television shows, most recently in movies by Mel Brooks. It may be derived from an old vaudeville joke. It refers to the double usage of "way" in English as both a direction and a manner.
One version of the old joke goes like this: A heavy-set woman goes into a drug store and asks for talcum powder. The bowlegged clerk says, "Walk this way," and the woman answers, "If I could walk that way I would not need talcum powder!"
Another version adds a visual, not any less vaudevillian, dimension to the joke: One character would say, "Walk this way" and walks off in a limping or waddling or otherwise odd manner, and the second character would follow, mimicking the mannerisms of the first.
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- In After the Thin Man (1936), the butler says "Walk this way" (with stiff, bowed legs) and Nick Charles does.
- In the Three Stooges short Don't Throw That Knife, a woman instructs the Stooges to walk this way and saunters off swinging her dress. The Stooges shrug and follow, imitating her.
- In the 1946 Warner Bros. cartoon The Big Snooze, while "helping" Elmer Fudd flee his pursuers, Bugs Bunny uses a variant on this line by telling Elmer, "Quick, run 'this way'!" and puts him through some crazy dance steps while they continue to run.
- In the 1952 Daffy Duck cartoon Super Snooper, when told to "Walk this way" by a butler, Daffy follows, mimicking the butler's unique walk. He remarks to the audience, "T'ain't easy!"
- In The Beatles cartoon series episode for the song "Rock and Roll Music", aired March 19, 1966, a butler tells The Beatles to "Walk this way", and proceeds to walk in a strange sideways jump, which the Beatles, with a wink, then all imitate.
- In The Lucy Show episode "Lucy and Jack Benny's Account", aired October 16, 1967, Lucy leads Jack out of Mr. Mooney's office, telling him "Walk this way," and sauntering in womanly fashion out the door. After watching her exit, Jack quips, "I always do!" and follows her out with like gait.
- "Walk this way" was a running gag on Monty Python's Flying Circus during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Usually, after one character says, "Walk this way," a second character would say, "If I could walk that way-" and then be interrupted and sternly warned against completing the joke. In one sketch, a character played by Eric Idle actually completes the joke, ("If I could walk that way I wouldn't need after-shave!") and is promptly arrested. During the Election Night Special, "If I could walk that way" was part of the ridiculously long name of the "Very Silly Party" candidate.
Since the 1970s
At least three of Mel Brooks' productions feature the pun:
- In Young Frankenstein (1974), Igor says "Walk this way" (hunched over, with a short cane), encouraging Doctor Frankenstein to mimic his movements, even handing the Doctor his cane. Frankenstein complies, reluctantly, for a few steps before resuming his own walk. According to Gene Wilder, who co-wrote the script and played Doctor Frankenstein, the joke was added while shooting the scene by Mel Brooks, inspired by the old "talcum powder" joke. When the film was in theaters, the band Aerosmith was working on its third studio album, Toys in the Attic. The members of the band had written the music for a song but couldn't come up with any lyrics to go with it. After a while, they decided to take a break and see a late night showing of Young Frankenstein, where the gag inspired them to write the hit "Walk This Way".
- In the 1993 film Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the Sheriff of Nottingham tells Robin and his men, "Walk this way!" and proceeds to toss his chin up and wander off in a very self-important manner. Robin and the Sheriff's men look at one another, shrug their shoulders and do the same. The joke is also present in another Mel Brooks film, History of the World, Part 1.
- In the Broadway musical of The Producers, two gay characters ask Max and Leo to walk this way, and they follow with a camp mince.
About 41 minutes into History of the World, Part I, Miriam tells the prisoners to walk this way. In Spaceballs, Yogurt leads Lone Starr and co. to his merchandising store by saying "Cmon, walk this way."
In the Tim Conway and Don Knotts 1980 comedy, The Private Eyes, (their final movie together) the recently injured and slouching butler of the mansion, Justin (played by Bernard Fox), escorts the two detectives down a hallway with the line "Walk this way." The duo mimic him until Knotts realizes they are doing so and abruptly smacks Conway to stop walking that way.
- Comedy Writing Secrets, p. 60; Melvin Helitzer, F & W Publications, 1992. ISBN 0-89879-510-9
- Kiss Me Like A Stranger: My Search for Love and Art, p. 151; Gene Wilder, Macmillan, 2005.
- "Walk their way | Aerosmith News". AeroForceOne. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
- "Double Take", The New York Review of Books