The other night I happened to re-watch this famous scene from Albert Brooks‘ Lost in America. To me it represents the summit of what HE has been hailing for years — the art of no-laugh funny. Anxious vibe, character-driven, but never more than darkly, oddly amusing.
The only conventional laugh line comes when casino manager Gary Marshall takes offense when Brooks alludes to “all the schmucks who come to Las Vegas to see Wayne Newton,” etc.
Brooks and Marshall are treating each other correctly and amiably as far as it goes, but there’s a fascinating tension between the latter, a smart, perceptive, no-nonsense type, and Brooks’ David Howard, a 30something advertising guy who’s recently persuaded his wife (Julie Hagerty) to join him in a drop-out adventure in which they’d live out of their mobile home and become nomads. Except Hagerty has blown their nest egg at roulette, and Brooks is thisclose to melting down, etc.
Why have I posted this? Because Marshall pronounces “Santa Claus” as “Santy Claus”, and I’m wondering where that pronunciation comes from. Maybe nowhere. Perhaps Marshall, a once-powerful signature helmer of mainstream studio relationship comedies, was the first, last and only guy who said “Santy Claus.” He was born in the mid 1930s to an Italian dad and a German, English and Scottish mother. It’s presumably an immigrant-class ethnic thing — no relatively well-off, college-educated, middle-class person has ever said “Santy” Claus. I’m just asking.