"It doesn't do anything. That's the beauty of it!" Pt. 2

So I’m (re)reading a book this evening (weird, I know, but hey, it’s my thing) and I stumble across something. It jogs a neuron, then another, then a whole cascade of memory later I’m flogging the hamsters to dig up this old thread.

In particular, this post stuck in my craw. 'Cause I knew with certainty that I had heard, in some variation, the phrase “That’s the beauty of it; it doesn’t do anything.”

I’d like to direct our dear readers to the book Crashlander by Larry Niven (copyright 1994), set in Known Space. On page 192 in the short story The Borderland of Sol is the following exchange:

While it doesn’t closely resemble Earl Snake-Hips Tucker’s quote in his OP, it is thematically close enough that upon reading that thread, it jogged my memory of my previous read of Crashlander. That book is a seriocomic collection of short stories detailing the adventures and exploits of Beowulf Shaeffer, of WeMadeIt. Carlos Wu is an eccentric genius in Niven’s works.

So my guess that it was from Futurama, while incorrect, is also thematically close to my imperfect recollection.

Tell me my memory’s faulty, and playing tricks? Why I oughta…let me just find my glasses and I’ll tell you a thing or two…where did I put those damned things…what were we talking about?

Damn you damn you damn you. My mind occasionally drifts to this (non) quote and now it’s back!

Probably not what you’re working for, but there’s a scene in Office Space where they’re discussing a way to steal money from the company they work for. Peter mentions that they collect a fraction of a cent on each transaction (like in Superman III), so Samir remarks that it’s not much money. Peter answers, “that’s the beauty of it,” because it’ll make the scheme less likely to be noticed.

“It’s beautiful! Why does it have to do anything?”


“It doesn’t do anything, that’s the beauty of it!”

I’d have to listen to their entire output again to find it, but I’m pretty sure it was on a Firesign Theater album somewhere. I’m sure I can hear Phil Austin saying it.

I saw a Blondie strip with that punchline. That might easily be older.

Nope, it’s not from FT. You’re possibly thinking of the sequence on I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus about the invention of the Pushover.

I noticed this when re-reading THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by Oscar Wilde:

Basil Hallward is the artist who paints the title portrait and is in love with Dorian. (It never uses those terms but it all but uses them.) He is speaking to his friend and patron Lord Henry Wotton (aka Sir Harry), an extremely wealthy and dissipated, cynical, world weary playboy, how he first met Dorian at a boring salon hosted by Lady Brandon (a pretentious and silly aristocrat) and ‘simply had to meet him’. The editing, emphasis, and [anything in brackets] are mine.

So here’s what I’m wondering:

Two Englishmen, one gay and one trisexual, are bitchily gossiping about an old lady with an annoying aristocratic accent. The entire book revolves around the beauty of Dorian Gray. I am wondering if perhaps this was once a radio play, or a stage play, or a movie (it’s been filmed several times- a remake aired this year- but this would have been a very early version) in which the actor playing Hallward, imitating a foolish old aristocratic biddy, said “he doesn’t… dooo… anything” in such a way that the audience laughed, and then a line about his beauty followed.

Just a theory.

In Wilde’s lectures on decorative arts and design he said several things close to “it doesn’t have to dooo anything but be beautiful”, but since he wasn’t recorded I’m guessing that wasn’t the source of the meme, though it may have been of the Dorian Gray line.

This rather scritchy recording purports to be Oscar Wilde. Towards the end the voice does seem to do a sort of rise like you indicate in the ‘doooo anything’ part.

Whether or not it actually is Oscar Wilde, I do not know, however many times notable people are copied in vocal patterns for various reasons, and if it is not actually him, it may be someone parodying his vocal mannerisms. He was rather notable and his speech patterns were supposedly parodied by people, as was his hand fluttering.

I do actually find it interesting that the actor in the 1945 version of Dorian actually looks like Oscar Wilde…

Not an exact quote, but close enough. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWlMNltHIYI

Actually pretty close to how I picture the scene in my head.
The problem with most sources you can dig up though, is that it still has to be common and well-known enough to get half of Cafe Society up and scratching the back of their heads. Perhaps Oscar Wilde, but not Larry Niven, IMHO.

One day one of us is going to be watching TV at 4:15 a.m. and see this in a movie. When that happens it will be on a place that has no internet access of any kind, and we’ll be there for 4 months. We will age 39 years in that 4 months.

The Burgess Meredith is the closest I’ve seen, but “the truth is out there”. (It just doesn’t doooo anything.)

The Burgess Meredith clip is from the TV show Burke’s Law. One of our posters here found it (and may be responsible for it being up on YouTube). Once that clip was posted people seem to have generally assumed that it is indeed the origin, and people’s memories have been playing tricks on them ever since. I don’t think there is anything else out there.

My own memory trick hears it in a voice similar to Frank Nelson (best remembered probably for being the obnoxious “Yessss?!” man on* Jack Benny *and later Sanford & Son) or (Mel Blanc as) Mr. Spacely.

I think the assumption is that some radio DJ had it in a collection of sound clips to play between songs, and that that’s where it got the broad exposure, but that Burke’s Law is the ultimate origin.

That is indeed my exact snippet; however, I’m not the one who uploaded it to youtube. Someone lifted it from my photobucket account and did the honors, althought it might have passed thru numerous hands along the way. I’ve seen it on other websites that were not linking to my photobucket account, so it wouldn’t be the first time.

But, yes, I am the ultimate source of that exact clip.

And just as proud as you can be, too! Good work.

No Highway In The Sky (1951) is playing now.

Theodore Honey (Jimmy Stewart) tries to solve Goldbach’s conjecture:

Dennis Scott: Sounds interesting, but, isn’t it a little pointless?
Theodore Honey: Oh, quite. That’s the beauty of it.

Really? Which one, Dorian or the artist? Here is a clip that shows both of them in pretty good closeup, and I don’t think either one bears any resemblance at all to Wilde.

Just curious.