“Corpsing” is one of those things that happens when you’re recording a comedy sketch in one take and one (or more) of the actors in the sketch switches from fully participating to just trying to keep it together to keep from laughing.

While it’s exceptionally easy to do this sort of thing poorly (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE ERA JIMMY FALLON!), there are a handful of sketches remembered fondly decades later in which the participants lose it and, well, it’s awesome. They lose it, we lose it, everybody loses it.

Tim Conway sketches were notorious for this. We can argue for days about which one was the best one but the two that get mentioned all the time are the Dentist sketch:

Tim Conway's "The Dentist" (FULL)

And the Elephant Story:

Carol Burnett Show outtakes – Tim Conway's Elephant Story

I know that watching Saturday Night Live, my attitude is some variant of “come on, guys… keep it together… be professional…”, my attitude towards Harvey Korman was “holy cow… how did you make it to six minutes?”

So… what are you reading and/or watching?

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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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9 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. After I’m done wiping the tears out of my eyes, I always wonder what “The Elephant Sketch” was actually supposed to be about. I suppose I could google it, but why ruin it?

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  2. Oh, man. “The Elephant Story.” A friend sent me the link to that one day when I was very sad and I thank her forever for that because I cannot watch it without cracking up, and I admit I’ve occasionally thought, “Are you sure that little ***hole’s through?” when someone is telling an interminable story.

    (I think it’s so funny to me because I have had family members who would tell utterly bizarre, pointless stories, like the Elephant Story, in complete earnestness and seriousness, so it is funny because it is true)


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  3. To be fair, Fallon *still* can’t keep his composure for any length of time.

    I’ve been rewatching Oz (the HBO show) on amazon prime over the past few weeks. I remember there were a lot of folks that would go on to do The Wire, but I didnt realize the number that did one off character scenes. (E.g. both Avon and Briana Barksdale). I also just got the point where Peter Dinklage appears for about 25 seconds as a murder victim.

    Was watching Beverly Hills Cop on TV while doing taxes yesterday; the scene where Eddie Murphy is doing his Supercop spiel, all the actors are doing their best not to break, and you can tell (after being told) how everyone was right at the edge.

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  4. Lyle Waggoner was reportedly the hardest one to get to crack up. In “The Interrogater” he plays a captured American pilot in WWII and Conway plays a Nazi interrogator. At about 5:30 in, Conway pulls out a Hitler hand puppet. Waggoner gives Korman (off camera) a “what the hell” look and tries to play it straight. He struggles, but pretty much loses it after a few minutes when the puppet starts singing “I’ve Been Working On the Railroad.” About that point, Conway’s eyes are all “Got you this time, Lyle.” Reportedly, absolutely no one knew that Tim had the puppet.

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        • There’s a moment where he knows that he’s screwed, but not in any sort of malicious way. Still, he knew going in that the he was up against an improvisational maestro.

          After I had been at Bell Labs for a couple of years, our department head was transferred to another organization. He was well liked, but everyone knew that Jim was a serious guy. At the end of the luncheon was a bit of a roast, very amateurish as such things usually are. I had been press-ganged into the MC role, so was distracted by keeping things organized, and noticed that Jim was taking notes. When the last of the roasters was done he looked at me, so I asked, “Jim? Rebuttal?” He was amazing! He skewered them all, using the same incidents they had used. Timing was impeccable. None of it was nasty. He had people crying, they were laughing so hard. Man was wasted running a technical organization.

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