It Was The Best of Gilligan Cuts, It Was The Worst of Gilligan Cuts

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Last April, John Rogers wrote a post about TV comedy writing jargon over at his always-excellent Kung Fu Monkey. He mentioned a technique called "the Red Dress Cut," which occurs "when you cut directly from a character declaring there's no way he's going to do something, to him doing it, for comedic effect... This name comes from the way it was always described to me: a burly guy saying 'There's no way I'm going to get into a red dress and pretend to be your wife'. SMASH CUT to ... you get the idea."

I mentioned to him that I had always heard this technique called "the Gilligan cut," after the TV show that used it with great frequency. John agreed that that was a more common term, and updated his glossary accordingly.

Of course, neither of us was under the illusion that the writers of Gilligan's Island invented this technique. I'm fairly certain I've seen it used by Abbot & Costello as well as the Three Stooges. If you had asked me, I would have speculated that it was invented very soon after sound came to cinema. It's hard to imagine it working on stage (where it's rather difficult to smash cut) or in silent film (where the interposition of title cards would ruin the rhythm of the joke.)

This evening, however, I made a discovery that is going to revolutionize the burgeoning field of Gilligan Cut Historical Studies. I present to you a quote from The Pickwick Papers, first published in 1836:

"I should like to see him," said Mr. Pickwick.

"See Serjeant Snubbin, my dear Sir!" rejoined Perker, in utter amazement. "Pooh, pooh, my dear Sir, impossible. See Serjeant Snubbin! Bless you, my dear Sir, such a thing was never heard of, without a consultation fee being previously paid, and a consultation fixed. It couldn't be done, my dear Sir, it couldn't be done."

Mr. Pickwick, however, had made up his mind not only that it could be done, but that it should be done; and the consequence was, that within ten minutes after he had received the assurance that the thing was impossible, he was conducted by his solicitor into the outer office of the great Serjeant Snubbin himself.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Unless somebody can find evidence of prior art-- perhaps through close examination of The Tale of Genji-- I will conclude that the Gilligan Cut was invented by Mr. Charles Dickens, nearly a century before the talkies came into existence.

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2 Comments

Tiersky said:

It seems to me that a TRUE Gilligan cut would skip that second paragraph altogether, and we'd go right into the conversation between Pickwick and Snubbin.

Rimbaud said:

FYI - some associated TV lingo can be found in the "Put Me On A Ladder" ep of Martini Shot, a relatively new KCRW show accessible via iTunes or the KCRW site - recommended..

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