Prompt Images

Del Close, the father of modern improv (and thus, a god to countless overweight beta males who think they’re a $400 class away from being Will Ferrell, myself included,) once said to “go with your third thought.” What he meant was, when conjuring a premise for an improv scene after receiving a suggestion from the audience, your first thought would probably be an obvious one, while your second thought would be a weird one. But your third one? Well, that was the porridge that Goldilocks chose, a cunning mix of the obvious and the bizarre.

So, with this week’s writing prompt of “knock knock,” my first thought was “knock knock jokes,” my second thought was “knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door,” and my third thought was “my favorite fictional couples that beat the shit out of each other.” Thank Zeus I’ve studied improv, otherwise we might have gotten a lighthearted and child-friendly article that my mother could be proud of!

Without further ado, here are my favorite fictional couples with black eyes and big hearts.

Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis as Seth Brundle and Ronnie Quaife – The Fly

Seth Brundle is the role Jeff Goldblum was born to play. Yes, the guy’s career has spanned decades and includes countless memorable characters, but if you hear the words “idiosyncratic scientist who needs to behave like he’s half-insect” and don’t immediately think “Goldblum,” someone pressed your soft spot harder than a teen fingerbangs on prom night.

Goldblum and Davis don’t actually get physical until the end of the film, when Seth snatches Ronnie away right before she attempts to abort their fetus. As the fly he’s hybridized himself with continues to alter his appearance and mind, Goldblum hatches a plan to fuse himself with Davis into an amalgam that’s merely 33 percent fly. (We pro-choicers believe the baby wouldn’t have reduced things to 25 percent fly until the second trimester.)

After grabbing Davis by the arm and hurling her into his fusion pod, Goldblum’s plot goes awry, as plans of fly-man hybrids so often do. Ultimately, in an act of mercy, Davis puts a shotgun to Brundlefly’s head and lets it rip, generating an explosion so graphic that a young John Papageorgiou wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies for several months afterward.

Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall as Jack and Wendy Torrance – The Shining

The Shining is a movie that every high schooler who wasn’t getting laid but also wasn’t busy plotting to shoot up the school (another win for that middle-of-the-road porridge!) watched several times with a belly-full of hallucinogens, especially if that high schooler was named John Papageorgiou. The tale of a writer possessed by the ghosts of a Native American burial ground who attempts to murder his wife and child is something we can all relate to, because writing is difficult and children are horrible.

Though the film’s most iconic image is that of Nicholson shoving his balding temples through a door he’s just axed apart while screaming, “Here’s Johnny!” the best scene of couples’ violence takes place as Jack backs his wife slowly up one of the hotel’s massive staircases as she meekly swings a bat at him in self-defense. The escalating tension as Nicholson berates Duvall, who looks like she’d rather roll down the staircase herself than work another minute for director Stanley Kubrick, is unparalleled. If there’s a sexual fetish that involves getting off by being beaten with a baseball bat, then this scene is foreplay of the highest order.

Kevin Nealon and Tim Meadows as Kevin Nealon and Ike Turner – Saturday Night Live

I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live in almost 20 years. This isn’t a knock (knock) on the show; I simply don’t believe its format is conducive to putting out the highest quality of comedy. It reminds me of Iron Chef, where a contestant has an hour to make a meal out of cobra dicks or some other outlandish ingredient. “You have seven days to make a sketch using Selena Gomez as Hope Hicks. Go!” Call me an iconoclast, but my gut tells me that meals made with more than 60 minutes of forethought and little to no cobra dick will be of higher quality.

As a kid, however, I was obsessed with SNL. The running gag of the show’s history is that everyone thinks the cast they grew up with was the greatest, but my cast consisted of Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, and Phil Hartman, so it really was the best, and anyone that disputes that can drink their own piss like a viral video chimpanzee.

One of my favorite bits during this era was Tim Meadows’ Ike Turner abusing Weekend Update host Kevin Nealon, inspired by the then-recent release of Tina Turner’s biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It and, more specifically, its infamous scene where Tina refuses Ike’s offer of a slice of cake, only to have it mashed in her face. Every few weeks, Meadows would appear with that ridiculous wig and goatee, get physical with Nealon, and then apologize.

In retrospect, the balls it took to make a comedic premise out of a wife-beater are both baffling and admirable. I’m not very high on political correctness (you might have figured that out if you’ve read this far), but I’ve caught a few minutes of Alexander Skarsgård beating Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies, and I didn’t immediately think to myself, “Ya know, with a little timing, this could be hilarious.”

Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone as Sam Rothstein and Ginger McKenna – Casino

I’m not gonna lie: the main reason I wrote this article was Sam and Ginger. When Kelaine tweeted me about contributing to this site, I was in the middle of my (conservatively) 50th Casino viewing. I knew then and there I would use her request as a pretense to write about one of those rare movies I obsess over and its central couple.

De Niro and Stone in Casino are the Bogie and Bacall of hating each other’s fucking guts. There is no film I know of, before or since, that has captured the true dynamics of a dysfunctional couple like Casino. It succeeds because it acquaints us with the couple’s flaws more than their virtues, begging the question, “Will the marriage of a controlling, workaholic casino boss to a former hooker still in love with her pimp have what it takes to survive?” then screaming “Fuck no!” at the viewer for the entirety of its three-hour run.

Although we know they should break up, and even they know they should break up, they don’t. Appearances must be kept. There’s a child in the mix. And, once in a rare while, they remember they once loved each other.

Thank Allah for that, because the proximity afforded by a shared house allows these two to tear into each other like Siamese fighting fish for our viewing delight. And holy hell, the things they scream at each other while trading blows! Who can forget gems like this:

GINGER: How could I love you? You treat me like I’m your fucking dog!

SAM: You’re lower than a dog!

And here’s another li’l nugget of gold:

[After Sam berates Ginger for screwing his best friend, played by Joe Pesci (I told you this movie is good)]

GINGER: So what? So who fucking blew you in the parking lot before you came in, huh?

Words do these fights zero justice. The word “fight” doesn’t do them justice. These are battles in a war between two sides that will never yield. Three hours of Tom and Jerry if Tom were an alcoholic and Jerry called him a cunt. If you’ve never seen it, watch it today and immediately feel better about the relationship you’re currently in (or your single status,) because no one has ever been worse at love than these two.

John Papageorgiou

John hosts a long running comedy radio show titled Papa's Basement. He also performs standup and improv and drummed once for a Unitarian church.

learn more
Share this story
About The Prompt
A sweet, sweet collective of writers, artists, podcasters, and other creatives. Sound like fun?
Learn more