short circuit johnny 5 number 5 newton crosby steve gutenberg
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The Ending Joke in Short Circuit

I am forty years old and I still don’t remember a time I haven’t seen Short Circuit, my favorite movie. The big emotional climax is where Number 5 and his programmer are trying to prove that he’s “alive”. And after several psychological tests, Newton Crosby (Ph.D.) gets the idea to see if he laughs spontaneously at a joke. It’s a beautiful moment with swelling music and epic victory.

Except I don’t understand the joke. I never have.

It seems to be something to do with Jewish humor. It’s either anti-semitic or poking gentle fun at Judaism. Does it have something to do with the fact Jews believe God is more involved with humans than Christians think (as demonstrated in Fiddler on the Roof)?

Best I can figure, either “whatever God wants, He keeps” means Jews believe God is so real He can scoop coins out from the sky. Or that Jews are greedy so they count on the fact that God won’t intervene, so they get to keep all the money.

Mark Twain said that examining humor is like dissecting a frog. You may learn something, but the frog is dead.

Can anyone explain this to me?

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

5 Comments

  • random person

    I just watched this movie for the first time. It’s an anti semitic joke implying that the Rabbi wants to keep all the money (because all the money will fall to the ground). Truly baffling that that was the pivotal joke to prove Johnny 5 was sentient.

    • Eric J. Juneau

      I thought of that as a possibility, but another part of my mind can’t believe that such a family-friendly part of my childhood relied on a piece of bigoted writing for its climax. I always interpreted it as the Rabbi believes in God so much that He will reach out and take the money He wants to use (kind of like Fiddler on the Roof). But that could be my childlike thinking.

      • same random person

        It’s definitely an anti-semitic joke though I would say only mildly so. These sorts of Protestantism vs Catholicism vs Judaism jokes used to be really prevalent. It was just so bizarre that it was the pivotal joke at the most wholesome/family friendly part of the movie.

        The movie also features a man in brown face who says something like “I am getting a major boner right now” when the scientist dude talks about meeting up with the heroine. The 80s were weird.

        • Eric J. Juneau

          That’s a good point. Fisher Stevens playing Benjamin Jabituya was my first exposure to someone of Indian descent. I think all I understood what was that he was foreign, but that funny generic kind of foreign like Bronson Pinchot’s Balki from Perfect Strangers. The eighties weren’t kind to non-white Americans. (And actually I think he says “I am sporting a tremendous woody right now”)

  • Anon

    You are morons. The point of the joke was god doesn’t want your money . You greedy ‘#$/. Of course you would make it racist or anti sematic. Do you not understand you become what you fear. Your fear makes you lash out at things , you can’t grasp. Try yoga , model boats get a hobby instead of trying to spread hate and fear.

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