Fine retorts, collected

If you liked Al Jaffee's Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions from MAD Magazine (and if you didn't, boy are you in the wrong place!), I think you'll enjoy this Reddit thread: "What was your best "comeback line" that left the other person totally speechless?" There's plenty of stuff that I'm betting is really esprit d'escalier, but if even half of it is genuine, it is proof of some fundamental rightness woven into the very fabric of the universe.

davidtregaskis: While working at a paint store my assistant manager was giving me grief because I wanted to get off early to go take a final. She said, "when I was going to school and working if there was ever a conflict between school and work, work always came first." I replied, "that's probably why you're still working here."

Texanjumper: "Brother (our parent's biological child) was talking about how he was the favorite child. my response: 'Well they picked me, got stuck with you!' he had nothing left to say."

gschoppe: "LOL... my adopted sister used that on me once. Being the big brother, and thus obligated to have an immediate comeback, I said, 'Yeah, but have you seen the other choices they've made with their lives?' She never used that line again."

What was your best "comeback line" that left the other person totally speechless? (self.AskReddit)


  1. My favorite got caught on camera. I was at a music fest many years ago in Portland Oregon. The conversation went like this: (Helps if you say it out loud.)

    Int: How do you like Portland?
    Me: As a city or as a whole?
    Int: As a whole.
    Me: I think it’s a good idea.

    1. …. I don’t get it :(

      I can see that the third line could be read as “asshole”, I guess, but then what?

  2. This isn’t really a ‘comeback,’ but when I was on a college internship my mother was in town and I introduced her to my supervisor. They were making small talk, he said, “Do you have any other kids?” And my mother said, “No.” Then she adds with an elbow nudge, “– at least none that I know of!”

  3. Friends invited me to the Baptist Student Union hay ride.  We rode up into the hills, where there was a bonfire for roasting marshmallows.  It was built against a low cliff to protect it from the wind.  After about 15 minutes, one of the group leaders got up on the cliff, held out his bible and yelled “Did everyone bring their bible?”

    Confused by his question and how he was holding his bible, I said “I didn’t know this was a book burning!”  Silence reigned.

    Realizing my mistake, I quickly slunk off into the dark.

    1. A guy got up and prompted people towards religious worship at a religious gathering?!? That must have been crazy confusing! You showed them though!

    2. No, sir. You did the right thing and that was hilarious. Sure, context is iimportant when it comes to pleasing an audience, but that was genuinely funny and screw those people for not being able to appreciate your wit. They’re undeserving of the laugh you’ve given.

  4. My grandfathers favorite one was one day he was working on the farm with my great-grandfather in the 1930’s.  His dad was giving him a hard time about not catching the bails of hay that were being bailed.  He turned to his father and said, “Must have been a better man that made you, than made me….”   Apparently he caught a bail of hay in the face soon after that.   

  5. I used to work in a garden center where mostly women worked and we frequently had to do “load outs” where we helped customers load up heavy and bulky things (like concrete paving bricks or bags of soil) into their cars. My female co-worker and I were called to do a load out for an older lady one day and she seemed very put out. “Aren’t there any MEN to do this?” she sneered. I replied “Lady, we ARE the men around here!”

  6. My brother in law and I each went to good colleges; he’s historically been a tiny bit stuffy about it (in a way I find endearing), while my attitude is sort of “shrug, who cares”.  Not long after first meeting him, we were sitting at a computer, and I put down my cup of water to type something.  A few minutes later he accidentally knocked over the cup, spilling a bit onto the keyboard.  He said, “At Harvard, they taught us not to put cups of water near our keyboards.”  I replied, “At Stanford, they taught us to take responsibility for our own actions.”

    1. I heard this one differently.  Like this:

      Two friends are at the urinal.  One is a Harvard grad and one Stanford.

      Stanford zips up and heads out the door.  After washing up, Harvard snootily tells his friend, “At Harvard they taught us to wash our hands after urinating.”

      The friend replies, “At Stanford they taught us not to piss on our hands.”

      1. I’ve only heard that one as between Harvard and Your School Here.

        Why everyone gotta’ be hating on Harvard?

          1. As good a reason as any.

            He also has a dorm named after him so ugly the architect publicly apologized

        1. I’ve always heard that one as an inter-service rivalry thing; usually Army/Marines.

      2. I’ve heard that one a few times but it’s always in relation to the army and marines. This is the first time I’ve heard of it with schools.

    1. I had a roommate who worked for the Neptune Society for a while. She came home from work one day and said, “We can all breather a little easier now. The retorts are self-perpetuating.”

  7. A girl I knew a number of years ago worked at a video store connected to a gas station. There was a creepy kid who used to hang out there all the time and try to talk to her. One day he decided to apply as a stock boy at the gas station next door and brought the application in to fill out at the video counter. While filling it out, he asked her how to spell “stocker,” to which she replied, “S-T-A-L-K-E-R.”

      1. There’s a famous anecdote attributed to Margot Asquith (wife of Herbert Henry Asquith, the former British Prime Minister). According to the anecdote, Jean Harlow was once at dinner with Margot Asquith , and kept pronouncing Mrs. Asquith’s name with the ‘t’ at the end. Eventually Asquith told her “No, Jean, the ‘T’ is silent, like in ‘Harlow'”.

  8. I remember one time saying to my sister, “if you can’t pick on someone else, who CAN you pick on?” She replied, “yourself,” and I answered, “that’s easy for you to say.”

    1. That’s nearly one tenth as sophisticated as, “I know you are but what am I?”

  9. Like I told my father when he called me a Smart-Ass, “It’s the thought that counts!”.

  10. many years ago, an ex of mine reconnected with me, acting as if she wanted to get back together. Turns out she just wanted to use me for a place to stay in town, as well as for connections I had with photographers/modeling agents at the time.
    After a week or so of this, I called her out on her bullshit, and she said
    “I hate it when people are in love with me, it’s SO inconvenient.”
    to which I replied
    “Convenient enough when it serves”

  11. Many moons ago when I worked at Barnes & Noble, one customer asked inanely why we didn’t shelve all of the books alphabetically by the author’s first names. 

    Without missing a beat, my coworker responded, “What, so all the Dicks would be together?”

  12. I shared a house with several other 20somethings in Nottingham. I hadn’t seen couch potato & slob Dave until he walked in through the front door, laden with shopping.
    Dave: Well, I’ve done my bit for the house!…
    Me: What, you’ve been out of the house all day?

  13. The right-winger at my brother’s workplace was going on and on about the attack on the US personnel in Benghazi.  He hit every Fox News talking point about Benghazi: the president allowed Benghazi to take place, the president covered up the identities of the Benghazi attackers, the press buried Benghazi to get the president re-elected, Benghazi will be the downfall of Hillary, etc.  

    After several minutes of his “authoritative” ranting, my brother spoke up, “You sure seem to know a lot about Benghazi.”  His right-wing nemesis beamed.  My brother then asked, “What country is Benghazi in?”  

    He waited a beat — enjoyed his foe’s panicked expression — and said, “Libya. It’s in Libya.”  

    And he left the room.

  14. I WISH I’d had a comeback Saturday. I was in line for Son Volt merchandise at a Son Volt concert, and a woman sidled up to me in line and after some comment about catching a bus, asked me, “So, do you like Son Volt?” I was honestly speechless for about ten seconds before I managed “Uh … YAH.”

  15. Men with long hair are rather frequently approached by concerned older citizens who say, “You need a haircut.”  To which I reply, “Not as much as you need a facelift.”

    Yeah, I pretty much expect to die violently.

  16. Once I was buying some incense at a spiritual book store, and the cashier asked me “Would you like one of our Zen meditation tapes? This one is called One Hand Clapping.” I retorted, “Is it in stereo?”

  17. A few years ago I was at the marine store my dad works at. I am a male with very long hair, and I felt a tug on the end. I turned around and there was a big dumb looking cowboy. (This was in Texas.)
    He said “You know what you find under a pony tail?”
    I said, “Do you mean beside the cowboy’s lips?”

    I also expect to die violently.

  18. Drunk Guy at a Bar: Man, I’d love to get into your pants
    Me: No thanks, one asshole in there is enough.

  19. I had to think about this for a while; as I’ve managed to get off a few good ones in the past…though some were particularly cruel or shockingly profane; those I’m not so proud of…this example is neither…

    Some years ago I used to patronize a Chinese karaoke bar on Howard St. The downstairs bar was for the (supposedly Connected) OGs…the upstairs bar vibe was young, vibrant…and occasionally violent. (The front entrance had a metal detector everyone had to walk through…)

    I was 19, drinking and singing songs with a whole new group of people in an unfamiliar and exciting environment…Man, I loved that place. I was also the second member of the Caucasian race to ever spend much time there with any regularity. Most people were fine with it, a few…not as much.

    One of the security guys who manned the metal detector was kinda cool, and kind of a dick with an eye rolling ‘who let the riff-raff in’ demeanor…

    So one night I show up early, standing outside smoking a cigarette and who should walk up the block towards me but Security Guy Norm..and he lays into me “what the fuck, goddamned White people stinking up the joint etc etc”

    We both go to enter, he grabs the door handle and BOOOING goes the glass door…and remains shut. I point to the small Pull sign and say ‘maybe they should put that in Chinese…’ Heh heh.

    If looks could kill…I wouldn’t be writing this. 

    Yet almost 20 years later, Norm and I are good friends; had dim sum together not two weeks ago…

  20. I was over at my soon-to-be-ex’s (formerly “our”) house, collecting a few items, and she was spoiling for a fight. Screaming, cursing, inflammatory and baseless accusations, self-pitying theatrics, blah, blah, blah.

    At this point it should be pointed out that she had always had an intense love-hate relationship with her recently-deceased, white trash, raging-southern-baptist-turned-raging-catholic, classic-Blanche DuBois-wannabe mom, a peabrained, sloppy-drunk pathological liar who had never stopped trying to break up the marriage the whole time we were together – And was always a lively topic of discussion. Far more than our marriage or our parenting of our daughter, the lifelong war/lovefest between those two had been THE defining relationship of the ex’s entire life. THE Big Deal.

    I was staying cool, standing on the steps to the front porch, ignoring the ex’s taunt’s, when for no discernible reason she yelled “You go to hell !” –


    It just came, unbidden, as from a deep and pure well of clean, cold water: “I’ve already been there, thanks, and I don’t like the way your mom runs the joint.”

    The ex froze, then hauled off and threw a punch. I side-stepped it, allowing her to instead connect with one of the columns supporting the porch. She wound up breaking two fingers, missed several weeks of work – And, if I’m not mistaken, was a bit more circumspect with her foul yap after that.

  21. I forget what the exact dispute was, but my brother in law, the ex Army Ranger, was griping about people pulling stuff out of their ass. One of my sister’s friends commented “I’ll never understand this military fascination with stuff going into or coming out of each others butts.” At which point I contributed “Well, you know . . . . what are you going to do if you don’t have any sheep handy?”

  22. My close friend Spytek is the king of snaps.  Most of them are had-to-be-there things, but he deals them out constantly at the slightest opportunity.  For some reason, the one I always remember is funny (to me, anyway) but kind of a mild put-down, though.  I was watching TV and found that The Never-Ending Story was on.  I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid, so I was pretty pumped.  ‘Tek came home and I excitedly pointed to the TV–“Never-Ending Story is on!” to which he instantaneously deadpanned “I heard it ends.”

  23. My boss listens to hip-hop every day for three years. One day, I come in and he’s listening to Dark Side of the Moon:

    Before I say anything or even look at him, he says, “What Rick? I can’t listen to Pink Floyd because I’m black? That’s racist! You f***ing racist!”

    So I say: “Oh, is this one of those ‘remix’ things?”

  24. I’ve been reading the Reddit discussion, and most of it involves racist, sexist, homophobic, or fat-shaming put-downs. It’s not Reddit at its worst, but it’s not Reddit at its best, either.

    1. Were you reading with your eyes I’ve read them all, there were no fat shaming post, nor any homophobic ones, there may have been one racist one and one sexist one, maybe two. The majority of the posts were none of the four things you mentioned, or is your post supposed to be witty and has nothing to do with what is written here, or are you on crack?

  25. My late grandfather told me of when he was chatting with an American soldier who, whatever my grandfather had or showed him, in American they were bigger or better. It then came time for dinner and they were peeling the potatoes, the American just had to say something, he remarked “back in the states we have potatoes twice the size of these” quick as a flash my grandfather replied “yes we grow ours to fit our mouths too”

    1.  My 8-year-old daughter and I were having dinner at my parent’s house. My daughter commented something about her class learning state capitols, and my mom asked her if she knew what the capitol of Indiana was. My daughter said, simply, “No. We haven’t gotten that far yet.”
      Mom, always one who needed to show off her supposedly deep and wide base of knowledge, snapped “When I was your age, I knew ALL the states – AND their capitols !”

      I couldn’t resist. I said, “Mom, that’s because when you were her age there were only thirteen of ’em.”

    2. Your grandfather is the shit! (Though he probably wouldn’t appreciate a compliment being put quite that way.)

  26. My supervisor was complaining that I’d seen a patient and hadn’t run an expensive,  unnecessary sometimes uncomfortable test on him.  My response was that it wouldn’t change the direction of treatment, and wouldn’t benefit the patient.  He’d counter that we’d just bought expensive equipment, and had to justify the purchase by using it.  We went round and round a few times on this, neither of us coming closer to the other’s point of view with him finally saying, “C’mon, you’re smarter than this” to which I pretty much shouted “If I’m so damn smart, why am I working for you?”  The new folks I work with are much nicer, and I’ve never looked back.

  27. I was on holiday in the Channel islands with a group of friends, one of whom is German. He went swimming in the (cold) sea but none of the British members of the group decided to join him.

    He asked “How did you manage to win the war if you’re all such cowards?”

    My response: “You were the ones swimming, our ships stayed afloat.”

    Yes, I know it’s technically not true, but it was still funny…

    I normally wouldn’t make jokes about the war to Germans, but if one brings it up in that way then it’s fair game IMO.

  28. My favorite, though not mine, that I personally witnessed happened at a
    tax day protest. We progressives were hanging out at the main post
    office with our signs and such doing the protest thing. Then along comes
    this guy in his beater truck; he hangs out the window to bellow
    “Fuck you dumb kids! I didn’t fight in a war just so you idiots could
    stand around and protest the greatest nation on the planet!” To which my quick witted friend retortes, “Yeah! How dare we exercise this freedom
    to protest that so many have fought and died for over the years!” Dude
    just froze for a bit, thought about it, and then drove off without
    another word.

    PS Matt, if you’re reading this, I just want you to know that that was freaking epic.

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