You ever think of the perfect response to a put-down after the moment has already passed? It's the worst. Especially because you spend the next few days rolling around the kitchen floor, your body fully slathered in the peanut butter of shame, denigrating yourself over and over while loudly proclaiming, "That's what I should have said!" Actually, that's never happened to me. Well, not the part with the peanut butter at least, but I imagine it's quite common.
PROTIP: Have your dog lick it off you to heighten the self-loathing.
Throughout history, however, there have been the quick-thinking great ones who were presented with the perfect setup and, rather than botching it, proved their point or defended themselves with a punchline of just a few hilariously well-chosen words. It's the kind of quick-thinking wit you just don't see with today's celebrities.
5 George Bernard Shaw Responds to a Heckler
George Bernard Shaw was a celebrated Irish playwright who lived from 1856 to 1950. His name is also super fun to say. Go ahead. Just feels good in the mouth, like a softer Jolly Rancher with some more substantial and savory overtones.
The only name in the English language more pleasing to say is Plemblebrook Pillowkins.
Anyway, in 1894, Shaw was enjoying a successful opening night for his play Arms and the Man. Indeed, he joined the actors onstage, basking in the glory of an overwhelmingly positive reception. Nevertheless, one lone dissenter began to boo loudly from the audience.
Undaunted, Shaw replied:
"I quite agree with you, my friend, but what can we two do against a whole houseful of the opposite opinion?"
Just beautiful. A classy way to say no one agrees with you. Funny, subtle, and totally foreign to the filmmakers of today. For example ...
How Quentin Tarantino Would Do It Today
Keith Tsuji / Getty
"[Bleep] you. This is [bleep]. [Bleep] you and your [bleeping] bush league [bleeeeeeep]. It's like I'm sittin' here, y'know, giving you, like, Shakespeare, and you're all, like, Season 5 of Lost in Space. Wait, y'know what? Not even [bleeping] Shakespeare, man. Like the [bleeping] pilot to Kojak, but you don't deserve Telly Savalas, man. You're like William Conrad in Cannon. At best! At [bleeping] best, man. Booing my [bleep] like some Statler and Waldorf mother[bleepers]? [Bleep] you. [Bleeeeeeeeep] youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!
"Yes, those are our names. Quentin gets it."
4 Babe Ruth Justifies His Salary to a Reporter
Babe Ruth was one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the game. He was an impressive pitcher for the Boston Red Sox before reaching even greater glory as a New York Yankee and one of the most prolific home-run hitters of all time.
"Yes, I was on the Red Sox first. And a pitcher. Also, I never took steroids."
In 1931, while the country slipped deeper into the Depression, Yankees management asked Ruth to reduce his then-towering $80,000 salary to $75,000. Ruth refused, and at a press conference, a reporter pointed out that Ruth was making $5,000 more than President Hoover. Ruth replied:
"Maybe so, but I had a better year than he did."
Well played, Mr. Ruth. You took that sharp speeding question and smacked it over the wall in center field.
How LeBron James Would Do It Today
"Well, yes, I make hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the president in base salary alone, not counting endorsements, and I'll be happy to tell you why ... in my prime time one-hour special next week."
"I know that's not funny, and I'll be happy to explain why ... in my prime time one-hour special next week."