The Jerk

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The Jerk is a 1979 film about an imbecilic white man who was adopted by a black family in Mississippi. At his 18th birthday, his family reveals to him he's really an adopted white man. He therefore decides to discover the outside world by traveling to St. Louis. During his trip, everyone exploits his naivety, but eventually a simple invention brings him a fortune.

Directed by Carl Reiner. Story by Steve Martin & Carl Gottlieb. Screenplay by Steve Martin, Carl Gottlieb & Michael Elias
He was a poor black sharecropper's son who never dreamed he was adopted. taglines

Navin R. Johnson[edit]

  • Huh? I am not a bum. I'm a jerk. I once had wealth, power, and the love of a beautiful woman. Now I only have two things: my friends and uh, my thermos. Huh? My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin' on the porch with my family, singin' and dancin' down in Mississippi.
  • For one dollar I'll guess your weight, your height, or your sex.
  • First I get my name in the phone book and now I'm on your ass. You know, I'll bet more people see that than the phone book.
  • Marie, are you awake? Good. You look so beautiful and peaceful, you almost look dead. I'm glad because there is something that has always been very difficult for me to say. I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit. I've never been relaxed enough around anyone to be able to say that. You give me confidence in myself. I know we've only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days and the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days and the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it. Anyway, I've decided that tomorrow, when the time is right, I'm going to ask you to marry me, if that's okay with you. Just don't say anything. You've made me very happy.
  • [singing]
    I'm picking out a Thermos for you! / Not an ordinary Thermos for you, / But the extra best Thermos that you can buy, / with vinyl and stripes and a cup built right in!
    I'm picking out a Thermos for you, / And maybe a barometer too. / And what else can I buy so on me you'll rely? / A rear-end thermometer too!
  • Good Lord! I've heard about this: cat juggling!
  • Well, I'm gonna go then, and I don't need any of this! I don't need this stuff, and I don't need you! I don't need anything, except this. [picks up an ashtray] An ashtray, and that's the only thing I need, is this! I don't need this or this! Just this ashtray, and this paddle game. The ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need! And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that's all I need! And that's all I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one— I need this. [picks up chair] The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I am, some kind of a jerk or something? And this. [picks up magazine] The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair. [walking outside] And I don't need one other thing, except my dog. [Shithead growls at him] Well, I don't need my dog.


Hotel Guest: Don't call the dog "Lifesaver". Call him "Shithead".

Madman: Die, you random son of a bitch. Die, gas pumper!


Mother: Navin, it's your birthday, and it's time you knew. You're not our natural-born child.
Navin R. Johnson: You mean I'm going to stay this color?
Mother: I'd love you if you were the color of a baboon's ass.

Mother: And remember: the Lord loves a working man!
Navin R. Johnson: The Lord loves a working man.
Father: And son, don't never ever trust whitey.
Navin: Don't trust whitey. The Lord loves a working man. Don't trust whitey.
Mother: Oh, baby.
Navin: Daddy. Pierre. Come here. Don't you forget to grow up now.
Elvira Johnson: Send me a picture, a picture! And I'll call you later! Don't forget, Navie!
Father: Okay, okay. Let the boy go.
Elvira: Bye.
Father: We got work to do.
Mother: And I hope you find whatever it is you're looking for.
Navin: I will, Ma. I know it's out there.
Taj: It's out there all right, and if you catch it see a doctor and get rid of it.
Navin: See a doctor and get rid of it.
Taj: Good luck.
Navin: The Lord loves a working man. Don't trust whitey. See a doctor and get rid of it.

Harry Hartounian: Boy, get to work in there!
Navin R. Johnson: But sir, I don't even work here.
Harry: Not even for a dollar ten an hour?

Harry Hartounian: Boy, I wish I could get that excited about nothing.
Navin R. Johnson: Nothing? Are you kidding? Page 73: Johnson, Navin R.! I'm somebody now! Millions of people look at this book every day! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity — your name in print — that makes people. I'm in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.
Madman: [thumbing through phone book at home] Johnson, Navin R. Sounds like a typical bastard.

[Stan Fox's glasses keep slipping off]
Stan Fox: Damn these glasses, son.
Navin R. Johnson: Yes, sir. [to the glasses] I damn thee!

[Navin works as a weight guesser in a circus]
Fairgoer: Hey, honey, let's see how good this guy is. What do I win?
Navin R. Johnson: [gesturing at the prize display] Uh, anything in this general area right in here. Anything below the stereo and on this side of the Bicentennial glasses. Anything between the ashtrays and the thimbles. Anything in this three inches, right in here, in this area that includes the Chicklets but not the erasers.
Fairgoer: No sir. Come on, honey. He thought he had himself a rube.
Navin: Frosty, I'm just no good at this.
Frosty: Ah, come on, Navin. You're doing fine.
Navin: No, I've already given away eight pencils, two hula dolls and an ashtray, and I've only taken in fifteen dollars.
Frosty: Navin, you have taken in fifteen dollars and given away fifty cents worth of crap, which gives us a net profit of fourteen dollars and fifty cents.
Navin: Ah, it's a profit deal! Heh, takes the pressure off. [barking] Get your weight guessed right here! Only a buck! Actual live weight-guessing! Take your chance and win some crap! Step right up!

Navin R. Johnson: [in Patty the bike rider's trailer] What a great place! You know, you can tell so much about a person from the way they live. Just looking around here I can tell you're a genuinely dirty person. [holding Patty's helmet] What do I do with this? [Patty tosses it on the bed.] Oh, you keep it there. Where's your garbage? [Patty throws Navin's corn dog aside and lies on the bed.]
Patty Bernstein: You know what I'd like to do?
Navin: What?
Patty: Guess your weight.
Navin: Hey, that would be interesting for me. No one has tried to guess my weight! You see, I guess their weight so it's sort of a—
Patty: Put your arms up.
Navin: This will give me a whole different perspective on this. [Patty gropes his buttocks] Hey! You're really trying to be accurate! Is it getting hot in here? Wait a minute! What's happening to my "special purpose"?
Patty: What's your special purpose?
Navin: Well, when I was a kid my mom told me: there goes my special purpose! And someday I'd find out what that special purpose was!
Patty: Today's the day!
Navin: Hey, this is like a ride!

[On the porch of Navin's old house]
Grandmother: [reading letter from Navin] "My dear family, Guess what? Today I found out what my 'special purpose' is for. Gosh what a great time I had. I wish my whole family could have been here with me. Maybe some other time as I intend to do this a lot. Every chance I get. I think next week I'll be able to send some more money as I may have extra work. My friend Patty promised me a blow job. Your loving son, Navin." And he's got the kisses here.
Father: That Patty must be a sweet girl.
Mother: God bless her.

Navin R. Johnson: I had the craziest fantasy that I could rise up and float right down the end of this coronet, right through here, through these valves, right along this tube, to right up against your lips and give you a kiss.
Marie: Why didn't you?
Navin: Well, I didn't want to get spit on me.

Navin R. Johnson: Why are you crying? And why are you wearing that old dress?
Marie Johnson: Because I just heard a song on the radio that reminded me of the way we were.
Navin: What was it?
Marie: "The Way We Were."

Navin R. Johnson: I'm gonna bounce back and when I do I'm gonna buy you a diamond so big it's gonna make you puke!
Marie Johnson: I don't wanna puke!


  • He was a poor black sharecropper's son who never dreamed he was adopted.
  • From rags to riches... to rags.


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