8/9/09

RVOD074 Flying Stewardesses

(1940s-ish?, Educational-Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett

The captain thanks you for keeping the plane snake-free.

Rating: ***1/2

In a Nutshell:


Airline stewardesses must remain young and thin or face unemployment.

Summary:

Faster than a speeding drink cart...Young women gather in a classroom to learn about radios and rubbery, lukewarm meals with comically tiny portions. Moments later, a new stewardess is in the sky, assisting tie-wearing executives and mink-wearing fashion plates as they fly from New York to Chicago in a shiny silver prop-driven DC-3. Moments after that, she’s helping the ladies out of their minks and into their nighties during an overnight flight from Chicago to Fort Worth. We learn that airline seats of yesteryear apparently converted into full-sized bunks, complete with curtains.

In Fort Worth, she gets together with the other stewardesses to go sailing and play ping-pong while the narrator goes on and on about how stewardess experience makes a girl extra-marriageable, and how they’d better stay thin or they’ll lose their jobs. Now our cheerfully non-descript protagonist returns to the sky for a flight from Fort Worth to Los Angeles, during which she does all the things we’ve already seen her do.

Thoughts:

They don't just fly, they sail as well.  Now how much would you pay?The only bed I’ve ever seen on a plane was two and a half feet long and about a foot and a half wide. The flight attendants couldn’t get it to stick on the wall like it was supposed to, so my infant daughter had to sleep in my lap instead. It was just as well. Had they been successful, getting back into my seat would probably have required the removal of both my legs.

I could go on about the cramped legroom and substandard meals one gets at thirty thousand feet, but I’d be retracing the steps of pretty much every stand-up comedian ever since the invention of comedy. Suffice it to say that the air travelers of the forties (fifties?) had it much, much better than I ever did, even counting that overnight Miami-Santiago flight when the airline bumped me up to first class by mistake.

Moving on to the short’s non-airline-specific foibles, it’s sexist. Well, considering the era that spawned it, of course it is. I’m sure that airlines were far from the only industry to openly enforce weight and attractiveness requirements on their female staff. (Speaking of which, American flight attendants may look like normal people these days, but this does not appear to be the worldwide norm. The attendants failing to manipulate my daughter’s bed in the anecdote above, for instance, were good-looking enough to work as models. Every attendant on the flight looked like that, and it was a foreign airline, so I assume this was part of their job description.) What surprised me about the short, though, was the way the narrator used the attractiveness requirement to go off on an odd marriage tangent. It made me wonder about the intended audience. I’m pretty sure it was meant for prospective stewardesses. “Join us, and we’ll get you hitched within three years!” it promises. But then they go on to say that they can’t marry the pilots, because most of those guys are already married. This and other statements give the short more of a “mid-air meat market” feel. “Boys, we’ve got all these girls and not enough men,” it seems to say to a different sort of target audience. “Grab yours quick before she passes her sell-by date!”

Mike, Bill and Kevin debuted this short at their live performance on August 20, 2009. It was drop-dead hilarious there, thanks in part to the extra energy one always gets out of a live performance. An almost identical but slightly less high energy studio version was released a few days later. A few of my favorite quotes: During a pointless over-the-wing shot, Kevin does his best Shatner impersonation, “There is NOT a MAN on the WING of the PLANE!” As the new stewardess memorizes the names of her passengers, Mike gently reminds her of “Old Lumpyskull, Mr. Badpants and Lady Who Smells like Sausages.” Bill spends much of the short’s latter portion making fun of Fort Worth (during the live performance, he also apologized constantly to the people watching from that city), but one of my favorite comments of his comes when he introduces one a man emerging from the plane, “Hi, Bob Executive. Which way is Business?” The live performance was fantastic; the studio version is slightly less so, but still quite funny.