“I am Spartacus!”


If you get the joke in this cartoon, then you likely have seen the 1960 film Spartacus starring Kirk Douglas in the title role and Tony Curtis as his loyal friend and ally, that was directed by Stanley Kubrick with the screenplay by Dalton Trumbo.

Here is the scene.

Trumbo had been blacklisted during the McCarthy era because he had refused to provide names to the congressional committees seeking to identify Communists working in Hollywood and it is assumed that this scene was designed to praise those who refused to betray their friends and colleagues.

The scene has become iconic and I assumed that it had seeped into the popular culture by now so that at least people of my generation would know of it. But it is not the case. I once told a story to a couple my age of a person who would give his name as Spartacus to the baristas at coffee shops so that when they called out his name, he could stand and say, “I am Spartacus!”

My friends had blank looks which told me that they had no idea what the point of my story was so I had to explain it to them, which of course ruins any humor.


  1. markp8703 says

    “My friends had blank looks which told me that they had no idea what the point of my story was so I had to explain it to them, which of course ruins any humor.”

    A few years ago I was at a trendy burger joint (in a shipping container) and on their menu was a “Heisenburger”. I asked the owner if it was called that because if you know where it was you couldn’t tell where it was going etc.

    Apparently not; he had no idea what I was talking about. It was just that he and his partner were fans of Breaking Bad.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Legend Rumor has it that Kirk Douglas’s youngest son Eric, a not-very-successful standup comic, endured (accounts vary as to which venue) something like this:

    The late Eric Douglas — Kirk’s son — is onstage at Jongleurs, London’s biggest comedy club, a place where office parties and hen nights go.

    Eric’s telling jokes, but not getting laughs. He’s pacing and starting to sweat. Finally, some bloke in the crowd yells out, “Come on, mate, tell us a joke!” Douglas fires back with some aggressive put-down. Others join in, chanting, “Tell us a joke!” Forced back on his hind legs, Douglas gets very aggressive. “Do you know who I am?! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!”

    “No, who are you?” shouts a heckler, in an uninterested tone.

    Douglas snaps back, “I’m Kirk Douglas’s son! I’m Kirk Douglas’s son! THAT’S who I am!”

    Suddenly a lone bloke in the back row stands up and says very solemnly, “I’m Kirk Douglas’s son.”

    Then another audience member stands up, puts his hand over his heart, and says, “I’m Kirk Douglas’s son!”

    Soon, hundreds of audience members all stand up, hands on hearts, solemnly repeating, “I’m Kirk Douglas’s son!”

  3. John Morales says

    Of course, saying “I’m Spartacus!” is funny because it commits one to being tortured and crucified to death. Oh, wait…

    So easy to say when nothing is at stake, in contrast to the actual pathos of the film.

  4. billseymour says

    My problem isn’t telling jokes because I’m terrible at it in any event; but I sometimes think others know more than they do.

    I didn’t learn much in tenth grade biology (the teacher was the wrestling coach), but I do remember the names of maybe ten of the major bones of vertebrates.  Once at a chicken wing place, I told the sales clerk that I prefer the radius and ulna part, not the humerus part.  It took a little while for us to agree that I wanted “the flat kind”.

  5. Thijs says

    Embarrassing fact: It took me over 20 years to realise that the ending of Monty Python’s Life of Brian was a reference to this scene.

  6. Silentbob says

    “Your honour, my client purchased this pack of jelly babies and was horrified to discover that laboratory analysis found not a hint of babies anywhere in the product. We’re asking for a mere 5 million in damages, of which I have generously agreed to accept only 20% in fees”.

    Dude’s just a varient on the ambulance chaser except with less conscience. Scumbag.

  7. Silentbob says

    Oh sorry, apparently I got redirected elsewhere after signing in to the thread about the food labelling lawyer. Sorry Spartacus, you’re alright my me. X-D

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