I will use any reason I can to write about Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. The parody series—created, written, and starring Richard Ayoade and Matthew Holness—debuted January 29, 2004 on Channel 4 in the UK. It’s one of my favorite shows ever, and not just because it introduced me to the funniest person alive, Matt Berry. (Though that’s obviously part of it.) If you’ve never seen the series I’ve previously laid out the many reasons you should remedy that massive comedic oversight immediately.
And if you have seen it, like me, you’ve probably watched it at least 12 times. Now you have the perfect excuse to make it a baker’s dozen – the show’s 18th anniversary. An occasion that is also a perfect reason for me to write about it again, with a list of the show’s 18 funniest lines.
Note: My initial list of quotes exceeded 75. And that was with me being judicious. So, despite being wholly responsible for what you’re about to read, even I’m mad at some of the omissions. Just know limiting a Darkplace “best-of” to only 18 was essentially impossible. Therefore, to make this at all feasible I went with three lines from every episode. (And I only cheated twice!)
EPISODE 1: “Once Upon a Beginning”
“I’m one of the few people you’ll meet who’ve written more books than I’ve read.” –Garth Marenghi
Author/dream weaver/visionary/plus actor Garth Marenghi lets us know exactly what he’s all about as a writer with an all-time great line.
“I got a script. Read it. Scared me senseless, comme d’habitude. And I said to Garth—looked straight into his face, never been afraid at holding a man’s gaze, it’s natural—I said, ‘This is going to be the most significant televisual event since Quantum Leap.’ And I do not say that lightly.” –Dean Lerner
He might not be much of an actor, but publisher Dean Lerner is arguably the greatest talking head in television history. Also, Quantum Leap rocked. So high praise indeed. High praise indeed.
“The doors of Darkplace were open. Not the literal doors of the building, but evil doors, dark doors, doors to the beyond. Doors hard to shut because they were abstract and didn’t have handles. More like portals, really.” –Dr. Rick Dagless
If you really think about it, those doors are like a metaphor.
EPISODE 2: “Hell Hath Fury”
“There’s a lot of slow motion. The episodes were running up to eight minutes under. The only way to stretch them out was with slow motion. And we tried to keep the slow motion away from the dialogue as much as possible. Anything without dialogue was considered for slow motion.” –Dean Lerner
What makes this line even funnier is, in addition to all the slow-mo running, is how often the show also relies on slow motion laughter.
“As I rounded the corner I felt muscular and compact, like corned beef.” –Dr. Rick Dagless”
Try and write a funnier simile. Actually, don’t bother. Can’t be done.
(This line barely edged out “I ran the only way I knew how, by placing one leg in front of the other in quick succession.” The final vote was 50.05 to 49.95.)
“I think what this episode shows is that the human spirit cannot be overcome. You know, as a writer, if you take away my paper, I would write on my heart. If you took away my ink, I’d write on the wind. It wouldn’t be an ideal way to work.” –Garth Marenghi
What makes Garth Marenghi an amazing character is that he’s not a total moron. His ego blinds him to his many shortcomings, but he’s still capable of saying something insightful. Even poetic. He’s just not smart enough to realize other people understand things without having them explain in such literal terms. Which is often the only way he can even understand himself.
EPISODE 3: Skipper the Eyechild
“This episode is really about my own desire to have a son. I have four daughters and, whilst I don’t blame them as such, I don’t really feel they’re on my side.” –Garth Marenghi
Whether writing, acting, or being a father, Garth Marenghi is always 100% Garth Marenghi.
“I haven’t acted since. Some would say I didn’t act during. But, uh, those would be unkind people. I did my best.” –Dean Lerner
The fact Richard Ayoade makes us feel bad for Dean Lerner is the best testament to how funny he is as both Thornton and Dean. You could make a list of Dean Lerner’s 18 funniest lines and still have to leave out some total bangers.
“She’s a good girl, Dag. You’re too hard on her.” –Dr. Lucien Sanchez
“I know. I just don’t find her physically attractive.” –Dr. Rick Dagless
Garth Marenghi wants his character Dr. Rick Dagless, and therefore himself, presented in the best imaginable light at all times. Yet he can’t help but reveal himself to be the world’s biggest misogynist. A+ satire. Unimpeachable.
Also, Alice Lowe kills it in every scene as the fictional show’s only female star, Dr. Liz Asher of Harvard College, Yale. But she has memorable moments—like everything she does as an ape person—rather than memorable quotes. This list does not capture how funny she is on the series. But she’s as good as any of her cast mates.
EPISODE 4: “The Apes of Wrath”
They would not make this show today. They would not make it. You know, it was way the hell out there. You know, we were young, we were physically fit, and we were challenging logic.” –Dean Lerner
Dean and Garth’s continued, genuine, sincere belief their hospital show was actually good never gets old.
“I know writers who use subtext and they’re all cowards.” –Garth Marenghi
This line—arguably the show’s most famous thanks to its meme-ability—is so incredible it haunts me to know I’ll never write anything better.
“It’s so hard to watch this episode knowing that she’s now missing, presumed dead. With the presumption heavily on dead. I don’t think they’ll find anything. But, then again, she was like a candle in the wind: unreliable.” –Dean Lerner
Wait! This is my first cheat! We’re doubling dipping for this entry to include both of Dean Lerner’s comments about the missing Madeleine Wool. The series’ only post-credits scene includes this bonus of Dean talking to the director.
“I reckon she’s probably somewhere in the Eastern Bloc. That’s my hunch.”
“You think she’s still alive, then?”
“No, I think she’s probably just buried in the Eastern Bloc. If she got a burial.”
If “unreliable” and “if she got a burial” don’t kill you every time it’s because you’re already dead. (Which Garth would say means either literally or metaphorically on the inside.)
EPISODE 5: “Scotch Mist”
It’s 3 am and it’s misty. Too misty. And the weatherman had said, and I quote, ‘More mist to come.’ Once you added that to the mist already here, you were looking at a whole mess of mist. I’d been called out to grounds of Darkplace. It was taking ages because of the mist though. There was something about this mist. What? I hadn’t the foggiest.” –Dr. Rick Dagless
Garth’s overtly racist story about dead Scottish warriors haunting the hospital might be the show’s best episode. You could easily choose three other lines as the best and not be wrong. All of these are killers though.
“We found out the mist was poisonous when two techies died, yes. Now, I don’t like to see anyone die, but if someone has to die it might as well be a techie… because another one comes along. It’s the same belt, the same hammer in the tool belt. You can barely tell the difference.” –Dean Lerner
Dean Lerner: producer, comedic genius, and horrible person.
“Listen to me. I am not prejudiced, all right? That is what I’m saying, I am not prejudiced. But Joe Public is. You probably are. You look like a dropout. Point being, I wrote this to heal Britain.” –Garth Marenghi
Thank god this episode fixed Britain forever.
EPISODE 6: “The Creeping Moss from the Shores of Shuggoth”
This eve’s yarn is a simple tale o’heartbreak. An eternal story of love and loss, set against the backdrop of an abortive alien invasion. Though you actually find out it’s abortive till the end of the show. It’s my Romeo and Juliet, but less whiny.” –Garth Marenghi
Only Garth Marenghi could kill Romeo and Juliet a second time.
Why won’t she be mine?
I wish I was more attractive like Dagless
Still…one can only dream.
This is cheat number 2, since arguably lyrics shouldn’t make a list of quotes. And it’s really a cheat since I’m about to include all of the lyrics to this spot-on ’80s power ballad spoof that includes a rap breakdown from Thornton Reed.
I’m a one-track lover
Down a two-way lane
Driving down the highway
Must have been insane
Cause the temperature’s too hot
Travelin’ way too fast
And I knew our lovin’
Was too hot to last
She’s smooth, like ice
Cold to the touch and isn’t very nice
When you left (cold to the touch) alone
Your lady treats you bad, leaves you hanging on the phone
Take off, (hot enough) shove your lovin’ in the wheels
Put the pedal to the floor, cos’ your headin’ for the hills (we should be making love)
Got to get away, can’t take it no more,
Man, you don’t need this
Leave it at the door (we should be making love!)
No hyperbole, this might be the greatest song ever written and recorded. I know Dean Lerner agrees with me. And (:Matt Berry voice:) I’ll be damned if I’m not including it on a “best-of” Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace list.
Also, I needed to get Matt Berry on here somewhere. You can’t really appreciate why he’s so funny on this show by reading quotes. He turns the most normal and mundane lines into comedy brilliance. That doesn’t translate to a quotes list, only in him being the funniest human to ever live.
“I have had… such terrible experiences with… that… with… with the AIDS. Um… I’ve lost so many friends to that terrible disease. My half-brother, who was such a promising dancer, very quietly, very peacefully, he went.
And then… Freddie went.” –Dean Lerner
Garth’s ham-fisted (or rather “whole pig-fisted) special episode about AIDS is capped off with maybe the funniest laugh-out-loud line of the entire series. Dean Lerner’s heartfelt, genuinely thoughtful reflections about the AIDS pandemic ends with an incredible punch. He name-drops a celebrity he likely didn’t know, even though he omits Freddie Mercury’s last name to imply they were close friends. It’s truly a perfect joke, one that requires the viewer to do some of the work.
This quote would be on any list, no matter how short, of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace‘s funniest. Still, I can’t wait for the 75th anniversary so I don’t have to leave so many great ones out.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.