I’m not sure if you got the memo but it’s National Memo Day1, and if you thought I’d let such a day pass without sending you a list of my favourite memos, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to my habits. BUT I MUST WARN YOU: Included below, titled “P.S. This is my favorite memo ever,” is a memo containing language so obscene it may literally cause this newsletter to be stopped by some kind of filter, in which case, sadly, you won’t be reading this. However, if this has sidestepped the authorities and you are easily offended, please delete this email and carry on with your day of celebrations. And if this list doesn’t satisfy your memo cravings, take a look at the Tiger Oil Memos which are too numerous to include here.
Good luck with your weekend, and subscribe if you haven’t already x
Up until the moment this anxious memo from record producer Ted Macero sped through the offices of Columbia Records in November of 1969, everybody involved in the production of Miles Davis’ ground-breaking, genre-redefining, boundary-pushing new album was quite happily under the impression that upon its release it would, thank goodness, bear the admittedly bland but mercifully inoffensive name, “Listen To This.” And then Miles Davis called. Presumably the memo’s recipients advised Macero to simply accept the demand, for Davis’ jazz opus was indeed released to huge fanfare and acclaim four months later, its packaging proudly emblazoned with Davis’ inarguably less forgettable title. It’s difficult to imagine the alternative.
FROM: Teo Macero
TO: JOHN BERG, JOE AGRESTI, PHYLLIS MASON
DATE: November 14, 1969
RE: MILES DAVIS CS 9961 XSM 151732/3 PROJECT # 03802
Miles just called and said he wants this album to be titled:
I’m afraid I thought this one as dire as its title3
In May of 1974, after reading through a pilot script written by John Cleese and his then-wife, Connie Booth, a clearly unimpressed ‘comedy script editor’ by the name of Ian Main sent the following memo to BBC Television‘s Head of Comedy and Light Entertainment. Luckily for the general population, and thanks in no small part to the persistence of Cleese and Booth, Main’s opinion was ultimately ignored by his superiors and a year later the script had evolved into a programme which to this day is considered one of the funniest ever to grace our screens. The show was Fawlty Towers.
Speaking in 2009, John Cleese said of this very memo, “It just shows you people have no idea what they are doing.”
From: Comedy Script Editor, Light Entertainment, Television
Room No. & Building: 4009 TC
Tel. Ext.: 2900
Subject: “FAWLTY TOWERS” BY JOHN CLEESE & CONNIE BOOTH
I’m afraid I thought this one as dire as its title.
It’s a kind of “Prince of Denmark” of the hotel world. A collection of cliches and stock characters which I can’t see being anything but a disaster.
P.S. This is my favorite memo ever4
Ever since it first aired on television in 1997, Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s hugely popular animated comedy, South Park, has courted controversy due to its crude jokes, deliberate lack of tact, and the creators’ steadfast refusal to self-censor or bow to external pressures. However, two years after the show debuted, a feature length film was released—South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut—and in order for it to gain an R rating, Stone and Parker had no choice but to chop and change certain scenes. This memo, from Stone to the MPAA, was sent along with the movie’s second cut.
From: Matt Stone
Re: MPAA cut #2
Here is our new cut of the South Park movie to submit to the MPAA. I wanted to tell you exactly what notes we did and did not address.
We left in both the “fisting” and the “rimjob” references in the counselor’s office scene. We did cut the word "hole" from "asshole" as per our conversation.
We took out the entire “God has fucked me in the ass so many times...” It is gone.
Although it is not animated yet, we put a new storyboard in for clarification in the scene with Saddam Hussein’s penis. The intent now is that you never see Saddam’s real penis, he in fact is using dildos both times.
We have the shot animated that reveals the fact that Winona is not shooting ping-pong balls from her vagina. She is, in fact, hitting the balls with a ping-pong paddle.
We took out the only reference to “cum-sucking ass” in the film. It was in the counselor’s office and we took it out.
We left in the scenes with Cartman’s mom and the horse as per our conversation. This is the one joke we really want to fight for.
Call with any questions.
P.S. This is my favorite memo ever.
STAR TREK PLANET VULCAN PROPER NAMES
In May of 1966, four months before Star Trek premiered on NBC, the show’s producers exchanged a chain of memos in which they discussed, with tongue firmly in cheek, a system by which to name Spock’s fellow Vulcans. This is just one5.
TO: Gene Roddenberry
FROM: Bob Justman
DATE: May 3, 1966
SUBJECT: STAR TREK PLANET VULCAN PROPER NAMES
I would like to suggest that all proper names for denizens of Mr. Spock’s “PLANET VULCAN” follow a set routine. To wit: all names begin with the letters “SP” and end with the letter “K.” All names to have a total of five letters in them—no more and no less.
Therefore: Mr. Spock aptly fits this pattern. Other names would be as follows:
Spook, Spuck, Spack, Speek, Spouk, Spaak, Spilk, Spiak, Spunk, Spank, Spink, Spenk, Sponk, Spilk, Spalk, Spelk, Spolk, Spulk, Spirk, Spark, Spork, Sperk, Spurk, Spawk, Spauk, Speuk, Spuik, Spouk, Splak, Splek, Splek, Splik, Spluk, Spakk, Spekk, Spikk, Spokk, Spukk, Spark, Spirk, Sperk, Spork, Spurk, Spxyx.
Hope that the suggestions are of immense help to you. I remain,
Your humble and obedient servant,
Robert H. Justman
SEVEN LITTLE MEN HELP A GIRL6
When, in early-1986, Disney executives decided to change the title of their upcoming animated feature from ‘Basil of Baker Street’ to the less ambiguous ‘The Great Mouse Detective’, its production team were less than pleased. One animator in particular, Ed Gombert, harnessed his displeasure to comical effect by creating, and circulating, the following: a fake memo purportedly from then-head of department, Peter Schneider, in which he announced the retroactive renaming of Disney’s entire back catalogue, bar The Aristocats, in a similarly bland style.
It was a hit, and in fact such was its popularity that the memo soon reached a very unimpressed Jeff Katzenberg, then-CEO of Disney, who, after questioning an entirely innocent Schneider, tried and failed to uncover the identity of the memo’s creator. To make matters worse, a copy then found its way to the LA Times.
To Disney’s dismay the movie’s name was suddenly on everyone’s lips, albeit for the wrong reasons.
Walt Disney Pictures
TO: ANIMATION DEPARTMENT
FROM: Peter Schneider EXT: 2630
DATE: February 13, 1986
Along with the new title for “Basil of Baker Street” it has been decided to re-name the entire library of animated classics. The new titles are as follows…
“SEVEN LITTLE MEN HELP A GIRL”
“THE WOODEN BOY WHO BECAME REAL”
“COLOR AND MUSIC”
“THE WONDERFUL ELEPHANT WHO COULD REALLY FLY”
“THE LITTLE DEER WHO GREW UP”
“THE GIRL WITH THE SEE-THROUGH SHOES”
“THE GIRL IN THE IMAGINARY WORLD”
“THE AMAZING FLYING CHILDREN”
“TWO DOGS IN LOVE”
“THE GIRL WHO SEEMED TO DIE”
“PUPPIES TAKEN AWAY”
“THE BOY WHO WOULD BE KING”
“A BOY, A BEAR AND A BIG BLACK CAT”
“ROBIN HOOD WITH ANIMALS”
“TWO MICE SAVE A GIRL”
“A FOX AND A HOUND ARE FRIENDS”
“THE EVIL BONEHEAD”
And of course our latest classic destined to win the hearts of the American public…
“THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE”
Genuinely, it is.