30 Smart Comebacks And Insults Said By Historical Figures
Who doesn’t love a funny insult? We’re not talking about the serious trash-talk, but rather a clever and witty exchange of a (sometimes) humorous opinion. Bored Panda has compiled a list for you of 30 most clever, witty and savage comebacks and insults as told by famous people.
American actress Ilka Chase was best known for her acting work, however, she traveled frequently and enjoyed writing about her experiences, which would later turn into novels. When an anonymous actress told Ilka “I enjoyed reading your book. Who wrote it for you?”, Chase was quick to deliver the best comeback: “Darling, I’m so glad that you liked it. Who read it to you?”
Edna Ferber to Noël Coward
Edna Ferber, an American writer, was known to be fond of wearing tailored suits long before they were in fashion. Coward (an English playwright, composer, director, famous actor, and singer) was remarking upon the fact that his friend Ferber was wearing one:
Coward: You look almost like a man.
Ferber: So do you.
Rumor has it that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a musical genius and influential composer of the classical era, was a huge fan of scatological humor as well as practical jokes. It is safe to say that humorous exchanges were no stranger to this famous person. One of such exchanges with an admirer is rather brutal, if you ask us:
Admirer: Herr Mozart, I am thinking of writing symphonies. Can you give me any suggestions as to how to get started?
Mozart: A symphony is a very complex musical form. Perhaps you should begin with some simple lieder and work your way up to a symphony.
Admirer: But Herr Mozart, you were writing symphonies when you were 8 years old.
Mozart: Yes, but I never asked anybody how.
The famous Indian pacifist didn’t hold back when asked “What do you think of Western civilization?”:
“I think it would be a good idea.”
Dorothy Parker was an American writer known for her quick-wittiness. After a drunk man commented “I can’t bear fools,” Parker responded:
“Apparently, your mother could…”
Winston Churchill to a member of parliament
A British politician Winston Churchill was probably one of the most quick-witted and smartest people whose sharp tongue produced epic one-liners that stood the test of time.
MP: Mr. Churchill, must you fall asleep while I’m speaking?
Churchill: No, it’s purely voluntary.
Dorothy Parker to Harold Ross
Dorothy Parker was an American writer whose humorous punchlines and one-liners will probably never get old.
Parker was on her honeymoon when Harold Ross, an editor for New Yorker, asked her why she was late with a book review:
“I’m too [effing]busy, and vice versa.”
John Wilkes to John Montagu
John Wilkes (right) was a British radical, journalist, and politician who started off as a Member of Parliament. Montagu, on the other hand, was a British statesman who succeeded his grandfather Edward Montagu, at the age of ten. Their famous exchange (or the savage response of John Wilkes, to be exact) has made history:
Montagu: Sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox.
Wilkes: That will depend, my lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.
Truman Capote to an unknown man
Truman Capote was an American author best known for his work ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.
Anonymous man, after whipping out his private parts, asked the writer: “Since you’re autographing things, why don’t you autograph this?”
Capote: “I don’t know if I can autograph it, but perhaps I can initial it.”
Robert Surcouf to a British captive officer
Robert Surcouf was a French privateersman who amassed a large fortune as a ship-owner, from both privateering and commerce.
When a British captive officer challenged Surcouf with the words “You French fight for money while we fight for honour”, Surcouf replied “Each of us fights for what he lacks most”.
Winston Churchill to George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was a legendary Irish playwright who was on good terms with the British politician Winston Churchill.
One time, the two were exchanging letters and Shaw offered Churchill to come and see his play ‘Buoyant Billions’:
Shaw: Have reserved two tickets for opening night. Come and bring a friend, if you have one.
Churchill: Impossible to come to first night. Will come to second night, if you have one.
Fritz Hollings to Henry McMaster
Probably one of the most famous burn of all burns, was the one delivered back in 1986. Fritz Hollings (right) was a democrat Senator from South Carolina from 1966 to 2005, while Mr. McMaster is a current Governor of South Carolina and a member of the Republican Party.
Hollings, when challenged by his Republican opponent Henry McMaster during a TV debate to take a drug test, proposed:
“I’ll take a drug test, if you’ll take an IQ test.”
Pierre Trudeau on Richard Nixon
Pierre Trudeau, a former Prime Minister of Canada and father of the country’s current Prime Minister, kept his cool when he heard that US president Richard Nixon has called him an a**hole:
“I’ve been called worse things by better men.”
Edward Everett Hale
Edward Everett Hale was an American author, historian, and Unitarian minister. The man had a deep interest in the anti-slavery movement as well as popular education.
One time, when asked whether he prayed for the US Senators, Hale responded: “No. I look at the Senators and pray for the country.”
Miriam Hopkins, an American actress who was active from the 1920s to 1970s, was known to be way more than just a beautiful face framed by pretty blond hair. She was one of the few Hollywood figures who moved in intellectual and creative circles. When an anonymous singer bragged: “You know, my dear, I insured my voice for fifty thousand dollars.” Hopkins cold-bloodedly responded: “That’s wonderful. And what did you do with the money?”
Ed Koch to a reporter
Ed Koch, a noted American lawyer, politician and political commentator, was mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989 and was well known for his quips and one-liners.
After the reporter kept pressing Koch about a statement he had made, the politician lost his temper for a second:
“I can explain this to you; I can’t comprehend it for you.”
Robert Benchley to a man in a uniform
Robert Benchley was an American humorist, who laid out the foundation for many modern-day comedians. No surprise, his funny exchange with a man in uniform has made history:
Benchley: My good man, would you please get me a taxi?
Uniformed man: I’m not a doorman. I happen to be a rear admiral in the United States Navy.
Benchley: All right then; get me a battleship.
Pope John XXIII
John’s XXIII papacy began in 1958 and ended in 1963. During these years, he was asked how many people work in the Vatican, to which the Pope responded:
Melville Fuller to an attendee to a church conference
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller was presiding at a church conference when an audience member rose and began a ranting against universities and education, saying that he gave thanks to God that he had never been corrupted by any contact with a college.
Fuller: Do I understand the speaker thanks God for his ignorance?
Audience member: Well, yes, if you want to put it that way.
Fuller: Then you have a great deal to be thankful for.
John Kerry on George W. Bush
John Kerry, the Democratic nominee in the 2004 presidential election who lost to the republican George W. Bush, upon hearing that Bush fell off his bike during a ride:
“Did the training wheels fall off?”
Known for his sharp tongue, the 30th president of the United States was asked about a performance he went to see. “What did you think of the singer’s execution?”, someone asked.
Coolidge responded: “I’m all for it.”
Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner
Hemingway, who was a prominent figure of American literature, took Faulkner’s (an American writer as well) criticism (“He [Hemingway] has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”) lightly:
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”
Bill Clinton on Dan Quayle
Dan Quayle was the 44th vice president of the United States from 1989 to 1993, while Bill Clinton is known to be a way more successful figure in US politics (probably not so much in his private life, but we are not here to judge).
Bill Clinton, when told during the 1992 presidential campaign that Vice President Dan Quayle intended to be a pit-bull against opponents, savagely responded:
“That’s got every fire hydrant in America worried.”
Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle
The infamous remark was made during the 1988 United States vice-presidential debate by Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Lloyd Bentsen to Republican vice-presidential candidate Senator Dan Quayle.
Quayle: <…> I have far more experience than many others that sought the office of vice president of this country. I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency. <…>
Bentsen: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.
Hunter S. Thompson on Hubert Humphrey
Hunter S. Thompson, the author of ‘Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas’ never held back when it came to commenting on politicians, especially Richard Nixon. However, he did have some things to say about former vice president Hubert Humphrey:
“They don’t hardly make ’em like Hubert anymore – but just to be on the safe side, he should be castrated anyway.”
Georges Clemenceau, a French politician and Prime Minister of France during the First World War, was talking at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. He proposed the harshest terms against Germany. Someone noted that historians would be arguing for generations over who was responsible for starting the Great War.
“Yes,” Clemenceau responded, “but one thing is certain: They will not say that Belgium invaded Germany.”
Niels Bohr to a reporter
Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist and philosopher awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922.
Reporter: Can it be that you, of all people, believe a horseshoe will bring you good luck?
Bohr: Of course not, but I understand it brings you luck whether you believe it or not.
Muhammad Ali on Joe Frazier
The two life-long boxing opponents Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were known to exchange witty and humorous insults between one another. However, some think that this one time Muhammad might have taken a step too far.
After Frazier’s remark (“He’s phony, using his blackness to get his way”), Ali replied:
“Joe Frazier is so ugly he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wildlife.”
H.L. Mencken on Franklin D. Roosevelt
Henry Louis Mencken was an American journalist, satirist and cultural critic. He commented widely on the social scene, arts, prominent politicians and contemporary movements. He had a few things to say about the upcoming 32nd president of the United States, too:
“If he became convinced tomorrow that coming out for cannibalism would get him the votes he needs so sorely, he would begin fattening a missionary in the White House yard come Wednesday.”
Mark Twain on Jane Austen
One of the most prominent American writers Mark Twain wasn’t a big fan of the English novelist Jane Austen. He made a few comments here and there about her works and how much he disliked them, but one of the citations really stood out:
“Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her [Jane Austen] up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”