The line “Luke, I am your father,” is never said in The Empire Strikes Back.
The actual line that Darth Vader speaks is “No, I am your father.” Huh. That was news to me. Once again, for the umpteenth time as a member of Generation Fonzarelli, everything I know is wrong, just like my old Firesign Theater record tells me when I medicate.
However, a Hollywood Reporter article from April 2, 2020 about the 25th Anniversary of Tommy Boy points out that the late Chris Farley screams “Luke, I am your father” into an electric fan to make his voice sound all f##kety. The author claims this 1995 movie is where his generation learned the misquoted line, which he says he has been misquoting for 20 years. All well and good, but then the author also makes a theory that Tommy Boy may be the pop culture source of why everyone in this galaxy misquotes the line.
“Where did the misquote come from?”
While I am grateful that my misquoting of this line has finally come to an end and that I have no doubt the article’s author’s generation learned the misquote from Tommy Boy, my generation was using “Luke, I am your father” way before there was a 90s and well back into the 80s before there was a Revenge of the Jedi (Original title, saw it on an old 35mm trailer at the original Alamo Drafthouse in Austin back in the day.)
Where did the misquote come from? Like a lot of Generation Thundar the Barbarian history, it was one of those events that you would have had to been there to remember, as it hasn’t been written down on page or web. Until now.
To find the pop culture birth of “Luke, I am your father,” let’s take a trip back to New Year’s Eve, 1981, when I was nine years old. My parents and I were gathered in front of HBO, which we had just gotten a couple of months previous along with cable. HBO was a complete wonder to Generation Kojak when we got it, as we had came from only having 4 channels to watch and HBO was the first channel that made you TV set say swear words. Movies had only been cussing for a little over a decade and it was a huge novelty for us kids to hear the square cut TV with the tuning dial curse you and your family the f### out. The big show that night was HBO’s The 6th Annual Young Comedians comedy special hosted by The Smothers Brothers, who I had grown up with on their 1965 Aesop’s Fables record. If you look back on it now, you see a lot of performers at the beginning of their superstar careers, such a Jerry Seinfeld, Howie Mandel, Richard Lewis and Harry Anderson. 39 years later the only one out of these successful performers who set I remember in the show is Harry Anderson, as it was the first time I saw him do his magic act with the spike through the head of a rabbit. I have no recollection of Mandel or Seinfeld, but this may be due to the fact that my parents shut off the TV when Richard Lewis went into his spiel about c*****g all over the place and there were some sets I missed. I did not miss the “Luke, I am your father” set though, which was the funniest one and the one I still think about to this day, even as soon as a few days before reading the Tommy Boy article.
“Ben, why didn’t you tell me?“
The person who invented “Luke, I am your father,” was one of a pair of comedians who were on the show who did not become a superstar. He kept working in the business, he has 123 IMDB acting credits and seems to still be at it, but he never was a household name, despite coining one of the most famous misquotations of the late 20th century. His name is Rick Overton.
Right into his bit Rick Overton had all children watching HBO that night locked in because he started off with kid’s Halloween Costumes. Laser focused, attention locked, the kids watched him do a child dressed like Darth Vader air choking out an adult for candy. He then launched into an extended Star Wars routine, material swear word loving children all over can identify with, cumulating with the light saber fight between Darth Vader and Luke…