It Came From Rifftrax: ‘How to Keep a Job’

Since I’ve been preoccupied with job-hunting and related issues lately, I thought this week we’d take a look at Coronet’s (yep, them again) film on How to Keep a Job.

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“Well, if it’s anything like my restaurant job, all you have to do is not get caught in the walk-in cooler, barefoot and eating coleslaw directly from the container.”

Meet Ed, an ‘ambitious’ young man who is laid off from his current job and sets about applying for another one. At his interview, he proceeds to bad-mouth his old company while trying to evade admitting that he was fired. The Riffers point out the flaws in his thinking pretty quickly:

“It wasn’t my fault: the company just up and started firing people.”
“And for some reason they started with you?”

Fortunately for Ed, his interview exists in an educational short, and so the manager, thinking (inexplicably) that Ed might amount to something, proceeds to tell him the story of Bob and his twin brother Walter, who demonstrate the dos and don’ts of keeping a job. Bob gets started right to work easy, Walter puts off his work until the last possible moment. Bob spends his office downtime catching up on work, Walter wastes time. Bob focuses on his job, Walter bad mouths the company to anyone who’ll listen (“What can Brown resentfully do for you?”).

As usual, Coronet makes some good points in a somewhat heavy-handed and corny manner. In this case, the points are rather nuanced when you look at them. For instance, they point out that it’s not so much a question of being actually fired as that, sooner or later, every company has to cut down staff, and when that time comes it’s going to be the people who do the bare minimum acceptable work, rather than making themselves particularly valuable, who get the axe first (“Fire both and outsource it for pennies”). They also show that bad-mouthing your current company does you no favors either in your present job or in applying for another one. 

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“Don’t I seem like a sharp, industrious character?”

Of course, the Goofus and Gallant-style storyline, as well as the whiney protagonist make for a lot of rich riffing material. Among others, there’s a running gag of the twins hiring strippers, jokes on the business world, and some gags dealing with the substandard state of the film print itself (“Sorry I time traveled real quick there”:

“Make yourself so valuable the employer can’t let you go.”
“Paint your whole body with pure gold!”

“I didn’t do anything; why fire me?”
“I think you just answered your own question.”

“I’m just kidding: that suggestion box is really a shredder.”

“No system! And no one in charge with enough brains to start one.”
“Shouldn’t have put the Scarecrow in charge.”

“A company has to operate within its income.”
“No one’s gonna bail them out if…oh.”

There’s also a great call-back to the earlier short This is Hormel (“I’m going to show you a room we call ‘the Hide Cellar'”),which was about some kids who request to take a tour of a meat disassembly plant and get to see cattle carcasses being graphically skinned and processed (no, honestly; that’s what it’s about). We will definitely be covering that one sooner or later.

In any case, this is a very enjoyable short, and, like many Coronet films, actually gives useful advice that you can take in while laughing at the jokes. Check it out and make your job secure!

I mean, unless the company decides it’s cheaper to outsource it to the other side of the planet after your union insisted on making it prohibitively expensive in order to justify their own existence, which they did because neither of them could possibly care less about you.

But that’s a topic for another time.

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