People often forget the twisted humor of Alfred Hitchcock Presents
The master of suspense knew how to hit your funny bone, too!
Alfred Hitchcock released a staggering number of suspense films from the early 1920s to the mid-'60s. His legacy remains rooted in bone-chilling moments that cement him as one of cinema's greatest directors. But there's no reason that this dominant part of Hitchcock's legacy should wash away the other genre the icon truly mastered: dark comedy.
On Alfred Hitchcock Presents, viewers got a chance to see both sides of Hitchcock. Not only did he open and close each episode by writing solid jokes aimed at his audience, sponsors and characters, but he also allowed his twisted humor to drive entire episodes that remain largely forgotten in the prolific director's deep and more chilling canon.
Below, we walk you through some of Hitchcock's funniest episodes from Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which feature wily pranksters and eccentric characters, as well as some of the most sinister snort-laughs you may ever get from situation comedy. Continue reading if you dare to see a lighter side of the master of suspense…
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The support cast is the source of laughs in this episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which finds Jessica Tandy starring as a lost love who shows up one day at an old flame's house with her sister's wailing baby in tow. There's the nosy landlady Mrs. Foster (played by the delightful comedic actress Mary Wickes) who's as brash as Alice on The Brady Bunch, and the simplistic neighbors, the McGurks, who show up unannounced to deliver snort-laughs. "Toby" is a special moment in Hitchcock's series, with arguably the best punchline of a twist ending of any of the dark comedy episodes. We won't spoil it.
2. "There Was an Old Woman"
"There Was an Old Woman" stars the marvelous Estelle Winwood as a kooky rich woman who neighbors tease for talking ceaselessly about her imaginary family. This inspires a couple to try to trick the lady by pretending to be the family the woman's starving for — but then in a Hitchcock twist that's hilarious to see played out, they are the ones literally starved when the woman invites them to dine on an imaginary feast. The best gag in the episode is featured here, when a coffin is flung upon to reveal this imaginary corpse inside. We won't spoil the ending, but it ranks way up there with Hitchcock's best laughs.
3. "Specialty of the House"
There a restaurant at the center of "Specialty of the House" that is off-limits to non-members. That's why one man is so desperate to become a member for life, so he can sample the cuisine of the chef whose "genius is never questioned." Again, the humor comes in the episode's ending, which we won't spoil for you, but suffice it to say that when this man gestures to the waiter to serve him first and serve him more, the eager diner gets a lot more mystery heaped on his plate than he expected.
4. "A Bull in a China Shop"
Fans of the classic play Arsenic and Old Lace should delight in this Hitchcock spin on that familiar tale, which finds the funniest bunch of old ladies calling a homicide detective to help them deal with the death of their friend, whose body remains on their couch.
The "Old Woman" Estelle Winwood is back with another hilarious performance, but Ida Moore steals the show by delivering the most laughs, as the detective thinks he's just dodging a dogged invitation for tea. Meanwhile, these seemingly harmless old ladies have more planned for him than simply serving him a hot cup and marveling at his good looks. And yet, this is somehow arguably the most light-hearted episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Ever imagine Hitchcock would take on a sitcom? This is perhaps as close as he got. Robert Emhardt is walking comedy as a Good Samaritan, Mr. Moon, who helps a couple of newlyweds who get a flat. But then in a snap, he flips out on the couple when the husband accidentally soils his suit, threatening to kill him. It’s horrifying and hilarious. The man rides off with one final threat, but then it turns out that the man is staying at the exact same hotel. As Moon continues to confuse the young couple, viewers at home find themselves laughing more often than gasping.
6. "Miss Bracegirdle Does Her Duty"
Here is another example of Hitchcock’s twisted skill at sitcom humor. Stuffy Miss Bracegirdle visits Paris only to find herself accidentally locked inside a hotel room where a murder takes place while she hides under the bed. It’s full of funny moments and even bouncy music as the doorknob falls off in her hand and a particularly campy hotel employee brings her a humorous item at the very end with a knowing wink. Pictured here is that same employee, and when he drops the dead guy's arm, there's even cartoonish sound effects!
7. "The Night the World Ended"
Alfred Hitchcock Presents plays a surprising lot of practical jokes in its episodes, but perhaps the best prankster episode is “The Night the World Ended.” In it, a man is shown a fake newspaper headline that says the world is ending and decides to live it up before it's all over. But when he can’t convince adults of the “truth,” he instead runs into kids who do believe what he says, and together they raid a toy store in what is likely the most joyful scene in Hitchcock’s series.
8. "Miss Paisley's Cat"
A woman spends the bulk of an entire episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in conversation with the stray cat she's taken in. It seems her new kitty friend has been harassing her neighbor, so the fussy woman goes to a lot of trouble to keep the cat out of his hair. The premise is funny and benign, until it leads to murder, and perhaps the episode's biggest punchline comes at the ending, which gives Miss Paisley plenty of cause to grin as wide as the Chesire cat.
Alfred Hitchcock monkeys around with "Maria," an episode about a carnival sideshow performer who wakes up one morning to discover he's purchased a strange monkey while drunk. It's immediatey revealed that the monkey is actually a dwarf who wears the monkey suit as part of her own carnival act where she draws portraits of people. It's the monkey's artwork that's at the heart of all the episode's trouble, and the twist ending proves just how funny it can be when art is misinterpreted.
See also: Can you I.D. these classic TV celebrity guest stars on 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'?
Throughout the series' 10 seasons, the list of guest stars was long and included a bunch of our favorite faces from classic TV. Think you can I.D. each and every television star? Take this quiz.
Mr. Hitchcock did not write those deliciously snarky opening comments.
"All of Hitchcock's segments were written by James Allardice. "