gensym = G = Get a real computer!

Get a life! imp.

Hacker-standard way of suggesting that the person to whom it is directed has succumbed to terminal geekdom (see geek). Often heard on Usenet, esp. as a way of suggesting that the target is taking some obscure issue of theology too seriously. This exhortation was popularized by William Shatner on a 1987 "Saturday Night Live" episode in a speech that ended "Get a life!", but some respondents believe it to have been in use before then. It was certainly in wide use among hackers for years before achieving mainstream currency via the sitcom "Get A Life" in 1990.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Get A Life! was a sitcom on the Fox Network that lasted from November 1990 to March 1992 (2 seasons). The star of the show was Chris Elliott, a balding, pot-bellied, wacky man who began his career on Late Night with David Letterman as an intern.

Chris Elliott played Chris Peterson, a paper "boy" living in the fictional town of Greenland with his parents (until the second season). The catch was that he was 30 years old, hence the show's title. The theme song to the show was a cut of "Stand" by R.E.M..

The First Season

Regular Cast (in the order credited)

Note: Bob Elliott was in fact Chris Elliott's real life father

A full episode list will be at the bottom, but the first season, generally, was very funny and goofy, with outrageous, quirky, and sometimes disturbing humor. Obviously fake laugh-tracks guffaw at every joke, which, in of itself, of kind of funny. Highlights of the season included episodes where Chris goes to an amusement park and gets stuck on a roller coaster with Larry, becomes a male model, finally learns to drive (failing partially because he pulled the cop's gun out of his holster), joins the cast of a retarded play (where the cast dressed up as animals, roller skated and berated the audience), was overjoyed when construction workers came to the house (whom he worships), gets in a mail-order submarine with his father in the shower (the floor gives way and they fall to the kitchen below in a downpour of water), and trades lives with Larry because of an ancient Indian curse.

The first season established how pathetic and worthless a human being Chris Peterson is, his only real contribution to society is getting his neighbors their morning papers, which he doesn't always do. Somehow, though, his best friend is relatively-adjusted Larry Potter, husband of bitch-monster Sharon Potter. Sharon is a character worthy of her own show: headstrong, impatient, beautiful, masochistic, and loathes Chris more than any other character in the show. Robin Riker really gives a tour de force performance as Sharon Potter, stealing the show from Chris sometimes.

Another excellent stroke of casting comes with Chris' father, played by Bob Elliott. He's hilarious as the curmudgeonly, quick-witted, sharp-tongued Fred Peterson; the show simply would not have been the same without him. Second banana to him was Gladys Peterson played by the always lovely Elinor Donahue, who played Chris' mother multi-layered: at first she seems flaky and painfully unaware, but she has moments of knowing nastiness wrapped up in a deceptive sugar coating of smiling charm. Gladys is always nice to Chris and Fred is usually mean, but both over the course of the series make it known that they couldn't give a flying shit about their son. That's true, actually, for any and all characters in the show, regular or guest star, with the exception of Larry.

One unusual trait of this outrageous comedy series is that sometimes, at or near the end of an episode, Chris dies. Sometimes he dies inexplicably, sometimes you can see it coming. But just like Wile E. Coyote, he's always back for the next episode. This happens more often as the show progresses.

The Second Season

Regular Cast (in the order credited)

In the first episode of the second season, Chris does what you never thought he would: move out of his parents' house. In the second episode, Larry runs away (this is the only second season episode where Sam Robards appears). Chris finds him again, but only briefly, and by the end of the episode Larry is gone forever. His replacement is retired police officer Gus Borden, whom Chris moved in with the first episode of the season. Brian Doyle-Murray, an SNL alum, is spot on as Gus: grouchy, lively, narcissistic, and even though he took Chris in, like his parents, could really give a shit less about him. That's evident when, upon being taken hostage by his pen pal, a psycho woman (a former inmate in prison), Gus has no qualms about shooting Chris with his rifle instead of trying to hit the woman.

In the second season, the show becomes more and more like a cartoon, with the plots getting more ridiculous (toxic waste turns Chris into an expert speller and Gus into an oragami expert in one installment; Chris travels back into time in another using "time juice" where one ingredient is "a precious lock of Michael J. Fox's hair"), and in virtually every episode Chris dies at the end. The various ways in which Chris bites the dust include: getting his head ripped off, shot, stabbed, blown up (several times), and, of all things, tonsillitis (it kills .001% of all patients, after all). In the unceremonious final episode of the show, which is largely a clip show, he falls out of an airplane. That doesn't kill him, however. Instead he falls on a bed. But unfortunately for Chris, the bed explodes.

Midway through the short season, Chris' parents are phased out. For the final handful of episodes, only Chris, Brian, and Robin appear in the opening credits, even though several episodes before that starts happening the parents don't appear anyway. Episodes begin centering solely on Chris' interaction with Gus, with Robin Riker only getting obligatory screen time in some of them.

The highlight of the season is the second-to-last episode, where, in an E.T. spoof, an alien being crashes to Earth, only to be discovered by Chris who, at first, thinks the sound of the ship crashing is neighborhood kids listening to a Neil Sedaka record (go figure). S.P.E.W.E.Y. ("Special Person Entering the World.....Egg Yolk") is a vile creature, who spews snot everywhere and beats the living crap out of Chris or Gus every chance he gets. Gus beats the alien to death with a rake and the two end up eating his carcass. But S.P.E.W.E.Y. "regenerates from his own leftovers in an accelerated cloning process" and leaves in his spaceship (no transporter; he's carried up tied to a big rope), which dumps a large quantity of the yellow snot that had plagued the cast the entire episode - directly onto Chris and Gus. Fade to black.

Below is an entire list of episodes and air dates I promised earlier, provided by the "Get A Life Program Guide" on As you'll notice, running gags are in the episode titles. Some of the episodes, as they're listed, appear a little out of order, but that is according to my fuzzy recollection from actually watching the show over a decade ago.

First Season:

  1. 09/23/90 TERROR ON THE HELL LOOP 2000
  3. 10/07/90 DADICUS
  4. 10/14/90 A FAMILY AFFAIR
  5. 10/21/90 PILE OF DEATH
  6. 11/04/90 PAPERBOY 2000
  7. 11/11/90 DRIVERS LICENSE
  8. 11/18/90 THE SITTING
  9. 12/02/90 BORED STRAIGHT
  10. 12/16/90 ZOO ANIMALS ON WHEELS
  11. 01/06/91 ROOTS
  13. 02/10/91 CHRIS VS. DONALD
  15. 03/10/91 HOUSEBOY 2000
  16. 03/24/91 MARRIED
  17. 03/31/91 CAMPING 2000
  19. 04/21/91 THE BIG CITY
  20. 04/28/91 NEPTUNE 2000
  22. 05/19/91 PSYCHIC 2000

Second Season:

  1. 11/09/91 CHRIS MOVES OUT
  2. 11/16/91 LARRY ON THE LOOSE
  3. 11/23/91 MEAT LOCKER 2000
  4. 11/30/91 HEALTH INSPECTOR 2000
  6. 12/14/91 PRISONER OF LOVE
  7. 12/21/91 CHRIS THE ESCORT
  8. 01/12/92 GIRLFRIEND 2000
  9. 01/19/92 CHRIS' BRAIN
  10. 02/02/92 BAD FISH
  11. 02/09/92 1977 2000
  12. 03/01/92 SPEWEY AND ME
  13. 03/08/92 CLIP SHOW

William Shatner and Chris Kreski's names appear on the cover of Get a Life! Any time a celebrity's memoirs receive this kind of credit, we can assume that the material came, largely, from William Shatner, and the thankless task of arranging it in some kind of coherent form fell to Chris Kreski.

Shatner and Kreski have previously written two memoirs together: Star Trek Memories and Star Trek Movie Memories. This book exists partially to comment on the death of James T. Kirk in Star Trek: Generations, partially to make a few bucks, and partially to address Shatner's feelings about trekkies. I'll leave discerning readers to guess which inspired Shatner most. The title goes back to 1987 (though the expression is older). William Shatner, hosting Saturday Night Live, appeared as himself at a convention. SNL's regular cast played obsessed fans, asking obsessive, fannish questions. A good many of these contain Trek in-jokes.

Finally, Shatner tells them that he's been coming to conventions for years, and there's something he's always wanted to say.

"Get a life! It's a tv show!" And on he rants, suggesting that they've taken a fun job that ended years ago and turned it into a tremendous waste of time, and that they should probably move out of their parents' basements. He storms off and the geeks become confused, while the studio audience falls off their chairs laughing, and Shatner himself can barely keep character.

The convention organizer drags Shatner back on stage, where he explains that he had been impersonating the evil Kirk from the episode, "The Enemy Within."

At the after-show party, in real life now, a writer tells Shatner that the nerds are going to hate him. Shatner insists that the comment surprised him. He considered the sketch so over-the-top and cartoony, that he did not think for an instant that anyone would be offended.

I remember watching the original. I laughed. Friends of mine who watched the same sketch, many of them diehard SF fans, some of them Trek fans, laughed. Yet when I finally attended an SF convention two years later, I actually met people who had been offended. They felt betrayed, because they'd put so much effort into Trek or Sf fandom generally. Angry because, in fact, Shatner rarely came to conventions, so he wouldn't know now, would he?

In the 1990s, Shatner encountered people with the same attitudes and decided to look into the matter.

Shatner, whatever flaws he may have, has never been one for wide-eyed Trek idolatry. He has parodied his Kirk image, not only on SNL, but in films from Airplane 2: The Sequel to Free Enterprise. He can laugh about the show's cheapness. And he regards the original series' cancellation as a good thing. They had dried up creatively, and they lacked the budget to properly present the good ideas they had:

...all we have to do is hypothesize... what Star Trek's fourth season might have been like. Would Bones marry a Martian? Would high-heeled bikinitrons from the planet Go-Go bump and grind the Enterprise right out of the galaxy? Would we all spend an episode reverting to infancy? Are any of those wild-eyed possibilities even a tiny bit more far-fetched than Abraham Lincoln in space?

....Allowed to survive and publicly wither on the air, we of the Starship Enterprise could very well have disgusted our fans, wearing out our collective welcome. Under those circumstances, Star Trek would today more likely exist solely as a hazily recollected Trivial Pursuit answer (55).

Get a Life! takes a quick look back at the first conventions, but focuses on Shatner's experiences in the 1990s, when he began attending them regularly. For a time, he would put on a rubber mask and wander, largely unrecognized, in order to get a floor-level sense of a con. These portions hold some interest, but Shatner's Trek career has been handled in greater detail in previous books, and he runs out of material quickly.

The remainder of the book consists of anything he and Kreski could convince themselves would interest Trek fans. Explanations of how to properly parody Kirk, from someone with a fair bit of experience in the field. Interviews. An account of a online Trek chat. Bitchy gossip, such as the account of the unnamed cast member who sells pieces of his/her original uniform-- taken from a "huge bolt of material housed in that star's garage"(137). Thoughts about action figures. He also repeats many anecdotes which he uses at conventions, many of them only tenuously connected with Star Trek, or not connected at all. An elephant once shit on Shatner. If you want to hear the details, they're in this book. For the most part, Get a Life! reads like a drooling fanzine, except that the ostensible author is the book's subject. Reading my copy, which my wife found in a dollar bin, I couldn't help but think I was being mocked, after all; any time spent reading this book suggested I really did need to get a life.

I suppose Get a Life! would appeal to collection completists and hardcore trekkies/ers-- provided they have recovered from being told off on a comedy show.

William Shatner with Chris Kreski. Get a Life!. New York: Pocket, 1999.

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