While television series come and go, a few stand the test of time. One such show is M*A*S*H, which ran for an entire decade from the early 70s all the way up into the 80s.
Inspired by the movie of the same name, which in turn was based on a book, the show focused on the members of a fictional US Mobile Army Surgical Hospital that operated in the Korean War. Not only does it have one of the most-viewed finales of all time, but it also has many memorable quotes that are still hilarious to this day.
10 “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happy Hour.”
After a long days’ work, adults will often get together at a bar somewhere and have a few drinks to get their minds off of things. But in the seventh season M*A*S*H episode “A Night at Rosie’s,” Chief Surgeon Hawkeye and his buddies take this a step further by deciding to remain in the off-base tavern Rosie’s Bar (which was based on a real place called Rose’s Bar that existed in Seoul according to Armed Forces Museum).
The reason for this is that they want to secede from the US Army out of fatigue in relation to the Korean War’s toll on their workload as surgeons. So they declare Rosie’s Bar as its own nation with the motto being “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happy Hour.” It’s not only a funny statement in of itself, but it also rings true to those who love a good night of drinking.
9 “If I had all the answers, I’d run for God.”
Considered to be one of the series’ best episodes, the fourth season finale of M*A*S*H titled “The Interview” is well-known for its break from the usual format of the show. Instead of being in color, it’s done entirely in black-and-white.
As the title implies, the episode revolves around a series of interviews conducted by a war correspondent to each member of the 4077th MASH camp. This includes Corporal Maxwell Klinger, who says this quote. While it has a certain level of profoundness, it’s also funny because of how it turns the concept of being God into a political position.
8 “Henry, you have no idea what it’s like sharing a tent with a guy who thinks he’s all twelve disciples!”
Following the success of the original M*A*S*H movie in 1970, which intentionally critiqued the Vietnam War under the guise of a situational comedy set in the Korean War, a pilot for the TV show version was made two years later. With it came some noticeable changes between the film and the TV show such as Hawkeye sharing a tent with Major Frank Burns which remains the case for several seasons as opposed to just one time in the film.
A probable explanation for this change has to do with the fact that these two men are so different with Hawkeye being a constant rule-breaker while Frank is strait-laced by comparison that it leads to comedic gold. One such example is the quote above said by Hawkeye to Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, who was the commanding officer during the show’s early seasons, which is funny because of its reference to the Twelve Disciples of Jesus who were said to be pure and followed Jesus’ teachings no matter what.
7 “I’m only paranoid because everyone’s against me!”
Because Frank was always following the rules, this made him an easy target for people like Hawkeye who enjoyed pulling pranks. Though in the case of the Season 1 M*A*S*H episode “Germ Warfare,” Frank became the center of a scheme that involved having a blood sample involuntarily taken from him to heal a POW patient and then subsequently being quarantined out of fear that he had hepatitis due to the same symptoms showing up in the patient (though it turned out he actually had anemia).
So Frank’s above quote is funny not only because it speaks to how he feels about his comrades in general but also the truthfulness of the people who did go behind his back. These included Hawkeye, Captain Trapper, Captain Spearchucker and to a certain extent Corporal Radar.
6 “The instrument has yet to be devised that can test my indifference to that remark.”
Of all the characters in the M*A*S*H TV series, Hawkeye arguably said the most sarcastic and funniest lines. Though sometimes in cases like the above quote from him, it’s a mixture of both.
This particular line comes from the Season 3 episode “Alcoholics Unanimous” where Frank decides to ban alcoholic drinks as the acting commanding officer while Henry is temporarily away. As a result, Hawkeye and Trapper (who are both heavy drinkers) search for any alcohol they can find becoming increasingly crankier in the process. So Hawkeye’s line becomes funny due to its relation to his state of mind as signified by the obvious sarcasm tone-wise.
5 “Sometimes when a man’s anxious to stick out a glad hand, it’s because he’s got something up his sleeve.”
Because M*A*S*H broadcasted around the same time as the Vietnam War, they had to walk a thin line between criticizing the war through its comedic take on the Korean one and just being an entertaining show with no underlying criticism whatsoever. Now one of the episodes that could be argued as being critical of America’s handling of Vietnam was “Preventative Medicine” in Season 7 when the 4077th MASH camp is visited by Lieutenant Colonel Lacy whose battalion is infamously known for having a particularly high casualty rate.
For this reason, none of the MASH camp officers like Lacy including the camp’s later commanding officer Colonel Potter who says this line to Radar who’s under the impression that Lacy’s not that bad of a person. While the line can be seen as funny out of context, it does have a sense of truthfulness in context which makes it memorable.
4 “I have a good mind to baptize you both, in dirty water.”
Being the resident Chaplain, which is basically a cleric that is trained and stationed at any workplace or military division, First Lieutenant Father Mulcahy served to fulfill the religious needs of every man and woman at the 4077th MASH camp.
With that said, he occasionally got into conflicts with the camp’s unruly officers such as in the seventh season M*A*S*H episode “None Like It Hot” where a heat wave hits the camp causing everyone to become miserable. To beat the heat, Hawkeye and Captain B. J. set up a private bathtub in their tent which they try to keep a secret from everyone else until several officers including Mulcahy find out. Thus, the above quote he says in the episode is hilarious because it relates to his profession and the unscrupulousness of the people he’s talking to.
3 “I’m not sleeping, I’m inspecting the inside of my eyelids.”
Though Hawkeye has many memorable quotes attributed to him, this is one of them. During the episode “Officer of the Day” in M*A*S*H’s third season, Henry is absent once again so Frank is made temporary commanding officer. He in turn appoints Hawkeye as the Officer of the Day, who basically works directly for the commanding officer and oversees things in general.
Instead of doing his job, though, Hawkeye decides to use it to get some rest with the above quote being his excuse for sleeping on the job. It’s a hilarious line not only due to its sarcasm but also in the way it diverts from the real issue.
2 “I’m fine, Mom. Well actually, I’m not. You see, I had this friend. And this friend only pretended to like me. You know, the way Dad used to?”
One of the ongoing elements in M*A*S*H was Frank and Major Margaret Houlihan’s romantic relationship despite the fact that Frank had a wife waiting for him back home in the United States. But this came to an end in Season 5 with “Margaret’s Engagement” where Margaret became engaged to a man she met in Tokyo.
Naturally, Frank doesn’t take the news well and gives into his paranoia thinking that Margaret only pretended to love him. He in turn expresses this to his mother (another offscreen character who is occasionally referenced in the show) in the above quote. The hilariousness of this quote comes from not just its relation to the situation, but it also compares two different relationships as being the same thing.
1 “There’s a priest writing war ditties, and a snooty Major who pays me twenty bucks to follow him out in the woods and watch him blow up a pigeon with a landmine.”
Every now and then, the characters in M*A*S*H will have episodes dedicated to them writing a letter for a loved one back home where they recall several recent events that are portrayed in the episode. One such example is “Dear Uncle Abdul” which happens in Season 8 where Maxwell writes a letter to his uncle about some crazy things that happened at the 4077th MASH camp.
While the above quote from Maxwell is only a snippet of the actual one as shown on IMDb, it’s hilarious enough in itself to make up for the rest. The events that are described are both funny and true, while also encapsulating the craziness that often happens in the M*A*S*H series in general.