Maybe I just don't understand enough about pop culture to get this reference in The Jerk. Basically, Navin (Steve Martin's character), who seemed to have trouble feeling the rhythm of music his family played, was very impressed with this music he heard on the radio. He started tapping to the beat and snapping his fingers and said the following:

"It's unbelievable! I've never heard music like this before! It speaks to me!"

And then his mother was about to say something to him but his father stopped her:

"Let him go...".

This is meant to be a joke, but I don't understand it. Anyone care to explain?

Here's that scene on YouTube.

2 Answers 2


At this point in the film, we've seen that he can't hit the rhythm of the blues. However, when he hears the very stereotypically "White" music for the first time in his life it clicks, and he feels the music. This is a "joke" built on the stereotypes of white music vs. black music, balanced with Navin not knowing he was white until he hears this music...exemplified by him exclaiming:

"You, mean I'm going to stay this color?"

  • Okay, so I did understand the joke, I just thought there was more to it. Thanks!
    – Hassan
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 18:22
  • btw @Hassan, great question. these are my favorite types of questions and why I keep coming back to this Stack Exchange site.
    – Ben Plont
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 19:55

It's a spoof on cultural stereotypes. Being raised by a black family, he never picked up any rhythm in his blood. They don't have the heart to tell him, but in his own mind he has great rhythm. But as the audience can see, he is terrible. It's one of the many reasons he is a "Jerk" in the movie.

  • But I don't understand why that music in particular was of interest to him. Why did that music "speak" to him? And what was his mother trying to say in regards to his interest in that music?
    – Hassan
    Commented Nov 22, 2013 at 4:43

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