27

In Friends S03E23, The One with Ross's Thing, there's a scene in which Ross shows Joey and Chandler the 'skin-like abnormality' he has on his lower back.

Rachel then enters the room and akwardness ensues. At that point, to ease the tension, Chandler says: 'Ok, well, it’s definite, two more weeks of winter'

Why is this funny?

  • 24
    In point of fact, most of the things Chandler says are not funny. That's why they need the canned laughter. – Steve-O Feb 21 '17 at 23:56
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    @Steve-O I couldn't disagree with this more strongly. In my opinion, Chandler is far-and-away the funniest character on Friends, with Ross coming in a close second. Most of Chandler's humour is of the "smartmouth snark" variety, which I find appealing. Ross also has a fair number of these lines., but he also has a fair bit of slapstick as well. The other characters generate humour mainly by slapstick or their personal quirks. I don't find these that appealing to the intellect. And most sitcoms do better with the laugh track, it's not fair to single out Chandler, or even "Friends" itself here. – Deepak Feb 22 '17 at 1:20
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    @Deepak I think what you meant to say was "could Steve-O be more wrong?!" – Steve-O Feb 22 '17 at 4:09
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    @Deepak Steve didn't say that Chandler wasn't the funniest. – chrylis Feb 22 '17 at 5:05
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    @Deepak How is Chandler far-and-away the funniest, but Ross is a close second – mcalex Feb 22 '17 at 9:42
28

Chandler is comparing Ross' rash to the groundhog's shadow.

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He's saying the rash is the shadow and Rachel is the groundhog going back for another two weeks of winter atleast and it's a joke on the traditional Groundhog Day

Thank you to Harrison Payne for pointing this out.

According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then the spring season will arrive early, some time before the vernal equinox; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its den, and winter weather will persist for six more weeks.

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    Rachel is the "groundhog". Ross is the "groundhog's shadow". – Harrison Paine Feb 21 '17 at 20:36
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    I think everyone's trying to be a bit literal here. They are caught in a position where they appear to be looking at - or even into - Ross's butt. The embarrassment leaves everyone involved unable to explain for a moment so Chandler cracks (pun most definitely intended!) a joke that this is just a folksy crackpot (and again!) method of divination, much like the groundhog myth. The idea that specific entities in the scene directly map to participants in the groundhog day ceremony is too much of a stretch, and just not necessary for the joke. – Grimm The Opiner Feb 22 '17 at 9:06
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    @GrimmTheOpiner I think you should post that as an answer. It is definitely related to Groundhog's day and the OP and a lot of viewers might not know about that tradition, hence the confusion. But I think your interpretation of the scene is much better. – Kodos Johnson Feb 22 '17 at 18:23
  • @KodosJohnson Done. :-) – Grimm The Opiner Feb 23 '17 at 9:24
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    @GrimmTheOpiner I don't know if Chandler would just crack a "random" joke. His sense of humor wasn't really one to throw out non-sequiturs. While saying Rachel IS the groundhog might be too far, she does pop out of her room like the groundhog and is immediately shocked by what she sees like the groundhog. It's close enough that the joke has context and isn't just some random zany thing to clear the tension. – Harrison Paine Feb 23 '17 at 14:05
15

As others have posted, it is a reference to Groundhog Day in the US.

Traditionally, it is explained that the groundhog is scared of his own shadow, and so, if he retreats into his burrow, it is because his shadow frightened him. The "result" of the groundhog seeing its shadow and retreating back to safety is that winter will continue for two more weeks (You just have to trust the science on this one).

In the Friends episode, Rachel's frightened reaction to the "thing" on Ross is similar to the groundhog's reaction to its own shadow. Chandler picks up on this similarity and makes his joke that winter will continue.

  • 1
    This answer makes actually more sense than mine :) ... Although, after watching the scene again, I guess that Rachel is not so much frightened by Ross's thing, which I think she cannot see standing in the doorway, but is more puzzled by the weird scene – Pesetas74 Feb 22 '17 at 8:26
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    Whatever 'emerged' from its 'burrow' is now gone. Obviously it was frightened, so winter will continue. Neither Rachel nor anyone else is the 'groundhog'. Agreed with @Pesetas74 that Chandler simply jokingly explained the scene. – user2338816 Feb 22 '17 at 15:56
7

It is a reference to Punxsutawney Phil, the weather forecasting groundhog that predicts the length of winter.

Here's an excerpt taken from Phil's official site that explains how the tradition goes:

Groundhog Day, February 2nd, is a popular tradition in the United States. It is also a legend that traverses centuries, its origins clouded in the mists of time with ethnic cultures and animals awakening on specific dates. Myths such as this tie our present to the distant past when nature did, indeed, influence our lives. It is the day that the Groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow. If he sees it, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole.

I guess that basically Chandler is saying that Ross's "skin-abnormality" is so big that it could even cast a shadow. Or maybe, since Joey and Chandler are caught staring at Ross's back, he tries to justify himself by saying that he was just using Ross to get a weather forecast (as he was the groundhog).

This tradition was also the starting point of the memorable and very funny comedy Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.

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    It should be pointed out that while Punxsutawney Phil is likely the best known groundhog, and arguably the oldest groundhog tradition, he is by no means the only weather predicting groundhog in the US. For example, there's a New York area groundhog named Staten Island Chuck. -- Chandler is likely referring to the tradition in general, rather than Phil in particular. – R.M. Feb 22 '17 at 0:49
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    I agree. If you take out the reference to a specific groundhog, I agree that this is the best explanation of Chandler trying to justify himself looking at Ross's butt. – Teacher KSHuang Feb 22 '17 at 9:23
  • Just be thankful that it's Groundhog Day and not Grizzly Bear Day. – Bob Jarvis Feb 22 '17 at 12:01
5

I think a lot of the answers here are being a bit too literal.

In this scene the boys are caught in a position where they appear to be looking at - or even into - Ross's butt. Ross's embarrassment about the growth and Joey and Chandler's on their position leaves everyone involved unable to explain for a moment.

So, "using humour as a defence mechanism", Chandler cracks (pun most definitely intended!) a joke that this is just a folksy crackpot (and again!) method of divination, much like stirring entrails, reading tea leaves, or using a groundhog to predict the arrival of spring.

The idea that specific entities in the scene must directly map to participants in the groundhog day ceremony is too much of a stretch, and just not necessary for the joke.

That said, I can't help but mischievously speculate that Ross's butt represents the groundhog's burrow, and Chandler is jokingly suggesting that the groundhog has already retreated back inside.

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