Top 10 Best Comebacks (Insults)

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Wit is a quality that is easily desired, but no so easily obtained. Those who do have it have gained heavy acclaim. Since the beginning of time, mankind has argued and debated against one another, and while some conflicts are won in wars, many of them are won in words. Here are ten of history’s best comebacks, retorts, repartee, insults, or whatever else you’d like to call them. From quotes of Winston Churchill to Oscar Wilde, these are surely people to tell tales about.

10. Bottoms Up Comeback

An English Comeback

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Nancy Astor was an American socialite who married into the wealthy English family of Astor. She actually was the first woman to be elected to Parliament, which makes her humiliation all the sweeter. She was invited to 1912 a dinner party located in the Churchill estate , but, unfortunately for her, she became extremely annoyed at a drunk and politically incorrect Winston Churchill. Finally, she exclaimed the following: “Winston, if you were my husband, I’d put poison in your coffee.” Unaffected by her sudden outburst, Churchill moderately and quickly replied with a great comeback:

“Nancy, if you were my wife I’d drink it.”

9. Ready, Aim, Fire!

The Best Presidential Comeback

calvin-coolidge

The next situation involves the 30th US president, Calvin Coolidge. He was a relatively quiet man and was known for his brevity, though the few words he had made quite an impression, especially with this wonderful comeback. After an after-dinner recital, an acclaimed and heavily respected opera singer was invited to the White House. But apparently performing for the president was quite a frightening experience and her performance left much to be desired. During the performance, one of the White Houses’s guests leaned over and whispered to Coolidge: “What do you think of the singer’s execution?” Coolidge calmly replied:

“I’m all for it.”

8. Well, you asked.

The Obvious Comeback

Gandhi-quote

Mohandas Gandhi is associated with civil rights and nonviolence, but most definitely not wit. As the following story will show you, Gandhi didn’t have to fight with his fists, but simply had to use his words. After gaining fame for a campaign to promote colonial India’s independence, Gandhi traveled to London and met with British authorities. The British were wonderfully curious about this strange little man, and Gandhi was constantly bombarded with questions from the press and photographers. One day, a reporter cried out, “What do you think of Western civilization?” And in a monumental moment that would define Gandhi’s reputation, he replied:

“I think it would be a good idea.”

7. Keep Your Seats in an Upright Position

The “Greatest” Comeback

Muhammad Ali once took a flight on Eastern Airlines in the 1970s. A flight attendant was making her final checks on the passengers, but noticed Ali failed to fasten his seat belt. She kindly asked him to do so, but Ali replied quite arrogantly, “Superman don’t’ need no seat belt.” Not intimidated by the boxer’s reputation and fame, the flight attendant replied:

“Superman don’t need no airplane either.”

6. Smell You Later!

The Wildest and Best Comeback by Oscar Wilde

wilde-quote

Oscar Wilde was widely known for his wit and intelligence in plays, but he was no stranger to it in real-life. After one performance of one of his plays, Wilde went on stage and welcomed a warm reception. Many people applauded and threw a copious amount of beautiful flora, but one unsatisfied person threw a rotten cabbage at the playwright. Wilde picked it up and replied with a straight face:

“Thank you my friend. Every time I smell it, I shall be reminded of you.”

5. War of Words

This is America Comeback

henry-ward-beecher

Henry Ward Beecher was an abolitionist who liked to speak his mind. When the Civil War took its start, Beecher traveled throughout the US attempting to gather up support and favor for Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation. He said that the Union would beat the Confederates in sixty days during his travels; and when he made a trip to England, this was used against him. At that time, war was still a very sensitive topic among the British, due to the Americans winning the Revolutionary War. While he was speaking in Manchester, one hostile man cried out: “Why didn’t you whip the Confederates in sixty days, as you said you would?”
He hesitated only for a second, but then replied:

“Because we found we had Americans to fight this time, not Englishmen.”

4. Wake at Your Own Risk

Churchill’s Honest Comeback

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Winston Churchill makes this list again. In his early career, he was at a meeting and another member was giving a long-winded speech. Churchill began to close his eyes and fall asleep. At the sight of this, the member became visibly angry and shouted: “Mr. Churchill, must you fall asleep while I’m speaking?”  Instead of making attempts at an apology or a cover-up, Churchill simply replied:

“No, it’s purely voluntary.”

3. Face the Truth

The Best Self-Effacing Comeback

lincoln-quote

Abraham Lincoln was not the most attractive presidents but he was in a sense, almost fascinatingly ugly. During a debate, Lincoln was accused by his more hostile opponent of being two-faced. Lincoln managed to accomplish what few men have done before, he defended himself without insulting the other man, and even poked fun at a flaw of his all in the same sentence. Lincoln calmly turned to the crowd and said:

“If I had two faces, do you think I’d be wearing this one?”

2. The Ugly Truth

The Classic Comeback from the King of the Comebacks

churchill-quote-2

Winston Churchill makes this list again for a third time, proving him to truly be one of the world’s wittiest people. Attending a party in London, Churchill once again was drunk and intoxicated. An obviously extremely astute woman from Parliament, like Nancy Astor (the first entry), apparently was irritated by Churchill’s mannerisms. When she finally had enough, she came up to him and yelled: “Winston, you’re drunk!” He may have been drunk but that apparently didn’t affect his cognitive functions as he merely replied:

“You’re right Bessie, and you’re ugly. But tomorrow morning, I’ll be sober.”

1. Properly Equipped

The Might-Not-Have-Happened Comeback

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This final comeback needs no explanation nor introduction. One only needs to read the interview excerpt for him/herself to understand its greatness.

“FEMALE INTERVIEWER: So, General Cosgrove, what things are you going to to teach these young boys when they visit your base?

GENERAL COSGROVE: We’re going to teach them climbing, canoeing, archery, and
shooting.

FEMALE INTERVIEWER: Shooting! That’s a bit irresponsible, isn’t it?

GENERAL COSGROVE: I don’t see why, they’ll be properly supervised on the
rifle range.

FEMALE INTERVIEWER: Don’t you admit that this is a terribly dangerous activity to be teaching children?

GENERAL COSGROVE: I don’t see how. We will be teaching them proper rifle
discipline before they even touch a firearm.

FEMALE INTERVIEWER: But you’re equipping them to become violent killers.

GENERAL COSGROVE: Well, Ma’am, you’re equipped to be a prostitute,  but you’re not one, are you?

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Written by Johnny Dunn


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50 Comments

  1. And one from Mozart.

    A young man began a correspondence with Mozart, and the following was said:

    Q: "Herr Mozart, I am thinking of writing symphonies. Can you give me any suggestions as to how to get started."

    A: "A symphony is a very complex musical form, perhaps you should begin with some simple lieder and work your way up to a symphony."

    Q: "But Herr Mozart, you were writing symphonies when you were 8 years old."

    A: "But I never asked anybody how."

    source: http://patrifriedman.com/quotes/comebacks.html

  2. PastTime491 on

    Good list, #1 is hilarious. I wish I was that witty. There are some great Mike Tyson quotes out there. In a press conference before Tyson was going to fight Lennox Lewis he proclaimed "Lennox Lewis I'm coming for you man. My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable, and I'm just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children. Praise be to Allah!"

  3. I have another from Oscar Wilde.

    Lewis Morris (on being overlooked for the poet laureateship): It is a conspiracy against me – a conspiracy of silence. What should I do?
    Oscar Wilde: Join it!

    Oscar was never without a witty retort it seems.

  4. Once Dorothy Parker and Claire Booth Luce, writer of the hit play "The Women", ran into each other. When Parker refused to step aside, Luce exclaimed "Age before beauty!" The unruffled Parker shot back "Pearls before swine!"

  5. Dorothy Parker had a some great comebacks.

    On being challenged to use the word Horticulture in a sentence she said, "You can drag a horticulture, but you can't make her think."

    and this is a good one: "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy."

  6. Voltaire was discussing an acquaintance with a friend, praising him lavishly. The friend then told Voltaire that, unfortunately, the acquaintance had spoken disparagingly of Voltaire and his work. The pithy reply: "Perhaps we are both mistaken."

  7. My favorite Dorthy Parker story comes from when she was on her honeymoon. at the time, she had an editor who kept writing her letters, asking to see her work – so finally he asked something to the effect of "why haven't you given me any of your latest work?" – to which she retorted – "I've been to f–king busy … or vice versa"

  8. Number 2 is misquoted. It actually is: "You’re right Bessie, and you’re ugly. But tomorrow morning, I’ll be sober, & you'll still be ugly.” I'm astonished at the fact that none of the readers noticed it since it's pretty famous.

    • Ali – I found multiple versions of this quote on the web. Wikipedia gives many variations. I suppose verification of this is lost to time. Here are the variations.

      o Variant: Winston Churchill: Madam, you are ugly
      Elizabeth Braddock: Sir, you are drunk
      Winston Churchill: Yes, but in the morning, I shall be sober.
      o Variant: Elizabeth Braddock: Mr. Churchill, you are drunk.
      Churchill: And you madam, are ugly. As for my condition, it will pass by the morning. You, however, will still be ugly.
      o Variant: Elizabeth Braddock: Mr. Churchill, this is a disgrace. You are quite drunk.
      Churchill: This may be well and true, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.

  9. But the interview is entirely fictional, so it would be pretty easy to think of a witty come back if you were to make the whole conversation up. But I agree that it is still entertaining, it just doesn’t belong on this list.

  10. I don't know if it's true but I read somewhere that an actress told George Bernard Shaw: With your brains and my looks, we'd produce great children. The writer is supposed to have said, but madam, what if it's the other way round. 😉

  11. Haha, old Churchill did have some wit in him (Abraham Lincoln's was good too). Dorothy Parker's ones mentioned above don't sound funny at all. The best come-backs are short and sweet and should they be long, they need to leave the other person dead and buried, lol. Parker never seemed to do that. My favourite comebacks are more immature…

    MAN 1: Your house is a trash-heap!

    MAN 2: At least we actually do dump our rubbish.

    MAN 1: The only rubbish-dumping your family ever does is called 'birth'.

    MAN 1: I got 50% in that bloody exam.

    MAN 2: Yeah, that must be the highest test result you've ever had.

    MAN 1: The highest test score you've ever had was for HIV.

    MAN 1: I have to work today.

    MAN 2: Where? At the gay-bar?

    MAN 1: Yeah I need to get there before your dad complains about the service.

        • That's what people say when comebacks are used against them, haha. Comebacks are an art if you ask me. They are not spoken for the sake of enterainment or to make somebody look big. They are simply witty remarks used to shut down argumentative people (for the most part). Your opinion really means very little. After all, it is those who state their opinions over others who have the 'ego'. And that act in itself is a 'fail' ;). Sorry to disappoint you.

        • from the comebacks above I assume you took a short bus to school.

          The first is not so bad i guess but the other two, HIV and gays. wow… That's very original.

          Usually i'd just laugh at your idiocy and move on but your pride over them is just absurd…

        • Ah close, it was a train ride. The only pride I really get comes from when a laugh comes out of them. As long as somebody finds it funny, then that's enough for me. It's not myself I aim to please. As for originality, I think it's the fact that they are unoriginal that gives them appeal. When a comeback is complicated or hard to relate to/ understand then it's unlikely that they'll be very effective. As for AIDS or gays, it seems you lack the capacity to use the [insert noun here] option. I could have said hepatitis and for the other I could have said it was a brothel, etc.

          It's not the exact words that you use, it is how you structure the sentence I think. Perhaps I am over-analysing, but I suppose it is better than under-analysing. But at the end of that day, whether or not my pride is misplaced, at least I have something to be proud of.

        • Close… I used the trains, haha. I think your argument about the originality is somewhat flawed seeing as if you had used the imagination that I (apparently) do not have, you would know that the last two feature [insert noun here] type word-slots. For example instead of saying it was a gay-bar, one could have said brothel… In place os HIV, one could use hepatitis. The effect is the same, it is just that in the area I grew up in the people probably wouldn't know what hepatitis was, haha. It is all for the effect, not for the pride. No one cares how original something is; it just matters whether or not it is used in the right context. The idiocy is the fuel of such ideas if you ask me. Rarely are verbal confrontations like those very serious and that's why they come across so casual.

          The only pride I would get is from when people manage to get a laugh out of them and that has been the case. So that pride may be absurd, but at the end of the day, at least I have something to be proud of.

        • not much point arguing over it… every1 has different taste in things like that. Personally i like the cosgrove one. dont care whether it realy happened or not hahah

        • My response above was posted twice… The first time it said it didn't go through and so I typed something else up and now both things are there, haha. Well I'd have thought that argument over such a topic as this would be pointless myself, but it seems that not everyone has that kind of self-control :D.

  12. I'm not from the U.S, but i remember reading from some site about Calvin Coolidge.

    The story goes, a dinner guest once bet her friends that she could get him to say at least three words during the meal.

    He told her, “You lose.”

    I think it's a better comeback than the example given in #9

  13. Nice..

    Here's one amazing comeback from me.

    Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic has the best comebacks of them all, as he makes such witty remarks at the most… heavy times, under such big pressure that as I've got to hear them I feel more and more impressed.

    Anyway, this is one of the many..

    After the Turkish War of Independence, the English Authorities wanted to have a meeting with Ataturk and as they sat down and begun talking, Atatürk noticed an English soldier who was looking at him, furiously! As this went on for a while Ataturk called one of his friends near him, told him to go ask the soldier what the matter was.

    His comrade, his friend went near this unstill, angry looking soldier and came back near Ataturk and told him:

    'He says that you killed his father in the fight of Gallipolli*'

    As the motive of this battle was taking an old Turkish inhabited city and since UK was using colonized lands' as the resource for soldiers(India, Australia, New Zealand etc.)

    Ataturk turns to his friend and tells him:

    'Go ask this sodlier what his father was doing there!'

    ————————— – – – – – – —————————– – – – – – —————————————————–

    *(very brutal World War I battle, UK colony lands attack this Turkish city but army under the orders of Ataturk wins, leading to many alterations in history)

  14. Ronald Reagan Comeback

    "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." -during a 1984 presidential debate with Walter Mondale after the remarks Mondale made about Reagan being to old to be president.

    Maybe should be on the list !

  15. Maybe the Reagan comeback should not be on the list but it made a lot of news at the time. US debates have never been known for there knee slappers. I remember it live on TV as being funny. Reagan being an actor maybe it was in his delivery.

  16. I've always been a fan of Churchill's wit, so it's no surprise to see him listed 3 times.

    I have one correction, however, to the description of the comeback to Lady Astor about drinking the poison.

    The first woman elected to the British House of Parliament was actually Constance Markiewicz in December 1918, but she did not take her seat as she was a member of Sinn Fein and refused to take the Oath of Allegience to the British Regent which was required to sit in the House of Commons.

    Lady Astor was the first woman to SIT in the House of Commons in December 1919, not the first elected.

  17. Tom Delay was at a celebration of India’s Independence Day when an angry Frenchman came walking up to him and started yelling at him about Iraq. After a minute, it was obvious they were not going to agree so Delay said, “Wait a minute. Do you speak German?” The Frenchman looked at him funny and said, “No, I don’t speak German.” Tom Delay responded, “You’re welcome.”

    • Not Anybody Special on

      Nice for Tom to take the credit for a war he had nothing to do with, and for getting deferments in Vietnam.

  18. The last one, though a great story, is false. It started circulating around the internet in the late 90s where the “General” was a fictitious American then was changed a few years later to the real Australian General Cosgrove, who never gave that interview.

  19. A member of Parliament to then Prime Minister, Disraeli: “Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.”

    “That depends, on whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”

    • It was William Gladstone, a British liberal politician, and the Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

      Gladstone: I predict, Sir, that you will die either by hanging or of some vile disease.
      Disraeli: That all depends, sir, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.

  20. What about Mae West !!. One time she was asked as to why she wasn’t married and her reply was : “I think marriage is a great institution, but I am not ready for an institution yet” However, my favorite quote of all time which is neither funny or sarcastic, but straight from the heart is from Yogi Berra, the legendary catcher for the N.Y. Yankees when said “It ain’t over ’til its over”. If you watched game 6 of this years World Series, he was and is absolutely right

  21. And, speaking of Churchill, here is another classic:
    When playwright George Bernard Shaw invited him to the opening performance of a show, he added a note to the invitation: “Bring a friend, if you have one.”
    Churchill replied that he was engaged that night, but added, “Please send tickets to the second performance, if there is one!”

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