What is the Screenwriters’ Joke in Mr. Harrigan’s Phone?

Directed by John Lee Hancock, Netflix’s horror film ‘Mr. Harrigan’s Phone’ revolves around Mr. John Harrigan, a businessman who hires Craig to be his book reader. Gradually, Craig and Harrigan form an endearing bond. The businessman, who leads a lonely life in Harlow, starts to feel responsible for Craig’s future, especially after knowing that the latter wishes to become a screenwriter in Hollywood.

Although Harrigan includes Craig in his will and allots enough money to fund his education and the early steps of his career, he lets him know that he doesn’t approve of his wish to be a screenwriter. He asks Craig to find a joke pertaining to screenwriters on the internet that will make him understand the valuelessness of the profession. If you are trying to find the same, let us be your ally!

What is the Screenwriters’ Joke?

After Harrigan’s death, Craig receives a letter the businessman had written while he was alive to inform Craig about the funds he had set aside for the latter’s education and career. Harrigan, through the letter, makes it clear to Craig that he doesn’t approve of his wish to be a screenwriter and asks the latter to use the keywords “screenwriter” and “starlet” to find a joke about the profession to understand the reason behind his disapproval.

Image Credit: Nicole Rivelli/Netflix

The real joke Harrigan refers to reads, “One of the oldest inside jokes out there is of the starlet so dumb she slept with the screenwriter in hopes of advancing her career.” The joke, which was probably conceived after the emergence of Hollywood in the 20th century, sheds light on the influence of screenwriters during the period. At the time, the motion picture industry was ruled by the heads and executives of potent filmmaking studios. Even the directors were lesser powerful people on the set. The studio heads and executives had the final say in selecting cast members and establishing them as stars.

To an extent, all screenwriters apparently could do was sell their screenplays and make money without any authority. “Sleeping” with such screenwriters wouldn’t have helped anyone who wanted to make progress in their career since they didn’t possess any power, control, or influence in the process of filmmaking. As far as Harrigan is concerned, such a profession has to be despised rather than aspired to. Harrigan built his life by exerting his authority and influence over others and for such a man, any profession without the same level of authority is undesirable.

Since Harrigan cares for Craig, he wishes that the boy would want to build his life in any career where he will hold some sort of power. Harrigan tries to change Craig’s mind with the joke without realizing that Hollywood has changed from the 1940s and ‘50s. He is not aware of how screenwriters have made progress in the industry to become influential people in the creation of films, which also indicates how he never bothered about learning anything new about the industry to change his beliefs that are decades old.

Read More: When and Where is Mr. Harrigan’s Phone Set? Is Harlow a Real Village in Maine?