Monday 22 January 2024

Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! – Final Rating

By Alex
There is a business axiom I heard somewhere (please don’t ask me for a cite; I’m lazy) that goes something like this: when deciding what product you to give people, you can either give them a gourmet meal (i.e., something they have never seen before and, perhaps, didn’t even know they wanted), or you can give them the best damn hamburger they’ve ever had (i.e., something familiar, but done really, really well (no, that’s not a reference to how long it is cooked for)). Here in Burgerland, aka America, we use hamburger metaphors because that’s our language, bro.

Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! is a hamburger. It’s not the best damn hamburger on God’s green earth, but it’s certainly a cut above many offerings out there. It’s also an exceedingly stupid game, but that goes with the territory. Nobody plays a Leisure Suit Larry game for erudite conversation, thought-provoking dialogue, or weighty, meaningful themes.
For that, you play Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist.
What Leisure Suit Larry 6 is, is very well-designed. It’s a mite easy for veteran adventure gamers, but the puzzles are mostly logical and make sense. The areas I got frustrated with—the exercise machine belt used to fix the Cellulite Drainage machine and the stupid bottle of water puzzle—are not my fault because I’m borderline psychopathic and cannot accept personal responsibility for anything they are not particularly great puzzles for reasons we’ll get into later.Okay, we’ll get into them now: the exercise machine belt looks like a pure background element, the kind in many a Sierra game you just can’t do anything with, and the bottle of water only appears when you need it, leading to a solution to the “puzzle” of just wandering around La Costa Lotta in frustration until you find it. At least, that’s what I did. You could say both are standard adventure game failings, and I’ll agree with you there. Puzzle design is a delicate balance—should they be event-driven? Should everything be accessible from the get-go? Considerations like that. This is why these two puzzles stuck out to me: because otherwise Leisure Suit Larry 6 was very well-considered and tightly designed. Nearly the entire area is accessible from the get-go, and it’s done so very naturally you don’t quite realize that some things are event-driven and some aren’t, at least not on your first time playing through the game. I am honestly surprised the bottle of mineral water wasn’t something you could get elsewhere at any time prior to actually having to suck the fat out of Gammie’s thighs.

Sigh . . . that sentence. I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: This is a stupid game.

We’ll get into more of this in our rating and our discussion of what reviewers thought about the game at the time it was released.
Even by 1993 standards, the box copy is creepy.

Puzzles and Solvability: 4

This was a tricky one, honestly. This is the same rating I gave the puzzles for Quest for Glory III: Wages of War, which I said “are just not difficult.” I went on, in my own inimitable way:

Yes, they’re logical for the most part . . . most puzzles are boiled down to “Do I have the right inventory object for the job or for this quest that somebody told me about?” or “Did I go to the right place after the right event has been triggered?”

I think the puzzles in Leisure Suit Larry 6 did require some more lateral thinking than those in Quest for Glory III—I’m thinking about the camera puzzle to distract Daryl and the soap puzzle where you have to do your deed out of Billy Dee’s eyesight in particular—but despite the belt and water bottle puzzles, they weren’t hard, per se. Clever, yes—I liked the bit with Art and his toilet and the ridiculous lengths you had to go through to get batteries for Char. Pure ridiculous adventure game fun! But I’d hardly call them difficult. Yes, comparing this game to a Quest for Glory game is comparing a straight adventure game to an adventure/RPG hybrid, complete with different expectations of how the game is to be structured, but I would still rank the two games comparably in difficulty. And as with Quest for Glory III, in Leisure Suit Larry 6 neither the writing nor the interface ever got in my way. Plus, I thought the puzzles were better than those in Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist. Although TFW no horse fart bag.

Interface and Inventory: 6

I have no complaints about either except that the dials on the menu to adjust speed and such are a bit finnicky. Otherwise, this is your bog-standard Sierra interface of the day, which is a good thing! It never not once, got in my way. Every icon worked the way it was intended. The distinction between the “Hand” icon for interacting with something and the “Take” icon for taking stuff took a little getting used to, but that was a me issue and not a game issue. You hear that, game? It’s not always my fault.

I do kind of miss the nose and tongue icons, mainly because the writing in this game is, as it is typically in all Leisure Suit Larry games, pretty funny with lots of little hidden in-jokes. Which brings me to the inventory.

Sure, scrolling is a bit annoying, but not enough to deduct any points. I did like having the inventory be ever-present even if it ate up quite a bit of screen real estate, and the game continued the Leisure Suit Larry 5 tradition of one of the few things that game got right: funny inventory messages when you clicked objects on other objects. And doing stuff with objects wasn’t an issue, not even the “plugging in the exposed wire and zapping the electroshock treatment room door open.” I should probably give this a 5, but the game does so much right that nitpicking seems pointless. I’m nice like that.

Story and Setting: 4

Yeah, I liked this story and setting better than Leisure Suit Larry 5’s. Not that anyone plays Larry games for the story or setting, but here we have a story which boils the essence of the Larry franchise down to its essence, and recalls the first game, and the third too, I suppose, in that Larry wanders around a self-contained environment looking for love. Well, “love,” even though Larry’s ultimate goal is to find fulfillment on a level above the glandular.

I like La Costa Lotta as an environment. Larry in a health spa works much better than you’d expect on paper. There’s no disco, heck, no real alcoholic beverages, but that’s okay. Despite still having a 70s sense of humor as I discussed here, the setting is decidedly 90s. Or late 1980s. It’s the same thing. Everything didn’t turn from, I don’t know, a Nagel painting into a Delia’s—sorry, dELiA’s—catalog at the stroke of midnight December 31, 1989. Or maybe it did. I would’ve been nine years old so forgive me if my memory is faulty. The point is, it works. It’s stupid, but it works. And it makes use of the setting: the swimming pool area, a gym, aerobics, a shower, an employee area, etc. It would’ve been nice to have had more places to go in La Costa Lotta, but Al Lowe and Co. got a lot of mileage out of the setting, a lot of gags packed into a small space. That sounds like an Al Lowe type of joke. I’ll move on.

Sound and Graphics: 6

I struggled with this because I gave Larry 5 a 6 here, and this game looks comparable—nay, better, than that one, but the style is still pretty ugly. Tacky. Just perfectly . . . Larry. I played the SVGA version as well, and it wasn’t that much better. It works but the aesthetic just sort of looks like a paint-goblin vomited a bunch of color on the screen and fingerpainted with it. Gross!

THAT SAID, you know why it works? Because of the cartoony caricature Larry contrasted with the realistic attractive women. If Larry was a realistic looking and realistically proportioned adult male, the game would come off a lot more creepy and prurient than it already does. Larry is a non-threatening goofball that you can’t even imagine having sexual intercourse at all because I mean just look at him. He’s a cartoon character. He’s harmless. He’s the id of every male-type person who has chuckled at a raunch teen comedy ranging from Porky’s to American Pie. This is a bad analogy because the older I get the more horrified I am at how creepy and gross movies like that are, but I hope my point is coming across. I like to think people laughing along at movies like that isn’t really a sex pest, but is just laughing at how overdone, how inappropriate, things like that are. That they can hopefully see how unrealistic it is and THAT’S why they’re laughing. It’s like a release: “Oh my goodness can you believe they said/did/showed that?” It’s the kind of stuff guys joke about put on screen. Whether you think that is appropriate or not is not what I’m getting at. I’m just trying to describe it.

So Larry looking like a disco dwarf or something helps with the illusion that it’s all not to be taken seriously. It works. It’s ugly, but it works.

The Leisure Suit Larry 6 design document is interesting because it set out to do some of the things I noted. Take a look at “The Look,” for example:
The game’s unique appearance juxtaposes “Toon-like” buildings set in photo-realistic backgrounds. Scanned photographic images of clouds, oceans, trees, mountains, etc. are combined with cartoonish, impossible, whacked-out, Bill Davis buildings. Unrealistic Toon people let us get away with more. However, the women are realistic, beautiful, sexy, desirable “Vargas girls,” the best lookers we can produce with hand-drawn art. This contrast of photographs, rendered art, and Toon characters even looks like fun.
Hey! That’s what I said! Kinda.

As far as the sound goes, once again the music and voice acting elevate the game and help with the humor. Composer Dan Kehler provides a number of themes that fit the atmosphere perfectly. The only one I really remember is the cheesy samba ditty that plays when wandering La Costa Lotta’s halls. The Sonny Bonds song was pretty funny too.

Now, the voices. Everyone did a fine job. I did not find any to be grating or incongruous with the character. Jan Rabson as Larry and Neil Ross as the narrator are spot on, providing the perfect amount of snark that brings each character to life. The narrators voice in Sierra games was one of their charms, and having the narrator actually have a voice—and a good one!—always makes you want to find those rando asides the programmers put in when you click on random things. Ed Gilbert as Art, Jackie Gonneau as Merr, Dave Fennoy as Mark, Jeff Bennett as Gary, and Sheryl Bernstein as Gammie were also particularly good.

Environment and Atmosphere: 6

For a comedy game, I’ll say Leisure Suit Larry 6 nails this category pretty well. The environment is almost sort of a character, what with Larry being trapped in the resort and all, and it has all of the features of a resort hotel: pool, bar, gym, cellulite drainage salon, you know, the usual. And the gaudy art style of . . . of . . . what the heck do you call this art style? . . . really ties the whole place together, man. I mean, look at that rug . . .
The game does a fine job of creating the atmosphere for the player, and given that it’s a very contained game with one environment, La Costa Lotta never wears out its welcome . . . as long as you crank the game speed UP so Larry can zip through the long hallways.

Dialogue and Acting: 7

I touched on this in the Sound and Graphics rating, but the Dialogue and Acting here are top-notch. Gone are the cringey days of King’s Quest V-tier talkie versions with what sounds like Sierra employees roped in to giving performances, I mean “performances.” The voice acting in Leisure Suit Larry 6 is professional and very well cast. Not a single dud I can think of. What helps is that the writing, though puerile and juvenile and asinine, is sharp. The jokes come fast and furious, and if they don’t elicit outright laughs, you’ll at least find yourself smiling or chuckling.
No you didn’t, Neil.
Unless you’re actually a mature adult. Then you’ll just grimace and shake your head.

4 + 6 + 4 + 6 + 6 + 7 = 33 / .6 = 55
Fifty-five! That’s the same as Freddy Pharkas. I think that’s fair: Larry 6 did some things better than Freddy Pharkas (puzzle design, mostly) and some things works (graphics, story and setting). So I guess it all washes out in the wash. Or the PISSED. Which will make you need to wash it out afterwards. I guess. I don’t know. I’m rambling.

So what did reviewers at the time think of Larry 6? Glad you asked!

Steven Wartofsky of Computer Games Strategy Plus really liked the game, praising many of the same things I did: the open design, the atmosphere of La Costa Lotta, the fact that you rarely get stumped, and the constant one-liners. Allen L. Greenberg of Computer Gaming World also liked the game well enough, and appreciated the humor and interface, but noted that it was a bit too easy for experienced adventure game players:
The obvious conclusion regarding LSL6 is that it is a very clever game that will easily offend the puritan-minded, just as it might offend the experienced gamer looking for a serious puzzle challenge. For the novice who enjoys a touch of risqué entertainment and good, off-color jokes, LSL6 is a very novel and enjoyable source of Titillation and Amusement.
Sara Slaymaker (no way that’s her real name) of Electronic Games gave the game a rating of 92%, and specifically called out the sound design for praise.

Not all contemporary reviewers enjoyed what Al Lowe had to offer. David Wildgoose (no way that’s his real name) of Hyper found it “really desperate stuff” with the jokes just “tired and predicable variations on the ones from the original game which, to be honest, were only vaguely amusing the first time. Unless, of course, you’re the sad, sweaty, suited businessman type, in which case, you’ll love it.” Mr. “Wildgoose” notes that Larry 6 s one of the first games to receive a then-new MA-17 rating, which he hilariously comments “That’s good. Anything to restrict the sale of crap games is fine by me” before ultimately concluding that “Larry was funny when he had some novelty value. Now he’s just a sad old sexist pervert” to put a bow on his 50% rating. I don’t think Larry himself is sexist, maybe just the game itself, but this review was funny.
Richard Longhurst (what is it with these names?) of PC Format gave it a 45%, declares that “If you’re amused by flatulence, tampons, vibrators and masturbating, then Larry 6 is for you.” I will note that there are no tampons in this game.

And so on. Reviewers either dug ha game or couldn’t stand it, with even some of the more positive reviews like the one in PC Gamer noting that the Larry format has gotten stale. I can totally see that. Sometimes juvenile humor is a bit too dumb for us sophisticated gamer types.
Back to our food analogy: Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out is a really good hamburger. It’s above Burger King or McDonald’s level, but not quite that ridiculous burger made with Kobe beef that they put actual gold in at those types of restaurants for people who want others to know just how much disposable income they have. No, this game is a cut above that, maybe like a Qdoba? Which isn’t a burger place which kind of ruins my metaphor, but oh well. The point is, you know what you’re going to get, you’re going to enjoy it, you’ll get some bang for your buck, but you’re not going to really remember how good it was years from now, and you’re kinda sorta sick of it.

Thanks everyone. I had fun playing this game and writing this and reading your comments, even if I didn’t respond to them all. This game got a bit, ah, spicy, and if anyone was offended by the NSFW nature of the game and some of the posts, please accept my sincerest apologies, and I totally understand if the TAG moderators decide to censor some of it. I do not take it personally! I’ll see you all next time.

CAP Ratings

100 CAPs to Alex
  • Blogger Award - 100 CAPs - For playing through Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! for everyone's enjoyment
100 CAPs to Joe Pranevich
  • Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For playing through A Special Christmas Adventure! (1986) for everyone's enjoyment
  • Deja Vu Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For playing through A Special Christmas Adventure! (1987) for everyone's enjoyment
20 CAPs to LeftHanded Matt
  • True Companion Award - 20 CAPs - For playing and commenting on Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! along with Alex
20 CAPs to bigfluffylemon
  • True Companion Award - 20 CAPs - For playing and commenting on Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! along with Alex
15 CAPs to arcanetrivia (the commenter formely known as Lisa H.)
  • Helping Hand Award - 15 CAPs - For providing Alex with hints for his predicament
10 CAPs to Alfred n the Fettuc
  • Straight Ahead Award - 10 CAPs - For hitting the exactly correct order in one of 1993 STRAIGHTs
10 CAPs to limbeck
  • Straight Ahead Award - 10 CAPs - For hitting the exactly correct order in one of 1993 STRAIGHTs
10 CAPs to Laukku
  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For being the closest guesser to the Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! PISSED rating
8 CAPs to Ahab
  • Important Topic Award - 8 CAPs - For raising the issue of gay/trans panic
5 CAPs to Michael
  • Friend of Al Lowe's Award - 5 CAPs - For explaing who Art Serabian in Sierra games was
5 CAPs to Deano
  • Smelly Facts Award - 5 CAPs - For explaining why a health spa would do colonics

37 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review and trip down memory lane. There's a Five Guys joke to be had somewhere in this review, I think.

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    1. Gary wouldn't want all that competition.

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    2. I have the strangest feeling you are Al Lowe.

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    3. If only I was that talented. But a compliment is a compliment, so I'll just say thank you.

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    4. Would you believe that Five Guys was the chain I referenced in my initial drafts, and not Qdoba? But Five Guys almost seemed TOO GOOD to compare to a Larry game.

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    6. See, I'd argue that Five Guys and Qdoba are both posers. Qdoba is the wannabe that wants to have the food quality of Moe's or the cult status of Chipotle, but doesn't come close to either. Five Guys? Any burger place that won't cook your burger to order, or at least less than medium-well has no business calling themselves a burger place. You're just a McDonald's with loose peanuts at that point. :)

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    7. Leisure Suit Larry is barely above the worst of the worst and playing it is like playing a game of Russian Roulette? (though at least in game form, you don't have to worry about food poisoning...)

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  2. I think I mostly agree with this, and I suspect you'll like the next game much more than this one. It changes many of the things you had gripes with.

    Other than the game I'm playing right now, it seems that the blog won't be seeing any stupid humor for a while, except for the adaptation of Wayne's World on the calendar. So, we'll have to watch some TV of the time instead. (Oh, wait, this is the season of Married... with Children where the character Seven was introduced. Never mind.)

    "Larry 6 did some things better than Freddy Pharkas (puzzle design, mostly) and some things works"

    I do suspect you meant "worse" here.

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    1. As a child you have no idea how much the title of Married...with Children confused me. I initially thought he was married TO children, then later decided he must feel like he is trapped/forced to have a relationship (non-romantic) with his children. It took me years to figure out he was married and had children.

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    2. I never had that issue, but I suspect it's because I saw the publicity photos showing the whole family. My family watched the early Fox shows together, like this one, Tracey Ullman, It's Garry Shandling's Show, and The Simpsons. Looking back, it was a groundbreaking lineup.

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    3. "it seems that the blog won't be seeing any stupid humor for a while"

      I'd say Companions of Xanth and Isle of the Dead definitely qualify as stupid humor (arguably even Police Quest: Open Season even though that's entirely unintended).

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    4. I think the sense of the "..." was supposed to be to imply a surprising reversal. The implication would have been "Married is good, EXCEPT "with children" makes it bad" - the notion that having children transforms a romantic relationship into the burden of a family. Except this doesn't actually seem like a good fit for a show whose central conceit is that the main character detests BOTH his wife and his children

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    5. "Isle of the Dead definitely qualify as stupid humor"
      It kind of has to work up to be stupid humor.

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    6. @Ross deep down, Al doesn't detest his wife and children. It's just a front. The basic episode structure often went like this: something happens to Al or the family, they make fun of each other, but in the end, they team up against a common enemy. Kind of like, "you can't mess with my family, only *I* can mess with them!"

      More than one episode ended with the family kicking another family's butts because they souled the honor of the Bundy name.

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    7. It kind of has to work up to be stupid humor.

      Based on some of the reviews I've read so far, it's humorous how stupid this game is.

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    8. You're right, that was a typo.

      Re: Larry 7, that's the one I've never played. I've heard it's the best (well, "best") Larry game.

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    9. Some of the stuff that was really good in 6 is even better in 7. Like the narration.

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  3. the setting is decidedly 90s. Or late 1980s. It’s the same thing.

    It is but it isn't! If anyone's interested, here's a couple of interesting posts about design aesthetics in these decades: Everyone gets “The 90s” look wrong and I hate it; Everyone gets “The 90s” look wrong so let’s fix it

    The Sonny Bonds song was pretty funny too.

    I unironically like this song and have it in rotation on the USB on my car stereo. (Yes, really. If it helps, there's a lot of other game music there, too.)

    Neil Ross as the narrator

    I still can't get over that this is the same guy who voices Wally in the Monkey Island games. Really different performances. With this narrator, I think they were trying to give a similar-but-different thing to Gary Owens' narrator in Space Quest.

    No, this game is a cut above that, maybe like a Qdoba? Which isn’t a burger place which kind of ruins my metaphor, but oh well.

    Five Guys? Habit? Shake Shack or whatever that supposedly really incredible burger was that people were trying to do copycats of?

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    1. The distinction between 80s and 90s aesthetic can be best understood as the difference between the frisson that comes from the belief that the world will shortly end in nuclear conflagration and thus we might as well go ahead and have a good time, and the frisson that comes from the realization that the world is not shortly going to end in nuclear conflagration and thus we should all be happy about that.

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    2. (There is also non-frisson-based aesthetic in both decades. Here, it's the sadness from realizing that the world is about to end contrasted with the sadness from realizing that someone might hold you accountable for all those things you did when you thought the world was going to end. This is why we wore so much flannel in the 90s.)

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    3. Be honest……….How many hits of your vape did you take before writing this?

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    4. (arcanetrivia here) huh, i thought sure i added a comment correcting the fact that i'd missed an html tag on the first link...

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    5. There was, I guess Ilmari, Joe or Will deleted it. Not because they thought it was spam (the original link works?) but because they want everyone to think you're an illiterate who can't into html tags. ;p

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    6. Thanks for the link arcanetrivia! As an oldhead who WAS THERRRRE, MAN!!!!!! for both the 80s and the 90s, things like fashion, aesthetics, etc. changed much more gradually. As amazing as it sounds, real life doesn't break neatly along distinct lines every ten years.

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    7. @Morpheus there should have been two links, though, was the thing. "Hate it" and "Fix it" are two separate posts.

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    8. I think it was Blogger acting up that "ate" the comment in the first place - checking the spam filter, it was filled up retroactively by many comments all the way from 2013. I've tried to return at least the more recent comments (I guess old score guesses from years ago are not that relevant anymore).

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    9. As unpleasant as it might be, this is Google. You'll probably want to return as many of them as possible in order to "re-train" the spam filter.

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  4. I enjoyed your write up of this one, as always! The final score feels about right to me. I have no idea what any Larry games beyond this are like, so it'll be interesting to see.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the posts, Matt. This was a very stupid game, but it was actually a good GAME, if that makes sense. Not the hardest, but fun and well-done.

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  5. Thanks for the CAPs!

    Having blasted this game myself, I think that was a very fair pissed rating. I'd have scored it lower on environment and atmosphere, partly for the garishness and partly because some of the cruder bits have dated very poorly and took me out of the game. But otherwise I can't argue.

    Thanks for the review and blog!

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    1. You're welcome! Thank you for reading along.

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  6. "I will note that there are no tampons in this game." There probably would have been, but I guess Al Lowe couldn't pull any strings.

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    1. Nah, it would have just padded things out.

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    2. I waited a while to join this thread, as I soaked up all the jokes. I didn't want you to think I was stuck up.

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