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Fast-food workers serve up classic role in pop culture

Fast-food workers aren't just teenagers looking for a little after-school cash these days. The demographics of the job have changed with the economy and with necessity.

But will Hollywood ever catch up with reality? For years, fast-food workers -- with notable exceptions -- have mostly been portrayed as high-school doofuses playing pranks behind greasy counters. Here's a look at some of the most memorable cinematic counter staff.

‘Saturday Night Live’ -- 'Cheeseburger, cheeseburger'
“What’ll ya have?” was never a more inconsequential question. With John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray behind the counter at The Olympia Restaurant, the menu was simple and oft-repeated to great Greek-accented effect. “Cheeeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger ...” You want a Coke? “No Coke -- Pepsi.” Fries? “No fries -- chip.” Every customer who sits at the counter is denied menu items ranging from a grilled cheese to eggs. At least Gilda Radner gets it right when she orders “the usual.” Cheeseburger!    --Kurt Schlosser

'Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle'
Harold and Kumar don't work at White Castle -- they just long for it. But the boys do meet an employee of a Burger Shack (formerly White Castle), played by Anthony Anderson. First, he tries to talk a fellow employee into burning down the restaurant, then he confesses to Harold and Kumar about a certain disgusting ingredient he's added to the secret sauce.    --Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

'The Simpsons'
One of the most famous TV fast-food workers is "The Simpsons" pimply-faced teen (real name: Jeremy, apparently). He mostly works at Krusty Burger, and he fulfills all the stereotypes of a fast-food employee: acne, voice breaking, picking his nose. But cut him some slack. After all, he has to deal with Homer, who so loves the Ribwich that Jeremy has to call for a "Drool Clean-Up at Register 4!"    --G.F.C.

'Beavis and Butt-Head'
Beavis and Butt-Head wouldn't have been good employees everywhere, but they were especially terrible workers at Burger World. They deep-fry a ringing phone, ignore customers, throw raw meat into the ceiling fan and serve up worm fries to the health inspector. In their defense, those worm fries didn't look that bad.   --G.F.C.

'Fast Times at Ridgemont High'
Poor Brad. He just wants to pay off his car and is stuck working in fast food – and dealing with the likes of Spicoli. Fired at All-American Burger for mouthing off to an angry customer, Judge Reinhold’s character is further demeaned by having to don the pirate uniform at his next job, Captain Hook’s Fish and Chips. Embarrassed on a delivery run, Brad quits and eventually makes the big move to convenience store clerk -- where at least he gets to be the hero.    --K.S.

'Reality Bites'
“You got time to lean, you got time to clean,” David Spade’s overly cocky Wienerschnitzel manager reminds us. He’s the perfect jerk for the job in the 1994 slacker film, as Lelaina (Winona Ryder) learns she has to be “150 percent on her toes, 150 percent of the time” to be a cashier at the fast-food joint. A condescending interview that takes place in the food-prep area culminates with a degrading math quiz: “85 and 45? Go!” – K.S.

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'She's All That'
"She's All That" was one of the most popular teen films of the 1990s, but its concept goes way back -- think of it as a "My Fair Lady" for a new generation. Freddie Prinze Jr.'s Zack makes over mousy (well, she wears glasses) Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook). In a memorable scene, Zack seeks Laney out at her job at a Middle Eastern fast-fooderie, where she wears a hideous falafel hat and has to ask customers if they want to supersize their falafel balls.  --G.F.C.

'Mystic Pizza'
Before she was an Oscar-winner, Julia Roberts was slinging pizza as part of an ensemble in this 1988 romantic comedy. Her waitress character Daisy wants to get out of small Mystic, Conn., but her rivalry with her sister and a romantic interest with a blueblood get in her way.    --Randee Dawn

'Good Burger'
A raucous comedy about fast-food workers so ditzy that when someone tells one to “watch his own butt” he starts spinning around like a dog trying to do just that, “Good Burger” doesn’t try to be anything other than goofy, gross-out, greasy surface.   --R.D.

'Better Off Dead'
After his girlfriend dumps him, teenager Lane (John Cusack) sees his life as a dead end – and part of that has to do with his mindless job at Pig Burgers. He gets some terrific fantasies out his dreary job, though, creating a giant Frankenstein burger that comes to life and starts shredding on the guitar.    --R.D.

'Coming to America'
When Prince Akeem of Zamunda (Eddie Murphy) wanted to find a bride, he jetted off to America … and took a fast-food job at McDonald’s clone McDowell’s in Queens, NY, hoping for a queen of his own. Akeem took his duties hilariously to heart, whether collecting garbage or mopping up – or falling for the owner’s daughter.    --R.D.

 

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