by Trey Yeatts
Water. The source of all life.
Riffing on a scene in the 1964 Stanley Kubrick comedy/satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Deranged American Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (played by Sterling Hayden) lectures British exchange officer Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) about the importance of protecting our “precious bodily fluids” and points out that “Water is the source of all life.”
Sandy Frank. Isn’t that when you drop your hot dog at the beach?
Sandy Frank is a film and television producer. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Frank imported, redubbed, and distributed dozens of Japanese films, including the Gamera series. This riff is a callback to a nearly identical joke in Show K07, Gamera vs. Zigra.
A DAAA-EEEEE motion picture.
Daiei Film Company was a Japanese movie studio founded in 1942 that produced the first eleven Gamera films, as well as many critically acclaimed movies (including some by Akira Kurosawa). A twelfth Gamera film was produced after Daiei went bankrupt and was bought by Kadokawa Pictures in 2002.
Camera! –That’s Gamera.
Gamera is a popular Japanese franchise of “kaiju” (“giant monster”) films about a large flying turtle who befriends children and occasionally stomps Tokyo. He was created in the mid-1960s as Daiei’s competitor against Toho Studio’s more popular Godzilla series and ultimately appeared in twelve films.
[Reading.] MCMLXV. DAAA-EEEEE International Film.
See previous note.
Hidemasa Nagata. That’s Japanese for “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Or “I Got Into the Gouda.”
Hidemasa Nagata was a producer on six Gamera films. “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is a 1968 song by Iron Butterfly. The original title was “In the Garden of Eden,” but after a drinking session, lead singer Doug Ingle got all slurry. It’s mostly famous for its excessive length, which, on the album, was 17:05. Gouda is a type of yellow cheese made from cow’s milk and named after the city of Gouda, in the Netherlands.
Fumi Takahashi, Mr. Kielbashi.
An oblique reference to “Mr. Roboto,” the 1983 single by Styx. Its opening line is “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.” Kielbasa, also known as Polish sausage, is a type of sausage frequently flavored with garlic and smoked. It is made from either pork or a mixture of beef and pork.
Noriaki Yusha [sic], Mr. Babushka.
See previous note. Babushka means “grandmother” in Russian—it is also the name of a headscarf, the kind typically worn by, well, a Russian grandmother.
Tatsuji Nakahuji [sic], Mr. Bibiraboodzy. –Now you’re getting it.
See previous note.
[Sung.] Utaro Hojo risin’ ...
Jim Morrison (1943-1971) was a poet and lead singer of the rock group The Doors. He occasionally referred to himself as “Mr. Mojo Risin’” in his lyrics (an anagram for “Jim Morrison”). This rendition of “Mr. Mojo Risin’” is from the Doors’ 1971 hit single “L.A. Woman.”
Oh. Death from on high. Neat.
Ever since the dawn of bombers in warfare, “death from above” and “death from on high” have been used to describe the destruction wrought by those planes (and nowadays by remote-piloted drones) in a vaguely poetic way.
The Raytheon Corporation welcomes you.
The Raytheon Company is a defense contractor that was founded as the American Appliance Co. in 1922. At the time this episode originally aired (June 1991), Raytheon was in the news as one of the principal designers of the Patriot air defense missile system, deployed in the Persian Gulf for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm as a surface-to-air missile system designed to defend against enemy planes and missiles. The company has been in trouble multiple times for exerting illegal influence in the Department of Defense, and when it comes to the Patriot system, they have been accused of inflating its success rate to as high as 70 percent, when observers note it would more accurately be less than 10 percent.
Micro Machines at twelve o’clock! And G.I. Joe is there!
Micro Machines is a toy line originally produced by Galoob from 1986 until 2006. As the name implies, they are very small, (mostly) plastic replicas of cars, trucks, planes, and other vehicles. Galoob was acquired by Hasbro in 1998, which re-introduced a Star Wars themed set of Micro Machines with the 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. G.I. Joe is an action figure made by Hasbro, possibly the original action figure. It was introduced in 1964 as a poseable toy aimed at boys and was wildly successful for about ten years before the line faded away in the mid-’70s. An ‘80s relaunch of G.I. Joe as smaller, redesigned figures saw renewed popularity, along with a long-running animated series.
There goes the neighborhood.
An old phrase that dates to the earliest days of racial integration in the United States. Whenever a nonwhite family (typically a Black family) would move into a previously lily-white neighborhood, there would be murmurs among their neighbors that their alien ickiness would lower property values, bring in crime, etc.
Anthony Quinn? –Little Richard?
Anthony Quinn (1915-2001) was an actor who appeared in more than 200 films over his six-decade-long career. He won Oscars for his roles in Viva Zapata (1952) and Lust for Life (1956), but he is better remembered for his title role in Zorba the Greek (1964). Little Richard (b. Richard Wayne Penniman) is a singer and musician credited (often by Richard himself) as a founding father of rock & roll. Some of his biggest hits include “Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.”
Death from on high, again. Hi, boys.
See above note on “death from on high.”
It’s the Nelson boys. Their parents buy them anything.
A possible reference to Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, the twin sons of Ricky Nelson—actor, singer, and son of TV’s Ozzie and Harriet Nelson—and Kristin Nelson. The brothers formed a rock band, simply named Nelson, in 1989, which remains active as of 2017. It could also be a reference to the earlier TV show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966), which starred Ricky’s brother David in addition to his parents.
Red Ball Jets.
Red Ball Jets was a model of sneaker made by Red Ball Inc. (now owned by LaCrosse Footwear) from 1951 to 1971.
Captain, my captain.
A paraphrasing of the 1865 poem “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman, written about the death of Abraham Lincoln.
Death from on high. I told you.
See above note.
It’s Curly Joe as the general.
Joe DeRita (1909-1993) was the final “third man” in the Three Stooges comedy act, appearing alongside Moe and Larry. Dubbed “Curly Joe,” DeRita was in six films with the group and filmed live-action sketches for their 1965-1966 animated TV series, The New Three Stooges.
He sounds like Buddy Hackett.
Buddy Hackett (1924-2003) was a nightclub comedian and actor who had a huge show in Las Vegas for many years, where he was one of its most successful entertainers. He was known for his vaguely off-color comedy routines and appearances in ‘60s films like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Love Bug.
He’s got Franken Berry hands. Franken Berry.
Franken Berry is a strawberry-flavored, limited-production cereal produced by General Mills and emblazoned with a pink variation on Frankenstein’s Monster. Along with Count Chocula, Franken Berry was first sold in 1971.
Ground control to Major Wong.
A reference to singer-songwriter-glam rock pioneer David Bowie’s 1969 hit single “Space Oddity.” It is best known for the lyrics referring to the failed mission of fictional astronaut Major Tom. As a result, the song is often colloquially named “Ground Control to Major Tom.” Sample lyrics: “Ground Control to Major Tom/Commencing countdown/Engines on/Check ignition/And may God’s love be with you.”
Tally-ho, you little vixens.
Random trivia: “tally-ho,” an English phrase usually used in foxhunting, dates to the 1770s and the French hunting cry “Taïaut!”
Phrase it in the form of a question.
A reference to the TV game show Jeopardy!, in which the contestants are supposed to frame their answers “in the form of a question.” The show has been on the air in various incarnations since 1964.
He asked me! He asked me!
A likely reference to the ending of a Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch (“Cosmetic Surgery,” 1970), wherein Mr. Raymond Luxury-Yacht (pronounced “Throat Warbler Mangrove” and played by Graham Chapman) sees a plastic surgeon (played by John Cleese) about his enormous nose. Once the doctor removes the plastic nose, he invites Luxury-Yacht to go on a camping holiday with him and Luxury-Yacht exults, “He asked me! He asked me!”
Are you known for your work in the theater?
The TV game show What’s My Line? ran on CBS from 1950 to 1967, the longest-running game show in prime-time U.S. network television. A daily syndicated version ran from 1968 to 1975. A panel of celebrities would question contestants to guess their occupation, each round beginning with the contestant being asked to “enter, and sign in, please.” The final round of each episode involved another celebrity—a “mystery guest”—as a contestant, and the panelists were blindfolded and tasked with guessing the mystery guest’s identity, not their occupation. The above question was a common one for the panelists to ask the mystery guest.
Ah, jeez. I hate the sound of squeaky Styrofoam.
Styrofoam is a brand of plastic foam frequently used as a packing material and first made in 1941. It is manufactured by Dow Chemical.
And so, in fear and hot water, the first Slurpee is born.
A parody of a line from surrealistic comedy troupe Firesign Theatre’s 1971 album I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus. The actual line is “And so, in fear and hot water, man is born.” Slurpee is the name of convenience store 7-Eleven’s brand of flavored ice drinks, first sold in 1967. The Slurpee was not created by the chain. Instead, 7-Eleven licensed slushy drinks from the ICEE Company and just changed the name. For real fun, check out the 45 7-Eleven sold in 1967, titled “Dance the Slurp.”
Somebody’s got a Toro snowblower down there. Check it out.
Toro is an American manufacturer of lawn maintenance equipment, based in Bloomington, Minnesota. It was founded in 1914 as the exclusive provider of engines for The Bull Tractor Company (thus the name “Toro,” which is Spanish for “bull”).
Hey, Moe! –Whoo-whoo-whoo! –Nyah, nyah, nyah.
See above note on Moe Howard. The rest is an imitation of some of Curly Howard’s (Jerome Horwitz; 1903-1952) trademark vocalizations in the Three Stooges shorts.
Hey, Uncle Dave.
A possible reference to musician and comedian Uncle Dave Macon (1870-1952). Big and beefy Uncle Dave was famous for his banjo playing and for becoming one of the first stars of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1920s.
“Goodbye, chief.” Goodbye, McCloud.
McCloud (1970-1977) was an NBC police drama starring Dennis Weaver as New Mexico Marshal Sam McCloud, on loan to New York City. The frequent exclamations of “McCloud!” used throughout MST3K reference the frequently hot-tempered NYPD Chief of Detectives Peter Clifford, played by J.D. Cannon.
Davey and Goliath was a clay-animated TV series that aired from 1962 to 1977. It was developed by Art Clokey, creator of Gumby, for the Lutheran Church as a Christian show for children.
Here, have some maggoty meat.
The 1950 novel Top of the World by Hans Ruesch contains many vivid descriptions of the Inuit people’s (a.k.a. Eskimos) survival skills in the harsh Arctic, including their propensity for eating meat that is well past its freshness date. The book was adapted into a 1961 movie starring Anthony Quinn (see above note), titled The Savage Innocents. Bob Dylan’s 1967 song “Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” was inspired by that movie.
Looks like a medium-rare porterhouse.
Porterhouse is a type of steak taken from the short loin of the cow, just like the T-bone. As for why it’s called “porterhouse,” the name dates back to the 1800s, but beyond that, the possibilities are legion.
“The devil’s envoy!” Kissinger? “Gamera!” Oh.
Henry Kissinger was the secretary of state under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and was one of the major architects of Nixon’s Vietnam War policy. He played a key role in the bombing of Cambodia in 1969-1970, which resulted in somewhere between 40,000 and 150,000 deaths. In 1973, he was given the Nobel Peace Prize, to the chagrin of many who considered him a war criminal for his actions during the Vietnam War. Two members of the committee resigned in protest. (He later offered to return it.) Nonetheless, he is considered an effective secretary of state, and multiple presidents since Ford have sought his advice.
Kids go running for the rich taste of Gamera.
“Kids come running for the great taste of Ovaltine” may have been an early advertising slogan for Ovaltine chocolate milk additive. In any case, “__________ come running for the great __________ of __________” became a recurring MST3K riff.
Beef. Real food for real people.
This was the ad slogan for the Beef Industry Council and the Beef Board in the late 1980s, frequently spoken by James Garner. The Beef Industry Council kept Garner signed on as a spokesperson even after he needed a quintuple-bypass operation in 1988.
And you look like a Who from Whoville.
Whoville is the name of the burg that the Grinch terrorized in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), and it also appeared (in a different form) in Horton Hears a Who (1954). The Whos are tiny humanoids, often with wild tufts of hair on top of their heads.
Look, there’s Ernie Douglas as Sparks. Check it out.
Ernie Douglas is the youngest of the children (he was adopted) on the 1960-1972 sitcom My Three Sons. He was played by Barry Livingston, whose older brother Stanley was already playing the role of Chip Douglas. On the 1980s cartoon show G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Sparks was a communications officer who helped the team. He was not part of the original doll line; the character was created for the show, and only appeared in three episodes. See also above note on G.I. Joe.
How about a little fire, Scarecrow?
A line uttered by the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
A giant turtle would be good as Fudgie the Whale. [Imitating.] Enjoy Carvel ice cream.
Carvel is an ice cream brand and chain of stores founded by Tom Carvel (1906-1990) in 1929. Carvel began recording virtually all the radio and TV ads himself in 1955. His gravelly, staccato voice (somewhat replicated by Joel here) was rather atypical for commercials. The brand rose to greater prominence in the 1970s when novelty ice cream confections were introduced, including the famous whale-shaped ice cream cake Fudgie the Whale.
Ice Station Tyco.
The 1968 Cold War action movie Ice Station Zebra (based on the 1963 novel by Alistair MacLean) starred Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, and more in a race with the Soviets to acquire a downed spy satellite’s film canister. Tyco is a toy company founded in 1926 as Mantua Metal Products. Tyco (from the founder’s name, John Tyler) was a brand of model railroad kits that were manufactured in the ‘50s. They also pioneered slot car racing sets and later bought several brands that made other popular toys (including Ideal Toys) before being gobbled up themselves by Mattel in 1997.
Unique New York, unique New York, unique New York…
Another tongue twister. The full strength version: You know New York, you need New York, you know you need unique New York. Tongue twisters are often used by public speakers and broadcast announcers as vocal warm-up exercises: "Unique New York..." was parodied in the 2004 movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
[Imitating.] Hello, ladies!
An imitation of Squiggy (played by David Lander) on the TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley (ABC, 1976-1983), who, with his pal Lenny (Michael McKean), would constantly barge into a room unannounced with a reedy “Hello!”
Neil Sedaka is a doo-wop musician who had his greatest success in the early 1960s, releasing a dozen pop hits in the space of four years, including 1962’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” His career nosedived after 1963, but he enjoyed a brief resurgence in the mid-1970s.
Yoko Ono is a Japanese artist and activist known for her marriage to Beatle John Lennon from 1969 until his murder in 1980. Ono began collaborating musically with Lennon in 1968, making her presence known on The Beatles’ last three albums and working with her husband on solo projects, such as The Plastic Ono Band. Many blame her for the breakup of the group, though there were many reasons for The Beatles’ dissolution (including the death of longtime manager Brian Epstein, drug use, bad business decisions, the rise of George Harrison, etc.).
[Gibberish.] Hi-keeba! [Gibberish.]
A reference to Show 104, Women of the Prehistoric Planet.
[Painful Japanese accent.] Herro. Wercome to Regis and Kathie Ree. I’m Regis.
Live with Regis & Kathie Lee was the first incarnation of the long-running morning talk show hosted by Regis Philbin (1931-2020) and Kathie Lee Gifford. It started in 1983 when Philbin hosted a Los Angeles morning program with Cyndy Garvey. The national version with Gifford began in 1988; she left in 2000. Kelly Ripa joined in 2001. Philbin retired in 2011, and former football player Michael Strahan joined Kelly in 2012. Philbin began in the television business when the business itself was still young. According to the folks at Guinness, he has logged the most hours on television of anyone ever (more than 17,000).
We prepared this steak before the show.
A paraphrase of a line frequently heard in cooking programs on TV. The host will describe and demonstrate the creation of a dish, but because watching a casserole bake for an hour would be more boring than the Golf Channel, they made one earlier to show you what the finished version looks like.
A favorite riff on MST3K, usually employed whenever someone is nodding off or just seems dazed. This appears to be the first occurrence of it in the series. While it may just be a reference to cheeseball hypnotists, it could also be a direct impression of Bela Lugosi’s hypnotic ways in films like 1931’s Dracula and 1956’s Bride of the Monster (MST3K Show 423). One last, random possibility: in the 1980s, supposed “World’s Fastest Hypnotist” Marshall Sylver appeared on several TV shows, including Late Night with David Letterman, where he would entrance people while barking “Sleep!” at them.
Looks like Kathie’s medication seems to be working.
See previous note on Live with Regis & Kathie Lee.
So, send your dollars to CARE.
CARE—which was originally an acronym for Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, but now stands for Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere—is an international humanitarian, relief, and development agency founded in 1945. It is non-governmental and nonsectarian, and operates in approximately 94 countries.
Variety! Smash, crash, turbo bash. Zack Norman is Samiko in Chief Zabu!
Variety is a world-famous trade paper for the entertainment industry, first published in 1905. It employs rhyme-y, show-biz jargon-heavy headlines that are often incomprehensible to those outside the industry. The “Zack Norman” bit is a recurring reference on MST3K. According to the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide’s list of the Fifty Most Obscure References: “A reference to a long-running ad in Variety. It ran forever: Don’t know if Chief Zabu ever made it past the stage where you talk about it over liver dumpling soup at Jerry’s Deli, but you might remember Zack from Romancing the Stone or his role as the woman-slapping thug in the despicable Henry Jaglom film Sitting Ducks.” In fact, Chief Zabu—the story of a New York real estate tycoon whose dreams of political power lead him to attempt a takeover of a Polynesian island—was written, produced, and directed by Zack Norman, under the pseudonym Howard Zuker. Production began in 1986, and although the film was given an R rating in 1988, it was never completed or released. The ads, however, ran continuously in Variety between 1985 and 1988. In late 2016, in light of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the movie was taken off the shelf and given a limited release in Los Angeles and a screening at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
The New York Times says God is dead and the war’s begun and Alvin Todziger [sic] has a son today.
Some paraphrased lyrics from the 1971 song “Levon” by Elton John, written by John and Bernie Taupin. The relevant verse: “He was born a pauper/To a pawn on a Christmas day/When The New York Times/Said God is dead and the war’s begun/Alvin Tostig has a son today.” Taupin has said he just made up the name “Alvin Tostig.” The New York Times is a famous daily newspaper founded in 1851. It has won 119 Pulitzer Prizes, more by far than any other news organization. The phrase “God is dead” is famously from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, published in his 1882 book The Gay Science.
My legs are old, my teeth are gray, my arms are gnarled.
A paraphrasing of a running gag from Monty Python’s 1979 film Life of Brian. The elderly character of Matthias (played by John Young, who also played the old man feebly protesting "I'm not dead yet!" in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) often responds to knocks at the door by saying some variation of “My legs are old and bent. My ears are grizzled” or “My legs are grey. My ears are gnarled. My eyes are old and bent.”
Foster Brooks (1912-2001) was a comedian known for a shtick in which he impersonated a drunk. Although Brooks had struggles with alcohol, during the time of his greatest success he rarely drank, having quit entirely—on a bet—for a period starting in 1964. The suffix “-san” is a title in Japanese, akin to “Mr.” or “Mrs.” in English.
[Impersonating Don Knotts.] Andy! It’s a ball of fire! Tell Aunt Bee to get Opie ...
An imitation of Don Knotts as Barney Fife, the hapless deputy on The Andy Griffith Show, which aired from 1960 to 1968. Beatrice Taylor (played by Francis Bavier), a.k.a. Aunt Bee, was Sheriff Andy Taylor’s (Griffith) aunt and caretaker to Opie Taylor, Andy’s son, played by Ron Howard.
The captain has turned off the “No Dubbing” sign. You’re free to speak any language you choose.
A riff on the usual announcement made by flight attendants: “The captain has turned off the Fasten Seatbelt sign; you are free to move about the cabin.” Of course, in the old days, when smoking was allowed on commercial flights in the United States (i.e., pre-1990), there would also be the announcement “The captain has turned off the No Smoking sign …”
Oh, they put him in a bad time slot following Sunday Best. –Oooh. What a killer.
Sunday Best was an NBC midseason replacement series that aired only three times in 1991; the show combined highlights from the previous week’s NBC programming (snappy one-liners from sitcoms, Top Ten Lists from Late Night with David Letterman, etc.) with original sketch comedy. Despite its poor performance, it had an impressive staff of writers and performers, including Carl Reiner, Harry Shearer, and Linda Ellerbee.
All of them except Peter Arnett.
Peter Arnett is a Pulitzer Prize-winning television and print journalist who has worked for the Associated Press, CNN, and NBC, among others. He became a household name around the time this episode was produced, thanks to being the only reporter in Baghdad able to broadcast during the thick of the fighting in Operation Desert Storm. His coverage, which aired from his hotel room, helped CNN’s ratings soar and solidified the cable news channel’s reputation. He earned a name as a trustworthy reporter, but in 1998 he stumbled into controversy after telling Iraqi state television the American plan for the Iraq War had failed; the interview cost him his job.
“... a lottery with human lives.” Written by Shirley Jackson.
“The Lottery” is an allegorical short story by Shirley Jackson about a lottery held in a small town to determine which of the town’s residents is to be stoned to death. It was first published in 1948. Jackson (1916-1965) was a popular writer who also wrote the 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House, which was adapted into the classic 1963 horror film The Haunting. What? There was a 1999 remake, too? I don’t know what you’re talking about. That film doesn’t exist.
And you brought me a porterhouse.
See above note.
[Imitating.] Meanwhile, on Cape Cod, Pepperidge Farm remembers.
The phrase, “Meanwhile, back at _____,” originated with title cards inserted in silent films of the early 20th century. In westerns, this was often “Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...” Once audio became a common component, the phrase was still used by narrators for films and radio and television shows. Crow is imitating character actor Parker Fennelly (1891-1988), whose thick New England accent became famous during the 1970s in a series of television commercials for Pepperidge Farm cookies, pastries, frozen goods, and so forth. (He had actually appeared in Pepperidge Farm ads as early as 1956, but his trademark “Pepperidge Farm remembers” did not become a household phrase until the ‘70s.)
Sometimes referred to as “sad trombone,” “loser horns,” or, more technically, “chromatic descending ‘wah,’” this sound effect dates back to early 1900s vaudeville and then carried over into radio and television. Today, it’s mostly known thanks to the series of “Debbie Downer” sketches on Saturday Night Live.
All right, you’re getting in that toilet bowl. Here’s looking at you, turtle.
A parody of Humphrey Bogart’s famous speech at the end of the 1942 film Casablanca. The highlights: “You’re getting on that plane with Victor where you belong … Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Oh, he wants to marry a lighthouse keeper.
“I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper” (or just “Lighthouse Keeper”) is a 1970 song written by Erika Eigen and recorded with her short-lived psychedelic folk trio Sunforest. The only reason anyone remembers it at all is thanks to its inclusion in the soundtrack for the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange; it plays during the scene when Alex (Malcolm McDowell) returns to his parents’ apartment after his brainwashing sessions.
Jump! Jump! –Jump! Noonan! Noonan! –Jinx. Jinx. Jinx.
In the 1980 film Caddyshack, Danny Noonan (played by Michael O’Keefe) is attempting to sink a putt in a high-stakes golf match, while his fellow caddies are attempting to distract him from the sidelines by catcalling and chanting his last name. “Jinx” is a method of cursing someone with bad luck. It may date back to the 1860s, when a popular song titled “Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines” regaled audiences with a tale of the captain’s misfortunes. The Online Etymology Dictionary contends that the word “jynx,” meaning a charm or spell, had found its way into the English language as early as the 1690s.
[Imitating.] I will pet him and hug him and squeeze him and call him George.
An imitation and paraphrasing of the Abominable Snowman as the character appeared in some Looney Tunes shorts. His name was Hugo, and he first appeared in 1961’s The Abominable Snow Rabbit, directed by Chuck Jones and voiced by Mel Blanc. Hugo was himself a reference to the character of Lennie in Of Mice and Men, a 1937 short novel by John Steinbeck. Lennie has a love for soft things (including rabbits), but he doesn’t know his own strength, and things go tragically awry.
Airport rhubarb, airport rhubarb.
Along with “rutabaga,” “watermelon,” and “peas and carrots,” “rhubarb” is one of the words background extras mutter among themselves to simulate conversation in television shows and films.
Spielberg offered me 250 bucks.
Steven Spielberg is a director of blockbuster films such as Jaws, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jurassic Park, and occasionally of critical faves, such as The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, and Lincoln.
Sounds like Charo music.
Charo (b. Maria del Rosario Mercedes Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza) is a singer, actress, and flamenco guitarist originally from Spain. She was a regular on The Hollywood Squares during the 1970s and appeared frequently on The Love Boat. She now performs regularly in Las Vegas and Branson, Missouri. Cuchi-cuchi.
“Tibby?” Or not Tibby. –Stop it. Shut up.
A reference to Hamlet’s famous soliloquy (“To be or not to be”) from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (full title: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark), written sometime between 1599 and 1602.
[Sung.] And Tibby, I miss you...
Riffing on the song “Honey,” written by Bobby Russell, that was a hit for Bobby Goldsboro in 1968: it was the top selling single of the year and topped both the pop and country charts for weeks. Sung from the point of view of a man mourning the death of his wife, the song was also ridiculed for its maudlin and sentimental lyrics—it came in at #2 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2011 reader’s poll of the “Worst Songs of the Sixties,” slightly worse than “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris, but not as bad as “Yummy Yummy Yummy” by Ohio Express. Sample lyrics: “And Honey, I miss you/And I’m bein’ good/I’d love to be with you/If only I could.”
Rule number two: never work with children.
A reference to the old showbiz axiom “Never work with children or animals.”
Man, they’ve been on that plane for forty-eight hours. –Luckily, the in-flight film is Berlin Alexanderplatz.
Berlin Alexanderplatz was a 1929 German novel by Alfred Döblin that was first adapted to film in 1931, in a version that ran 90 minutes. In 1980, a fifteen-hour miniseries adaptation was produced for German TV that later ran in some theaters; ticketholders were required to return to the theater for three consecutive nights to view the entire thing. To date, it is the longest narrative film ever released in theaters.
And he’s with Helen Hayes.
Helen Hayes (1900-1993) was an actress known as the “First Lady of American Theater.” She is one of only eleven people to ever EGOT: that is, to win Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards.
Oh, may I?
This is a line uttered by Steve Martin, playing a waiter, in the 1979 film The Muppet Movie.
This is the classic exclamation uttered by Homer Simpson (referred to in scripts as “annoyed grunt”) on the animated TV series The Simpsons, which first aired in 1989. Twenty years before that, it was often said by the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) on the ‘60s sitcom Gilligan’s Island. Actor Dan Castellaneta, who supplies the voice of Homer, has said he borrowed the phrase from a comedian named James Finlayson, who appeared in a number of Laurel & Hardy shorts. In 2001, the expression made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, thus becoming enshrined in the English language.
[Imitating Art Fern.] Mmm-hmmm. He who holds the pointer gets to the top.
An imitation of and reference to The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson’s (1925-2005) frequent character Art Fern, host of the “Tea Time Movie.” Performed in the style of sleazy afternoon movie hosts, and a spin on Jackie Gleason’s “Reginald Van Gleason III” character, Fern would promote some lame product, leer at the busty assistant (played first by Carol Wayne and then by Teresa Ganzel), and then try to direct people to the store using convoluted maps of the Los Angeles highway system. Usually, these maps would include forks in the road (illustrated with actual forks), and Carson would frequently say, “... and then you get to the Slauson Cutoff. Get out of your car, cut off your slauson, get back in your car ...”
[Imitating Art Fern.] Mmm-hmmm. Hotter than the Santa Monica Freeway, buffalo breath.
See previous note. The Santa Monica Freeway is also known as I-10, which runs east-west from the Pacific coast, through the Los Angeles area, and all the way to the California-Arizona border.
[Imitating Art Fern.] Wrong again, pony breath.
See previous note.
[Imitating Art Fern.] Mmm-hmmm. Well spoken, my faithful Indian companion. –Thanks, Johnny.
Yes. This time, “faithful Indian companion” seems to reference Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s Native American sidekick as seen (and heard) in radio, television, and cinematic adaptations going back to 1933.
[Imitating Art Fern.] Mmm-hmmm. Welcome back to our Tea Time Movie. Ted Bessell and Georgie Jessel in Lance the Wonder Dog. –Ahem. Stop. Please. You can be replaced by Leno, you know.
Right. Ted Bessell (1935-1996) was an actor best known for starring as Marlo Thomas’s boyfriend Donald Hollinger on the ABC sitcom That Girl (1966-1971). Later, he began directing episodic television. “Georgie” Jessel (1898-1981) was an actor, writer, comedian, and producer. He started in vaudeville and produced many musicals, but he became most famous for co-founding the Friar’s Club (famous for their roasts). The earliest reference I could find to a “Lance the Wonder Dog” was a bit of fluff about a rather acrobatic dog printed in a 1970 edition of the Tonawanda News from Tonawanda, New York. There have been any number of “Wonder Dogs,” including DC Comics’ Rex the Wonder Dog (kind of a canine Captain America) and the real-life Jim the Wonder Dog, who could purportedly tell the sex of an unborn baby and predict the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Comedian Jay Leno, a longtime guest host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, took over the show in 1992 and stayed behind the desk until 2009.
Quitting time at the quarry! Yabba-dabba-doo! Sounds like The Flintstones, you see. –I got it. –Okay. I thought it was a stretch.
The animated TV series The Flintstones aired from 1960 until 1966. A prehistoric take on The Honeymooners set in the town of Bedrock, it starred the voice talents of Alan Reed (as patriarch Fred Flintstone) and Mel Blanc (as Fred’s pal Barney Rubble). The show was the first primetime animated hit. “Yabba-dabba-doo!” was Fred’s excited catchphrase, and the show’s opening featured Fred’s happy response to quitting time at the rock quarry where he worked.
Pump up the volume!
A likely reference to the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume, starring Christian Slater as a teen running a pirate radio station from his parents’ basement. It may also reference the 1987 dance/club hit “Pump Up the Volume” by MARRS, an early example of sampling in hip-hop. Its video is memorable for employing NASA-style animation of interplanetary probes and space race stock footage.
Operation Desert Storm was the United States’ code name for the Allied air and land assault against the forces of Iraq after that country’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Desert Storm began in January 1991 and lasted just over one month before a ceasefire was declared. Operation Desert Shield was the U.S. name for the buildup of forces in the Middle East in late 1990. Desert Sabre (née Sword) was the name for the push into Kuwait. Desert Farewell was the name for the withdrawal of forces after the end of the armed conflict in 1991. Officially, Operation Desert Storm didn’t end until 1995. The entire conflict has come to be known as the Persian Gulf War (as opposed to the Iraq War, which began in 2003).
Gamera: steamin’ mad at dirt.
This slogan was featured in a series of ads in the late 1980s for Rug Doctor steam cleaners. It may have been inspired by a scene in the 1981 film Mommie Dearest, in which Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) chastises a housekeeper and says, “I’m not mad at you; I’m mad at the dirt.”
Three Mile Island, the real story.
Three Mile Island is the site of a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania that suffered a partial meltdown on March 28, 1979. One hundred and forty thousand people were evacuated within a 20-mile radius of the plant, mainly parents and very young children. The plant itself had to be decommissioned due to severe radioactive contamination, although no one was injured in the accident. The meltdown was a PR disaster and contributed to a massive decline in public support for nuclear power. Out of 129 nuclear power plants that had already been approved for construction, only 53 were ever built.
Doesn’t he kinda look like Godzilla with a backpack on? –Yeah.
Godzilla is another kaiju that has appeared in nearly thirty films since 1954. In Japanese, Godzilla’s name is “Gojira,” which is a portmanteau of the words for “gorilla” and “whale.”
Is that the Orkin Man back there?
Orkin is a pest-control service created by Latvian immigrant Otto Orkin. In 1901, Orkin began selling rodent poison door-to-door. In 1912, he opened his first office in Richmond, Virginia, as “Otto the Rat Man,” which evolved into “Otto the Orkin Man,” before becoming the more generic marketing icon “The Orkin Man.” The Orkin Man has been used in advertising for the company since the 1950s.
Meanwhile, at Jackie Chan Technical College.
See above note on “Meanwhile …” Jackie Chan is a Hong Kong martial artist who achieved worldwide fame in a series of action movies featuring death-defying stunts that he performed himself (Rumble in the Bronx and Supercop, among others). He has performed fewer stunts as he has aged, turning more to dramatic roles like that of martial arts master Mr. Han in the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid.
McDonald’s is a fast-food chain that began as a Southern California barbecue restaurant in 1940 operated by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald. In 1948 the business retooled itself into a burger and fries restaurant that used assembly-line techniques in the kitchen. The brothers sold the business to entrepreneur Ray Kroc in 1961, who began aggressively expanding it through franchising. Today, there are more than 36,000 locations worldwide.
The secret ingredient in KC Masterpiece barbecue sauce.
KC Masterpiece sauce is a barbecue sauce first made by Kansas City, Missouri, child psychiatrist Rich Davis in 1977. In 1986, he sold the brand to Clorox. Davis opened five KC Masterpiece restaurants; they’re all closed now. He also tried to market a mixture of mustard and ketchup called “Muschup.” Didn’t sell.
It’s Roger Ramjet and his American Eagles!
Roger Ramjet was an animated series that aired in 1965; it featured the patriotic (but dim) Roger Ramjet leading the American Eagle Squadron. He frequently found himself in a jam and had to take a PEP (Proton Energy Pill) to give him the strength and energy to fight on. I’m not making that up.
Oh, right. Good morning, yeah, UN? This is Joe down at the base. Can we use your missiles? Not.
Though the use of “Not!” as a negating declarative is generally connected to the late-’80s/early-’90s Saturday Night Live sketch “Wayne’s World,” it can be traced even farther back to SNL’s first season and a 1976 episode hosted by Madeline Kahn. In a slumber party sketch, the female cast members and Kahn played young girls talking about boys; at one point, Laraine Newman said, “Oh, yeah. Now I really wanna get married. Not!” Its usage dates farther back than that, of course, but that’s the earliest appearance in popular culture I could find.
A reference to Show 301, Cave Dwellers.
If you remember the colonel, why cook?
Colonel Harlan Sanders (1890-1980) was the founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken (now KFC) restaurant chain. The first location was a service station in Corbin, Kentucky, which he opened in 1930. Over the following years, he expanded the restaurant and developed his “Secret Recipe.” Sanders was a young enlisted man in the Army, but he was commissioned as a “Kentucky Colonel,” an honorary title, by the state’s governor in 1935. Today, there are nearly 20,000 KFC locations, and a stylized version of his visage has been used in the company’s logo off and on for decades. “When you can get chicken like this, why cook?” was an ad slogan for the chain in the 1970s.
[Whistling theme.] Hey, the Saturday Mystery Movie.
The NBC Mystery Movie was an umbrella title for several series from 1971 until 1977. It aired multiple times each week and featured famous shows such as Columbo, McCloud, Banacek, and McMillan & Wife. Occasionally, the name changed to match the day of the week (NBC Sunday Mystery Movie, for example). The opening sequence featured a man with a flashlight searching in the dark, with music composed by Henry Mancini (being imitated here). A more up-tempo theme by Quincy Jones was used for the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie. In 1989, ABC brought the idea back under the name ABC Saturday Mystery Movie.
Carvel. Most fresh ice cream. At home. –Cute.
See above note on Carvel.
“You mean, it can really freeze anything?” By Clarence Birdseye.
Birds Eye is a company that sells frozen vegetables, meats, and more. It was founded in 1922 by Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956), who developed a process to quick freeze foods while preserving their quality, based upon his observations of the Arctic cold.
See previous note on Colonel Sanders.
Next week on Sky King.
Sky King was a long-running radio program that began in 1946 and aired until 1954, as well as a TV series that lasted from 1951 until 1959. Both series revolved around Arizona rancher Schuyler King and his adventures finding lost hikers, criminals, etc., using his Cessna plane, Songbird.
That guy moves like George Jefferson.
George Jefferson (played by the late Sherman Hemsley) was the laundry mogul star of the CBS sitcom The Jeffersons (1975-1985), a spinoff of All in the Family. His walk, a kind of bowlegged chicken strut, was a pop-culture icon in the 1970s.
“Gamera has started moving.” –And a-groovin’. He be funky. He shakin’ his groove thing.
“Movin’ and Groovin’” is a 1961 pop song by Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls. “Shake Your Groove Thing” was a 1978 disco hit by Peaches & Herb.
[Carvel voice.] And kids want more.
See above note on Carvel.
[Carvel voice.] No. Carvel is the scoop of the century. The world’s freshest ice cream. –Again with the Carvel?
Here at Toho Industries, we’re working to keep your trust. If we can’t freeze Gamera, no one can.
Toho Company is a Japanese movie studio founded in 1932. In addition to producing and releasing nearly forty “kaiju” films in the Godzilla genre, they are responsible for many of Akira Kurosawa’s classic films, like Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress. "We're working to keep your trust" was an old slogan for Texaco gas stations, which have since been taken over by Chevron.
Okay, he’s doing Charades, I think. –Uh, first word. –Swimming? Swimming to Cambodia. –Swim stroke?
In the guessing game Charades, a person acting out a word, title, person, etc., is not allowed to speak and therefore performs various hand gestures to get people to guess the first word, second word, what it may sound like, and so on. Swimming to Cambodia is a performance art piece by actor/monologist Spalding Gray, about his experience playing a minor part in the 1984 film The Killing Fields. The piece was published in book form in 1985, and made into a 1987 film directed by Jonathan Demme.
Goodnight, sweet prince.
A line from William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet (full title: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark—written sometime between 1599 and 1602), spoken by Hamlet’s faithful friend Horatio as Hamlet dies in Act V, Scene 2: “Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
I’m melting! What a world, what a world.
This is what the Wicked Witch of the West (played by Margaret Hamilton) says after Dorothy throws a bucket of water on her toward the end of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
Hey, check it out. It’s the Batmobile. –Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed. –Roger, ready to move out.
The Batmobile is comic book/TV/movie superhero Batman’s car. Since its introduction in Detective Comics 27 in 1939, the gadget-laden Batmobile has gone through many incarnations, including the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car used in the ‘60s ABC television series. The lines “Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed. Roger, ready to move out,” are direct quotes from the pilot episode of the series, “Hi Diddle Riddle,” as Batman and Robin prepared the vehicle to roar out of the Batcave.
Graphic novel. –Comic book.
Depending on who you ask, graphic novels and comic books are two different things. Usually, a “graphic novel” is a bound work with more intense art and subject matter than what is normally found in comics. The first publications to use the term came in 1976: Bloodstar by Richard Corben, Beyond Time and Again by George Metzger, and Chandler: Red Tide by Jim Steranko. Funnily enough, two of the most famous graphic novels are actually collections of previously published comic books: Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Many in the comics industry deride the term as a mere marketing tool.
Light blooming ground flower and get away. With loud report.
“Light and get away” are the standard instructions that appear on most fireworks. Ground bloom flowers are a type of firework that spin on the ground while emitting color-changing sparks.
Oh, I saw that on Ed Sullivan. –Plate spinner.
Former entertainment columnist Ed Sullivan (1901-1974) was the host of The Ed Sullivan Show, which aired from 1948 to 1971 on CBS (though it was originally titled Toast of the Town until 1955). Plate spinning, a circus act in which an acrobat spins plates or other objects balanced on top of long poles, often keeping several going at once, was a frequent act on the show, most often accompanied by Aram Khachaturian’s 1942 song “Sabre Dance.”
It’s a big ol’ fondue pot.
Fondue in its original form is basically a pot of melted cheese, set on a stand and kept warm with a candle or other heat source, that diners take turns dipping pieces of bread into with long forks. The Swiss Cheese Union promoted fondue as the “Swiss national dish” in the 1930s, and fondue became popular at restaurants or as a party centerpiece in the United States in the 1960s, with a comeback in the early 2000s. Variations include dipping pieces of fruit in a pot of melted chocolate, and cooking pieces of meat in a pot of hot oil.
Thank you, Miss Hathaway.
Jane Hathaway was the secretary to scheming banker Milburn Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies, a CBS sitcom that aired from 1962 until 1971. The role was played by Nancy Kulp (1921-1991).
[Imitating Reagan.] The driver’s either missing or ... Right. Sorry.
This is a reference to a moment in the “Phantom Creeps” short in Show 205, Rocket Attack USA, when a character says, “The driver is gone or he’s hiding” in a very Ronald Reagan-esque voice. From 1964 to 1965, Reagan hosted the Western anthology series Death Valley Days, his final work as a professional actor before entering politics. Some MST3K fans came to believe that “The driver is either missing or he’s dead” was something that Reagan was actually known for saying on the show. Not true.
Meanwhile, on Trapper John.
Trapper John M.D. was a TV series that aired from 1979 to 1986, starring Pernell Roberts as the titular character. Here’s an interesting tidbit: the show is considered a spinoff of the 1970 film MASH and not the long-running TV series M*A*S*H. This is for legal reasons, as the producers of Trapper didn’t want to pay royalties to the producers of the TV show. The court agreed with Trapper’s producers, as both shows and the film trace back to Richard Hooker’s 1968 book MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors anyway.
[Excitedly.] All over the world! Whoo!
This riff came in at Number 50 of the Fifty Most Obscure References in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide—it’s a line from comedian and Denver radio personality Michael Floorwax. To quote the ACEG: “An homage to comedian Michael Floorwax. If you have to mortgage your house to afford it, it's worth it to see Michael do the ‘all over the world’ bit.” (Thanks to Jesse Lee Herndon for this reference.)
[Imitating either Lenny or Squiggy.] Hello, Shoil.
Leonard “Lenny” Kosnowski (Michael McKean) and Andrew “Squiggy” Squiggman (David Lander) were the two “wacky neighbor” characters on the TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley, which ran from 1976-1983.
See above note on “Not!”
Look. His neck. 666.
In the apocalyptic book of Revelation in the Christian Bible, the number 666 is given as the “Number of the Beast,” or a symbol of the Antichrist: “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (Revelation 13: 16-18). Some scholars say this is an error, and the number is actually 616, not 666. In the devil-sploitation film series The Omen, lead character Damien Thorn is portrayed as the Antichrist and sports a “666” birthmark on his scalp.
You were born of the jackal!
In The Omen film franchise, young Antichrist-in-training Damien Thorn is implied to have been born of a jackal mother; the Devil was his dear old dad. The jackal mom is a purely Hollywood invention; it appears nowhere in the Bible.
[Imitating “Ave Satani.”]
”Ave Satani” is the Latin-language theme song for the aforementioned 1976 film The Omen. It was composed by Jerry Goldsmith and was one of the few foreign language songs ever to be nominated for a Best Original Song Academy Award. (It lost to “Evergreen” from the film A Star Is Born.)
Back to Gidget Goes to Japan.
Gidget was a 1959 movie about a young girl who discovers the joys of love and surfing with a fella named Moondoggie. Actress Sandra Dee played the title role. Deborah Walley took over for 1961’s Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Cindy Carol for 1963’s Gidget Goes to Rome. Sally Field got the part for the 1965-1966 ABC TV series of the same name. They were all adaptations of the 1957 novel Gidget, The Little Girl with Big Ideas, which screenwriter Frederick Kohner wrote about his own teenage daughter, Kathy. The name itself is a mash-up of “girl” and “midget.”
[Deep voice.] Go away! [Growls and gurgles.]
A possible imitation of Regan McNeill, the demon-possessed girl in the 1973 film The Exorcist, played by Linda Blair with demon-influenced vocalizations by Mercedes McCambridge. The movie is an adaptation of the 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty.
And there’s no Easter Bunny, either.
Random trivia time: the phrase “Easter Bunny” first appeared in print in the 1600s. Rabbit and hare motifs appeared even earlier, as the medieval church believed bunnies were hermaphroditic and therefore able to have virgin births. Eggs got involved centuries before as symbols of the death (dyed red) and resurrection (similar to the shape of the stone covering the tomb) of Jesus Christ. The name “Easter,” the rabbits, and the eggs, however, go even further back to spring fertility festivals and European pagan worship.
I am the dream warrior.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) is the third installment in the Elm Street franchise of slasher movies.
The password is “gookie-goo-goo-la.”
Password (1961-1975) was a TV game show hosted by Allen Ludden. Players had to guess the “password” based on verbal clues or else “pass” it to their opponent to avoid a penalty.
Phenomena. –Ba dee, ba dee-bee. –Phenomena. –Ba dee-dee-bee.
A paraphrase of the song “Mah Na Mah Na,” written by Piero Umiliani for the Italian film Sweden: Heaven and Hell. The song became famous in the English-speaking world when it was performed by the Muppets on The Ed Sullivan Show and Sesame Street in 1969. In 1976, it was performed by the Muppets again on the premiere episode of The Muppet Show. The Muppet Show soundtrack album hit number one in the U.K. in 1977 largely due to this song’s popularity.
This is Pearl Harbor ... ha, how did this get in there? Ha, hmmm. A little SNAFU.
Pearl Harbor refers to the December 7, 1941, attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii, by the forces of Imperial Japan. Six American ships were sunk and several others were damaged; more than 2,400 Americans were killed. The following day, the United States officially entered World War II with a declaration of war. “SNAFU” is an acronym for “Situation Normal: All Fucked Up” (or “Fouled Up,” if you’re a prude). It was first used in the U.S. military and was first published in a 1941 issue of Notes and Queries. Some military historians have ascribed this acronym, along with FUBAR (“Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition”) and SUSFU (“Situation Unchanged: Still Fucked Up”), as a flamboyant rebellion on the part of soldiers against the army’s predilection for acronyms.
The Andrea Doria. –I knew her.
The SS Andrea Doria was an Italian cruise liner launched in 1951. Five years later, off the coast of Massachusetts, the ship collided with the Swedish cruise ship Stockholm and sank. Fortunately, other ships in the area (including the Stockholm) managed to rescue most of the passengers; only 46 people died out of the 1,660 passengers on board.
Are you a Mod or a Rocker? –[British accent.] I’m a Mocker.
A reenactment of a scene from the 1964 Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night. In it, Ringo Starr is asked this question and responds as above. In Great Britain in the 1960s, Mods and Rockers were two groups of youths that often clashed and were frequently filmed fighting. Mods were usually clean-cut, snobbish types—the equivalent of today’s hipsters. Rockers wore leather jackets and preferred the rough-and-tumble ‘50s. In general, Mods were fans of The Who, and Rockers were fans of the Rolling Stones. The 1979 drama movie Quadrophenia, based on the 1973 rock opera of the same name by The Who, offers a pretty good look at that whole scene. (Thanks to Chris “Sampo” Cornell for the Who/Stones/Quadrophenia reference.)
[Imitating Robin Leach.] But forget that now. Let’s run to Rio with Lainie Kazan.
Robin Leach (1941-2018) was an English entertainment reporter best known for hosting the syndicated show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (1984-1995), detailing the homes and high-flying lifestyles of your betters. His plummy British voice, intoning the details of lush estates and vacation spots in voiceover, was widely parodied in the 1980s. Lainie Kazan is an actress and singer who got her start after serving as Barbra Streisand’s understudy on a Broadway run of Funny Girl in the early 1960s. She made many guest appearances on TV dramas and variety shows throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. You may remember her best as the mother in the 2002 film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Professor rhubarb. [Mumble, mumble.]
See above note on rhubarb.
Although this exclamation is strongly associated with Bela Lugosi, Lugosi never said “Bleh!” as Dracula. This appears to have originated with comedian Gabriel Dell, who performed a popular Dracula impersonation on The Steve Allen Show (1956-1964). “Bleh” has also been used to great comedic effect in the 1975 Pink Panther animated short Pink Plasma and by Joe Flaherty as Count Floyd on SCTV (1976-1984).
Gilligan! –Skipper! –Gilligan! –Skipper!
On the CBS sitcom Gilligan’s Island (1964-1967), the Skipper (a.k.a. Jonas Grumby, played by Alan Hale Jr.) and Gilligan (Bob Denver) were the lead characters.
Well, since you own their countries, I think you can convince them.
Anti-Japanese sentiments in the United States came to a head in the late 1980s. American manufacturing (especially the auto industry) had been on the wane for years, and Japanese firms were thriving. Well-known properties, such as Columbia Pictures and Rockefeller Center, were purchased by Japanese companies, which drew the ire of many Americans. “Japan bashing” began to be expressed not only in hate crimes but also through pop culture. Japanese antagonists started to turn up in books such as Rising Sun and films like Black Rain. These feelings subsided when the bubbles in Japan’s economy popped in the 1990s.
In the sky!
This line appears in the opening sequence of Adventures of Superman, which was a radio serial from 1940 to 1951 and a TV series from 1952 to 1958 starring George Reeves. “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman!”
The big-screen TV is cool. –They invented it. –It’s true. The one and only.
The first big-screen TVs (by “big,” we mean larger than about 36 inches) were developed for the public in the 1970s and were usually rear projection. GE and Zenith were among the first to sell them. In typical fashion, the Japanese took the idea, improved it, and ran with it. Larger screens were available in the 1980s from Sony, Toshiba, Sharp, and other companies. Thanks to the plasma and LCD revolution that began in the early 1990s, we have cheap 50-inch-plus screens today. “The One and Only” was an advertising slogan for Sony, used only in the United States from the late 1970s into the mid-‘80s.
Trinitron was the brand name for Sony’s line of cathode ray tube televisions and computer monitors. First introduced in 1968, Trinitron used “aperture grille” systems to separate the colored phosphors inside the big glass picture tube instead of the normal “shadow masking.” This allowed for greater detail and brighter pictures. The last consumer Trinitron TVs were made in 2006, as CRTs left the market in favor of LCD, plasma, and other HD television technologies.
I’ve got a turtle that’s as big as a whale ... –And it’s about to set sail!
A paraphrase of a line from the 1989 hit song “Love Shack” by the B-52’s. The relevant lyrics: “Hop in my Chrysler, it’s as big as a whale and it’s about to set sail/I got me a car, like, it seats about 20/So come on and bring your jukebox money.”
Are they in Footloose all of a sudden?
Footloose is a 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon as a big-city teen who moves to a small town where dancing is banned, thanks to the machinations of the city council and a conservative preacher (played by John Lithgow). Naturally, by the end of the film, all the stodgy adults see the error of their ways and the teens get funky to Kenny Loggins in a complicated dance sequence (despite having never been allowed to dance before). The movie was remade in 2011 with Kenny Wormald in Bacon’s role. The story was based on a real-life situation in Elmore City, Oklahoma, in 1980, when the local high schoolers wanted to have a prom, although dancing was forbidden by law. (They succeeded.)
No dancing! Not allowed. No dancing.
A reference to Show 106, The Crawling Hand.
[Imitating.] Go to bed, old man!
An imitation of and reference to a bit by comedian Dana Gould. Gould is a longtime friend of the show and was a guest writer and performer on Season 11.
Disco police. I hate ‘em.
Disco is a genre of music that arose in the mid-1970s as a response to the domination of rock music. It was popular on the club scene and was among the first musical forms to embrace electronic and synthesized sounds. By the late ‘70s, anti-disco fervor reached a peak, and many rock radio stations hosted disco record burnings. The genre went underground and survived, primarily by changing its name to “dance music.”
Rock that town inside out.
A paraphrased line from the 1982 song “Rock This Town” by the Stray Cats, written by Brian Setzer. The relevant verse: “We’re gonna rock this town/Rock it inside out/We’re gonna rock this town/Make ‘em scream and shout.”
Live the good life in the offworld colonies!
A paraphrase of advertisements present throughout the 1982 classic sci-fi film Blade Runner: a giant blimp festooned with animated billboards floats through a futuristic Los Angeles, with announcements saying, “A new life awaits you in the offworld colonies! The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!”
If we get an eighteen-piece bucket ... oh, something splashy. Extra crispy.
See above note on KFC.
The best-laid plans of mice and men. We’ll have it catered. Let’s go.
A common misquote of the 1785 poem “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns. “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley.” That last bit means “Go oft awry.” This line gave John Steinbeck the title of his famous 1937 book.
He saw London, he saw France, he saw Rodan’s underpants.
Rodan is a 1956 Japanese monster flick about a mysterious flying creature, kind of like a giant pteranodon, that is discovered underground and promptly trashes the city of Fukuoka. Rodan later appeared in several other Godzilla films. The riff itself is an old schoolyard rhyme about someone’s southern exposure.
I wonder how many times Tokyo Tower has gone down? –He just hates the Memphis Design Group.
Tokyo Tower is a nearly 1,100-foot-tall communications and observation structure modeled after France’s Eiffel Tower and completed in 1958. By my count, Tokyo Tower was destroyed twice in Gamera universe films. In the Godzilla films, it got hit four more times. The Memphis Design Group was an Italian-based postmodern design group that operated in the 1980s. They produced brightly colored furniture and objects using glass, metal, and fabrics. My favorite quote about their work comes from critic Bertrand Pellegrin, who called it “a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price.”
What are they, in Supercar? –[Sung.] Supercar! Supercar!
A reference to (and imitation of the opening theme for) the 1961-1962 English children’s TV show Supercar. Using Gerry Anderson’s trademark Supermarionation, the show was about pilot Mike Mercury and his vertical takeoff and landing vehicle.
Hot foot on the freeway.
Hot foot is an old prank in which the perpetrator inserts a match somewhere on the victim’s shoe and lights it, or simply sets the victim’s laces alight.
Escape! Escape to Wisconsin!
“Escape to Wisconsin” was a long-running tourist slogan used by the Wisconsin Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus. It's since been changed to "Destinations Wisconsin." Possibly also a reference to Escape from New York, a dystopian 1981 sci-fi/action film starring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, and Ernest Borgnine, about a futuristic crime-ridden America where all of New York City has been converted into a giant prison.
I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, please, Lord, don’t let me be misunderstood.
A paraphrase of lyrics from the 1964 song “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” written by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell, and Sol Marcus. It was first recorded by jazz singer and pianist Nina Simone, but the best-known version was released the following year by The Animals. Sample lyrics: “But don’t you know that no one alive can always be an angel?/When things go wrong, I seem to be bad/But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good/Oh Lord! Please don’t let me be misunderstood.”
Here at Exxon, we take the greatest precautions for the protection of our fragile ecology.
Exxon is a fuel and oil company. In 1911, when Standard Oil Company was broken up in antitrust fervor, the Esso, Enco, and Humble brands were created. In 1973, Exxon became the corporate name, replacing those other brands in the U.S. In 1999, Exxon merged with its former Standard Oil sibling, Mobil, and is now ExxonMobil. Obviously, this riff references the Exxon Valdez disaster: on March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Valdez, carrying 54 million gallons of crude oil from Alaska, ran aground on a reef, spilling nearly 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. The captain had been drinking earlier in the day, and the third mate who was on duty when the accident occurred may have been working for as long as 18 hours straight. Roughly 1,300 miles of beach were contaminated, and estimates of wildlife killed by the spill include 250,000 birds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs. Cleanup efforts cost more than $2 billion.
Here’s the Exxon Valdez at port. Here’s our plucky captain after a couple of cocktails.
See previous note.
N ... Y ... P ... D. –Frank Converse. Jack Warden.
N.Y.P.D. is a crime drama that aired on ABC from 1967 until 1969. Frank Converse starred as Detective Johnny Corso on the show and is best known for his Broadway work as well as for starring on multiple soaps. Jack Warden (1920-2006) played Lieutenant Mike Haines on the show and starred in many acclaimed films, including From Here to Eternity (1953), 12 Angry Men (1957), and All the President’s Men (1976).
[Imitating Gregory Peck.] Damien? Damien? Have another deviled egg, Damien.
Gregory Peck (1916-2003) was an actor who appeared in such films as Roman Holiday (1953), Cape Fear (1961), and To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). He also played l’il Antichrist Damien Thorn’s father, Robert Thorn, in The Omen (see above note).
A likely reference to nerdish character actor Olan Soule (1909-1994, pronounced Soo-LAY) and his late-’60s advertisements on behalf of the California Prune Advisory Board. One of Soule’s turns as a prune juice pitchman is featured in the Rifftrax Live! presentation of Manos: The Hands of Fate. And, of course, he can be seen as the particularly wormy reporter who interviews hunky scientist Cal Meacham (played by Rex Reason) at the beginning of MST3K: The Movie’s feature This Island Earth. His versatile voice kept him employed in radio for decades, plus made him the animated voice of Batman from the late ‘60s through the early ‘80s. In that same period, you could throw a rock and hit him as he guested on dozens of the most popular TV series.
Oh, thank you, Topol.
Topol (born Chaim Topol) is a singer and actor best known for his portrayal of Tevye in the musical Fiddler on the Roof and as Milos Columbo in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. To me, though, he’ll always be Dr. Hans Zarkov in the 1980 film Flash Gordon.
[Russian accent.] Tradition!
An imitation of Topol in Fiddler on the Roof, singing “Tradition.”
He likes Cajun. Go figure.
Cajun cuisine, popularized by Louisiana chef, restauranteur, and cookbook author Paul Prudhomme, involves relatively simple but spicy dishes with onion, bell peppers, celery, rice, shrimp, and pork sausage as key ingredients. Blackening is a popular Cajun cooking technique: fish or other meat dipped in butter, dredged in spices, and seared on a very hot cast iron skillet, creating a black crust on the outside.
I vote red dot.
A reference to “dot-voting” or “dotmocracy,” a method of voting used in businesses and other organizations that uses dot stickers or marks with a marker pen, in varying colors, to cast votes. It is useful when trying to express preferences among a long list of options: for example, participants at a meeting are given a number of dots and a list of possible choices. They can put all their dots on one choice, or they can distribute their dots evenly across the choices, or they can put a bunch of their dots on the choice they like best and a few dots on their second- and third-best choices. At the end of the voting, participants will easily be able to see which choices are most highly preferred, but also which ones came a close second and might be worth further exploring. Dot-voting appears to have emerged in the 1980s.
Industry. Responding to government’s needs. [Sings “Do Dum” tune.] One shining steel rail.
An imitation of a typically bombastic movie newsreel narrator of the 1930s and ‘40s. “One shining steel rail …” is a line from surrealistic comedy troupe Firesign Theatre’s 1969 album How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All? A bit more: “One shining steel rail, from sea to mighty sea, from coast to mighty coast, from Bangor all the way to mighty Maine! So how about that, Mr. Smarty Pants Communist? Mr. College Professor? Mr. Beatnik? Mr. Hippie? What have you done for me lately?”
Why? Why? This world was never meant for one as beautiful as me.
A paraphrase of lyrics from the 1971 song “Vincent” (a.k.a. “Starry, Starry Night,” the first line of the song) by singer-songwriter Don McLean. The relevant verse: “And when no hope was left in sight on that starry, starry night/You took your life as lovers often do/But I could have told you, Vincent/This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”
Gamera, honey. Don’t go out too far. You just ate.
A reference to the old wives’ tale (or, more accurately, old mothers’ tale) that one should not go swimming until more than thirty minutes after eating. No less an authority than the Red Cross from the 1930s through the ‘50s taught that doing so could lead to gastrointestinal distress and, therefore, drowning. Practically speaking, waiting a while after you eat may prevent vomiting, especially if you like to perform belly flops, but swimmer-killer cramps are a myth.
[Imitating.] C’mon. The war’s-a this way, pilgrim.
An imitation of cowboy actor John Wayne (1907-1979). “Pilgrim” was Wayne’s most recognizable catchphrase, although he only used it in two films—McClintock and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. To be fair, he said “pilgrim” over 20 times in Liberty Valance, so that’s a lot.
Ride the little train that’s going down the tracks to hell.
A paraphrase of the opening theme to the 1963-1970 CBS sitcom Petticoat Junction. The song was written by producer and creator Paul Henning (who also created and wrote “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” a.k.a. the theme for The Beverly Hillbillies) and Curt Massey. The opening line: “Come ride the little train that is rolling down the tracks to the junction …”
That was the midnight train to Gamera. –[Sung.] I’d rather live in this world, than live without him in mine ...
A riff on the lyrics to “Midnight Train to Georgia,” a pop song written by Jim Weatherly. Originally titled “Midnight Plane to Houston” and recorded by Weatherly, it was then recorded as “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney) in 1973. A cover by Gladys Knight & the Pips from later in 1973, though, became a number-one hit single, won a Grammy Award, and became Knight’s signature song. Sample lyrics: “I’ll be with him/On that midnight train to Georgia/I’d rather live in his world/Than live without him in mine.”
They’re in sections, so you can just take all you want. –Take all you want but eat all you take.
During World War II, posters in U.S. armed forces mess halls proclaimed “Take All You Want, But Eat All You Take,” in an effort to curb waste and promote food conservation during periods of wartime shortages. After the war, the slogan became popular on menus and posters in buffet-style restaurants and cafeterias. The slogan actually pre-dates World War II: it was a posted rule in the dining hall at Alcatraz prison in the late 1930s.
Kenny as Woody Guthrie in Bound for Gamera.
Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) was a folk musician most famous for writing “This Land Is Your Land.” Bound for Glory is his somewhat fictionalized autobiography, first published in 1943 with a film adaptation in 1976.
I’m a Toys R Us kid!
“I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid” is a line from a jingle used in a series of commercials for the toy giant during the 1980s and 1990s. It was written by author, advertising executive, and TV host Linda Kaplan Thaler.
The blast really shook him up. He thinks he’s a train now. –I’d cure him but I need the ride.
A riff on an old joke, which was brought back to life by Woody Allen in the fourth-wall-breaking monologue that concludes his 1977 film Annie Hall: “I thought of that old joke, y’know, the, this ... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, ‘Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.’ And, uh, the doctor says, ‘Well, why don’t you turn him in?’ The guy says, ‘I would, but I need the eggs.’ Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and ... but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us ... need the eggs.”
Run, Von Ryan!
A paraphrase of a line from the 1965 World War II prison escape film Von Ryan’s Express, starring Frank Sinatra as the title character. At the end, Sinatra is racing to catch up to a train, and his fellow prisoners are shouting to encourage him: “Come on, Ryan!”
Gonna cry? 1-2-3, cry! 1-2-3, cry.
A riff on a scene in the 1983 comedy movie A Christmas Story, in which neighborhood bully Scut Farkus taunts lead character Ralphie Parker. It doesn’t end well for him.
“Gentlemen…” Start your engines.
“Gentlemen, start your engines” is the traditional pre-race PA announcement at the Indianapolis 500 car race, a tradition begun in 1946.
Omaha Beach. June 5, 1945.
Omaha Beach was one of five code names for sections of the French coast during the World War II invasion of Allied forces against Nazi strongholds in Normandy on June 6, 1944—more famously known as D-Day.
McHale’s Navy was a TV sitcom about a group of bumbling misfits aboard a PT boat in World War II. It starred Ernest Borgnine as Lt. Commander Quinton McHale. The show aired from 1962-1966.
Four score and ...
These are the opening words of the Gettysburg Address, likely President Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech, given November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, site of a notoriously bloody Civil War battle. “Four score and seven years ago” equals eighty-seven years, which, if we do the math, takes us back to 1776, and thus references the Declaration of Independence and the creation of the United States of America.
Go to Oshima.
Izu Oshima is a volcanic island about 75 miles southeast of Honshu, Japan. It is a popular tourist destination. More important, it is the island where Godzilla was entombed in the 1984 film The Return of Godzilla, and from whence he made his escape in 1989's Godzilla vs. Biollante, when the volcano erupted.
Don Knotts, a giant turtle, and a Japanese stowaway add up to kooky fun in ...
See above note on Don Knotts. Alongside his breakout success on The Andy Griffith Show (winning five Primetime Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Deputy Barney Fife), Knotts also made a string of popular, kooky fun-filled movies, including The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964), The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), and The Reluctant Astronaut (1967).
And you know Snuffleupagus, too, right?
Aloysius Snuffleupagus (played first by Jerry Nelson, followed by Michael Earl and Martin Robinson) is one of the Muppets on the children’s television show Sesame Street (1969-present). First appearing in 1971, “Mr. Snuffleupagus” (or “Snuffy”) is a woolly mammoth-like friend of Big Bird, who for many years was the only one who ever saw him; the others believed he was imaginary, and teased Big Bird about him at great length. Finally, in 1985, he stuck around long enough for other characters to see him, too. Originally intended as an acknowledgment that children sometimes have “imaginary friends,” the decision to let the adults finally see Snuffy has a rather dark origin. The writers and performers say they were influenced by a string of stories in the early 1980s regarding children being sexually abused and then their parents or other adults not believing the kids. By making the adults finally see Snuffy and believe Big Bird, they wanted children to think that adults would believe them if they told someone about what was happening to them.
Pepperoni, extra cheese. Thirty minutes?
A possible reference to Domino’s Pizza, a nationwide chain of pizza delivery stores founded in 1960. Beginning in 1973, they offered the “30-Minute Guarantee,” stating that if the pizza did not arrive at the delivery address within a half-hour, it would be free. By the mid-’80s, this was reduced to $3 off. In 1993, after settling two multimillion-dollar lawsuits related to accidents caused by speeding Domino’s drivers (one woman died), the guarantee was dropped.
And do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?
A common part of the marriage vows exchanged during a wedding ceremony. Marriage vows date back to the earliest days of the Roman Empire, but are not universal, not even in Christian marriages, and are not necessary in most legal jurisdictions.
See above note.
See above note on sad trombones.
I am his Keymaster.
In the 1984 comedy Ghostbusters, after the character of Louis Tully (played by Rick Moranis) was possessed by Vinz Clortho, minion of Gozer, he wandered the streets of New York City, declaring himself to be the Keymaster while looking for the Gatekeeper (who turned out to be a sensual, also-possessed Sigourney Weaver).
Quickly, twist the rubber band! Get it on that little hook! Now turn the propeller!
Balsa wood toy airplanes which are propelled by rubber band-powered propellers. Paul Guillow, a U.S. Navy aviator, founded his shelf model airplane company in 1926, weathered the balsa-wood shortage of World War II, and began producing rubber-band gliders in the 1950s.
Toy boat. Toy boat. Toy boat. –Toy plane.
See above note.
I just got an order for Chicken Littles.
Chicken Littles are a type of sandwich served by KFC (see above note). They’re on the small side; kinda like chicken sandwich sliders, with pickles and mayo on sesame seed mini-buns. They’re served in pairs; eat them both and you just scored 620 calories, 36 grams of fat, and 1,180 milligrams of sodium. Bon appetit!
Regular or crispy?
See above note on KFC.
Looks like a Jerry Lewis platoon.
Jerry Lewis (1926-2017) was a comedian, actor, director and producer who got his start in the 1940s alongside Dean Martin in the Martin and Lewis comedy team. He made an enormously popular series of slapstick comedies in the 1950s and 1960s, including The Bellboy (1960) and The Nutty Professor (1963). He later became associated with the Muscular Dystrophy Association's Labor Day Telethon, which he hosted for 44 years.
“Flame on!” is the catchphrase of Marvel Comics character Johnny Storm, a.k.a. The Human Torch. A member of the Fantastic Four, Storm has the power of pyrokinesis and flight, and he usually says this when he “ignites” himself. The character was created by comics gods Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961.
Hey, smoke on the water, dude. –Fire in the sky.
“Smoke on the Water” is a song by the band Deep Purple, released in 1972. A 1971 Mothers of Invention concert incident with an audience member and a flare gun served as the inspiration for the song. Sample lyrics: “Frank Zappa and the Mothers/Were at the best place around/But some stupid with a flare gun/Burned the place to the ground/Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky/Smoke on the water …”
“‘s Wonderful” is a song written by George & Ira Gershwin for the 1927 musical Funny Face. It has been covered by artists such as Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Engelbert Humperdinck, Doris Day, and Audrey Hepburn. Sample lyrics: “’S wonderful! ‘S marvelous/You should care for me/’S awful nice! ‘S paradise/’S what I love to see.”
Now Styx on the Traffic Jam.
Styx is an American rock band that formed in Chicago in 1972 and went on to become a Classic Rock Radio staple. Rock radio stations often feature long music sets during morning or afternoon “drive time” commutes—“Traffic Jam” is a common name for the feature.
Kenny? Kennerino. Kennster. The Ken-monster, hey.
An imitation of Richard Laymer, a recurring character performed by Rob Schneider on the NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live from 1990 until 1994. Laymer was an office worker whose desk was near the copy machine, and his only means of speaking with his co-workers was by taking their names and manipulating them humorously.
Talk about a Binaca Blast.
Binaca is a maker of breath sprays and other products that debuted in the 1930s. Binaca Blast (sometimes Binaca Fast Blast or Aeroblast) is the name of the spray.
He didn’t start the fire. It was always burning, since the world was turning. –Uh, thank you ... Joel.
Lines from the 1989 Billy Joel single “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” the lyrics of which list more than a hundred different pop culture personalities and events between 1949 (the year of Billy Joel’s birth) and 1989 (the year of the song’s release). The chorus: “We didn’t start the fire/It was always burning/Since the world’s been turning/We didn’t start the fire/No we didn’t light it/But we tried to fight it.”
See above note on Dracula.
What is this, Frank Burns?
Major Frank Burns is a character in the 1968 Richard Hooker novel M*A*S*H, the 1970 film MASH (where he was played by Robert Duvall), and the long-running CBS series M*A*S*H (1972-1983), where he was played by Larry Linville for five seasons.
Burn, baby, burn! It’s a disco inferno!
Riffing on the 1976 song “Disco Inferno,” recorded by The Trammps and written by Leroy Green and Ron Kersey. It didn’t start as a hit; it only made the charts after it was included on the soundtrack of the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever. The song was also covered by Tina Turner and Cyndi Lauper in the 1990s. Sample lyrics: “Burn baby burn! Disco inferno!/Burn baby burn! Burn the mother down!”
And now Gamera in a scene from From Here to Eternity.
From Here to Eternity is a 1953 film starring Burt Lancaster as an army sergeant who falls in love with his captain’s wife (Deborah Kerr). The scene in which the couple makes out in the surf on a beach has become iconic, endlessly imitated and parodied.
Kenny, join me and together we will rule the uni ... –Darth Turtle?
A paraphrasing of lines spoken by Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones and portrayed by David Prowse) in the 1980 classic Star Wars –Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back to his (spoiler alert) son, Luke Skywalker.
It’s just like a Klan meeting. –Without the charm.
The Ku Klux Klan has been a few secret organizations over the years; the first was founded just after the Civil War as a vigilante group designed to retain white supremacy in the South by intimidating newly freed Black slaves. The name came from the Greek word “kyklos,” meaning “circle.” It had disappeared within twenty years. But in 1915 the group was revived, inspired by the film The Birth of a Nation, which portrayed the original KKK as a noble band striving to protect civilization from depraved Blacks. The official uniform of Klan members was a set of white robes and a pointed white mask, used to conceal the identities of the members. The organization peaked at a membership of about 4 million in the 1920s but had once again died out by the end of World War II. There was another brief resurgence of the Klan in the 1960s in response to the civil rights movement; today its membership is probably only a few thousand, and it has fragmented into several small and competing groups.
I’m hysterical and wet!
A paraphrasing of a famous scene in the 1968 Mel Brooks comedy The Producers, starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, in which hysterical accountant Leo Bloom (Wilder) reacts to gruff producer Max Bialystock’s (Mostel) efforts to snap him out of his panic by throwing water in his face. The scene was re-created in the Broadway musical adaptation of The Producers (which won a record-breaking twelve Tony Awards), and in the 2005 film version of the Broadway show, both of which starred Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane as Leo and Max.
All we need now is a plague of locusts, you know.
A reference to the biblical Plagues of Egypt, detailed in the book of Exodus. The eighth plague was a swarm of locusts ... not a terribly uncommon event in northern Africa.
Shame, shame. Eternal shame.
A possible reference to William Shakespeare’s drama Henry V, and lines spoken by the Duke of Bourbon in Act IV, Scene 5: “Shame and eternal shame, nothing but shame.” (The French Duke was referring to the shame of losing the battle to the English forces.) Of course, this also references Japan’s so-called “shame culture,” which uses shame and ostracism as a means of maintaining order and familial bonds.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Of Kenny.
The line “Be afraid. Be very afraid” was spoken by Geena Davis in the 1986 horror film The Fly, a loose remake of the 1958 film of the same name. The phrase became a tagline for the film, was used extensively in its marketing, and has since become so firmly embedded in popular culture that many people know the line without being aware of its origin.
He’s turning Japanese. I really think so.
Despite urban rumors, the 1980 song “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors wasn’t about masturbation. Writer David Fenton said it was about the clichés of teen angst and turning into something unexpected. No wonder people wanted to believe the masturbation thing. Sample lyrics: “You’ve got me turning up and turning down/And turning in and turning ‘round/I’m turning Japanese/I think I’m turning Japanese/I really think so.”
I’ll have what the volcano is having.
In a famous scene in the 1989 romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally ..., Meg Ryan loudly demonstrates for Billy Crystal in a crowded deli that women can effectively fake an orgasm. An impressed older patron (played by director Rob Reiner’s mother) says, “I’ll have what she’s having.” The line ranked at #33 in the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Top Movie Quotations in American Cinema.
Notice how the water rolls off his back. It’s that Turtle Wax shell.
Turtle Wax is a line of car-care products, including waxes, polishes, and protectants. In the 1960s and 1970s, Turtle Wax was often given as a prize on game shows.
Where’s this at? –The end of the world.
A possible reference to Show 301, Cave Dwellers.
Hey, Aaron Spelling’s house.
Aaron Spelling (1923-2006) was a film and television producer best known for 1970s and ‘80s TV shows like Charlie’s Angels, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Beverly Hills 90210, and many more. Spelling’s mansion drew criticism for its size (123 rooms and 56,500 square feet—the largest home in Los Angeles County) and ostentatiousness when it was built in 1988. When it was put on the market in 2009, the asking price was $150 million—the most expensive real estate listing in the United States at that time. It sold in 2011 for $85 million.
“Lara’s Theme” is the name given to a heavily repeated portion of the “Main Theme” in the score of the 1965 epic film Doctor Zhivago; it then became the basis of the song “Somewhere, My Love.” One of the dramatic scenes using “Lara’s Theme” involved two lovers running toward each other.
Oh, they’ve walked into a Boston album cover.
Boston is an American rock group founded in 1976. Their hits include 1976’s classic “More Than a Feeling.” Their album covers feature a recurring theme of a giant, colorful spaceship, which is guitar-shaped and appears to be hauling the entire city of Boston on its top deck.
Actually, it looks like a Mad Fold-In.
Al Jaffee (1921-2023) was a cartoonist who worked with Mad magazine for 65 years. In fact, in the half-century stretch between 1964 and 2013, only one issue of Mad was published with no new work by Jaffe. His signature feature was the “Fold-In,” which appeared on the inside of the back cover. The headline above a piece of art typically asked a question, which was answered by folding the page over (making the printed arrows touch), and seeing the new image and text thus created. Mad itself debuted in 1952 as a comic book and was created by Harvey Kurtzman and William Gaines. It later evolved into a comic magazine and launched several pop culture icons and sayings, including gap-toothed mascot Alfred E. Neuman and the phrase, “What, me worry?”
Matte painting going up. And matte painting to the right.
In filmmaking, matte paintings are backgrounds that are either placed in the shot during filming or added later as a post-production special effect. For most of the past century, they were hand painted on glass and placed in front of the camera while an unpainted section framed the actors. More recently, matte paintings have been digital effects added in post-production. The first digital matte painting was featured in the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes.
The Kennedy Memorial or a Greek amphitheater?
The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame is a memorial at the grave of the former president in Arlington National Cemetery. Despite the name, the flame has been extinguished several times (once by spilled holy water, a few times by heavy rain). Ancient Greek amphitheaters were open-air venues for performances, usually built into hillsides with stone seating for the audience.
Now watch me bust a move! Nia Peeples, look out.
“Bust a move” is slang for dancing. In the 1989 Grammy-winning song “Bust a Move” by Young MC, “bust a move” meant to “make your move,” whether it was asking someone out or whatever, but mostly the song raps about impressing girls by dancing. Nia Peeples is a singer, dancer, and actress who appeared in the TV show Fame (1982-1987), and had a few minor hit songs in the late '80s and early '90s.
Aeschylus is stunning as the great god Tortoise.
Aeschylus was a Greek playwright in the sixth to fifth centuries B.C.E., known for his Oresteia trilogy and widely considered to be the “father of tragedies” for revising the structure of plays. According to legend, he was killed when an eagle, mistaking his bald head for a rock, dropped a turtle on him in an attempt to crack open its shell.
Suddenly, he’s a chewy nougat center.
Nougat originated in Central Asia and the Middle East and is a candy filling usually made with sugar, ground nuts, and egg whites. It’s used in candy bars such as Mars, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, and Baby Ruth.
We’re putting Gamera in the soundproof booth. Now we’re going to ask his wife a few questions.
Soundproof (or isolation) booths are devices used in some game shows so that one or more contestants can’t see or hear what other contestants are doing. They have been used in programs such as Twenty One, The $64,000 Question, The $64,000 Challenge, Double Dare, Family Feud, and more. A game show that involved asking one half of a couple questions while the other half was offstage (although not in a soundproof booth) was The Newlywed Game (1966-1974), in which couples competed to see which knew their mates the best, based on whether their answers to questions (often raunchy ones) matched.
They turned him into a giant antiperspirant roll-on.
The roll-on underarm applicator for deodorant, based on the then-new ballpoint pen, was developed in the late 1940s by Helen Barnett Diserens for the Bristol-Meyers pharmaceutical company, which in the early ‘50s introduced Ban Roll-On.
Ish Kabibble (b. Merwyn Bogue; 1908-1994) was a comedian and musician best known for his performances with radio star Kay Kyser in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, and on Kyser’s 1949-1950 TV game show Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge. The stage name comes from the mock-Yiddish expression “Isch gabibble?”, meaning “I should worry?” This is also the origin of Mad Magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman’s catchphrase “What, me worry?” (see above note). In fact, “Isch gabibble” isn’t Yiddish; it became a popular slang term around 1913 due to a George Meyer song by that title (which Bogue performed on Kyser's radio show). The origins of the term are unclear.
Amedeo Avogadro (1776-1856) was an Italian physicist who formulated Avogadro’s law, which states that under controlled temperature and pressure, equal amounts of gas contain equal numbers of molecules. Avogadro’s number, a.k.a. Avogadro’s constant, is actually 6.022 x 10^23: the number of atoms or molecules in a gram mole of a chemical substance.
In mathematics, pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to the diameter. It’s an irrational number, meaning it can’t be expressed exactly as a fraction of two integers, and its value is 3.14159265358979323846264 ...
In mathematics, a googol is a 1 with 100 zeros after it. A googolplex is a 1 with a googol zeros after it. The Internet search engine got its name from a misspelling of googol, intended to mean that they can provide access to countless pieces of information.
See above note on the number of the beast.
Planck’s constant is a mathematical constant used to express the energy of a vibrating molecule. The actual value of Planck’s constant is 6.626 068 × 10^-34 m^2 kg/s. It was formulated by physicist Max Planck (1858-1947).
See above note on Caddyshack.
Hey, Joel? Remind you of anything? –Yeah, it reminds me of this. [Rips Crow’s arm off.] –Hey! –Hey, Crow. [Sung.] In the not too distant future ... –We’ll get sued for that. –I’ll sue you for using the song.
Ha. Obviously a reference to Joel’s situation as laid out in the theme song to Mystery Science Theater 3000, a line of which Tom quotes here. The music was composed by Joel Hodgson and Charles Erickson. Joel and Josh Weinstein (KTMA & Season 1) wrote the lyrics for the first two versions of the theme, used in the KTMA episodes and then from Season 1 through Show 512. Joel “and the Joels” performed the song. After Show 512, the lyrics changed four more times, with the writing credited to Best Brains and performed by Mike Nelson (with Mary Jo Pehl beginning in Season 8). For Season 11, the theme was performed by Minneapolis-based Har Mar Superstar (a.k.a. Sean Tillmann).
They launched Merv Griffin’s microphone into space.
Merv Griffin (1925-2007) started out his career as a singer, but he came to fame as a TV talk-show host during the 1960s and ‘70s. The show used long, slim, candlestick-shaped microphones, which were considered modern and groovy at the time. The Merv Griffin Show was the source of much controversy, as it frequently espoused anti-war views and invited such controversial guests as comedian Dick Gregory. Later, Griffin developed game shows, including Wheel of Fortune, Crosswords, and Jeopardy!
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were Israeli cousins who bought the financially unstable Cannon Films production company for only $500,000 in 1979. For the next decade, they produced dozens of action films, including the Death Wish sequels, Chuck Norris films, and Breakin’ (along with the classic sequel Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo). Expensive but unsuccessful productions like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Masters of the Universe (along with an abortive attempt at a Spider-Man film) drained the company of funds. The cousins were bought out in 1990; Cannon relaunched that year and then folded in 1994.
Gamera will be back in The Bells of St. Mary.
The Bells of St. Mary’s is a 1945 drama starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman about a priest and nun trying to save a school from being closed. A 1959 television adaptation was also produced with Claudette Colbert and Marc Connelly. The name for the films came from a 1917 song written by Emmett Adams and Douglas Furber.
But now, Victory at Sea.
Victory at Sea was an Emmy Award-winning TV documentary series that aired on NBC from 1952 through 1953, and condensed into a feature-length film in 1954. It dealt with naval warfare in World War II.
[Credit.] “The End.” Or is it?
A common MST3K riff at the end of a film. The first time they used it was for ... well. Look at that. Show K05, Gamera.
Sandy Frank? Didn’t want to miss that.
See above note on Sandy Frank.
Source of all films.
See above note.
Get me! I’m a buoy.
A paraphrasing of a line from the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life, spoken by Sheldon Leonard as Nick the bartender: “Get me! I’m givin’ out wings!”
Kinda like Lifeboat.
Lifeboat is a 1944 movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock about the survivors of a German U-boat attack. It’s set entirely on the titular craft.