404: Teenagers From Outer Space
by Wyn Hilty
Oh, is he any relation to Christie Love?
Get Christie Love! was a short-lived (1974-1975) TV series about a sexy black undercover cop named Christie Love (Teresa Graves).
[Sung.] Get David Love …
A riff on the opening theme from Get Christie Love! (see previous note).
According to Erma Bombeck, all teenagers are from outer space.
Erma Bombeck (1927-1996) was a humorist who had a popular syndicated newspaper column for decades. She tended to write about the stresses of family life, including raising children.
No, it’s a Devo hat.
Devo was a geek-rock proto-new-wave band that hit its peak of popularity in the 1980s. In the video for their song “Whip It,” all the band members wore hats that looked like big red plastic flowerpots turned upside down.
It’s Audrey Hepburn’s hat from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
In the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, actress Audrey Hepburn, playing socialite Holly Golightly, wears a variety of hats, with the most famous being a wide-brimmed affair. That style of hat became briefly popular after the movie came out.
Run, Toto, run!
A line from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Toto was Dorothy’s dog.
[Sung.] Witch theme.
This is the Wicked Witch of the West’s theme from The Wizard of Oz.
Oh, it’s Won Ton Ton, the dog that saved Hollywood.
Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood is a 1976 film about an aspiring actress who finds that her dog winds up becoming the star. It starred Bruce Dern and Madeline Kahn.
Pac-Man is the most popular arcade game of all time, creating a veritable merchandising craze during the 1980s and causing millions of teenagers to blow their allowances on quarters. It was created by Japanese game designer Moru Iwatani in 1980.
An imitation of the C-3PO-like robot Twiki, from the Star Wars-like TV series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (NBC, 1979-1981).
I am the egg man, oo koo ka choo.
A line from the 1967 Beatles song “I Am the Walrus.” Sample lyrics: “I am the eggman, they are the eggmen/I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.”
Ooh, now Michael Jackson will want him.
In the late 1980s a rumor spread in the tabloids that Michael Jackson had tried to purchase the bones of Joseph Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man. Merrick was a horrifically deformed man in Victorian England who was the subject of the 1980 film The Elephant Man. The rumor was proven false, but Jackson never seemed too outraged about it. In fact, in 1989 Jackson released a short film to accompany his song “Leave Me Alone,” which poked fun at this and other rumors about him; the film won a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 1990. The incident added to Jackson’s growing reputation for weirdness.
Looks like the Elephant Man in the 25th century.
See previous note. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was a sci-fi TV series starring Gil Gerard as a 20th-century astronaut revived 500 years in the future. It aired from 1979-1981.
Ray Liotta is a versatile actor who has appeared in such films as Goodfellas and Field of Dreams.
Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a spaceman.
An imitation of Ray Liotta’s narration, which provides background and exposition throughout the 1990 mobster movie GoodFellas, directed by Martin Scorsese. Actual line: “As far back as I could remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.” In 2007, the line came in at #20 in Premier magazine’s “100 Greatest Movie Lines.”
[Sung.] I know I'd go from rags to riches …
“Rags to Riches” is a song written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and recorded by Tony Bennett with Percy Faith and His Orchestra in 1953, going on to top the charts for eight weeks that year. The song is closely associated with the movie GoodFellas (see previous notes), which featured it prominently in a montage sequence near the beginning of the film. Sample lyrics: “I know I'd go from rags to riches/If you would only you say you care/And though my pocket may be empty/I'll be a millionaire.”
Boy, I could sure go for a hamburger sandwich and some French fried potatoes. I’m a teenager, after all.
A reference to Show 203, Jungle Goddess, whose stranded-in-the-jungle heroine laments, “What I wouldn’t give for a hamburger and some nice French fried potatoes.” Show 208, Lost Continent, then referenced the Jungle Goddess line, upgrading the dish to “a charbroiled hamburger sandwich and French fried potatoes,” and Show 507, I Accuse My Parents upped the ante again, referring in a host segment to “a big beefy charbroiled hamburger sammich and a French fried potatoes garnish.”
[Imitating.] Welcome to Death Valley Days. The driver is either me or …
Death Valley Days was a radio, and then a television anthology series, set in the Wild West, that ran from 1930 to 1975. Each episode was introduced by a host; from 1965 to 1966 that host was Ronald Reagan, his final work as a professional actor before entering politics. However, this recurring riff is actually 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-like voice. Some fans came to believe that “The driver is either missing or he’s dead” was something that Ronald Reagan was actually known for saying. Not true. (Thanks to Satellite News for this reference.)
Cool, they’ve got Marshall amps. Custom heads.
Marshall is a British company that makes guitar amplifiers. The company first made it big in the 1960s and has remained popular among musicians since then.
Hey, it’s Harry Connick Jr.
A pianist and singer who participated in (some say precipitated) the swing and big-band revival of the early 1990s. His big break came when he scored the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally. He has since gone on to act in several movies, most notably Copycat (1995) and Independence Day (1996). He is married to former model Jill Goodacre.
You know, you won’t see costuming like this till Marc Singer does V.
V was a 1983 TV miniseries about a race of aliens that comes to Earth with a secret plan to steal the planet’s natural resources. It starred Marc Singer (the Beastmaster) as a cameraman who becomes suspicious of the aliens.
Or Thomas Pynchon does V.
Thomas Pynchon is a novelist known for his incredibly complex and critically praised works. V. (1963) was his first novel, about an ex-sailor who falls in with a crowd of artists in the 1950s.
I will pet him and keep him and call him George.
This is a paraphrase of a line in a Looney Tunes short called The Abominable Snow Rabbit (1961), in which the Abominable Snowman announces his intention of keeping Daffy Duck (disguised as a bunny) as a pet: “Just what I always wanted. My own little bunny rabbit. I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him ...” He repeats variants of this avowal several times throughout the short. The line is itself a reference to the John Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men, in which the dimwitted ranch worker Lennie, who has a penchant for petting things to death, is shepherded through life by his friend George. (Thanks to Kim Phillips for pointing out the Steinbeck reference.)
I see you have a machine that goes ping.
A line from the 1983 film The Meaning of Life, by the demented geniuses of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
I’ve taken my pill, sir.
Oral contraceptive pills are packaged individually in blister packs, either in a circle or in rows, which are labeled to make it easy to know which pill to take on which day of the month.
Of beer on the wall.
The song “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” is a popular English folk song sung in declining numerical order as each bottle is taken down and passed around. It is based on the 19th-century song “Ten Green Bottles.” A French scholar supposedly discovered poetry manuscripts dating to the 14th century containing a more primitive version of the lyrics.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a self-help system for alcoholics based on a twelve-step program and relying on the support of other alcoholics to help people quit drinking and live sober lives. A key component to the program is regular attendance of AA meetings, where protocol dictates that speakers introduce themselves by first name only, followed by “I’m an alcoholic,” to which the rest of the group responds “Hi, [first name].”
[Sung.] Shannon is gone, they say she drifted out to …
A line from the Henry Gross song “Shannon.” Sample lyrics: “Shannon, is gone I heard/She's drifting out to sea/She always loved to swim away/Maybe she'll find an island with a shaded tree/Just like the one in our backyard.”
Mrs. Carmichael, put that laser down.
An imitation of fastidious banker Mr. Mooney (played by Gale Gordon) in the TV sitcom The Lucy Show (1962-1968). Lucille Ball played Lucy Carmichael, a widow with two children and a substantial trust fund, which was administered by Mr. Mooney, who referred to Lucy as “Mrs. Carmichael.”
Men don’t leave.
Men Don’t Leave is a 1990 film starring Jessica Lange as a widow struggling to raise her two sons.
Oh, A Separate Peace.
A Separate Peace is a novel by John Knowles about two friends at an English prep school just before World War II.
I think what our bright young friend is trying to tell us is …
A paraphrase of a line from the 1979 film Being There, adapted from the 1970 novella by Jerzy Kosinski. Peter Sellers plays a mentally challenged, middle-aged ex-gardener who is mistaken for a wealthy industrialist, and whose simple-minded remarks are taken as profound political allegory. So when he talks about gardening, another wealthy industrialist says: “I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.”
It’s called Iron John.
Iron John was a 1990 book by poet John Bly that inspired the men’s movement of the 1990s, where men would gather to beat drums and discuss their feelings.
[Sung.] Star Trek fight music.
This is the music that frequently played during fight scenes on the TV series Star Trek, which aired from 1966-1969. It was originally composed by Gerald Fried for the episode “Amok Time,” and its official title is “The Ritual/Ancient Battle/2nd Kroykah.” (Thanks to Bluejay Young for the info on Gerald Fried.)
I’ll need an Ipecac.
Syrup of Ipecac is an over-the-counter medicine meant to induce vomiting in the case of accidental poisoning.
A mad, wonderful fool.
“Oh, Moses, Moses, you mad, wonderful fool” is a line from the 1956 film epic The Ten Commandments.
Now, I like you, Trevor, but you’re screwy, you got it? I’m the fellow wearing the roscoe, see?
An imitation of actor Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973), who made a career out of playing gangsters and other toughs in films such as Little Caesar and Key Largo. “Roscoe” is an old slang term for a handgun, especially a revolver, used in detective stories and films in the first half of the 20th century.
[Sung.] Thrive, captain, thrive …
A take on the 1970 Blues Image song “Ride Captain Ride.” Sample lyrics: “Ride, captain ride upon your mystery ship/Be amazed at the friends you have here on your trip/Ride captain ride upon your mystery ship/On your way to a world that others might have missed.”
Queequeg is a character from Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick, a South Sea islander who is covered head to toe in tattoos.
Peter Arnett had one of those.
Peter Arnett is a television and print journalist who has worked for the Associated Press, CNN, and NBC, among others. He earned a reputation as a trustworthy reporter, but in the early 21st century he stumbled into controversy after reporting things the government did not want said, particularly about the Iraq War.
Mort Sahl is a comedian who bases most of his material on current events. He is credited with paving the way for later comics like Lenny Bruce and Dick Gregory.
“Prepare him for the isolation chamber.” What’s the question?
On the television quiz show Twenty-One, which aired from 1956-1958, two contestants would be placed in isolation booths and compete to answer questions of varying difficulty. Twenty-One was yanked off the air following revelations that the game was rigged, a story told in the film Quiz Show.
In the Bible, God speaks to Moses from out of a burning bush, promising him that he will deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
“The high court will pardon him.” Oh, yeah, he’s a Kennedy.
The Kennedy family is one of the richest and most powerful in the nation. Founded by Joseph Kennedy Sr., the dynasty would grow to include President John F. Kennedy, attorney general and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, and longtime Senator Ted Kennedy. The family has also been dogged by tragedy and scandal, such as Ted Kennedy’s plunge off a bridge on Chappaquiddick in 1969, a car crash that killed his passenger; despite leaving the scene of the accident and failing to report it for several hours, he was never charged in the case. The Kennedys’ power, money, and influence have largely protected its members from legal consequences; in 1991, to take a more recent example, William Kennedy Smith, nephew of the previously mentioned Kennedys, was charged with raping a woman he met at a Palm Beach nightclub. Despite his history (three other women were willing to testify he had assaulted them but were barred from doing so), Smith was acquitted. He has subsequently faced civil lawsuits from employees who accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment; one was dismissed and one was settled out of court.
I’m not dead. I’m getting better.
A line from a scene in the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which a man tries to dump his protesting elderly relative onto a cart filled with dead plague victims.
Paging Mr. Herman.
A line from the Paul Reubens film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985).
Again with the finger.
A reference to a line in The Sunshine Boys, a play by Neil Simon that was made into a 1975 film starring Walter Matthau and George Burns as two feuding vaudevillians. The actual line: “The finger! You’re starting again with the finger!”
Shut up, Gomer.
Probably a reference to Gomer Pyle, the bumbling Marine who appeared on The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. The role was played by Jim Nabors.
“Let me …” Entertain you.
A reference to the song “Let Me Entertain You” from the 1959 Stephen Sondheim musical Gypsy. Sample lyrics: “Let me entertain you/Let me make you smile/Let me do a few tricks/Some old and some new tricks/I'm very versatile.”
The loneliness of the alien runner.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is a 1962 film about a young man sentenced to a reformatory who finds solace in running.
Life is simple here in Grover’s Corner.
An imitation of the Stage Manager, the narrator of the Thornton Wilder play Our Town. Grover’s Corners (not Corner) is the town of the title.
An imitation of Goliath, the philosophical talking dog in Davey and Goliath, a claymation 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.
Jim Henson’s Baretta Babies.
Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies was an animated television series that aired from 1984-1991. Baretta was a cop show starring Robert Blake as New York City undercover detective Tony Baretta. It aired from 1975-1978.
Let’s watch as an alien visits one of our friendly Texaco stations.
Texaco is a line of gas stations located nationwide. It was bought by Chevron in 2001, and Texaco stations have been disappearing ever since.
What do I look like, the Shell Answer Man? Oh, that’s right, I am.
The Shell Answer Man was the star of various commercials and educational pamphlets put out by Shell Oil, in which he gave solutions to common car problems.
Sorry, Senator Helms.
Jesse Helms (1921-2008) was an ultraconservative senator from North Carolina who was immensely influential on U.S. foreign policy. First elected to the Senate in 1972, he tried to get an abortion ban into the Constitution, fought to institute school prayer, filibustered the Voting Rights Act, railed against homosexuals, and once tried to make Carol Moseley Braun, the first female African-American senator, cry by singing “Dixie.” (He failed.) In 2001 he announced he would not seek re-election the following year. He died seven years later of vascular dementia.
S'cuse me, is that a Sansabelt jumpsuit?
Sansabelt is a brand of men's trousers with an elasticized waistband--and hence no need for a belt. “Sans” is French for “without,” so … sans-a-belt. Get it? (Thanks to Christopher Brame for this reference.)
It’s Vince Sutton as Sergeant Carter.
Frank Sutton (1923-1974) played the long-suffering Sgt. Vince Carter on the TV series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., which ran from 1964-1970.
I’m looking for Sarah Connor.
A line from the 1984 film The Terminator, uttered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in his role as the killer android from the future.
Levittown—community of the future.
Levittown was the first planned community built in the United States. Occupying 5,500 acres in Pennsylvania, the town offered housing for 70,000 people, as well as churches, schools and stores. It was completed in 1958, and while it was roundly criticized by some for being soulless, it has been widely imitated by other builders since its inception.
This looks like a nice place to bring your kids up.
“Centerville, a great place to raise your kids up” is a line from the 1971 surrealist movie 200 Motels, written and co-directed by American avant-garde rock composer Frank Zappa. The line, or some portion or variation of it, is a standard part of the MST3K lexicon. According to an exhaustively thorough list on the Satellite News website, one or more Frank Zappa references appear in at least 54 MST3K episodes.
Winona Ryder is a doe-eyed actress who has appeared in such films as Edward Scissorhands and Little Women.
You’re Harry Connick, aren’t you?
See above note.
Why do you look like Hoyt Axton?
Hoyt Axton was a country-western singer/songwriter whose best-known works were generally those covered by other bands, including “Joy to the World,” covered by Three Dog Night, which hit Number 1 on the charts.
Greenwich Village, maybe.
Greenwich Village is a residential area located on the southern part of the island of Manhattan. It was originally founded by Dutch settlers in the 17th century and was gradually absorbed by the city ofNew York as it expanded. It is known for its artists, its rebels, and its bohemian lifestyle.
I wet ‘em.
A paraphrase of a line from a Monty Python sketch: “The Visitors” in Season 1, Episode 9, which aired December 1969 (actual line: “Oooo, I’ve wet ‘em!”). The sketch features Eric Idle’s character Mr. Cheeky, aka “Mr. Nudge,” from the beloved “Nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say no more, Squire!” sketch.
Stay calm … act natural … can I interest you in a Texaco Christmas album?
See note on Texaco, above. The company used to put out an album of Christmas music every year featuring various stars, like Bing Crosby and Julie Andrews.
“A convention or something?” I’m a Trekkie.
Trekkies—or Trekkers, as some prefer to be called—are fans of Star Trek, a sci-fi series that aired from 1966-1969, as well as the multiple films and sequel TV series that followed it. Conventions to celebrate the series began in the early 1970s, and have grown exponentially. Cast members from the series make frequent appearances, many participants come dressed in full costume, and the conventions can attract tens of thousands of people.
I work for Texaco!
See note on Texaco, above.
Looks like a Jenny Craig ray.
Jenny Craig is a chain of weight-loss centers located around the world. It was founded in Australia in 1983 and has grown to be one of the largest companies in the weight-loss industry.
Xanadu, stately home of Charles Foster Kane. Cost: no one can say.
This phrase (and variations thereof) was one of the writers’ favorites. It is a reference to the 1941 film Citizen Kane, directed by, produced by, co-written by, and starring Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane.
Earth girls are easy.
Earth Girls Are Easy is a 1988 sci-fi spoof starring Geena Davis and Julie Brown as girls who encounter a group of hairy aliens in their backyard.
Because he was a schnauzer. I hate those things.
The schnauzer is a breed of terrier. There are two varieties, standard and miniature. The breed originated in Germany in the late 19th century as rat catchers.
“He went over to the Woodwards.” Joanne?
Joanne Woodward is an actress best known for her Academy Award-winning performance in The Three Faces of Eve (1957), and for having been married to Paul Newman from 1958 until his death in 2008. They appeared in ten films together.
“How do I go there?” Let me count the ways.
A reference to the Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.” Sample lines: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways/I love thee to the depth and breadth and height/My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight/For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.”
I like you, Gramps. That’s why I kill you last.
A paraphrase of a line from the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Commando. The entire exchange:
Sully: Here’s twenty dollars to get some drinks in Val Verde. It’ll give us all a little more time with your daughter.
Matrix: You’re a funny man, Sully. I like you. That’s why I’m going to kill you last.
What are you, Louis Leakey all of a sudden?
Louis Leakey was an anthropologist famous for his paleontology work in the Olduvai Gorge, an area in Tanzania. There he discovered bones that appeared to belong to a proto-human, or ape-like person. His work radically altered the body of thought about human evolution, and his conclusion that humanity originated in Africa is now widely accepted.
It slices. It dices.
“It slices! It dices! It makes julienne fries!” is a line for the long-running commercial for the Vegomatic, a vegetable chopper invented by Ron Popeil, founder of Ronco.
Lieutenant Nyota Uhura was the communications officer on board the starship Enterprise in the original Star Trek series, which aired from 1966-1969. The role was played by Nichelle Nichols in the television series and the first six Star Trek films; a younger actress, Zoe Saldana, took on the role for the film series reboot, starting in 2009.
Pat Boone’s the stand-in here.
Pat Boone is a whiter-than-white singer popular among born-again Christians and others who hate rock and roll.
Yes, folks, proof you can be too rich and too thin.
“You can never be too rich or too thin” is a maxim that has been credited to Dorothy Parker, the Duchess of Windsor, and Rose Kennedy, among others. Its true origin is uncertain, although some have suggested the short, plump Truman Capote as a likely candidate.
Who decorated this house—Wayland Flowers?
Wayland Flowers and his puppet Madame were a popular ventriloquist act during the 1970s. They were regulars on the TV sketch comedy show Laugh-In.
Oh, Grandpa, I bought that NyQuil for colds, not for you to make Nyquiladas.
NyQuil is an over-the-counter cold medicine that contains a chemical called dextromethorphan, or DXM, which some people (mainly teenagers) use to get high. Nyquiladas are cocktails made with Nyquil; recipes vary, but suggested ingredients include 7 Up, triple sec, or vanilla extract. (Thanks to Lynn Knott for the Nyquiladas reference.)
And the Post-It note was born.
Post-It notes are small pieces of notepaper with a slightly sticky substance along one edge, allowing them to stick to paper or other surfaces but still be easily removed. They were introduced by 3M in 1980, although the adhesive that makes them possible was invented back in 1968.
Spiders! Spiders all over me!
Delirium tremens (DTs) are a very real, potentially deadly condition caused by withdrawal from severe alcohol addiction. Hallucinations of frightening animals, reptiles, or insects are common, particularly visions of insects on, underneath, or crawling out of one’s skin. TV’s Frank’s bug-infested “Drinking Jacket,” featured in a host segment in Show 414, Tormented, is all about the DTs.
Estelle Getty … Myrna Loy …
Estelle Getty is an actress best known for playing Sophia Petrillo on the TV sitcom The Golden Girls, which aired from 1985-1992. Myrna Loy was a glamorous actress who portrayed the witty Nora Charles in six Thin Man movies, opposite William Powell. (Thanks to Jessica Nelson for correcting Getty's character name.)
[Sung.] It’s the new zoo revue, coming back at you, it's quite an amazing thing, when the animals up …
See note on The New Zoo Revue, above.
“Joe!” What do you know?
A reference to the song “Well All Right (Tonight’s the Night),” written by Francis Faye, Dan Howell, and Don Raye and recorded by The Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra, all in 1939. Sample lyrics: “Well hello, Joe, what do you know/I just got back from a vaudeville show/Do you sing and dance/I’ll take a chance/Well okay let us go.”
Hello, Joe, what do you know? –Just got back from Kokomo.
See previous note. “Hello, Joe!” is also a phrase frequently uttered by Grandma Simpson, on the animated TV comedy The Simpsons (Fox, 1989-present). “Just got back from Kokomo” was a popular variation of the lyrics to “Well All Right (Tonight’s the Night).”
I got it—he looks like Ethel Waters.
Ethel Waters was an African-American singer and actress popular during the 1920s. In her later years she became a devout Christian and performed with evangelist Billy Graham for many years.
Hey, Room 222.
Room 222 was a TV series about a black teacher in a Los Angeles high school. It ran from 1969-1974.
[Whistled.] “Theme from Room 222.”
The Room 222 theme music was composed by the ever-prolific Jerry Goldsmith, who, in addition to themes from TV shows such as Dr. Kildare (NBC, 1961-1966) and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (NBC, 1964-1968), also composed the music for such films as Patton (1970) and Planet of the Apes (1968).
Hey, Sylvia Plath!
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was an American poet and novelist whose works generally dealt with themes of alienation, destruction, and death. Her most famous work was the semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar (1963), the story of a suicidal young woman’s mental breakdown. Plath suffered from severe depression and was hospitalized during college. She killed herself in 1963.
It’s Barbie’s Malibu Dream Desk.
The Dream House was a play environment for Mattel’s immensely popular fashion doll Barbie. It was first introduced in 1962 and has undergone many changes since then. It is still available for purchase.
[Sung.] It’s a nice day for a white wedding …
A line from the 1982 Billy Idol song “White Wedding,” which became Idol's best known song and was also recorded by Doro Pesch, among others. Sample lyrics: “Hey little sister what have you done/Hey little sister who's the only one/Hey little sister who's your superman/Hey little sister who's the one you want/Hey little sister shot gun!/It's a nice day to start again/It's a nice day for a white wedding.”
Miss Hathaway, Jethro wants to be a rock star.
See note on Miss Hathaway, above. An imitation of Mr. Drysdale, the greedy and eternally harried banker in The Beverly Hillbillies—and the boss of Miss Hathaway—who oversaw the fortune of the newly rich hillbillies, the Clampetts. The role was played by Raymond Bailey (1904-1980). Jethro Bodine was the young dim-witted guy on The Beverly Hillbillies, which aired from 1962-1971. The part was played by Max Baer Jr. There was a season four episode in which Jethro teamed up with Miss Jane to become folk singers, but none in which he tried to become a rock star.
It’s like a crispy George Gobel.
George Gobel (1919-1991) was a comic actor who was best known for his role as the mayor on the 1980s TV series Harper Valley P.T.A.
[Sung.] Shaved her legs and then he was a she … hey-ho …
A line from the 1972 Lou Reed song “Walk on the Wild Side.” Sample lyrics: “Holly came from Miami, F.L.A./Hitch-hiked her way across the USA/Plucked her eyebrows on the way/Shaved her legs and then he was a she/She says, Hey babe/Take a walk on the wild side.”
[Sung.] She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean …
A line from the 1980 AC/DC song “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Sample lyrics: “She was a fast machine/She kept her motor clean/She was the best damn woman I had ever seen/She had the sightless eyes/Telling me no lies/Knockin’ me out with those American thighs.”
I’ll be taking lunch, Helga, heh heh heh heh …
An imitation of the Crypt Keeper, the puppet host of the HBO series Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996). He was a wisecracking, living dead guy voiced by former Star Search champion John Kassir.
A riff on American character actor Frank Nelson’s (1911-1986) famous catchphrase: “Eee-yeeessss?” Nelson got his start in radio, first gaining fame on The Jack Benny Program, usually playing a long-suffering and deeply sarcastic sales clerk. He carried that persona—and his catchphrase—onto television, appearing in sitcoms ranging from I Love Lucy in the 1950s to Sanford & Son in the 1970s.
This call is coming from inside the house!
A classic urban legend dating back to the early 1960s tells of a teenage babysitter taunted by repeated calls from a madman; when she reports the calls to the phone company, the operator traces the call and tells her frantically to get out of the house: “The calls are coming from inside the house!” The 1979 movie When a Stranger Calls is based on this folk tale.
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are fear, surprise …
A line from the “Spanish Inquisition” sketch on the BBC comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
[Sung.] It’s the new zoo revue, coming right at you …
See above note.
Snap! Crackle! Pop! Rico! Lee!
Snap, Crackle, and Pop are the longtime advertising icons for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal. Enrico Rossi and Lee Hobson were characters on the TV series The Untouchables, which aired from 1959-1963. Probably also a reference to the Frank Zappa song “The Untouchables.” (Thanks to Bill Stiteler for the Untouchables reference.)
Watch out—it’ll turn you into a Deadhead.
Deadheads are fans of the rock group the Grateful Dead, which featured lots of skeleton and skull imagery in their albums and posters. When the Grateful Dead was still touring, true Deadheads would follow the band from city to city to attend show after show. Their faithfulness made the band rich despite its lack of radio hits.
[Sung.] Undercover angel …
A line from the 1977 song “Undercover Angel” by Alan O’Day. Sample lyrics: “Undercover angel/Midnight fantasy/I never had a dream that made sweet love to me.”
Jimmy Olsen here …
Jimmy Olsen is a cub reporter and photographer for the Daily Planet in the Superman comic books, as well as the radio/TV shows and movies based on the comics. He is usually portrayed as young, enthusiastic, and somewhat naïve.
She sounds like Betty Boop all of a sudden.
Betty Boop was a cartoon character popular in the 1930s, when she appeared in a series of short cartoons by Max Fleischer. She was unusual for her time in that she was unabashedly feminine and sexual. She had a very high, squeaky voice in which she uttered her trademark “Boop-oop-a-doop!”
He’s the last Boy Scout.
The Last Boy Scout is a 1991 film starring Bruce Willis as a cop who teams up with a football player (Damon Wayans) to solve a murder.
[Sung.] I have often walked down this street before, but I’ve never done it packing heat before …
A variation on the song “On the Street Where You Live,” from the musical My Fair Lady, which opened on Broadway in 1956. Sample lyrics: “I have often walked down this street before/But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before/All at once am I sev’ral stories high/Knowing I’m on the street where you live.”
Pickapeppa sauce is a spicy sauce used in Jamaican cuisine.
Hey, it’s a tube of Crest—he must be a cavity fighter.
When Procter & Gamble introduced Crest toothpaste into the market, they marketed it as a cavity fighter, brandishing an endorsement by the American Dental Society. Crest quickly became the dominant brand in the toothpaste market.
The Luger is a semi-automatic pistol first manufactured in 1898. It was used by the German army during both World Wars but was beginning to be phased out by 1942. Lugers are now highly sought-after collector’s items.
And I want a Jolly Rancher fire stick when I’m done, too.
Jolly Ranchers, familiar as the bite-sized hard candy, are also made in larger stick form. The cinnamon-flavored stick has been popularly referred to as a fire stick.
[Imitating.] I’m Walter Cronkite.
Walter Cronkite was the anchorman for the CBS Evening News for nearly two decades. He was considered one of the most trusted men in America during his time on the air. His famous parting line: “And that’s the way it is.”
He’s talking to Clifford Irving.
Clifford Irving was a writer who, in 1971, claimed he had permission to write an authorized biography of reclusive tycoon Howard Hughes and brandished tapes and documents to prove it. In 1972, when it came to light that Hughes had not given his permission and the documents were forgeries, Irving was sent to prison for fraud.
You guys aren’t FBI—you’re from Foreman & Clark.
Foreman & Clark is a chain of men’s clothing stores based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
[Sung.] Hot child in the city …
A line from the 1978 song of the same name by Nick Gilder. Sample lyrics: “Danger in the shape of somethin’ wild/Stranger dressed in black, she’s a hungry child/No one knows who she is or what her name is/I don’t know where she came from or what her game is/Hot child in the city …”
[Sung.] Looking good and feeling pretty … Hot child in the ...
A paraphrased line from the song “Hot Child in the City” (see previous note): “Running wild and looking pretty.”
I was going to a hat party. Mine was the grandest of all. Big feathered boa …
When Satellite News speculated on the origins of the many “hat party” references in MST3K episodes, Joel Hodgson himself weighed in: “‘Hat Party’ and especially ‘We’re staging a Hat Party’ was something I read in Magic Magazine. It was part of a promotion for a Magic Convention, I think, as a way to entice wives and girlfriends to want to go to a magic convention—which they never do. I think the copy also read ‘the name of the game is HATS.’ So it fascinated me, still does–I think I may have read it to everyone in the writing room, and I remember Frank really laughing about it. That was it.” The “grandest of all …” addendum probably sprang from the mind of Frank Conniff.
I did not say “Simon says.”
Simon Says is an old kids’ game in which the “simon” tells the other children to do things—hop on one foot, touch their nose—prefacing each command with the words “Simon says.” If the simon omits those words when giving an order, anyone who performs the requested action is “out.”
Iambic pentameter is a meter used in poetry; it is one of the most common forms of English poetry. William Shakespeare wrote poems and plays in iambic pentameter.
Shall I compare thee to a fleshy wound?
A reference to William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?/Thou art more lovely and more temperate:/Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,/And summer’s lease hath all too short a date …”
I’m David Eisenhower! That makes you … Julie Nixon!
David Eisenhower was the grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the husband of Richard Nixon’s daughter Julie.
Suddenly it’s Carnival of Souls.
Carnival of Souls was a 1962 horror flick that starred Candace Hilligloss as the sole survivor of a deadly car accident. Or was she? The film was made on a remarkably slim budget ($33,000) and has gained a solid cult following, become a Halloween favorite, and been cited as a major influence by such filmmakers as David Lynch and George A. Romero. It was the sole feature film directed by Herk Harvey, filmed during a three-week vacation from his regular job as a director and producer of educational films for Centron. Many of Centron’s shorts have been riffed on MST3K, including the Harvey-directed Why Study Industrial Arts? (Show 609, The Skydivers) and Cheating (Show 515, The Wild, Wild World of Batwoman).
Okay, let’s see here. Remove funnybone. Ha-ha-ha.
“Remove funnybone. Ha-ha-ha” is from a 1970s TV ad for the board game Operation, in which players attempt to remove bits of the “patient’s” body without setting off electric buzzers. In the commercial, a boy tries and fails to remove the bone, setting off the buzzer, after which his sister successfully extracts her bone and mocks him, saying, "Ha! Ha! Ha!"(Thanks to Jim R. for this reference.)
I recommend Sea Breeze astringent.
Sea Breeze is a brand of astringent used for cleaning your face.
No insurance. Sad, really. [Sung.] Hot-blooded, check it and see …
A line from the 1978 song “Hot Blooded” by Foreigner. Sample lyrics: “I’m hot blooded, check it and see/I got a fever of a hundred and three/Come on baby, do you do more than dance?/I’m hot blooded, I’m hot blooded …”
Auntie Em! Uncle Henry! You were there, and you, and you …
A reference to the scene at the end of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy awakens from her dream to find her relatives and farmhands leaning over her in her home in Kansas.
Bryan Ferry. Love is the drug for him.
Bryan Ferry is a British singer/songwriter best known as the lead singer of the band Roxy Music. “Love Is the Drug” is a 1975 Roxy Music song. Sample lyrics: “Love is the drug, got a hook on me/Oh oh catch that buzz/Love is the drug I’m thinking of/Oh oh can’t you see/Love is the drug for me.”
All right, here’s your stop, Grandpa. Out, baby, out, out, out!
See above note.
Got … to solve … the Jumble.
Jumble is a scrambled word game that appears in daily newspapers around the country; they also have a “junior” version aimed at kids.
Tommy, I can hear you. I can feel you near me.
A reference to the song “Tommy Can You Hear Me” from The Who’s 1969 rock opera Tommy. Sample lyrics: “Tommy, can you see me?/Can I help to cheer you?/Tommy, can you hear me?/Can you feel me near you?”
I’m Charles Foster Kane!
A line from the 1941 film Citizen Kane.
[Sung.] Mr. Bunny ice cream tune. –Cheerio, folks!
This is the music played by the Mr. Bunny ice cream trucks in the 1984 film Comfort and Joy, about a war between rival ice cream vendors in Glasgow. At the end of the tune, the recording plays a cheery “Hello, folks!” (Thanks to Bill Dean for this reference.)
[Sung.] Cause I’m a sex shooter, shooting love in your direction …
A line from the 1984 song “Sex Shooter,” written by Minneapolis musician Prince for, and recorded by, his protege girl group Apollonia 6. Sample lyrics: “I’m a sex shooter/I’m shootin’ love in your direction/I’m a sex shooter/Come and play with my affection/Come on, kiss the gun.”
[Sung.] Doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo … snot running down her nose.
A rendition of the big power chords that propel the song “Aqualung,” from the 1971 album of the same name by British progressive rock band Jethro Tull, and a paraphrase of a bit of the lyrics. Actual lyrics: “Sitting on a park bench/Eyeing little girls/With bad intent/Snot running down his nose/Greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.”
Wesson oil on a wound?
Wesson is a brand of vegetable oil widely available in supermarkets. It is produced by ConAgra.
She’s not Florence Nightingale, she’s Florence Henderson.
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was a British nurse who became famous for her work with wounded soldiers during the Crimean War of the 1850s. Her greatest achievement is considered her efforts to elevate the status of nurses to a respectable profession. Florence Henderson (1934-2016) was an actress best known for playing quintessential mom Carol Brady on the TV sitcom The Brady Bunch (1969-1974). In the early 1980s, Henderson did a series of TV commercials touting the glories of Wesson Oil (See previous note. And thanks to David Greenberg for the Florence Henderson/Wesson Oil connection.)
[Sung.] Picture yourself on a train in a station …
A line from the 1967 Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Sample lyrics: “Picture yourself on a train in a station/With plasticine porters with looking glass ties/Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile/The girl with the kaleidoscope eyes.”
[Sung.] Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn, the next stop is Vietnam …
A line from the 1967 anti-war song “I Feel Like I'm Fixin’ to Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish. Sample lyrics: “And it’s one, two, three/What are we fighting for?/Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn/Next stop is Vietnam.” (Thanks to superdeeduper51 for the correct song title.)
It must be that nice Adam Rich boy calling for his prescription again.
Adam Rich was a child star known for his role as Nicholas Bradford on the TV series Eight Is Enough, which aired from 1977-1981. In 1991, he was arrested for breaking a pharmacy window in an attempt to steal drugs.
Because Pepperidge Farm remembers.
An imitation of 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 commercials as early as 1958, but his trademark “Pepperidge Farm remembers” did not become a household word until the ‘70s.)
[Imitating.] Nobody asked for a ray gun, put that right away …
This is a reference to a Margaret Dumont line (and an imitation of Dumont) from the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers. A man shouts, “Three cheers for Captain Spaulding!” and Harpo promptly rushes in carrying three chairs. Dumont says, “No one asked for chairs, put them right where you found them.”
Then they played Jimi Hendrix.
Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) was a musician who is considered one of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock & roll. He is known for such hits as “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady.” Hendrix died young, probably from a combination of alcohol and drugs.
Bad day at Black Rock, eh?
Bad Day at Black Rock is a 1955 film starring Spencer Tracy as a one-armed gunman who comes to an Old West town that hides a dark secret.
Ladies and gentlemen, Charles Schulz, creator of “Peanuts.”
“Peanuts” is a comic strip created by Charles Schulz (1922-2000). The strip was first published in 1950 and was later turned into several successful television specials.
The Thinker is a bronze statue by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, dating to 1880. It depicts a seated man with one elbow on his knee, chin propped in his hand, clearly pondering deeply. There are about 25 castings of the figure located around the world, and innumerable cheap copies sold to the tourist trade.
Lend me a tenor?
Lend Me a Tenor is a Broadway farce about a missing opera singer that is extraordinarily popular among community theater groups. It was written by Ken Ludwig.
We’ll need a shoestring and a picture of Eve Arden.
Eve Arden (1908-1990) was an actress best known for her title role in the TV series Our Miss Brooks, which aired from 1952-1956.
“Something we don’t understand.” Like the New Math.
New Math was a change in the method of teaching mathematics that began in the early 1960s. It emphasized set theory—a form of math based on collections of objects. By the late 1970s New Math had fallen into disfavor.
[Sung.] Row, row, row … come on, sing! Row, row, row your boat …
A reference to a scene in the movie Dirty Harry, in which the crazed killer takes over a school bus and forces the children to sing.
He kind of looks like a Mountie now.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, familiarly known as the Mounties, is the Canadian federal police force, in charge of enforcing parliamentary laws throughout the country. Their red uniforms and broad-brimmed hats are famous around the globe.
Vertigo! Suspicion! North by … oh, you know.
Three films by virtuoso director Alfred Hitchcock. Vertigo is a 1958 film starring Jimmy Stewart as a detective with a phobia about heights and an obsession with a beautiful, mysterious woman. Suspicion is a 1941 film starring Joan Fontaine as a woman who fears her husband is plotting to kill her. And North by Northwest (1959) stars Cary Grant as a man who is inadvertently caught up in a criminal scheme.
Why do you seek the living among the dead?
A reference to Luke 24:5: “And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?”
And it’s filled with chili. It's a tunnel of chili. Like a Hormel hot dog. Get it?
Hormel is a food conglomerate, makers of the famous Spam. In 1986 Hormel introduced Frank ‘n Stuff: hot dogs filled with either chili or cheese. They were discontinued in the early 1990s.
Grover’s in there.
Presumably a reference to the blue Muppet on the perennial PBS kids’ show Sesame Street.
Three on a tree, I hate that.
In a car with a three-speed manual transmission, “three on a tree” means the shifting mechanism is mounted on the steering wheel column.
[Imitating.] After him, Scoob!
An imitation of Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, the scruffy, cowardly, and eternally hungry human companion of anthropomorphic Great Dane Scooby-Doo in the Scooby-Doo franchise of animated TV series, direct-to-video movies, and feature films, beginning in 1969 with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! on CBS. Originally voiced by radio host Casey Kasem, the role has been voiced by several others, including Matthew Lillard, who portrayed Shaggy in two Scooby-Doo live-action feature films.
Kind of like the year of living sensibly.
The Year of Living Dangerously is a 1982 film about a journalist who gets caught up in a revolution in Indonesia. It starred Mel Gibson and Linda Hunt; the latter won an Oscar for her performance.
You know, this is just like Misery.
Misery is a 1990 movie starring James Caan as a famous novelist who is held prisoner by a demented fan, played by Kathy Bates. It is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name.
San Diego Freeway—the early years.
The San Diego Freeway is a section of interstate highway (a combination of I-5 and I-405) that runs between Los Angeles and San Diego in Southern California. It is notorious for its traffic snarls and lengthy delays. It also achieved a measure of fame as the route O.J. Simpson took on his 1994 low-speed chase shortly before his arrest on charges of murder.
Menopause can feel like a speeding car chase.
A riff on an old Pepto-Bismol commercial: “Sometimes, diarrhea can feel like a storm raging in your body.”
I’ve got a headache this big and it’s got this movie written all over it.
From a series of TV commercials for Excedrin pain reliever, in which the sufferer would say, “I’ve got a headache this big, and it’s got Excedrin written all over it.”
It's May, the "Super Nurse" Osborne!
Super Dave Osborne is a character created and performed by comedian Bob Einstein (1942-2019), brother of actor and comedian Albert Brooks. Super Dave is a droll and clueless stuntman (clearly a parody of Evel Knievel), who remains optimistic despite the spectacular failure of his many death-defying stunts, after which he makes appearances swaddled in bandages and casts. (Thanks to Joel Boutiere for this reference.)
Those Easy Spirit pumps saved her hash.
Easy Spirit is a brand of women’s shoes. In 1989, the company ran a TV commercial bragging that their shoes “looks like a pump, but feels like a sneaker!”
Sounded like Cap’n Crunch.
Cap’n Crunch is a brand of cereal that prides itself on its crunchiness (obviously, from the name). Its longtime slogan was “Stays crunchy, even in milk!”
Why do I love it like I do?
Probably a reference to the Tony Bennett song “I Don’t Know Why.” Sample lyrics: “I don’t know why I love you like I do/I don’t know why, I just do/I don’t know why you thrill me like you do/I don’t know why, you just do.”
Have you seen Lisztomania?
Lisztomania is a 1975 film by uber-weird auteur Ken Russell, about the life and times of composer Franz Liszt. It starred Who front man Roger Daltrey.
There’s a Rockford car, and there’s a Starsky and Hutch car …
The Rockford Files (1974-1980) was a TV series starring James Garner as private detective Jim Rockford. Starsky & Hutch (1975-1979) was a series about two tough cops who fought crime on the streets. Both shows featured numerous car chases.
Clothes by Charlie McCarthy.
Charlie McCarthy was the dummy sidekick of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. Bergen had a radio show that featured many characters, including Mortimer Snerd. But Charlie, attired in formalwear that extended to a cape, top hat and monocle, was always the most popular.
The hills have crabs!
The Hills Have Eyes is a 1977 horror flick by Wes Craven, the auteur behind the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. It is about a family whose car breaks down on their way to California; they are promptly attacked by a family of cannibals. The film was remade by Alexandre Aja in 2006. (Thanks to Lynn Knott for this reference.)
It’s Andrew Wyeth valley.
Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) was an American painter of the realist school, one of the best-known painters of the 20th century. He experienced a resurgence of interest in the mid-1980s when he revealed a secret cache of paintings of artist’s model Helga Testorf, with hints of a clandestine love affair between artist and model. His most famous painting is Christina’s World (1948).
What is this, a Bergman film all of a sudden?
Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) was a writer/director/producer/actor who is one of the most highly respected filmmakers of the 20th century. His films include The Seventh Seal (1957), Persona (1966), and Cries and Whispers (1972).
You are one weird mamma jamma.
A frequent MST3K riff with many variants, the origin of “mamma jamma” is the song “She’s a Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked),” written by Leon Haywood, which became a hit single for R&B and funk singer Carl Carlton in 1981. The song has appeared on countless compilation albums and has been extensively sampled on rap and hip-hop tracks.
You’re from the Valley, aren’t you?
The San Fernando Valley is an area located mainly within the city limits of Los Angeles, where many television and film production companies are located. It is a largely affluent suburban area, with average home prices running around $600,000. In the 1980s its supposedly vapid teenage residents were satirized by, among other things, Moon Unit Zappa’s hit song “Valley Girl.”
Believe it, or not.
An imitation of Jack Palance (1919-2006) in his role as host of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Palance’s show was the second iteration; the first version was a live TV show that premiered on NBC in 1949 and was hosted by Robert Ripley himself. Palance’s version aired from 1982 to 1986 on ABC, with a robust afterlife on cable. Palance seemed to truly savor delivering his signature line “Believe it … or not.”
Oh, now he’s going to sing “Ebony and Ivory.”
A reference to the 1982 hit song “Ebony and Ivory” by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. Sample lyrics: “Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony/Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh lord, why don’t we?”
Ever taste Dr Pepper Lip Smacker?
The cosmetics maker Bonne Bell makes Lip Smacker lip gloss with the flavor of Dr Pepper, the popular soft drink.
We’ll name the band the Crickets.
The Crickets were an American popular music band founded in 1957 by (among others) Buddy Holly. Their hits included “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” and “It’s So Easy.” Holly left the group the following year, but the other members continued on for years.
How fortunate. This will simplify everything.
An imitation of Bela Lugosi in the short “The Phantom Creeps,” Episode 2, which aired as part of Show 205, Rocket Attack USA.
For the seafood killer in you.
“Red Lobster, for the seafood lover in you” is the longtime advertising jingle for the Red Lobster chain of seafood restaurants.
It’s a rock lobster!
“Rock Lobster” is a 1979 song by the rock group The B-52’s. Sample lyrics: “We were at the beach/Everybody had matching towels/Somebody went under a dock/And there they saw a rock/It wasn’t a rock/It was a rock lobster.”
Whoa, whoa, turn down the Firebird Suite.
The Firebird Suite, written by composer Igor Stravinsky, is an orchestral arrangement of the score to the ballet The Firebird, also by Stravinsky. There are actually several versions of this suite: one from 1911, one from 1919, and one from 1945.
I’m Curt Gowdy. Join me and Phil Harris as we go after big Texas lobster.
Curt Gowdy (1919-2006) was a sports broadcaster who for years acted as the host of American Sportsman, a TV fishing show. Phil Harris (1904-1995) played the hard-partying bandleader on The Jack Benny Program on radio for many years and later had his own long-running radio show along with his wife, actress Alice Faye. He later enjoyed fame in animation, voicing Baloo the Bear in Disney’s The Jungle Book (1967) and Little John in Robin Hood (1973).
Slamming Sam Snead.
“Slamming Sammy” Snead was a pro golfer in the 1940s and ‘50s who won three PGA championships and three Masters tournaments in that era.
It’s a Copper Seven.
The Copper Seven was a type of IUD, or intra-uterine device, used for contraception. It was the subject of numerous lawsuits in the 1980s alleging that the device caused pelvic inflammation, which in some cases led to infertility or hysterectomies.
“It is worthless.” Oh, it is a Copper Seven.
See previous note.
It’s Mel Brooks in Life Stinks!
Life Stinks is a 1991 movie starring comedian/filmmaker Mel Brooks as a rich businessman (played by Brooks) who bets that he can survive on the mean streets of Los Angeles.
Know when to say when—that’s my motto.
In 1982, Anheuser-Busch launched the “Know when to say when” ad campaign, the first time an alcohol producer put out ads encouraging responsible drinking. Drunk driving deaths went down by more than 50 percent over the next 30 years, but groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) remained unimpressed by their efforts, pointing out that at the same time the campaign was running, the companies were lobbying against raising the drinking age and toughening up legal blood alcohol levels for drunk driving.
I don’t have any pants on.
In a recurring bit on Late Night with David Letterman (NBC, 1982-1993), Letterman would open a window in his high-rise office building and use a bullhorn to engage passersby on the sidewalk below, including the declaration, “I’m not wearing any pants!” Letterman’s production company is named Worldwide Pants.
It’s the lobster at the edge of town.
A reference to the 1978 Bruce Springsteen song “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” Sample lyrics: “Well if she wants to see me/You can tell her that I’m easily found/Tell her there’s a spot out ’neath abram’s bridge/And tell her there’s a darkness on the edge of town.”
The Streets of San Francisco. A Quinn Martin production. Epilogue.
The Streets of San Francisco was a TV series that aired from 1972-1977. It starred Karl Malden and Michael Douglas, and was produced by Quinn Martin. Martin (1922-1987) was a prolific television producer in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. For 21 years, he always had at least one series running on network TV, and at times as many as four at once. All of his shows used the same structure, employing an epilogue with an off-screen narrator to explain the show the viewer had just watched.
What the heck? Before it was a little town—now it’s the Hollywood Hills.
The Hollywood Hills are an area just north of Hollywood in the Los Angeles area. Many recognizable streets—Mulholland Drive, Laurel Canyon—are located here, and numerous celebrities make their homes in this area.
It’s Sunday morning in Hollywood. Come on down to Bargain Clown.
In a run-down strip mall in Hollywood, there was a famous sign that read “Bargain Clown Mart.” There was no such store; the sign actually signified the location of the nightclub The Three Clubs, as seen in the 1996 indie movie Swingers. The sign is gone now (and The Three Clubs has no other signage; they’re just too hip), but the phrase “Bargain Clown Mart” has gained a certain cult status.
Come on, Joe, we gotta go, oh me oh my oh.
A paraphrased line from the 1952 song “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” written and originally recorded by country star Hank Williams. Many artists, from Elvis Presley to The Carpenters, have recorded cover versions. Sample lyrics: “Good-bye Joe, he gotta go, me oh my oh/He gotta go-pole the pirogue down the bayou/His Yvonne the sweetest one, me oh my oh/Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou.” (Thanks to Christopher Brame for this reference.)
Spiegel is a catalog and direct marketing company founded in 1865 by German immigrant Joseph Spiegel. They market women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories under the Spiegel brand and a couple of other brands.
He thinks he’s the Wichita lineman, quick!
A reference to the Glen Campbell song “Wichita Lineman.” Sample lyrics: “I am a lineman for the county/And I drive the main road/Searchin’ in the sun for another overload …”
“Generating plant.” Simpson here.
A riff on Homer Simpson, patriarch of the Simpson clan and perennially bumbling employee of the local nuclear power plant on the animated TV sitcom The Simpsons (Fox, 1989-present).
I’m doing everything I can, Captain!
An imitation of chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott from the TV series Star Trek (1966-1969). The part was played by James Doohan.
Halls brand cough drops boast of their “soothing vapor action.”
“Rosebud” is the last word spoken by Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) in the 1941 classic Citizen Kane. The plot of the movie revolves around a reporter who is determined to discover the meaning behind this enigmatic word; as it turns out (spoiler alert), Rosebud was the name of Kane’s childhood sled, which is thrown into a fire at the end of the film.
Goodnight, sweet crustacean.
Paraphrase of a line from Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (a.k.a. Hamlet, or “the Danish play,” written sometime between 1599 and 1602); after Hamlet dies in a duel, his friend Horatio says, “Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” (Thanks to Lynn Knott for this reference.)
Gee, your hair smells terrific.
A reference to a line of shampoos and conditioners popular during the 1970s, which went by the cumbersome if memorable name “Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific.”
“You mean they’re coming?” To take me away, ha-haa?
A line from the 1966 novelty song “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa” by Napoleon XIV. Sample lyrics: “And they’re coming to take me away ha ha/They’re coming to take me away ho ho hee hee ha ha/To the funny farm/Where life is beautiful all the time ...”
And thank goodness for the new generous cut of my Depends.
Depend undergarments are a brand of adult incontinence products.
Eh, turn Rush Limbaugh off.
Rush Limbaugh is a conservative commentator who helped lead the conservative talk radio revolution in the 1990s. His legions of fans were dubbed “dittoheads” for their loyal support of everything Limbaugh said. In 2001 Limbaugh announced that he was going deaf, but he continued to do his radio show; as of 2017 he showed no signs of retiring.
Do not look at the man behind the curtain!
A paraphrased line from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Actual line: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"
Wherever there’s a cop beating up a guy, I’ll be there.
A line from the 1940 film The Grapes of Wrath, based on the novel by John Steinbeck. The full line: “Wherever there's a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be there in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be there in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they built, I’ll be there, too.”
Tomorrow is another day.
This is the final line from the 1939 film Gone With the Wind, spoken by Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh).
Ask not what your country can do for you …
A line from the 1961 inaugural address by President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
Oh, she came from Planet Claire.
A reference to the song “Planet Claire” by the B-52’s. Sample lyrics: “She came from Planet Claire/I knew she came from there/She drove a Plymouth Satellite/Faster than the speed of light.”
Look to the sky.
In the 1951 film The Thing from Another World, Ned “Scotty” Scott begs us all to “Watch the skies, everywhere, keep looking! Keep watching the skies!” The movie features an unrecognizable James “Marshal Dillon” Arness as the monster. A 1981 remake by director John Carpenter, titled The Thing, stars Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley. A 2011 prequel, also titled The Thing, manages to hit all the same beats as the John Carpenter film while ostensibly leading up to it. It stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and a lot of Norwegians.
He turned into Bobby Goldsboro.
Bobby Goldsboro is a pop singer who had a string of hits in the late 1960s, including “Honey” and “Watching Scotty Grow.”
See above note.
[Imitating.] Listen, if I don’t get in that car, I’m going to regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow ... –But soon.
A paraphrase of the famous line from the 1942 film Casablanca, spoken by Humphrey Bogart: “If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
I want to meet Luke and Laura while I’m there.
During the 1980s, Luke Spencer (played by Anthony Geary) and Laura Gray Vining Webber Baldwin Cassadine Spencer (played by Genie Francis) were two immensely popular characters on the long-running soap opera General Hospital.
I’m going to try to catch Oswald on the parking ramp …
On November 24, 1963, local nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of a Dallas police station, where Oswald was being transferred to the county jail. To reach the basement, Ruby walked down a car ramp.
This is the most incompetent prisoner transfer since Dallas, ’63.
See previous note.
Jack LaLanne, everybody, Jack LaLanne! [Clapping, whistling.] –Where’s Elaine? –Elaine. –Elaine, Elaine.
Jack LaLanne (1914-2011) was a fitness guru and motivational speaker who hosted the longest-running exercise program on television, from 1951-1985 (The Jack LaLanne Show). He did always maintain a whisper-thin figure. His wife, Elaine, frequently participated in the program, which had an audience made up primarily of stay-at-home moms. The extra “Elaines” might be a riff on the 1980 song “Elaine” by Swedish pop group ABBA. Sample lyrics: “A nowhere lane, a nowhere train for Elaine, Elaine, Elaine/Elaine, Elaine, Elaine, you know they're gonna get you/You try to break away, but they will never let you.”
“Go!” Like you’ve never goed before.
A riff on the 1983 synth-pop song “Maniac,” written and performed by Michael Sembello, which was used on the soundtrack of the popular film Flashdance, hit number one after the film’s release, and was nominated for an Oscar. (It lost to another song from the movie, Irene Cara’s “Flashdance ... What a Feeling.”) Sample lyrics: “It can cut you like a knife, if the gift becomes a fire!/On a wire between will and what will be!/She’s a maniac, maniac I sure know!/And she's dancin’ like she’s never danced before!”
[Siren.] First Wednesday of the month.
In many parts of the Midwest, the monthly sound of sirens is common as the authorities test to make sure their tornado warning system is operational.
“They’re coming.” To take me away, ha-haa.
See note on “They’re Coming to Take Me Away,” above.
Looks like Grandpa’s got an elaborate network of trusses under that sweater.
In a recurring skit on the early seasons of Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1975-present), Dan Aykroyd, looking more like a ‘50s-era high school algebra teacher than a gigolo, would proudly and frequently proclaim himself to be “Fred Garvin, male prostitute.” He would then warn his customers that he was wearing “an elaborate network of trusses.”
Subdivisions. Inevitable. Wal-Marts, megamall, lots of them.
Wal-Mart is the largest chain of retail stores in the United States. The first store was opened in 1962 by Sam Walton, offering discount merchandise at low prices. Walton opened many of his stores in small towns, where they often drove local merchants out of business by undercutting their prices. By the time of Walton’s death in 1992, there were more than 1,700 Wal-Mart stores.
“You must understand ...” I’m a magic man.
A reference to the 1976 Heart song “Magic Man.” Sample lyrics: “But try to understand/Try to understand/Try try try to understand/I’m a magic man.”
Scarecrow, I’ll miss you least of all.
A paraphrase of a line from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, spoken by Dorothy (Judy Garland) to the Scarecrow: “I think I’ll miss you most of all.”
Yeah, and they call the wind Maria.
A reference to the song “They Call the Wind Maria” from the 1951 musical Paint Your Wagon. Sample lyrics: “Away out here they’ve got a name/For rain and wind and fire/The rain is Tess, the fire’s Jo/They call the wind Maria.”
[Sung.] For a Mr. Steak summertime bacon clambake.
Mr. Steak is a chain of Midwestern steak houses, with a couple of locations in Minneapolis. I’m guessing this is a version of their jingle, but I was unable to confirm this online.
[Imitating.] I sound like Gilbert Gottfried.
Gilbert Gottfried is a gravelly-voiced comedian and actor best known for his portrayal of the parrot Iago in the Disney animated film Aladdin (1992).
Oh, well, there’s got to be at least two more Russian aviators in that thing.
A reference to the classic Marx Brothers movie A Night at the Opera (1935). The brothers stow away on board a ship headed for New York, and in order to get past immigration, Harpo steals the uniforms (and beards) of three famed Russian aviators traveling as passengers.
Any cough drops, Dad?
A reference to Smith Brothers cough drops. (Thanks to Kurt Steidl for this reference.)
We’ll kill the fatted calf now.
Taken from the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the New Testament, the phrase “kill the fatted calf” is a metaphor for breaking out in celebration, especially to celebrate someone’s homecoming.
“... it would likely spark the beginning of a revolution ...” Well, if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao …
A reference to a line from the 1968 Beatles song “Revolution”: “You tell me it’s the institution/Well, you know/You better free your mind instead/But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.” (Thanks to Cliff Blau for this reference.)
Suckers. So long, screw ya, see you in St. Louya.
A variation on the classic Bugs Bunny line "So long, screwy. See you in St. Louey!" (Thanks to Joel Boutiere for this reference.)
I’d like to sing “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
“Rhinestone Cowboy” is a song written by Larry Weiss that became a number one hit for Glen Campbell in 1975. Sample lyrics: “I've been walking these streets so long/Singing the same old song/I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway/Where hustle is the name of the game/And nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain.”
The papers want to know whose shirts you wear.
A line from the 1969 song “Space Oddity” by David Bowie. One of Bowie’s signature songs, it tells the story of the failed mission of fictional astronaut “Major Tom.” Sample lyrics: “This is Ground Control to Major Tom/You’ve really made the grade/And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear/Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.” The song is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock.
Hey, look, Old Faithful.
Old Faithful is a geyser in Yellowstone National Park, located in Wyoming. It erupts more frequently than any other geyser—about once every ninety minutes—and is thus one of the most popular sights in the park.
They turned it into Mount Vesuvius.
Mount Vesuvius is a volcano near Naples, Italy. It is the only volcano on the European mainland that has erupted within the past century (its last eruption was in 1944). It is best known as the volcano that destroyed the Roman town of Pompeii in 79 C.E.
Kingsford is a brand of charcoal that has been around since the 1920s.
Edges light quickly.
This is an old slogan for Kingsford charcoal (see previous note); it appeared in many an MST episode.
Ah, the Foley man is frying up a burger.
Named for Universal Studios employee Jack Donovan Foley (1891-1967), who developed the basic techniques in the late 1920s, Foley artists are sound technicians who specialize in recording sounds created using physical objects, in sync with the action in a movie, to make the film seem more realistic. Typical effects include walking on various surfaces to simulate the sound of footsteps, and hitting or smashing various objects, such as melons or a cut of beef, to simulate the sound of blows in a fight scene.
[Sung.] Somewhere …
This is the opening to the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz (1939). Sample lyrics: “Somewhere over the rainbow/Way up high/There’s a land that I heard of/Once in a lullaby.”
Killed in Vietnam.
When the nostalgia junket that is American Graffiti (1973) ends, an epilogue over the cast photos jarringly informs you of their fates: one killed by a drunk driver, one MIA in Vietnam, one an insurance agent in Modesto, and one a writer in Canada. Animal House (1978) also tells you that one of its cast (Doug Neidermeyer) is killed in Vietnam, but it’s played for laughs. Assuming you think “killed by his own troops” is funny.
Many of the Mercury players have never been in films before. Here are some of them.
The Mercury Theatre was a theater company founded by Orson Welles and John Houseman in the 1930s. It started as a stage troupe and beginning in 1938 it became a radio show, Mercury Theatre on the Air. Its most famous broadcast came on October 30, 1938, with the adaptation of War of the Worlds. Players included Agnes Moorehead and Joseph Cotton, among others. (Michael Folker points out that although a similar phrase appears in the credits of Citizen Kane, the actors listed are not actually called Mercury players in that film.)
Look to this day, young graduate, as you move on into your new life.
“Look to This Day” is the title, and first line, of a poem by fourth-century Sanskrit poet Kalidasa. It is a popular line to use in commencement speeches at graduation ceremonies.