806: The Undead
by Wyn Hilty
I saw the Undead at Un-Alpine Un-Valley.
The Grateful Dead is a famed rock band from the heyday of the 1960s. Two of their better-known songs are “The Pride of Cucamonga” and “Sugar Magnolia.” The Alpine Valley Music Theatre is a concert venue located in East Troy, Wisconsin; the Dead performed there on more than one occasion.
At Chili’s, we flame-broil our credits to perfection.
Chili’s Grill & Bar is a chain of “family restaurants” serving mid-priced meals such as ribs, fajitas, steaks, and so forth.
One of Billy Barty’s small films.
Billy Barty (1924-2000), who plays the imp in The Undead, was a prolific actor who also crusaded for societal acceptance of little people. He founded Little People of America in 1957 to work toward that goal. He appeared in more than 80 films and TV series during his lengthy career.
Hail, friend, and Mel Welles.
A play on the phrase “Hail, friend, and well met.” A variation, “hail-fellow-well-met,” has entered the language as an adjective meaning friendly, congenial, and hearty.
Ah, the great Malibu credit fire of 1956.
Malibu is a Southern California hillside community that has been faced with repeated wildfires since its founding in the late 19th century. Spectacular blazes include the 1930 Decker Canyon fire, which caused 1,100 firefighters to run for their lives from a five-mile front of deadly flames; the 1956 fire referenced in the comment, which killed one person and burned a hundred homes until it reached the Pacific Ocean; and the 1993 fire, which killed three people and destroyed more than a thousand structures.
This is kind of ironic, because all these people work at Embers now.
Embers is a chain of family-style restaurants with locations throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. It is based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Roger Corman’s Backdraft. –I wouldn’t want to be downwind of Roger Corman’s backdraft, I’ll tell you that much.
Backdraft is a 1991 film about two firefighting brothers in Chicago who come up against a deadly arsonist. It was directed by Ron Howard.
Smokey says only you can prevent Roger Corman.
Smokey the Bear is the longtime spokescreature for the U.S. Forest Service. He was created in 1944 to preach the message of fire prevention, with the slogan “Only you can prevent wildfires.”
Thank you, Mr. Zebub.
In the Bible, Beelzebub is referred to as the prince of the devils. In the Old Testament, Beelzebub is the name given to the god worshiped by the Philistine city Ekron (II Kings 1:1-18).
Come on into my meat freezer—I’d like to show you my research on beefalo.
Beefalo are a cross between bison (a.k.a. buffalo) and cattle. Proponents of the meat boast it is low in fat and cholesterol while retaining the hearty taste of beef. Nonetheless, it remains a novelty dish among Americans.
“Did I say nonsense?” I meant fluffernutter.
Fluffernutter, popular among kids as a sandwich spread, is a combination of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. Marshmallow fluff is a jarred, gooey, sugary substance that has been on the market since the 1920s.
“In the desert huts of the shamans of Khasa.” And in Des Moines.
Khasa is a small town in Tibet, a famously mystical country. Des Moines is the capital city of the state of Iowa, with a population of roughly 450,000.
I’m recombining DNA, if you don’t mind.
Recombining DNA (or deoxyribonucleic acid) is the process by which genes from one organism are spliced into genes from another organism, creating a hybrid. It is a common technique used by scientists who are studying heredity.
Don’t you have any Proust?
Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was a French author best known for his lengthy work À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past), an allegorical autobiography published in seven volumes.
“Take it easy, Diana.” Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.
This is a line from the Eagles song “Take It Easy.” Sample lyrics: “Take it easy, take it easy/Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy/Lighten up while you still can, don't even try to understand/Just find a place to make your stand and take it easy.”
Hey, he has a Ben Franklin ice auger!
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a printer, author, diplomat, inventor, and scientist who exercised a profound influence on the formation of the United States after the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). An ice auger is a tool used by ice fishermen to drill a hole through the ice over a body of water.
Say, friend, tell her a penny saved is a penny earned.
“A penny saved is a penny earned” is an aphorism first published in Poor Richard’s Almanac, an annual publication edited by Benjamin Franklin (see previous note) from 1732-1757.
“Do you see my hand?” Do you think I’m Dale?
The origin of this often-used quip is a hotly debated topic online, with some claiming the phrase “Mrs. Burke, I thought you were Dale!” comes from an Ivory Soap commercial and others claiming it is from a Grape-Nuts commercial. The definitive MST3K FAQ explains it thusly: “Actually, these references are all a mistake by Best Brains. Here's the whole story. Back in the 1970s, there was a series of commercials for Ivory dishwashing liquid, in which mothers were mistaken for their daughters--because the mom used Ivory and so her hands were young-looking. At around the same time, there was also a commercial for Grape Nuts, in which a teenage boy mistakes teenage girl Dale's mother for Dale and utters the deathless line: ‘I thought you were Dale!’ Best Brains only vaguely remembered these two commercials, and apparently mixed them up in their minds. There were apparently never any Ivory Liquid commercials in which a character said ‘I thought you were Dale!’ And the Grape Nuts commercial in which that line was spoken had nothing to do with hands. So basically they goofed. But the writers thought they were making a reference to the Ivory Liquid commercials.”
Oh, and by the way, SLEEP!
A frequent MST3K riff, “SLEEP!”—usually employed at any hint of hypnotism in the movie, or whenever someone is nodding off or just seems dazed—first appeared in Show 302, Gamera, and was driven home when Bela Lugosi uttered the line (repeatedly, while hypnotizing young damsels, naturally) in Show 423, Bride of the Monster. A possible origin: in the 1980s, supposed “World's Fastest Hypnotist” Marshall Sylver appeared on several TV shows, including Late Night with David Letterman (NBC, 1982-1993), where he would entrance people while barking “Sleep!” at them.
“Around the knuckle …” Over the gums. “Over the fingers.” Look out, stomach, here it comes.
A reference to the traditional bar toast “Through the lips, over the gums, look out, stomach, here it comes.”
Yes … yes … yes … and now SLEEP!
See previous note.
Give me liberty or give me—oh, no, wait, that’s Pat Henry.
Patrick Henry (1736-1799) was an American revolutionary in the 18th century, who delivered the above words in 1775 in a speech to the second Virginia Convention. The full phrase is: “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”
“Like a deep, deep well.” Like a circle in a spiral.
A line from the song “Windmills of Your Mind” by Dusty Springfield. Sample lyrics: “Like a circle in a spiral/Like a wheel within a wheel/Never ending or beginning/On an ever spinning reel …”
“Like falling.” [Sung.] Like a wheel within a wheel.
See previous note.
“Falling into a deep …” Cleansing. –Discount. –Heating. –Purple!
Deep Purple is a British hard rock band that was founded in 1968 and scored its biggest hit with 1972’s “Smoke on the Water.” The original group disbanded in the mid-1980s, but various incarnations continued to release albums into the next decade.
You know, early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Another aphorism coined by Ben Franklin (see above note on Poor Richard’s Almanac).
“When I touch you …” I think about myself. No, no, no, wait …
A reference to the song “I Touch Myself” by The Divinyls. Sample lyrics: “I don't want anybody else/When I think about you/I touch myself.”
Must … not … look … at … Mr. Weatherbee.
Waldo Weatherbee was the principal of Riverdale High School in the Archie comic books, created by John Goldwater. He made his first appearance in 1942.
[Sung.] We are family/I’ve got all my sisters with me …
A line from the song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. Sample lyrics: “We are family/I got all my sisters with me/We are family/Get up ev'rybody and sing …”
Tish! That’s French! [Kissing sounds.]
A line from The Addams Family TV series (ABC, 1964-1966) and films (1991, 1993): whenever Morticia spoke French, it would drive Gomez into an amorous frenzy. Kissing would be involved.
It’s the twenty-third hour of our telethon, and we’re going all the way.
Probably a reference to the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon, a 24-hour event hosted by comedian Jerry Lewis and an assortment of guest stars. Lewis conducted the telethon from 1952 until 2011, when he and MDA parted ways under murky circumstances. In 2015 MDA announced they were discontinuing the telethon for good.
“You see it all too dimly, don’t you, Diana?” It’s through a glass darkly, yeah.
A reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glass darkly.” Filmmaker Ingrid Bergman used the phrase as the title of his 1961 film about a young woman suffering from mental illness.
“Well, my dear …” I don’t give a damn.
A paraphrase of Rhett Butler’s famous line at the end of the 1939 film Gone with the Wind: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
She’s all the way back to Quest for Fire time.
Quest for Fire is a 1981 film about three prehistoric tribesmen searching for a source of fire to replace the flame their tribe has lost.
It’s must-see TV night, I have to get home!
In 1993, the NBC television network began using the phrase “Must-See TV” for its dominant Thursday-night programming lineup, although the phrase had been around since 1982, when it was used to promote fledgling series Cheers and Hill Street Blues.
Slightly Risky Liaisons.
Dangerous Liaisons is a 1988 film, based on the Christopher Hampton play by the same name, about the lives and loves of the corrupt French aristocracy in the final years before the French Revolution of 1789. The play in turn was based on the French epistolatory novel Les liaisons dangereuses, published in 1782, by Choderlos de Laclos (1741-1803).
She’s in the gorilla exhibit at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is a zoo located in Chicago, Illinois. It was founded in 1868; admission has been free ever since. It boasts an impressive great ape exhibit and is renowned for its gorilla breeding program.
Sir Ray Nitschke!
Ray Nitschke (1936-1998) was the much-feared yet much-beloved linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, for which he played from 1958-1972. He was referred to as “Mr. Hyde”: a ruthless player on the field with a reputation for enjoying putting the hurt on his opponents, but a caring and generous family man off the field.
Hey, it’s a Flashdance look going.
Flashdance is a 1983 movie that starred Jennifer Beals as a steelworker with dreams of becoming a dancer. In one scene, Beals appeared in an oversized sweatshirt with the collar cut off so that it would slip off one shoulder; it created a brief but widespread fashion fad and a lot of mutilated sweatshirts.
Am I not Devo?
Devo was a geek-rock proto-new-wave band that hit its peak of popularity in the 1980s. Their first album, released in 1978, was titled Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
A reference to the voice of the computer on the television series Star Trek (1966-1969), which was played by Majel Barrett, later Majel Barrett Roddenberry; she also played Nurse Christine Chapel on the show.
"It is a madness." Well, maybe it was Squeeze.
From reader Kurt Basham: "A reference to '80s ska group Madness, best known in the U.S. for the hit single 'Our House.' Squeeze was another U.K. band turning out hits at roughly the same time."
“She’s running.” Aww, she’s chasing rabbits.
A riff on the long-standing homespun theory that when dogs’ legs twitch while they are sleeping, it’s because they are dreaming that they’re hunting their prey.
Warriors of the wussland.
Warriors of the Wasteland (1982) is an Italian film about post-apocalyptic mercenaries fighting off evil bikers after the holocaust. In 2011, Rifftrax took on Warriors of the Wasteland, and there is a 1986 song by the British band Frankie Goes to Hollywood titled “Warriors of the Wasteland.”
The Fugitive was a TV series that aired from 1963-1967. It starred David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble, a man unjustly convicted of murdering his wife and forced to flee capture by the police while striving to prove his innocence and hunt down the real killer—the mysterious “one-armed man.”
I’ll go into the garage, see if they left the keys in the Buick!
David Dunbar Buick (1854-1929), an entrepreneur and inventor, produced the first Buick automobile in 1899 or 1900 (historical records are uncertain). He sold the company in 1903 to the Flint Wagon Works, based in Flint, Michigan. Flint continued to produce Buicks for 95 years, until GM, which by then owned the Buick label, moved all operations to Detroit in 1998.
I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m supposed to film a U.S. Marines commercial around here—you seen ‘em?
Probably a reference to the official Marines sword, featured prominently in most commercials aired for the Marines Corps. The sword is based on a scimitar presented to a Marines commander in the early 19th century to commemorate his victory “on the shores of Tripoli,” as immortalized in the traditional Marines hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma/To the shores of Tripoli …”
It’s the Wizard of Oz!
A reference to the 1939 movie musical The Wizard of Oz, which featured Frank Morgan (1890-1949) as an itinerant medicine man named Professor Marvel, peddling his wares from a cart; in Oz, he is transformed into the Wizard.
Meat Loaf! —Phil Harris! —Topol!
Meat Loaf (real name Marvin Lee Aday) is a famously beefy musician who saw his highest success in the 1970s, with such hits as “Bat Out of Hell” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” He has also appeared in a number of TV shows and movies. 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). Topol is a singer and actor best known for his portrayal of Tevye in the movie musical Fiddler on the Roof (1971).
Great—I’ll send that off to Phil Spector today.
Phil Spector is a famous music producer who has worked with such groups as The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers. He created the famous Wall of Sound, in which he used full orchestras to produce a richer, overwhelming sound in contrast with the rather thin, tinny sound of many rock groups at the time. In 2003 he was charged with murdering B-movie actress Lana Clarkson (1962-2003), who was found shot to death in his California home. He was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 19 years to life in prison.
Oh, God, no—Mike Farrell!
Mike Farrell is an actor best known for his portrayal of surgeon B.J. Hunnicut on the TV series M*A*S*H, which aired from 1972-1983.
The knight from Muncie.
Muncie, Indiana, is a city about 60 miles north of Indianapolis. Its population as of 2002 was 118,000.
How will ZZ Top carry on?
ZZ Top is a blues-rock band based in Houston, Texas, known as much for their lush, majestic beards as for their hit songs, which include “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs.”
One Adam-12, see thouest the main corner of Coldwater and Mulholland.
Adam-12 was a TV police drama that ran from 1968 to 1975 on NBC. The brainchild of Dragnet creator Jack Webb, Adam-12 followed the daily lives of two LAPD officers, and was one of the first cop shows to introduce realistic police procedures and jargon to the general public. The chatter from the patrol car radio was a common device for exposition, and “One Adam-12, see the man …” or “see the woman …” was a frequently heard phrase.
Oh, hey, the Hooters mascot—see, ‘cause it’s all about owls. Hooters.
Hooters is a chain of restaurants whose attractive waitresses all dress in tight tank tops and very short shorts. Its corporate symbol is an owl.
The couple seconds of the iguana.
Night of the Iguana is a play by Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) about a defrocked priest working as a tour guide in Puerto Vallerta, Mexico. It was made into a film starring Richard Burton in 1964.
Uh-oh, we’ve got tree Bartys.
See note on Billy Barty, above.
I’m heading to Rivendell.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Rivendell is one of the last remaining colonies of the Elves in Middle Earth. It is ruled by the Elf lord Elrond.
Ah, A Weekend at Bernie’s, the early years.
Weekend at Bernie’s is a 1989 film about two young men (Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman) who pretend their dead boss, done in by a mafia hit man, is still alive. Tasteless hijinks ensue.
This is how Anthony Quinn’s wife must feel.
Anthony Quinn (1915-2001) was an actor best known for Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Zorba the Greek (1964), although he appeared in more than 150 movies and television shows. In 1997, Quinn married his long-time secretary Kathy Benvin, making her his third wife – he was 82, she was 35. (Thanks to Tony Cirimele for the third wife reference.)
Ah, medieval Squiggy.
Andrew “Squiggy” Squiggmann was a character on the television sitcom Laverne & Shirley, which aired from 1976-1983. The part was played by David L. Lander.
Let’s see, what rhymes with coffin? Coughin’, zoffin, John McLaughlin …
John McLaughlin is the host of The McLaughlin Group, a political affairs discussion TV show that has aired on PBS since 1970.
“You are bewitched?” Bothered? Bewildered?
“Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” is a song by Rodgers and Hart that has been recorded by innumerable artists. Sample lyrics: “I'm wild again/Beguiled again/A simpering, whimpering child again/Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I …”
“I have much to do this night.” Gotta help Strider move a couch.
Strider, a.k.a. Aragorn, is one of the central characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (see above note).
C’mon, Huggy, what do you know?
Huggy Bear was a character on the TV police drama Starsky & Hutch, which aired on ABC from 1975 to 1979 and was remade into a tongue-in-cheek film in 2004. Played by Antonio Fargas on the series and Snoop Dogg in the film, Huggy Bear is a flamboyantly dressed pimp who is a reliable source of “word on the street” information for the police.
Wouldst thou pick me up a Mad magazine?
Mad magazine is a satirical magazine that mocks movies, politics, and other aspects of modern culture for the amusement of its (usually) preteen readers. It was founded in 1952 by William Gaines (1922-1992).
I have to watch Mad About You tonight.
Mad About You was a television sitcom starring Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt. It aired from 1992-1999.
“Ah, well, back to work.” And back to my Tin Pan Alley songs.
Tin Pan Alley was a genre of music that was popular from the late 19th century through the 1920s. It took its name from the term for the street in New York City that was the center of the music publishing business, as well as from the “tinny” sound of the pianos that featured prominently in the music.
“The clock struck two …” Central Time …
The Central Time Zone covers the central portion of the United States, including such states as Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Apparently there were Hardware Hanks during the Middle Ages.
Hardware Hank is a chain of retail hardware stores in the United States. It is based in Minnesota.
Gettest thou a cemetery full of savings at Menards!
An imitation of Ray Szmanda, the white-haired, hyper-exuberant man who has appeared in roughly 6,000 commercials during his 20-plus-year career as the pitchman for Menards, a chain of home-improvement stores based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
“If I am Smolkin.” I may be James Coco.
James Coco (1930-1987) was a portly American actor who got his start on Broadway, then went on to countless small character roles in movies and television, from Only When I Laugh (1981) to The Love Boat (ABC, 1977-1986). (Thanks to Tony Cirimele for this reference.)
And I’ll leave a light on for you.
In 1986, the Motel 6 chain began running a series of commercials featuring Tom Bodett that used the tagline “We’ll leave the light on for you.” The campaign proved phenomenally successful, running for 15 years.
Falstaff will be down in a sec.
Sir John Falstaff is one of the most famous characters in English literature, appearing in four plays penned by William Shakespeare. He is a fat, cowardly, lecherous, drunken, uproarious knight who entertains all around him with his wit but ultimately is destroyed by his rejection by Prince Hal (later Henry V). The later comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600), in which he is the central character, was according to tradition written at the request of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), who wanted to see Falstaff fall in love.
Digger Smolkin says “Eatest my dust!”
Eat My Dust was a 1976 low-budget, tongue-in-cheek action movie produced by Roger Corman and starring Ron Howard. The tagline for the film: “Ron Howard pops the clutch and tells the world: Eat My Dust!” Howard agreed to star in Eat My Dust in exchange for the chance to star in and direct a subsequent film, Grand Theft Auto (1977). That film was Howard's directorial debut; he would go on to direct many high-profile and critically acclaimed films, including Cocoon, Apollo 13, and A Beautiful Mind, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director.
This movie’s like a medieval Ghost, huh?
Ghost is a 1990 film starring Patrick Swayze as a murdered man who hangs around as a spirit in order to protect his lover, played by Demi Moore.
Please, I have to finish my sculpture of Eisenhower.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) was the supreme commander of the victorious Allied forces during World War II (1939-1945). After the war, he ran for president as a Republican and won two terms. He served from 1953-1961.
That’s a nice skort on him.
A skort is a cross between a skirt and a pair of shorts—basically shorts with a skirt-like flap over them. They became popular in the 1990s.
Her breath smells like Fancy Feast.
Fancy Feast is a brand of cat food manufactured by Purina.
That frog’s a good licking size.
In 1990, there was a barrage of media coverage about a new method of getting high: licking South American cane toads, which secreted a substance that acted as a hallucinogenic drug when ingested.
Hey, they’re smudging the orange grove.
Smudging is a largely outdated practice of protecting crops (particularly citrus crops) from frost, which can kill the developing fruit, by lighting “smudge pots,” oil burners set every few feet throughout the orchards to keep the trees warm.
Corman’s theory of directing: light, and get away.
“Light fuse and get away” is a common warning on fireworks.
Hey, that leather mug salesman’s doing all right for himself.
Renaissance festivals (or faires) are an entertainment phenomenon that began in Southern California in the 1960s and spread first to the rest of California and then the nation. Generally they feature a number of vendors selling leather mugs, swords, jewelry, and so forth; singers, dancers, and comedians performing; a “court” complete with king, queen, and courtiers; and rides and games for both children and adults. As proved in scathing host segments in Show 703, Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell, the MST3K gang has an intense dislike of Renaissance festivals. Specifically, Kevin Murphy had this to say in the Sci-Fi Channel episode guide for Deathstalker: “As you might guess if you've watched more than one episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, many of us involved in the writing of the show hate Renaissance festivals to the point that we have wished dire harm on their participants and patrons, written letters to wit, received court orders enjoining us from stalking around them, been incarcerated for lighting fires in the bazaar and hurling flaming dream-catchers at horrified festers.”
What a pretty yarmulka.
A yarmulka is a small round cap worn by many Jews during religious ceremonies; some conservative Jews wear the yarmulka every day.
Grumpy! Grumpy, Sneezy, let me in, it’s Snow!
Grumpy and Sneezy were two of the seven dwarfs in the Walt Disney animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). The others were Dopey, Sleepy, Happy, Bashful, and Doc.
James Woods is an actor known for playing quirky, occasionally psychotic roles. He has appeared in such films as The Onion Field (1979) and Videodrome (1983).
Oh, it’s the Olive Garden.
The Olive Garden is a midscale chain of Italian restaurants. As of 2002, it had more than 500 locations in the United States and Canada.
So, I bought land on the edge of Mordor—it’s really coming back.
Mordor is the blighted land ruled by the evil, god-like creature Sauron in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings (see above note).
She sounds like David Brinkley: one raven strand of maiden …
David Brinkley (1920-2003) was a television journalist who hosted the news program This Week with David Brinkley from 1982 until his retirement in 1997. He was known for his clipped delivery and his sardonic wit.
I’m going down to the Winn-Dixie for the grease that sweaten from the murderer’s gibbet.
Winn-Dixie is a chain of grocery stores with more than 1,000 locations, largely in the South and Midwest. The second part of the riff is a line from Act IV, Scene I of the William Shakespeare play Macbeth: “Pour in sow’s blood, that hath eaten/Her nine farrow; grease that’s sweaten/From the murderer’s gibbet throw/Into the flame.” A gibbet is another term for a gallows, or a structure used for hanging criminals.
Oh, could you pick me up some Rice Dream?
Rice Dream is a milk substitute made from rice; it is manufactured by Imagine Foods.
She’s hitting happy hour with Margaret Hamilton.
Margaret Hamilton (1902-1985) was an actress who was best known for her role as the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
Huzzah…who’s the babe?
“Huzzah” is an olde English exclamation, similar to “hurray,” that has been around since Shakespeare’s time.
[Sung.] Dick van Dyke theme.
This is the theme to the TV sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran from 1961-1966.
What the hell is it—a bust of Chiang Kai-shek made out of liver?
Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) headed the government of China from 1928-1949. When his government was driven out by Mao Zedong’s Communist forces in 1949, he fled to the island of Taiwan, where he led the Chinese government-in-exile until his death in 1975.
"’Tis unhealthy.” I sense radon.
Radon is a radioactive gas that is a carcinogen (that is, it causes cancer) in humans. It is estimated to cause about 21,000 deaths a year in the United States from lung cancer. It is typically a problem in homes that feature basements, although radon has also been found in drinking water and can also be detected in homes without basements.
“I’ll take that challenge.” And your little dog, too.
A reference to the Wicked Witch's famous line in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz: “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”
Now I understand dwarf tossing.
Dwarf tossing is a sport popular in England and in former British colonies such as Canada and Australia, in which contestants compete to see how far they can throw a dwarf, or little person. A number of attempts have been made to ban the sport—some successful, some not—over the objections of the dwarves themselves, who see it as an attempt to take away their livelihood.
[Sung.] Me in white satin …
“Nights in White Satin” is a song by the Moody Blues. Sample lyrics: “Nights in white satin, never reaching the end/Letters I've written, never meaning to send/Beauty I'd always missed, with these eyes before/Just what the truth is, I can't say anymore.”
Let us be little B-1 bombers.
The B-1 bomber, introduced to the U.S. armed forces in 1986, was a strategic bomber designed to evade enemy radar by flying at low levels.
A reference to the musical number “Tevye’s Dream,” from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. In it, Tevye tells his wife of a terrible dream he had, in which he was visited by the dead wife of the older man Tevye has promised his daughter to; the wife, whose name is Fruma Sarah, threatens harm to the daughter if the marriage takes place.
I have the urge to pour Frangelico out of his neck.
Frangelico is a hazelnut-flavored liqueur originally developed by monks in northern Italy about 300 years ago; its bottle shape suggests a monk with folded arms.
Sir Bob of Packwood.
Senator Robert Packwood (R-Oregon) served in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1995. He resigned his office when the Senate Select Committee on Ethics recommended his expulsion after a series of explosive sexual harassment charges, in which more than two dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct ranging from kissing to forceful groping.
There’s something wrong with my King Coil.
King Coil is a brand of mattress.
Rob, I’m telling Alan what you’re doing.
A riff involving multiple characters from the sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS, 1961-1966). The person speaking resembles the character Mel Cooley (played by Richard Deacon); Rob Petrie was the lead character in the series (played by Dick Van Dyke), and Alan Brady (played by Carl Reiner) was Rob and Mel’s boss.
“Who are you?” [Sung.] Who who, who who.
A line from the song “Who Are You” by The Who.
“Death by what means, and why?” By chocolate.
“Death by Chocolate” is a name applied to dozens of rich chocolatey desserts by restaurants everywhere. Its origin is obscure, but many attribute it to chef Marcel Desaulniers, who published a 1992 cookbook under the same name.
“You’re not in prison?” No. Over to you, Kitty Carlisle.
Kitty Carlisle (1910-2007) was an actress who appeared as a regular panelist on a number of television game shows, including I’ve Got a Secret and To Tell the Truth. The comment is probably referring to To Tell the Truth, in which several contestants competed to see if the panelists could determine which of them was telling the truth about their strange life story.
A strange interlude.
A reference to a Groucho Marx line in the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers (1930): “Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.” The line itself is a reference to the experimental 1928 Eugene O'Neill play Strange Interlude, in which the characters frequently interrupted the action of the play to make long soliloquies to the audience; in the film, Groucho takes a break for some crackpot philosophizing.
Sleep with as many slaves … I mean, a stitch in time …
The phrase “A stitch in time saves nine,” meaning that a preventive measure taken early can forestall much greater problems down the line, is often attributed to Poor Richard’s Almanac (see above note), although its true origin is less than clear. “Sleep with as many slaves …” is probably a reference to Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who had a well-publicized and scandalous affair with his slave Sally Hemings, with whom he had at least one child; Benjamin Franklin himself owned two male slaves at one point but freed them after he embraced the abolitionist cause.
“If I could …” [Sung.] Turn back time …
A reference to the song “If I Could Turn Back Time” by Cher. Sample lyrics: “If I could turn back time/If I could find a way/I'd take back those words that have hurt you/And you'd stay.”
Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?
This was the catchphrase of diminutive actor Gary Coleman (1968-2010) on the TV series Diff’rent Strokes, which aired from 1978-1986.
Neil Simon is an American playwright known for lightweight, audience-pleasing comedies. His works include Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, and many, many others. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for his play Lost in Yonkers.
Help me, Obi-Wan … oh, different movie, sorry.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is a character from the series of Star Wars films. In the original 1977 movie, the part was played by Alec Guinness (1914-2000). In the film, a recording of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) says, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
“Take wing.” You want me to tape Wings? Well, I’m not a fan of the show, but …
Wings is a TV sitcom that aired from 1990-1997. It starred Tim Daly and Steven Weber as two bickering brothers who run an airport in Nantucket.
Ah, it’s beautiful when the tortillas come back to Capistrano.
San Juan Capistrano is a Catholic mission in Southern California. It was founded in 1776 by Father Junipero Serra. It is famous for its annual “return of the swallows,” which supposedly fly south on October 23 and return on March 19 (both holy days in the Catholic Church’s calendar). In reality, the swallows arrive somewhere near the spring equinox, which roughly corresponds to the saint’s day in the Catholic calendar.
It’s a door-slamming Feydeau farce, but without any humor or wit or intelligence.
Georges Feydeau (1862-1921) was a French playwright who specialized in farces that are still performed in the 21st century.
The angry decoupager.
Decoupage is a decorative folk art in which an object such as a hatbox or a small item of furniture is covered with small pieces of colored paper, gold leaf, or pictures or text cut out of magazines, which are glued in place and then covered with multiple layers of varnish.
If this was a Coen Brothers film, he’d be in the wood chipper so fast …
The Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan) are film directors known for extremely offbeat movies such as Raising Arizona (1987) and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). In Fargo (1996), arguably their biggest commercial and critical success, a disagreement between kidnappers results in one of them murdering the other and disposing of the body with the aid of a wood chipper.
Oh, and grab a Ziploc for the head, and a meat diaper for all the juice.
Ziploc is a brand of plastic storage bags. A meat diaper is the colloquial name for the absorbent liner that comes in foam meat trays to absorb the juices, often made from cellulose; its official name is a meat pad. (Thanks to Paul Castaldi for the diaper reference.)
Fight choreography by Leo Sayer.
Leo Sayer is a British musician who had a string of mainstream pop hits, such as “When I Need You,” in the 1970s.
Does this bug you? Does this bug you? Does this bug you? Huh?
“Does this bug you?” usually accompanied by “I’m not touching you,” is an often-heard MST3K catchphrase, possibly originating in something U2 lead singer Bono said in the 1988 concert film Rattle and Hum: “Am I bugging you? I don’t mean to bug ya.”
See note on The Dick Van Dyke Show, above.
If I was starting a pyramid scheme, I’d start with Pendragon.
Pyramid schemes are a time-honored scam, in which people are recruited to an organization that is ostensibly in the business of selling something; however, the real purpose is to recruit others, who will pay a “commission” on their sales to the people above them in the pyramid. These people then pay a commission to those who recruited them, and so on, until the scheme collapses under its own weight. The pyramid scheme is one of the classic scams.
Señor Wences (real name Wenceslao Moreno; 1896-1999) was a Spanish ventriloquist who made frequent appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. He was known for his comic banter with a hand puppet named Johnny and a head hidden in a box who went by the name of Pedro. He died in 1999 at the age of 103.
“I could not tell you before.” I’m Kaye Ballard.
Kaye Ballard is an actress who has appeared in numerous films and television shows.
“That is the devil, and he claims a price.” Ray Price!
Ray Price (1926-2013) was a country artist who made it big in 1956 with the song “Crazy Arms.”
“We’ll join the Sabbath soon.” Ozzy’s gonna play.
Ozzy Osbourne was the front man for the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. He later went it on his own as a solo career and in the early 2000s became a reality TV star via the TV show The Osbournes (2002-2005).
Give to me your leather, take from me my lace.
A line from a Don Henley song, “Leather and Lace.” Sample lyrics: “I need you to love me/I need you today/Give to me your leather/Take from me my lace …”
Aww, she went to Burger King for her birthday.
The fast-food chain Burger King has traditionally handed out gold paper crowns to children at their hosted birthday parties.
See above note.
So, Satan, is he a pretty nice guy? Cause I've heard he can be kind of mean.
Satan (a.k.a. the devil) is the personification of evil, primarily featuring in Christian and Islamic traditions. He is most often described as a “fallen angel” of God, though his initial job seems to have been as a prosecutor of sorts, sent to test men’s faith.
“Some wisp of seeping fog.” Oh, he’s Mel Torme.
Mel Torme (1925-1999), a.k.a. the “Velvet Fog,” was one of the 20th century’s most respected jazz vocalists, with a smooth, resonant voice. He was also a prolific composer, writing more than 300 songs during his career.
“The time has come” Yes, dear. Yes, dear. I know, dear.
An imitation of Monty Python alum John Cleese, in his role as long-suffering and henpecked husband Basil Fawlty in the classic British sitcom Fawlty Towers (BBC2, 1975-1979).
“It is the emperor of hell.” You know Michael Eisner?
Michael Eisner was the chairman and CEO of Walt Disney Productions from 1984 until 2005. He is one of the richest and most powerful men in Hollywood.
[Sung.] I have a head for you/Pa rum-pum-pum-pum.
A reference to the traditional Christmas carol “Little Drummer Boy.” Sample lyrics: “Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum/A newborn King to see, pa rum pum pum pum/Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum …”
The June Taylor corpses!
June Taylor (1917-2004) was a choreographer who worked on television shows from the 1940s to the 1960s. Her “June Taylor dancers” were a regular feature on the old Jackie Gleason Show.
[Sung.] We are family/I got Satan’s corpses and me …
A paraphrase of the song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge (see above note).
Satan, Satan, he’s our man, if he can’t do it no one can! Satan!
An imitation of a traditional chant by cheerleaders.
Limbo limbo limbo.
The limbo is a dance originating in the West Indies in which the dancer bends backwards to walk under a bar that is made progressively lower as the dance goes on.
Last night’s performance was hardly a graveyard smash. It makes one pine for the Transylvania twist.
A reference to the 1962 smash hit “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett and the Crypt-Keepers. First sample lyrics: “He did the mash/He did the monster mash/The monster mash/It was a graveyard smash …” Second sample lyrics: “Out from his coffin, Drac's voice did ring/Seems he was troubled by just one thing/He opened the lid and shook his fist/And said, ‘Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?’”
If you pledge your soul, you get a Satan tote bag!
The lengthy and tiresome pledge drives frequently held by PBS and NPR stations interrupt regular programming and take the viewer to a large studio packed with people manning banks of telephones, ready to take your pledge, telethon style. Contributions of various amounts can net the donor different types of swag, including, say, a lovely tote bag or a CD of Tuvan throat singing.
Um, Satan, I’d like to move up the ladder in the Lollipop Guild.
A reference to the song “Ding-Dong, the Witch Is Dead” from the 1939 film musical The Wizard of Oz. Sample lyrics: “We represent the Lollipop Guild/The Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild/And in the name of the Lollipop Guild/We wish to welcome you to Munchkin Land.”
“Yes, Lydia.” An encyclopedia.
A reference to the famous Marx Brothers song “Lydia the Tattooed Lady,” which first appeared in their 1939 film At the Circus. Sample lyrics: “Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclopedia/Oh Lydia the Queen of Tattoo/On her back is the Battle of Waterloo …”
I come to show you the miracle of Mylar!
Mylar is an extremely strong polyester film developed by DuPont in the 1950s.
Okay, just don’t try to sell me encyclopedias.
A paraphrase of a line from a Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit, generally known as the “Encyclopedia Salesman” sketch. The actual line, spoken by John Cleese: “lf l let you in you'll sell me encyclopedias.”
A role that by all rights should have gone to Nancy Walker.
Nancy Walker (1922-1992) was an actress best known for her role on the long-running series of commercials for Bounty paper towels (the “quicker-picker-upper”). She also played Ida Morgenstern on TV series The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda.
Anyway, I’m collecting for the Knights of Columbus, and …
The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal order for Catholic men that was founded in 1881 to provide support to needy members’ families.
“Well said, mother.” [Sung.] Well said, father.
A paraphrase of the Allan Sherman song “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.” Actual lyrics: “Hello mother, hello father/Here I am at Camp Grenada/Camp is very entertaining/And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining!”
Mom, Mom, Mom! Somebody took my Big Wheel! Mom, Mom, Mom!
Big Wheels are a brand of tricycle that have been around for more than 40 years. They are made of brightly colored plastic and boast a front wheel that is much larger than the two back wheels.
Uh, excuse me, hello? I’m looking for a tuffet.
A reference to the nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet”: “Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet/Eating her curds and whey/Along came a spider, who sat down beside her/And frightened Miss Muffet away.” The earliest known version appeared in 1805, although some attribute it to Thomas Muffet, an entomologist who died in 1604.
Whoop-whoop-whoop-whoo-whoo-whoo-whoo … gnaa, gnaa, gnaa …
An imitation of Curly Howard (born Jerome Lester Horwitz; 1903-1952) of the Three Stooges, a comedy trio that appeared in nearly 200 short films.
[Sung.] Three blind mice … Hickory dickory dock … oh, forget it, I’ve lost it.
These are two traditional nursery rhymes by unknown authors.
Here comes Friar Tucks Medicated Pads.
Friar Tuck was the priest in the Robin Hood legend, although he, along with Maid Marian, was a relatively recent addition to the stories, not making his first appearance until the post-medieval period. Tucks Medicated Pads are a product used to relieve the itching and burning sensations of hemorrhoids.
Probably a reference to the television sitcom Bewitched, which aired from 1964-1972. Samantha “Sam” Stephens (played by Elizabeth Montgomery) is a witch married to a mortal who continually uses her powers to get the family out of one jam or another.
“You are the author of the piece, and Satan is the critic.” Bill Diehl?
Bill Diehl was the longtime film critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch; he was also a well-known local DJ and talent agent. He retired in 1996. (Thanks to Paul Castaldi for this reference.)
Noel Coward (1899-1973) was a British playwright who specialized in plays featuring upper-class Brits standing around country houses trading quips. His better-known works include Private Lives (1930) and Blithe Spirit (1941).
Meg looks like Dan Gladden.
Dan Gladden was an outfielder for the Minnesota Twins from 1987-1991. (John Keat suggests that this should actually be "Tom Glavine," ex-pitcher for the Braves.)
See note on Peter Pan, above.
Amongst her weaponry …
A reference to the “Spanish Inquisition” sketch from the classic BBC series Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The relevant dialogue:
Cardinal Ximinez: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise … surprise and fear … fear and surprise. … Our two weapons are fear and surprise … and ruthless efficiency. … Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency … and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. … Our four … no … Amongst our weapons … Amongst our weaponry … are such elements as fear, surprise … I’ll come in again.
Stop da movie!
An imitation of Jimmy Durante (1893-1980). On August 4, 1955, the Brazilian singer Carmen Miranda (she of the fruit basket on her head) was appearing on Durante's TV show when she fell after suffering a sudden heart attack during a dance number, and he shouted, "Stop da music!" She recovered and finished the show, but died after having a second heart attack the next day. (Thanks to S.S. for this reference.)
I swallowed a bug.
Probably a reference to an infamous outtake from the 1979 film Apocalypse Now, when, in the middle of solemnly declaiming one of his big speeches, Marlon Brando stops, grimaces horribly, and says, "I swallowed a bug." (Thanks to S.S. for this reference.)
Jeeves and Satan.
Jeeves was the imperturbable butler in the series of farcical Jeeves and Wooster novels by British author P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975). The series, first published in 1917, grew to encompass dozens of books, the last published in 1971.
You’ll notice there’s nothing up my jerkin.
A variation on the standard magician’s line “There’s nothing up my sleeve.” A jerkin is a 16th- and 17th-century men’s garment: a short jacket, usually sleeveless, and often made of leather.
I’m Mayor Ed Koch. How’m I doin’?
Ed Koch (1924-2013) was the three-time mayor of New York City, from 1978-1989. His well-known catchphrase was “How’m I doin’?”
I’m Jan Murray. Welcome to Las Vegas.
Jan Murray (1916-2006) was an actor and stand-up comedian of the borscht belt variety who appeared in various films and TV shows, as well as performing his standup act in the Catskills and in Las Vegas.
I’m Dennis James. Veterans, you cannot be turned down for this policy.
Dennis James (1917-1997) was an announcer and game show host for decades, on such shows Original Amateur Hour and Name That Tune. “Veterans cannot be turned down” is a classic phrase heard on many a late-night insurance company commercial.
Winona, in The Crucible.
In 1996 a movie version of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible was released starring Winona Ryder as a jealous woman who accuses her ex-lover’s wife of being a witch in 17th-century Salem, Massachusetts.
Just a scratch—she’s got her mithril long-line bra.
Mithril is a metal found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (see above note). It is impossibly light and strong, able to withstand spears, swords, and whatnot; Frodo, the protagonist of the trilogy, wears a mithril vest handed down to him by his uncle. A long-line bra is a support garment that extends down to the wearer’s waist and acts as a girdle to restrain unsightly fat.
Ah, John Goodman’s first role.
John Goodman is a portly actor who has appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, including Raising Arizona (1987) and Roseanne (1988-1997).
Medieval Gallagher, I guess.
Gallagher, full name Leo Anthony Gallagher, is a “prop” comic best known for smashing watermelons onstage with a sledgehammer. In Joel Hodgson’s early days as a prop comic, Gallagher was rude and dismissive to Joel backstage, leading to years of insulting riffs about Gallagher on MST3K.
Nothing but net!
An expression from basketball, “nothing but net” means to make a basket so precisely that the ball only touches the net as it goes through, not the backboard or rim. The phrase is often used in other contexts to describe something that was done perfectly.
I’m ready for my execution, Mr. DeMille.
A paraphrase of actress Gloria Swanson’s (1897-1983) famous line from the 1950 film Sunset Blvd.: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” “DeMille” refers to legendary film director Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959), known for such epics as The Ten Commandments (1956).
[Sung.] Sunrise, you’d better take care …
A paraphrase of the song “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot. Actual lyrics: “Sundown you better take care/If I find you've been creeping round up my back stairs/Sometimes I think it's a sin/When I feel like I'm winning when I'm losing again …”
[Sung.] Ontari-ari-oh-ohhhhh ...
This is apparently from an old TV commercial trying to attract visitors to Ontario, Canada.
He found out that [sung] if you lose the devil’ll take your soul …
A paraphrase of the song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which was a hit when The Charlie Daniels Band originally recorded it in 1979, and again when it was used in the 1980 film Urban Cowboy. Sample lyrics: “And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold/But if you lose the devil gets your soul …”
You wanna get a towski?
Towski is apparently slang for "beer." (Thanks to Ronald Byrd for this reference.)
“Your voyage to this time was down a long, long road.” Route 666.
Route 66, or the “Mother Road,” as it was known, was first established in 1926 as the first major interstate highway, running from Chicago to Los Angeles. “666” is traditionally regarded by Christians as “the number of the beast,” or an identifying marker that can be used to recognize the Antichrist. This belief comes from Revelations 13:18—“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.”
You’ve got a Denver boot on your soul.
The Denver boot is a device used by police departments to immobilize the vehicles of drivers with outstanding parking tickets, moving violations, and so forth. It consists of an orange thingamabob that attaches to one wheel of the car and makes it impossible to rotate. It was first invented by the Denver P.D. in 1953.
This guy is like Satan…from hell.
A reference to Show 521, Santa Claus.
You're stuck here!
A reference to Show 310, Fugitive Alien. (Thanks to S.S. for pointing out this reference.)
[Sung.] Oh, tidings of comfort, sport and joy.
A paraphrase of the traditional Christmas carol “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Actual lyrics: “To save us all from Satan's power/When we were gone astray/O tidings of comfort and joy/Comfort and joy …”
Outdone by Bob Fosse in a Peter Pan hat.
Bob Fosse (1927-1987) was a choreographer and director who stood behind some of the all-time classic musicals of the 20th century, including Cabaret and All That Jazz (which was loosely based on his life). See note on Peter Pan, above.
I thought this movie was supposed to be about an old woman and her driver?
Driving Miss Daisy is a 1989 film starring Jessica Tandy (1909-1994) as a cantankerous old woman and Morgan Freeman as her chauffeur.