815: Agent for H.A.R.M.
by Wyn Hilty
Ah, the traditional running of the Clouseaus.
Every year in Pamplona, Spain, between July 7 and 14, the “running of the bulls” is held, in which people and bulls run a marked-off course through the town. Deaths are relatively rare, but injuries are not. Inspector Jacques Clouseau is the bumbling French policeman played in the series of Pink Panther movies by Peter Sellers (1925-1980).
Inspector Gadget in Marathon Man.
Inspector Gadget is an animated detective outfitted with a variety of gadgets (hence the name) to help him in his crime-solving duties. His voice was provided by Don Adams, who played secret agent Max Smart on the TV series Get Smart. In 1999 there was a live-action movie version of Inspector Gadget starring Matthew Broderick. Marathon Man was a 1976 film starring Dustin Hoffman as a graduate student who gets drawn into a Nazi plot.
My David Lynch hair!
David Lynch is a bizarre filmmaker who has directed such offbeat classics as Eraserhead (1977), Blue Velvet (1986), and the TV series Twin Peaks (1990-1991).
Tonight on Michael Collins, P.I.
Michael Collins (1890-1922) was an Irish revolutionary during some of the worst clashes between the British and the Irish in the early twentieth century. As director of intelligence for the IRA, he organized a number of assassinations and attacks on police. When peace was declared in 1921, Collins helped broker the treaty even though he knew that strong Irish opposition to the peace terms would mean his death; a few months later he was shot and killed in Ireland. “Michael Collins, P.I.” is a take on the TV series Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988).
Bonjour! I surrender! I love Mickey Rourke!
Jokes about the cowardice of the French army are legion; most date back to the World War II era, when France surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940. Mickey Rourke is an actor who has appeared in such movies as Diner, Body Heat, and 9½ Weeks. Much like Jerry Lewis’s films before him, Rourke’s films have enjoyed particular success with French audiences.
Damn you, Shel Silverstein!
Shel Silverstein (1930-1999) was a poet and author who wrote numerous children’s books, including The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and A Light in the Attic. He had a sly, slightly wicked sense of humor.
The death of Pete Fountain.
Pete Fountain (born Pierre LaFontaine Jr., 1930-2016) was a jazz clarinetist who recorded more than 50 albums and appeared on television and before presidents and popes. He owned a jazz club in New Orleans.
And I get the Deadhead van.
Deadheads are fans of the Grateful Dead. 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.
I need some Gauloise and some petit pan.
Gauloise are a brand of French cigarette; a petit pan (French for "little bread") is a bread roll.
[Sung.] Don’t you let your deal go down ...
A line from the Grateful Dead song “Deal.” Sample lyrics: “Wait until your deal come round/Don’t you let that deal go down/Don’t you let that deal go down, no/Don’t you let your deal go down.”
Hopefully the man under me is Jerry Lewis.
Jerry Lewis is a classic comedian who, with comedy partner Dean Martin, was the top box-office draw in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Some of his films include The Bellboy, The Disorderly Orderly, and The Nutty Professor. Lewis was phenomenally popular in France in the 1960s; in 1984 he received France’s Legion of Honor.
His mudpack is running.
A mudpack is a thick paste made from dirt or clay that is applied to the face or body either as a form of physical therapy or as a day-spa cosmetics type of thing, to draw oils and toxins out of the skin.
Barnaby Jones was a TV series that ran from 1973 to 1980. It starred Buddy Ebsen as a geriatric private detective.
With Bob Marley and Prince.
Bob Marley (1945-1981) was a Jamaican singer-songwriter whose brand of rock-influenced reggae became famous around the world. He also played a prominent political role in his native country, working for peace among the warring factions there. Prince (1958-2016) was one of the seminal musical talents of the 1980s; in particular, his albums 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign o’ the Times were phenomenally successful.
Titles by e.e. cummings and k.d. lang.
e.e. cummings (1894-1962) was an American poet known for his eccentric punctuation, capitalization, and placement of lines on the page. k.d. lang is a country/rock musician who has released such hit songs as “Constant Craving.” She has publicly declared her lesbianism and is an outspoken advocate of animal rights, both traits that have occasionally brought her into conflict with her country-music audience. Both artists wanted their names written in all lowercase letters, just like this movie’s credits.
We issue station wagons to all our secret agents.
A station wagon is an elongated sedan automobile that generally has one or more rows of seats behind the driver that can be folded down to provide varying amounts of storage space. They evolved from the carriages that were designated to shuttle guests and their luggage from a train station to an estate—in Europe, the same vehicle is called an “estate wagon.” Starting in the early 1980s, the popularity of SUVs and minivans rendered station wagons pretty much extinct.
Wow—the Red River has really crested.
In 1997, the Red River, which runs between North Dakota and Minnesota toward Canada, crested at fifty-four feet, causing massive flooding in both states—in particular, in Grand Forks, North Dakota/East Grand Forks, Minnesota, which saw the evacuation of nearly everyone in those towns. The 1997 flood has been dubbed the Flood of the Century.
Xanadu, stately home of Charles Foster Manson.
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 and starring Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane. “Manson” is a reference to mass murderer and cult leader Charles Manson (1934-2017).
I didn’t know Section 8 built beach homes.
Section 8 is a housing voucher program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mr. Peepers, P.I.
Mr. Peepers was a TV sitcom that ran from 1952 to 1955. It starred Wally Cox as a shy science teacher. See note on Magnum, P.I., above.
He’s there for his Howard Sprague fan club meeting.
Howard Sprague was a character on The Andy Griffith Show, a TV series that ran from 1960 to 1968. He was played by actor Jack Dodson.
A door-to-door spat salesman.
Spats are a footwear accessory that were popular from the late 1800s into the first few decades of the 1900s: a piece of fabric or leather that covers the top and ankles of shoes. Usually spats are a lighter color than the shoes themselves, giving them a two-tone look. The supposed purpose was to protect shoes from mud, but spats evolved from their military origins to become a fashion accessory for dandies and gangsters, and then quickly fell out of fashion.
My cat’s cradle got out of control, so I pinned it to the wall.
Cat’s cradle is a game played with a long loop of string, which when stretched between a person’s hands and looped over various fingers can create a number of patterns; the string can then be passed back and forth from one person to another.
“Henry Manson.” Shirley’s brother, isn’t he?
Shirley Manson is the lead singer for the band Garbage.
These are your acupressure points.
Acupressure is a Chinese method of pain relief that consists of applying pressure at specific locations on the body. Its advocates claim it can relieve everything from back pain to diarrhea.
You may want to back up. The power of this Honda 60 is pretty overwhelming.
While there is no motorcycle referred to as the Honda 60, Honda's Super Cub is also known as the Honda 50, probably in reference to its 49 cc (3.0 cu in) engine. In continuous production since 1958, it has sold more than 60 million units, making it the best-selling vehicle in the history of internal combustion. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Then go practice your skeet-kendo, and bring your aikido rifle, too.
The sport of skeet shooting involves small clay discs that are launched into the air and shot down using shotguns. Kendo is a sword-based Japanese martial art that involves bamboo “swords” and protective armor. Aikido is a martial art that developed in Japan fairly recently, starting in the late 1920s. Firearms are not involved.
I drink a lot—how come I never made the Dewar’s profile?
Dewar’s Scotch whisky runs an ad campaign called “Dewar’s Profiles,” in which they profile interesting, adventurous, glamorous people who just happen to drink Dewar’s Scotch.
We’ve got Butter Cookies in Salerno.
Salerno Butter Cookies are a brand of butter cookies that are round, flower shaped, with a hole in the center, and the word Salerno embossed on them. They were introduced in 1933. The brand is now owned by Snyder’s-Lance.
And put the altitude so the agents can adjust baking temperatures.
The lower air pressure found at higher altitudes can wreak havoc with cooking—in particular, cakes and breads tend not to rise, so bakers in the mountains must alter their recipes to compensate. Most cake mixes, for example, have separate directions for high-altitude baking. Generally you don’t need to worry about it until you hit about 3,000 feet above sea level.
I drew this turtle freehand.
A reference to the old “Draw Tippy the Turtle” ads run by the Art Instruction School in Minneapolis.
You know I have clog dancing tonight!
Clog dancing, a style of dance somewhat similar to tap, is performed wearing clogs with wooden soles and leather uppers. It reportedly began in 19th-century England, when such shoes were common in the northern part of the country.
The Target Center: the early days.
The Target Center is a mammoth events arena in Minneapolis that opened in 1990; it hosts sports events, ice shows, concerts, and so forth.
“My poor Eva.” I’m sorry Green Acres was canceled.
Green Acres was a TV sitcom that ran from 1965 to 1971; it starred Eva Gabor (1919-1995) as Lisa Douglas, the socialite wife of an attorney who tries to adapt to life in the rural town of Hooterville.
“Henry was a fine man. And a good assistant.” And a fine comic strip.
“Henry” was a comic strip created by Carl Anderson. It first appeared in 1932 in the Saturday Evening Post, and expanded to newspaper syndication two years later. Anderson drew the strip until 1942, when he retired and handed the strip over to successors, who continued the strip through 1995.
PBR me ASAP.
This is an old slogan for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. (Thanks to reader Alexander Hajduk for identifying this reference.)
A reference to Show 424, Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Yeah, well, I’m still in therapy over that wire mom.
In 1966 psychologist Harry Harlow performed a series of experiments with baby rhesus monkeys in which he separated them from their biological mothers and put them in cages with either a “mom” made out of cloth or one made out of wire. Even when the wire “mom” had a bottle attached so the monkeys could nurse, the babies preferred the tactile comfort of the cloth “mom.” This and other maternal-separation and isolation experiments were controversial, since they left the monkey subjects severely disturbed, and are often cited by animal liberation activists. In Show 602, Invasion USA, Dr. Forrester runs an experiment on Crow to see if he bonds with a Dr. Forrester doll or a wire monkey with a baby bottle; Crow desperately prefers the wire monkey.
Lolita was the title character of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel. The novel is narrated (unreliably) by Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man with a fetish for young girls. In Lolita he finally finds an accessible “nymphet” whom he can exploit sexually. She is 12 years old at the time. Humbert winds up in prison for killing the man who takes Lolita away from him and then abandons her.
“Madam ...” I’m Adam.
“Madam, I’m Adam” is a classic palindrome—a sentence that reads the same backwards as forwards. Another example of a palindrome: “Able was I ere I saw Elba.”
“I also have an assorted collection of mops and brushes.” And Flowbees.
The Flowbee Precision Home Haircut System is a combination vacuum cleaner and hair trimmer; the idea is that the suction lifts the hair while the trimmer cuts it to precisely the desired length. The Flowbee was famously mocked in the Wayne’s World movie, with the line “It’s sucking my will to live!”
TGI Fridays on the beach!
TGI Fridays is a middle-class restaurant that serves such things as potato skins, burgers, steaks, pasta, and mammoth desserts. Its logo is red-and-white-striped.
A young Charles Grodin.
Charles Grodin (1935-2021) was an actor who appeared in such films as Beethoven, Seems Like Old Times, and Rosemary’s Baby.
“Mr. Graff called me.” Mr. Steffi Graf.
Stefanie “Steffi” Graf is a professional tennis player who racked up an astonishing string of victories in the late 1980s and 1990s. In October 2001 she married fellow tennis player Andre Agassi; they have had two children together.
Sometimes I sell Mary Kay.
Mary Kay Inc. is a cosmetics company that operates on the Multi-level marketing business model: distributors, called “beauty consultants,” earn income through direct sales to customers, and commissions on products sold to other distributors that they recruit. Top-sellers are rewarded with an iconic pink Cadillac. In 2018, Mary Kay reported wholesale earnings of $3.7 billion.
With Barbie und Ken.
Barbie and Ken are plastic fashion dolls made by Mattel. Barbie is the blond, improbably proportioned star; Ken is her anatomically incorrect boyfriend.
Look at her Gidget baby room.
Gidget is a 1959 movie about a young girl who discovers the joys of love and surfing with a fella named Moondoggie. Actress Sandra Dee played the title role. Sally Field took over the role for the 1965-1966 ABC TV series of the same name. Both were adaptations of the 1957 novel Gidget, The Little Girl with Big Ideas, which screenwriter Frederick Kohner wrote about his own teenage daughter, Kathy. The name itself is a mash-up of “girl” and “midget.”
Now I’m going to play my new Cowsills album.
The Cowsills were the real-life inspiration for the TV show The Partridge Family, about a musical family: teenage siblings Bill, Bob, Barry, John, Paul, and Susan sang with their mother Barbara such hits as “Hair” and “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” in the late 1960s.
You know, she hurt herself bad when she mixed up her Lady Schick with her Lady Wesson.
Lady Schick was an electric razor marketed to women in the 1950s; Jacob Schick had pioneered the electric razor earlier in the century. Lady Wesson is probably a reference to the LadySmith line of women’s handguns produced by Smith & Wesson.
By this time in a James Bond movie, there'd've been ten helicopter explosions, eight ski chases ...
James Bond is the urbane secret agent created by British author Ian Fleming and immortalized in a lengthy series of movies by Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and others. The films are known for their spectacular (and highly implausible) action sequences.
[Sung.] The Tonight Show theme.
This is the theme to the Tonight Show, the late-night TV talk show that has had multiple hosts since it debuted in 1954, including Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, and Jimmy Fallon.
Why is he not in gulag?
Gulag, an acronym for “Chief Directorate of Camps” in Russian, was the name of the Soviet government agency that oversaw forced labor camps during Stalin’s rule over the Soviet Union, roughly from the 1930s through the 1950s. The word “gulag” eventually became a synonym for a labor or prison camp itself, or just prison.
He made his own gravy!
“It makes its own gravy” is a common phrase in recipes, but this is probably a reference to the ad campaign for Gaines dog food that boasted it could “make its own gravy” in sixty seconds.
And hula hoops and dungarees.
Hula hoops were a fad in the late 1950s, consisting of a large plastic ring the user placed around his/her waist and rotated by gyrating the hips frantically. A small BB inside the hoop created the sound effect. Wham-O, the company that made them, sold 25 million hoops in two months. The craze, like most fads, was short-lived, although the hoops are still sold in toy stores. Dungaree is another name for denim, the heavy cotton fabric, often dyed blue, that blue jeans are made of. “Dungarees” is another, now somewhat outdated, name for jeans.
Once you taste my schnitzel I’m sure you will understand.
Schnitzel is an Austrian dish consisting of pork or veal cutlets pounded flat, dredged in flour, milk, eggs, and bread crumbs, and then deep-fried.
Ensure or Boost?
Ensure and Boost are both nutritional drinks that boast of containing vitamins, minerals, protein, etc. Ensure is manufactured by Ross Products, and Boost is made by Mead Johnson.
[Sung.] Close the window, come alive ...
A classic “misheard lyric” from the 1976 song “We’re All Alone” by Boz Scaggs. Actual lyrics: “Close the window, calm the light/And it will be all right/No need to bother now/Let it out, let it all begin/Learn how to pretend.”
Then I’ll need to take a sponge bath, apply my Anusol ...
Anusol is an ointment used to treat hemorrhoids and piles; it is manufactured by Pfizer. (Thanks to Tim R. for this reference.)
It is Surge.
Surge is a caffeinated citrus drink introduced by Coca-Cola in an effort to compete with Pepsi’s Mountain Dew.
[Sung.] Da da, DA DA! ... Well, no, maybe not, sorry …
A vocal rendition of the big, bold, and brassy fanfare from the “James Bond Theme,” which is nearly as iconic as the surf-guitar riff that opens the song. Written by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry, the song has appeared in every James Bond film since Dr. No in 1962.
“Turning it into a human fungus.” Like Larry King?
Larry King (1933-2021) was a perennial talk-show host on CNN, who got his start on radio in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1985 CNN, then a fledgling cable network, began airing Larry King Live, a phone-in talk show featuring diplomats, heads of state, celebrities and other life forms. King’s trademark heavy glasses and suspenders became familiar icons with the American public.
He fears your wedgies.
A wedgie is a classic light bullying technique wherein a person’s underwear is forcibly pulled up by another person so that it becomes wedged between the butt-cheeks.
Did you see this Mad magazine?
Mad magazine is a humor magazine consisting of cartoons, movie and TV parodies, and other forms of comedy popular with preadolescent boys. It is published by Time Warner.
“Markov plans to dust your crops ...” ... with Mrs. Dash.
Mrs. Dash is a brand of seasoning blends manufactured by Alberto Culver. Available flavors include Garlic & Herb, Lemon Pepper, and Classic Italiano.
[Sung.] Da da DA DA! Oh …
See note on the "James Bond Theme," above.
Sure there’s no Jim Beam in here?
Jim Beam is a brand of bourbon whiskey made in Kentucky.
Oh, and happy Secretaries Day.
Secretaries Day, also known as Administrative Professionals Day, is a secular holiday that honors secretaries, receptionists, and administrative assistants. It comes around on the last Wednesday of April, and usually involves flowers, cards, lunch, and chocolate.
I’m making EL Fudge.
EL Fudge is a brand of chocolate sandwich cookies made by Keebler.
[Sung.] Don’t have to be rich/To be my girl ...
This is part of the chorus from the Prince song “Kiss.” Sample lyrics: “U don’t have 2 be rich 2 be my girl/U don’t have 2 be cool 2 rule my world/Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with/I just want your extra time and your ... kiss.”
Harry Caray’s glasses!
Harry Caray (1914-1998) was the longtime announcer for the Chicago Cubs baseball team. He was a round-faced man with white hair and thick glasses. His trademark expressions included “Holy cow!” and “Who’d a thunk it?” Caray owned a famous sports bar in Chicago named after him. He died in 1998.
We really need a giant rheumy eye.
Rheum is a thin mucous or watery discharge from the eyes or nose. When you’re sleeping, rheum can dry in the corners of your eyes—that’s what you’re getting rid of when you “rub the sleep from your eyes.”
Have you seen my raspberry beret?
“Raspberry Beret” is the title of a Prince song that appears on the album Around the World in a Day. Sample lyrics: “She wore a/Raspberry beret/The kind you find in a secondhand store/Raspberry beret/And if it was warm she wouldn’t wear much more.”
[Sung.] I would die for him ...
Yet another reference to a Prince song, this time “I Would Die 4 U,” off the classic Purple Rain album.
How’s the fish boil?
The fish boil is the Great Lakes region’s answer to the clambake. Supposedly brought to the area by Scandinavian settlers, a fish boil features fish, potatoes, and onions boiled together in a large pot, preferably outdoors over a wood fire.
Ah, now it will shoot little potato pellets.
A reference to the Potato Gun, a time-honored toy that can fire small chunks of potatoes up to 150 yards. Recent innovations have produced the Sonic Potato Gun, the Potato Cannon, and, of course, the Spudgun, the “world’s most advanced hand-held laser-guided bolt-action aluminum SP9004 potato rifle.”
Good thing I took the Sally Struthers gun repair course.
Actress Sally Struthers, best known for playing Gloria on the television series All in the Family (1971-1978), did a series of TV commercials for International Correspondence Schools. Now called the Penn Foster Career School, the company offers learn-at-home courses on everything from computer programming to floral design to pet grooming. Her opening line from the commercials, "Do you want to make more money? Sure, we all do" became the source of countless MST3K riffs.
This time I’m really going to see the Great Pumpkin.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a classic TV Halloween special starring the gang of kids from the comic strip “Peanuts,” created by Charles Schulz. First aired in 1966, Great Pumpkin is about Linus’s hope that this Halloween he will finally see the Great Pumpkin, a mythical figure he insists distributes toys to children.
Hey—it’s the “Family Circus” shapely grandma.
“Family Circus” is a cloyingly wholesome comic strip created by artist Bil Keane and now written and drawn by his son Jeff Keane. The strip, drawn in a circle rather than the usual rectangle, is about the cute exploits of several small children and their long-suffering parents. The kids’ grandmother has quite the nice shape to her.
Cindy Lou Who grew up nice!
Cindy Lou Who, “who was no more than two,” is a character from the classic 1966 TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas, based on the book by Dr. Seuss. Cindy almost foils the Grinch’s plans when she wanders sleepily out of bed while he’s stripping her home of everything festive. Her voice was supplied by June Foray, who also voiced Rocky the squirrel on Rocky and Bullwinkle.
She’s thinking of England, France, the entire European Community, the Middle East ...
“Close your eyes and think of England” was supposedly the advice Victorian mamas gave their daughters before their wedding night, as women in Victorian times were not supposed to a) enjoy sex or b) even know that it existed until the moment of truth.
Recorder music for young lovers.
Probably a reference to the old “Music for Young Lovers” segments that aired on Terry Lee’s radio show. Lee was a DJ in Pittsburgh back in the ‘60s and ‘70s; he released several CDs of said music.
Little “farmer hankie” here … [Sniff.]
A “farmer’s hankie” is the act of clearing your nose by covering one nostril with a finger and blowing hard through the other—no Kleenex or handkerchief involved.
[Sung.] Controversy ...
Yet another Prince song, this one “Controversy” from the 1981 album of the same name.
Come on over here and let me work on that zipper.
A reference to the Prince song “Gett Off.” Sample lyrics: “Now move your big ass ‘round this way/So I can work on that zipper, baby/Tonight you’re a star/And I’m the big dipper.”
[Sung.] I think I wanna dance. Aoww!
A line from the Prince song “Kiss.”
“Milch” is the German word for “milk”; the phrase is a takeoff on the “Got Milk?” ad campaign run by American dairy farmers and processors.
[Sung.] Da da, DA DA!
See note on the "James Bond Theme," above.
Just need to run in and get my check … da da, DA DA!
See note on the "James Bond Theme," above.
We should have taken the [sung] little red Corvette.
Prince, of course—who else? This is from the song “Little Red Corvette.”
Baby, you got to slow down.
A paraphrase of lyrics from “Little Red Corvette”: “Little red corvette/Baby you’re much 2 fast ...Little red corvette/Honey U got 2 slow down (Got 2 slow down).”
[Sung.] Da da, DA DA!
See note on the "James Bond Theme," above.
Well, dropped her off at the Tiki Hut—now I’ve got to change and get to my shift at the Comfort Inn.
Comfort Inn is a chain of “budget luxury” hotels owned by Choice Hotels, which also runs the Sleep Inn and Econo Lodge chains.
[Sung.] Da da, DA DA!
See note on the "James Bond Theme," above.
It’s Walt Disney, and he’s mad.
Walt Disney (1901-1966) was of course the founder of the Disney empire, which encompasses movies, cartoons, theme parks, television shows, and more. He was the creator of such classic animated characters as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (supplying the voice for Mickey himself). In 1935, with the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, he created the first full-length animated film—one that would be followed by many more.
Take the knockwurst out of your ears and wake up!
Knockwurst is a short plump sausage, about the size of a typical hot dog, with origins in northern Germany. They usually contain a highly seasoned mixture of ground veal or pork and garlic.
He's meeting his niece for lunch ... [Sung.] Da da, DA DA!
See note on the "James Bond Theme," above.
On the way home I want to pick up some [sung] creeeam!
“Cream” is (of course) a song by Prince, from the 1991 album Diamonds and Pearls.
I wonder if that water heater makes the water warm enough, Lisa.
A reference to the song “Computer Blue” by Prince, off his classic album Purple Rain. Sample lyrics: “Wendy?/Yes Lisa/Is the water warm enough?/Yes Lisa/Shall we begin?”
I just know he’s got Altoids in here.
Altoids, those “curiously strong” breath mints that come in an old-fashioned tin, were created around the beginning of the 19th century by a London company and originally marketed as a soothing stomach remedy. They are currently manufactured in Wales, although they have become more popular in the United States than in their home country.
If Pepe Le Pew was a human, he’d be this guy.
Pepe Le Pew is the love-starved French skunk featured in many a Warner Brothers animated short. Created by Michael Maltese in 1945, Pepe was perfected over the years and made famous by director Chuck Jones. A typical Pepe Le Pew cartoon has a hapless black and white cat somehow getting a white stripe painted/dyed down her back, and then being mistaken for a skunk by the amorous Pepe, who proceeds to woo her in a most vigorous and insistent manner. When Pepe was created, he was seen as a parody of the “French lover” stereotype (and in fact was based on the character Pepe Le Moke, played with panache by Charles Boyer in the 1938 film Algiers). Today, with increased societal awareness of and decreased tolerance for the problems of sexual harassment and date rape (as in the #MeToo Twitter campaign of 2017), his hijinks seem a lot less amusing.
They don’t just pick up dry cleaning … they deliver … da da, DA DA!
See note on the "James Bond Theme," above.
Oh, man, just another manic Monday.
“Manic Monday” is a song recorded by the girl group The Bangles. It was written for them by Christopher Tracy, who, in his other life, is known as ... Prince!
Ocean’s 11 is a 1960 film starring members of the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, etc.) as a group of friends who decide to rob five casinos in one night. It was remade in 2001 by Steven Soderbergh; the new version starred George Clooney in the Sinatra role of Danny Ocean.
[Sung.] Let's eat our dinner in a fancy restaurant ...
Paraphrase of a line from the Sinead O’Connor song “Nothing Compares 2 U”: “Since U been gone I can do whatever I want/I can see whomever I choose/I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant.” The song was written by (all together now) Prince.
I’d like to spend the night inside your sugar walls ... –That’s enough, Prince!
“Sugar Walls” is a song by Sheena Easton, from the album A Private Heaven. The exact line is, “Come spend the night inside my sugar walls.” Do I even need to tell you who wrote it?
It’s bull’s ear day. Kids under ten get a bull ear.
This is probably a take on the various promotional gimmicks baseball parks have used over the years to boost attendance. The bull’s ear is a reference to the tradition of awarding a severed bull’s ear to a matador at the end of a bullfight, subject to the crowd’s approval.
NAFTA's really working.
NAFTA stands for North American Free Trade Agreement, a free-trade deal signed in 1992 that aimed to gradually eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers between Canada, the United States and Mexico. It was inspired by the success of free trade agreements within the European Community, although it was fiercely opposed by some in the United States who feared it would send jobs south of the border into Mexico, where labor is considerably cheaper.
Well, that’s the last Taco John’s we’ll see for a while.
Taco John’s is an American chain of Mexican restaurants featuring tacos, burritos, nachos, etc.
[Sung.] Da da, DA DA!
See note on the "James Bond Theme," above.
Action Pants were a line of slacks sold by Sansabelt (they of elastic-waisted men’s trouser fame). A heavily photoshopped ‘60s magazine ad for Action Pants is a popular Internet meme, and the 1995 debut album from indie pop band BunnyGrunt is titled Action Pants. There were also Action Jeans, heartily endorsed by karate tough-guy actor Chuck Norris.
Should we bring this guy some water? Because he might shoot a guy on the Mexican border.
A reference to the Eddie Money song “Gimme Some Water.” Sample lyrics: “Gimme some water/Cause I shot a man/On the Mexican border/Cool, cool water/Gimme some water/I need a little water ...” (Thanks to Kurt Basham for this reference.)
Wish I could have taken the Alfa ...
“Alfa” refers to Alfa Romeo, a line of Italian sports cars.
Stands for “Ta-Ta For Now.”
This is the sound of an irritated Donald Duck, a Walt Disney animated character who first appeared in 1934; his voice was created by Clarence Nash, who also voiced Donald's girlfriend Daisy Duck as well as his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. (Thanks to Daisy for this reference.)
It’s Pee-wee’s grandfather, Winchester-wee Herman.
Pee-wee Herman is a character created by comedian Paul Reubens (1952-2023). A hyperactive man-child in a too-tight grey suit and a red bowtie, Pee-wee began as a somewhat adult-oriented stage act in The Groundlings improv comedy troupe in Los Angeles; the show was filmed for a very popular 1981 HBO special. Reubens then toned down the adult humor and brought Pee-wee to the big screen with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in 1985, with Tim Burton directing. The movie was a hit, leading to an Emmy Award-winning children’s television series, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, which ran on CBS from 1986-1991. Another feature film, Big Top Pee-wee, was released in 1988. Reubens later performed other roles in various movies and TV shows, but continued with the Pee-wee character, including in 2016 for the Netflix movie Pee-wee’s Big Holiday. According to Pee-wee’s official "biography," his grandfather’s name is actually Hermann Herman.
Wendy and Lisa are coming over later—is that okay?
Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, known professionally as Wendy & Lisa, were members of Prince’s backup band, the Revolution. After Prince broke up the band in 1986, Wendy & Lisa went on to release several albums as a duo.
Damn, that puts a crease in the old ascot, doesn’t it?
An ascot is a loose silk men's tie named after the Royal Ascot horse race in England. Originally worn with formal morning dress, an ascot is now seen as a less formal alternative to a traditionally knotted tie.
I got as far as Jell-O one and two. Must go one step more!
Jell-O 1-2-3 was a flavored gelatin product made by General Foods from 1971 through the mid-1990s. After blending Jell-O 1-2-3 powder with hot water, the mixture was refrigerated. As it cooled, it separated into three distinct layers: a top layer of foam, a mousse-like middle layer, and a base layer of standard Jell-O. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
“Cowabunga!” was a popular exclamation among surfers in the 1960s. It apparently had its origin on theHowdy Doody Show, as a word used by character Chief Thunderthud. It was later popularized by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, stars of comic books, TV, and movies, and by the character Bart Simpson on the TV show The Simpsons.
“Calle del Campo.” ... my darling.
A paraphrase of the song “Vaya con Dios,” written by Larry Russel, Inez James, and Buddy Pepper. The actual lyrics: “Now the hacienda’s dark, the town is sleeping/Now the time has come to part, the time for weeping/Vaya con Dios, my darling/May God be with you, my love.”
He’s sketching whisky and seven.
Whisky and seven is an alcoholic cocktail involving whisky (usually a cheap well brand) and 7 Up.
“Three-position dial: transmitting, receiving ...” ... and Pong.
Pong was one of the first, if not the first, video games. It was essentially an electronic version of table tennis: each player had a “paddle” and they bounced a little “ball” between them.
A statue of John Daly up there!
John Daly is a professional golfer who has been on the PGA Tour since 1987. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
He maintains an appliance … da da, DA DA!
See note on the "James Bond Theme," above.
Early VCRs were not easy to program.
VCR stands for videocassette recorder, an ancient home electronics device that recorded TV programming onto a magnetic tape cassette. Now replaced by digital video recorders (DVRs), DVD players/recorders, Blu-ray players, and streaming/video on demand, VCRs ruled the home entertainment landscape in the 1980s and 1990s, with prerecorded tapes widely available for rental or purchase (the last major Hollywood film released on videocassette was A History of Violence in 2006), and blank videotapes used for home recording. VCRs could be set to record television shows automatically, but they were notoriously hard to program, leading to many botched recordings and VCR clocks eternally blinking their default, out-of-the-box time setting: “12:00 ... 12:00 … 12:00 ...”
I work out of my apartment and make big deutschmarks at home.
“Make big money at home” is a common phrase found in “work at home” ads, which appear in many newspapers and magazines. These ads generally promise enormous profits for virtually no work, and a great many of them are scams.
You know, she’s rather fletching. –She makes me quiver.
A couple of terms from the sport of archery. Fletching are the feather or fabric “fins” at the back of an arrow’s shaft that stabilize it in flight. A quiver is the container, often a fabric or leather pouch worn slung over one’s back, that holds the arrows.
Agent from Panelcraft.
This is probably a reference to Panelcraft of Minnesota, a home improvement company that operates in the Midwest, handling siding, windows, roofing and so forth.
“You take Stefanik, we'll take Chance.” Then we take Berlin.
A line from the song “First We Take Manhattan” by Leonard Cohen. Sample lyrics: “They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom/For trying to change the system from within/I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them/First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.” (Thanks to S.S. for this reference.)
[Sung.] Oooo hooo hoooo … Ooooo hooo hoooo …
This is the vocal chorus of Prince’s song “Purple Rain.”
Is that Jan or Dean?
Jan Berry and Dean Torrence were a surf-music duo back in the 1960s. Their biggest hit was “Surf City,” which hit number one in 1963.
[Sung.] Oooo hooo … ewww.
See previous note.
Oh, no, let’s go!
A line from the song “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince.
Will you shut up already? Damn.
A riff on the song “Housequake,” by Prince, from his 1987 album Sign o’ the Times. Sample lyrics: “Shut up already, damn!/Tell me who in this house know about the quake?/(We do)/I mean really, really/If you know how to rock say 'yeah' (yeah).”
[Sung.] Gotta dance, gotta dance ...
A reference to the famous Gene Kelly number in the musical Singin' in the Rain. (Thanks to Marissa Collins for this reference.)
[Sung.] Could that be the most beautiful girl in the world ...
Seems to be a paraphrase of another Prince song, this one “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”: “Could U be the most beautiful girl in the world?/It’s plain 2 see U’re the reason that God made a girl.”
The Zenith Corporation recommends you do not wire your television to metal doors.
Zenith Electronics Corporation began in the days of radio and made the transition to television in the 1940s. It still manufactures electronics today.
Just a typical day for Prince.
See note about Prince, above.
And … they hit an iceberg.
The Titanic was a luxury passenger ship that, on its maiden voyage in 1912, famously struck an iceberg. Hours later, the vessel sank, killing about 1,500 people on board. But 85 years later they got a popular movie out of it, so there's that.
Mike, do you have Kevorkian’s number?
Dr. Jack Kevorkian (1928-2011) was known for his determination to assist terminally ill people in committing suicide. He spent time in jail for violating assisted suicide laws, and was criticized even by some proponents of euthanasia for his willingness to help total strangers commit suicide.
[Sung.] Volga boatman ... The Volga boatman ...
A reference to the “Song of the Volga Boatman,” a traditional tune that has been recorded by everyone from classical groups to the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
Oh look, he’s got a wrist harmonica in case he runs into John Popper.
John Popper is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and harmonica virtuoso best known as the front man for the band Blues Traveler.
We just opened another Kentucky Fried Chicken in San Diego.
Kentucky Fried Chicken, or KFC as they now prefer to be called, is a chain of fast-food restaurants founded in 1952 by Colonel Harland Sanders (1890-1980).
My uncle’s Ted Nugent.
Ted Nugent is a hard-rock guitarist known for such hit albums as Cat Scratch Fever and Double Live Gonzo. He is equally well known for his right-wing political views, pro-gun advocacy, strong anti-drug stance, and love of hunting. In 2001 he was re-elected to the board of directors of the National Rifle Association.
Sucrets are a brand of throat lozenges manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.
“Martinez?” Gimlets? Anything?
A gimlet is an alcoholic drink consisting of gin or vodka, Rose’s Lime Juice (a sweetened, strongly flavored lime juice), and ice. It is a violent green in color.
The Denorex side makes my face melt.
Denorex is a brand of dandruff shampoo manufactured by Whitehall-Robins Healthcare. In the 1980s, Denorex ran a series of commercials featuring nice-looking guys and gals with half of their scalp lathered up with Denorex, and the other half lathered up with a competing dandruff shampoo, either Head & Shoulders or Selsun Blue. Their conclusion: the Denorex side “tingles,” the other side doesn’t.
Griffey’s at bat. Oh, it’s long! Long! It’s out at left!
An imitation of a baseball announcer heralding a hit by either three-time All-Star George Kenneth Griffey Sr., or his even more famous son Ken “The Kid” Griffey Jr., a thirteen-time All-Star.
I may as well get a relleno while I’m around.
A chile relleno (Spanish for “stuffed chile”) is a popular item of Mexican cuisine: a roasted poblano chile stuffed with a mild cheese, dipped in an egg batter, lightly fried, and often served with a tomato-based sauce.
Perhaps, much like Linus, I can wrap my cardigan around the tire.
Linus is a character from the comic strip “Peanuts,” created by Charles Schulz. He always carries a security blanket with him, which he uses to perform various useful tasks. In the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, Linus wraps his blanket around the base of the group's sad little Christmas tree to help support it. (Thanks to Erica Smith for pointing out the Christmas reference.)
[Sung.] Agent from H.A.R.M. lets the good times roll ...
A paraphrase of the old Kawasaki motorcycle ad jingle: “Kawasaki lets the good times roll.” (Thanks to crag57 for this reference.)
He’s calling all the crickets to come help him.
Tarzan, the king of the jungle created by pulp author Edgar Rice Burroughs in a series of novels, had the ability to call on various beasts to help him when he needed them.
Look, it’s Nathan Lane!
Actor Nathan Lane has appeared in such movies as The Birdcage and Jeffrey. He has also done a number of voiceovers, including the voice of Timon the Meerkat in Disney’s The Lion King.
You hurt my pomade.
Pomade is a hairstyling product for men: a greasy, waxy goo that, when slathered in, gives hair a wet, shiny look. Pomade does not dry out by itself; it takes several washings to get it out of your hair. How did gangsters in the 1920s and “greasers” in the 1950s get that special oily look? Pomade.
El Truman Capote.
Truman Capote (1924-1984) was an American writer who was best known for his book In Cold Blood, a “nonfiction novel” about the actual murder of a Kansas farm family. He was a very close friend of fellow author Harper Lee; she based the character Dill in her novel To Kill a Mockingbird on Capote.
Ah, it’s Mission: Impossible language.
Mission: Impossible was a TV series that aired from 1966 to 1973. It starred Peter Graves as secret agent Jim Phelps, the leader of an elite covert operations squad. In 1996 a feature film starring Tom Cruise was made based on the original series.
Is that Tabu you’re wearing?
Tabu is a perfume first produced in 1932 by the house of Dana.
John Schuck prepares for war.
John Schuck is an actor who has appeared in numerous TV series and films, including MASH, Star Trek IV, and Demon Knight.
Look at that arm! I guess he mouthed off to Mayte.
Mayte Garcia-Nelson joined Prince’s band as a backup dancer in 1992; in 1996 the couple married. They had one son who died shortly after birth; in 1999 Prince announced he was having the marriage annulled, reportedly because he did not want to be bound by earthly laws.
[Sung.] Scooby-dooby-doo, be-dooby-dooby ...
This is probably a reference to crooner Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), who was not particularly noted for the originality of his scatting; “shooby-dooby-doo” was a pretty typical example. The phrase “scooby-dooby-doo” is from the theme song to the old Scooby-Doo animated TV series.
I’ll see what Pyle thinks I should do.
Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. was a TV series starring Jim Nabors as the title character; it aired from 1964 to 1970.
Zippo lighter at the ready.
Zippo Manufacturing Co. made the lighters that American G.I.s carried into battle during World War II (along with their government-issued ration of cigarettes); their name has become largely synonymous with lighters, and many of their products have become collector’s items.
Jerome Robbins, P.I.
Jerome Robbins (1918-1998) was one of the 20th century’s most celebrated choreographers. He divided his time between Broadway musicals and ballet, and is probably best remembered for his groundbreaking choreography for West Side Story, for which he won a Tony and an Academy Award. See note about Magnum, P.I. above.
Yay! It’s Leather Tuscadero!
Leather Tuscadero was a character on the TV series Happy Days, which ran from 1974 to 1984. The part was played by actress Suzi Quatro.
Still, this is better than any given Northwest flight.
Northwest Airlines was a passenger airline that merged with Delta in 2008. Their hub was the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, so the MST3K gang would have pretty much had to deal with them if they did any traveling. At the time this episode was written, Northwest had a good on-time record, but appallingly bad customer service, which might explain the writers' ire.
Whoa! Guess I should have known!
This is the opening line to the song “Little Red Corvette” by Prince.
Stop! Or I’ll Agent from H.A.R.M. you!
This is a take on the line “I’ll harm you!” uttered by comedian Joe Besser (1907-1988) in his persona of Oswald, a bratty character he portrayed on The Abbott and Costello Show (1952-1953).
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum tissue, usually caused by plaque on the teeth. While gingivitis is not destructive, it can lead to periodontitis, which is. Brush your teeth, and don’t forget to floss.
My Fiestaware collection!
Fiestaware is a line of dinnerware made by the Homer Laughlin China Company. It comes in a variety of decorator colors and is highly prized by collectors. Apparently, the old red Fiestaware contained uranium and lead, though, so you might want to be careful what you eat off it.
Back into my hollow tree.
The Keebler elves, who supposedly hand-shape their cookies to perfection, have their extensive manufacturing facilities housed in a hollow tree.
Do you have any Bactine?
Bactine is a combination antiseptic and anesthetic manufactured by Bayer Corporation.
Oh, Andy, Eva, ooo …
An imitation of Floyd Lawson, who was Mayberry, North Carolina’s barber on the TV sitcom The Andy Griffith Show from 1961 to 1967. In his first appearance, the character was portrayed by Walter Baldwin. In every subsequent episode, he was played by Howard McNear (1905-1969), who brought a trademark vocal style to the part. The character was based on a man named Russell, who cut Andy Griffith’s hair at the barber shop in his hometown of Mt. Airy, North Carolina, on which Mayberry was based. (Thanks to Daisy for this reference.)
He’s wearing panty smoothers.
In the 1970s, girdles fell increasingly out of favor and were replaced by so-called “foundation garments,” including “skin enhancers” and “panty smoothers.” But the idea was basically the same: encase the unsightly fat.
The Not-So-Super Soaker.
The Super Soaker is a toy water gun made by Hasbro.
He got that suit at Orville Redenbacher Wearhouse.
Orville Redenbacher (1907-1995) was an agricultural scientist who helped create a new hybrid popcorn, which he then marketed under his own name. His bowtie, hayseed suit and thick glasses were a trademark for the brand. The Men’s Wearhouse is a chain of menswear stores founded in the 1970s by George Zimmer, whose trademark was the phrase “I guarantee it.”
Gentlemen, I implore you, no fumar.
See above note.
Watch out! The Bisquick!
Bisquick is a biscuit mix manufactured by Betty Crocker.
Vitalis is a line of men’s hair care products: hair spray, tonic, etc.
Now he can play Data.
Data was the android lieutenant commander on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, which aired from 1987 to 1994. The part was played by actor Brent Spiner.
An imitation of Curly Howard (born Jerome Lester Horwitz; 1903-1952) of the Three Stooges. (Thanks to Daisy for this reference.)
I thought he was 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.”
Santa came down from heaven and made him better.
Santa Claus is a fairly recent synthesis of various Christmas traditions of a being who delivers gifts the night before Christmas. Claus is based primarily on the Dutch gift-bringer Sinterklaas, who was in turn derived from the 4th-century historical figure Saint Nicholas of Myra. (Sinterklaas, rather than elves, has “Black Pete” to assist him, which leads to the [unfortunate, to American eyes] tradition of dressing up in blackface, a tradition that is becoming somewhat controversial in the Netherlands as well.) In the 1770s, the name “Santa Claus” was first published as an Americanized version of Sinterklaas. The commonly known attributes of Santa Claus’s legend (his North Pole residence, elven helpers, reindeer-powered sleigh, etc.) became widespread after the 1821 publication of Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “Old Santeclaus” and the 1823 publication of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (a.k.a. “The Night Before Christmas,” also probably written by Moore). The famous image of Santa Claus as a jolly, chubby man with a full white beard and red clothing with white trim comes from the mid-1800s art of famed cartoonist Thomas Nast. Nast’s illustrations later influenced depictions of Sinterklaas and England’s Father Christmas.
I’ll just stay out here and do my Junior Jumble.
Jumble is a scrambled word game that appears in daily newspapers around the country; they also have a “junior” version aimed at kids.
It’s a level five smug alert!
A smog alert is a determination of poor air quality, particularly common in Southern California (though less common than they used to be). A level one smog alert is issued when air pollution reaches an unhealthy level; at a level two smog alert, people are advised to avoid outdoor activity.
Wait—I forgot my Lancome special gift free with purchase thing.
Lancome Paris is a cosmetics company that manufactures makeup, perfumes, skin-care products, etc. Cosmetics companies frequently offer “gifts” free with purchase through various department stores: makeup bags, sample-size bottles of perfume, and so forth.
First rule of women everywhere: First, do no H.A.R.M.
The origin of the phrase “First, do no harm” is unclear, but in its original Latin (“Primum non nocere”), it is considered one of the underlying ethical principles of the medical profession. In other words, doctors should be certain that whatever they do to treat a patient will not make matters worse.