110: Robot Holocaust
by Trey Yeatts
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday…
In the 1960s and ‘70s, radio commercials for funny-car and drag races tended to have over-the-top big-voiced announcers hammering away at the fact that the races would take place on “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!”
[Imitating Lloyd Bridges.] By this time, my lungs were aching for air.
A favorite line on MST3K, referencing Sea Hunt, a syndicated action-adventure show that aired from 1958 to 1961. It starred Lloyd Bridges as scuba diver Mike Nelson (weird coinky-dink) and followed his undersea adventures. In many episodes, his scuba tank’s air hoses would be cut either by accident or on purpose.
If the tank’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’.
A paraphrase of the popular saying and bumper sticker “If the van’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’.” It likely dates back to the rise of vans in the 1960s and ‘70s. Once their owners began to furnish them with shag carpeting and other amenities, amorous activities became de rigueur.
Whoa, he’s got the zactlies big time.
“Zactlies” is a bit of charming slang: after a night of drinking, one wakes up with a taste in one’s mouth (or a smell on one’s breath) that tastes (or smells) “zactly” like one’s, ahem, anus.
[Sung.] Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care, Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care, Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care, the master’s gone away.
Lines from the song “Jimmy Crack Corn,” also known as “Blue Tail Fly,” which dates back to the 1840s.
Those things shut off quick. –Yeah, you don’t get “run-on” on the moon. –Except for this movie, which runs on and on. –True.
“Engine run-on” or “dieseling” occurs when a hot spot in a vehicle’s engine continues to ignite gasoline after the ignition has been turned off. It is less common than it used to be because it usually happens in vehicles with carburetors, and most cars these days are fuel-injected.
Meanwhile, back at the slag heap …
The phrase “Meanwhile, back at _____” originated with cards inserted in silent films of the early 20th century. In westerns, this was often “Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...” Once audio became a common component, the phrase was still used by narrators in films and radio and television shows. Most recently, it was used in the various Superfriends animated series of the late 1970s. Slag is actually a byproduct of separating metal from raw ore, but the phrase “slag heap” is used in some areas to mean a big pile of rock left over from ore mining—also called a "spoil bank" or "pit heap."
“Safety belts fastened?” –They haven’t been invented yet, though.
The first seat belts were invented by Englishman George Cayley (1773-1857) in the early 1800s; they were used to test his aircraft, including a biplane prototype and several models of early gliders. Car manufacturer Nash was the first to offer safety belts as an option in 1949; Saab was the first to make them standard in 1958.
Ron Howard pops the clutch and tells the moon to eat my dust.
Eat My Dust! is 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 the movie in exchange for the chance to star in and direct a subsequent film, Grand Theft Auto (1977). It was his directorial debut; he has since gone on to direct many high-profile and critically acclaimed films, including Cocoon (1985), Apollo 13 (1995), and A Beautiful Mind (2001), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director.
Hey, look, it’s Aaron Spelling’s house. –That place sure isn’t up to code.
Aaron Spelling (1923-2006) was a film and television producer known for Charlie’s Angels, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Beverly Hills 90210, and many more. Spelling’s mansion in Los Angeles, dubbed The Manor, drew criticism for its size (123 rooms; 56,500 square feet) and ostentatiousness when it was built in 1988 at a cost of $12 million. In 2011 heiress Petra Stunt bought it for $85 million—which was well below the initial asking price of $150 million.
It’s Three Rivers Stadium.
Three Rivers Stadium was located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and served as the home to both the Pittsburgh Pirates (baseball) and Pittsburgh Steelers (football) from 1970 until 2000, when it was demolished.
[Screen credit: “Norris Culf.”] Robert Culf’s smarter brother.
Robert Culp (1930-2010) was an actor best known for his roles on the television spy series I Spy (1965-1968) and The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983). The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother is a 1975 musical comedy movie written and directied by Gene Wilder, his directorial debut. Wilder also stars, along with Marty Feldman, Madeline Khan, and Dom DeLuise.
Nadine Hart of Rodgers and Hart.
Rodgers and Hart were a prolific songwriting duo in the early 20th century. Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) was the composer and Lorenz Hart (1895-1943) was the lyricist. Some of their most enduring songs include “Manhattan,” “Isn’t It Romantic?” and “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.”
Jennifer DeLora. She’s a DeLorean.
The DeLorean Motor Company is the name of a short-lived auto manufacturer that lasted from 1975 to 1982 and produced only a single vehicle: the DMC-12, made famous thanks to the 1985 film Back to the Future. Its founder, John DeLorean (1925-2005), struggled in the later days of his company and was accused of drug trafficking, charges he successfully fought in court by arguing the government had entrapped him.
Angelika Jager. She’s playing the big-lipped woman.
A reach, but a reference, nonetheless, to Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger, who famously has a big mouth.
Cynthia DePaula. Good school. Great basketball team.
DePaul University is a college founded in 1898 in Chicago, Illinois. The DePaul Blue Demons men’s basketball team, is, in fact, revered in the NCAA despite having won only one national championship, in 1945.
Tim Kincaid. Reuben Kincaid’s smarter brother.
Reuben Kincaid was the name of the Partridge Family’s manager on the sitcom of that name, which ran from 1970-1974. Kincaid was played by Dave Madden.
A parking ramp in Cincinnati. –I think it looks more like a roller coaster. Like, Six Flags Over Armageddon? –Armageddon tired of this already.
Cincinnati, located in southwestern Ohio, is the largest city in that state, with a metropolitan area population of 2.1 million in 2010. Six Flags is a chain of amusement parks that includes Six Flags Over Texas, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Six Flags Great America, among many others. Armageddon is a prophesied epic battle mostly associated with religions, such as Christianity, that have “end time” beliefs.
Inspected by number 12. –Couldn’t he get arrested for pulling that tag off? –Only if he was wearing a mattress. –Ah.
Commercials for Hanes underwear throughout the 1980s featured one of their garment inspectors, Inspector 12, as she hectored her fellow inspectors into doing a good job to ensure that their underwear was the best, hassling tough guys about the durability of Hanes underwear, and so on. Inspector 12 was played by Polly Rowles (1914-2001). The “mattress tag” thing is actually a myth. Though the large tags read something along the lines of “This tag may not be removed under penalty of law,” the warning is directed at the manufacturers and retailers, to prevent them from passing off old mattresses as new ones, as they had in the past. In 1973, the phrase “except by the consumer” was added, but that hasn’t cut down on the jokes.
Looks like the sad future of the WWF.
The World Wrestling Federation was founded in 1952 by Jess MacMahon and Toots Mondt as the Capitol Wrestling Corporation. In 1963, it was renamed the World Wide Wrestling Federation. In 1979 the organization dropped the “Wide” from its name, becoming simply the WWF. Unfortunately, in 2000, the World Wide Fund for Nature sued, saying they had copyrighted “WWF” first, and won the case. Beginning in 2002, the organization changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
Because, as we all know, to air is human.
A pun on a famous bit of poetic philosophy published in 1711 as part of An Essay on Criticism, written by Alexander Pope. The original line is “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
Oh God, I need this job. –Hey, am I my resumé?
Lines from the song “I Hope I Get It,” from the 1975 Marvin Hamlisch/Edward Kleban musical A Chorus Line.
Where’s Bobby Heenan when you need him?
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan (derisively called “The Weasel”) is a former wrestling manager and commentator famous for always rooting for the “heel” (that is, the bad guy of the match). He had a long on-air feud with co-announcer (and real-life close friend) Gorilla Monsoon. He spent two decades with the American Wrestling Association and another two decades with the WWF and WCW.
I wonder what would happen if there were card chairs after the apocalypse?
In wrestling matches, it is common for folding, or “card,” chairs to be used against opponents.
Arsenio Hall is an actor and talk-show host best known for his late-night talk show The Arsenio Hall Show, which aired from 1989-1994.
Freebot! Freebot! Freebot!
“Freebird” (or “Free Bird”) is one of the best known and most requested songs by the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, featured on their 1973 debut album Pronounced Lynyrd Skynyrd. Beginning in the very early ‘70s, audiences would yell out requests for the Allman Brothers song “Whipping Post” at concerts of any artist, regardless of genre. This dubious pop culture joke continued with “Freebird” a few years later and has since overshadowed its predecessor.
You know, this movie’s no Rocky, you guys. –Thank goodness.
Rocky is a 1976 drama written by and starring Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, a poor Philadelphia boxer who works his way up to the world heavyweight championship fight against Apollo Creed. It won three Oscars and earned more than $225 million on a budget of less than $1 million.
Looks like they patched into a Metallica video, you guys.
Metallica is a heavy metal band founded in 1981. One of the best-selling rock acts ever, Metallica had major hits with 1985’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and 1991’s “Enter Sandman.” They drew the ire of tech-savvy fans when they successfully sued free music-sharing service Napster in 2000, forcing it into bankruptcy. Napster reorganized as an online music store and merged with Rhapsody in 2011.
I’m gonna die if they start dancing cheek to cheek all of a sudden.
Named the number one song of 1935, “Cheek to Cheek” was written by Irving Berlin and performed by Fred Astaire, singing to Ginger Rogers, in the movie Top Hat.
“No, he’s our brother!” –He ain’t heavy.
“He Ain’t Heavy ... He’s My Brother” is a popular ballad written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell in 1969. It was first recorded that year by Kelly Gordon, but it became a hit for The Hollies later that year. In 1970, Neil Diamond recorded a version that also climbed the charts. The title of the song comes from Boys Town, a home for troubled children founded in 1917 in Omaha, Nebraska. In the 1920s, one of the boys at the home had leg braces and had difficulty walking, so the other boys would take turns carrying him on their backs. A statue of a boy carrying another on his back with the legend “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” stands at Boys Town today; the image has become the home’s logo.
Hey, it’s Miles Davis.
Miles Davis (1926-1991) was a jazz trumpeter who played a seminal role in jazz movements in the 1950s and 1960s and is regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.
Didn't they say? “No winter?” –“No dinner,” I think. –I don’t think they want Edgar Winter to play. –No acting! No acting! –Jonathan Winters.
Edgar Winter is an albino blues/jazz/experimental musician. He has frequently performed with his older brother, musician Johnny Winter. His best-known song is “Frankenstein,” which hit number one in 1973. Jonathan Winters is an actor and comedian famous for roles in Mork & Mindy, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming.
The Iran hostage crisis lasted 444 days, from November 1979 until January 1981. Fifty-two Americans in the American embassy in Tehran were held by Islamic militants to support the Iranian Revolution and in retaliation for the United States’ support of the Shah of Iran, who had recently been overthrown in a coup. The episode was in many Americans’ minds when they went to the polls in November 1980 and voted for Ronald Reagan over President Jimmy Carter. Negotiations continued after failed rescue attempts and finally, the American delegation agreed to the Algiers Accords, which unfroze Iranian assets and promised that the U.S. would no longer interfere in internal Iranian affairs. As a final “screw you” to Carter, the hostages were released right after Reagan completed his inauguration speech. There have been numerous allegations over the decades since that Reagan’s campaign negotiated with the Iranians to delay the hostages’ release and help him win the election, a theory referred to as the “October Surprise.”
Peas and carrots. Peas and carrots.
Along with “rhubarb” and “watermelon,” “peas and carrots” is one of those phrases that background extras are often told to mutter among themselves as a way to simulate conversation in television shows and films.
Is that George Bush?
George H.W. Bush was the 41st president of the United States, from 1989 to 1993. From 1981 to 1989, he served as vice president under Ronald Reagan. He is also a World War II veteran, former ambassador, former congressman, and former director of the CIA. Given that this episode aired in 1990, they could not be referring to George W. Bush (43rd president, 2001-2009, and H.W.’s son).
Oh, she’s wearing a Beltone.
Beltone is a hearing aid manufacturer founded by Sam Posen in Chicago in 1940.
“Cooties” is a childhood name for an imagined infectious disease, usually spread among “undesirable” playmates. It’s possible that the fear of being touched by someone with “cooties” goes back to lice or fleas, and the first known published use of the word came in 1917 in relation to illnesses and parasites related to trench warfare. The word “cooties” is believed to have come from the Polynesian word “kutu,” meaning “lice.”
Hey, it’s a young Robin Williams on the right there.
Robin Williams (1951-2014) was an actor and comedian who got his start on the TV series Mork & Mindy and later appeared in a variety of movies both serious and comic.
I can’t believe they call wait on me again. Get the camera off of me.
Call waiting is a function available on landline telephones since the 1970s. If one person is on a call with another person and a third tries to call, the line beeps, causing a temporary dropout in the signal. The person being called could tap the cradle to speak to the third caller, while the person being “call waited” sat in limbo until the other two finished talking. By the 1980s, the practice was considered impolite, but many people did it anyway. It continues today in our cell phone culture.
[Sung.] Take my hand, I’m a stranger in paradise.
A line from the song “Stranger in Paradise,” from the 1953 musical Kismet, written by Robert Wright, George Forrest, and Alexander Borodin. Six versions hit the charts in 1955, including recordings by Bing Crosby and Tony Bennett. Sample lyrics: “Take my hand/I'm a stranger in Paradise/All lost in a wonderland/A stranger in paradise.”
Go to the UN Building. It’s filled with people. Behind you.
The United Nations Headquarters is a complex in New York City that serves as the headquarters for the UN, natch. It was designed by Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier and completed in 1952. It features the 39-story Secretariat Building and the saddle-shaped General Assembly building, among others.
Maybe they’re looking for the Renaissance Festival.
One of many references to Renaissance Festivals (or Faires) over the life of MST3K. They 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.
And over here, we did Shakespeare in the Slagheap. It was very nice.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was one of the most influential writers in English history. He wrote 38 plays and more than 150 sonnets and poems. Thanks to his writings, whole genres of dramatic presentation were opened up and thousands of words and expressions coined. “Shakespeare in the Park” is a generic name given to hundreds of free public outdoor performances of the Bard’s works around the world; the famous one in New York City’s Central Park has boasted performances by George C. Scott, James Earl Jones, Patrick Stewart, and Meryl Streep, among many others.
Follow the yellow brick road. –Follow the yellow brick road.
A reference to the golden walkway leading from Munchkinland to the Emerald City in the 1900 L. Frank Baum novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, several of its sequels, and most film adaptations of the work. “Follow the yellow brick road” is a specific line repeated by Munchkins to Dorothy several times in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
They finally found the path again. If I was skeptical, I’d say that was Central Park.
Central Park, a park on the island of Manhattan in New York City, is one of the greatest public spaces in the country. The 770-acre park opened in 1873, and is currently visited by thirty-five million people every year.
Look, it’s The Bangles. –No, it’s the road show of Cats. –No, they’re at the Winter Garden. –I’ll be back again and again.
The Bangles were a girl band during the 1980s who hit it big with songs like “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Manic Monday.” Cats is a stage musical by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics supplied by poet T.S. Eliot (from his collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). It opened in London in 1981 and ran for nearly 9,000 performances before closing in 2002. Its New York production, which ran from 1982-2000, was one of Broadway’s longest-running shows. The Winter Garden Theatre is one of Broadway’s most famous theaters; its longest-running tenant was Cats. It was built in 1896 to be the home of the American Horse Exchange, and it was redesigned and opened as a theater in 1911. The line “I’ll be back again and again” was often heard in television ads for Cats that ran in the 1980s, spoken by enthusiastic theatergoers.
Here’s my mark. –Here’s mine. –And that’s my mark. –And I'm here. Everybody stay on camera.
A “mark” in filmmaking parlance is the place where an actor is supposed to stand, usually denoted by a piece of tape on the floor or ground that is (supposed to be) outside the camera frame.
Is that Wendy or Lisa?
Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, known professionally as Wendy & Lisa, were members of Minneapolis musician 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.
They’re gonna play mumbley-peg?
Mumbley-peg (or mumblety-peg) was a game played in the 19th century by children with pocketknives. Mark Twain mentions the game being played at Tom Sawyer’s school in Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896). A peg was driven into the ground, and then the two players stood opposite each other and took turns throwing their knives into the ground as close to their own feet as possible. The person who got the closest (even to the point of stabbing themselves) won, and the loser had to extract the peg from the ground with their teeth. (Sometimes the game was played so that the players had to stick the knife near their opponent’s feet instead of their own.) Apparently, parents got wind of this in the early 20th century, and the game faded away.
You know, the more things change the more they stay the same. –Like the way guys and gals get together and just love. –Central Park hasn’t really changed either.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same” is the standard English translation of a famous epigram by French journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808-1890): “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” See note on Central Park, above.
David Lee Roth!
David Lee Roth is a singer who rose to fame with the rock group Van Halen from 1978 to 1985 and then had a good solo career for a few years thereafter. He rejoined Van Halen in 2006 after more than two decades apart. This particular exclamation of his name is due to the cover for his first solo album, 1986’s Eat ‘Em and Smile, which featured Roth’s face in vibrant tribal paint and feathers.
Emmett Kelly (1898-1979) was a clown; his persona of “Weary Willie,” the tramp clown, was famous around the world from his work in a variety of circuses, but especially the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, which he performed in for fourteen seasons. His most famous routine involved him trying to “sweep” his spotlight into a dustpan.
Look at that. She’s stuffing Kleenex. –What a time to get a cold.
Kleenex is a brand of facial tissue made by Kimberly-Clark. It was introduced in 1924 and has become an informal brand eponym for all such facial tissues. “Stuffing Kleenex” refers to the practice of young women putting tissues in their brassieres to enhance their attributes.
James Bond is the name of the fictional British spy created by author Ian Fleming in 1953. The character appeared in twelve novels and several short stories as well as more than twenty (official) films from Eon Productions; the first, Dr. No, came out in 1962.
But I kinda like the chains. You know, you look familiar. Were you in Yards of Leather?
Yards of Leather is the name of a bondage-centric pornographic film apparently invented by Best Brains and referenced on occasion, because I can’t find a real movie (porn or otherwise) by that name.
Torque? Oh, that’s what happened to Peter Tork. He’s doing rubber suit work after the Monkees broke up. It’s interesting. –I knew that haircut would come back.
Peter Tork (along with Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Mike Nesmith) was a member of the 1960s pop group The Monkees.
Let go of me, muslin face.
Muslin is a fabric made out of loosely woven cotton. It was used as long ago as ancient Greece, though it was nearly forgotten in Europe until the 17th century, when it was reintroduced by Middle Eastern traders. Occasionally, “muslin” is used as slang for a ship’s sails.
Hey, it’s Shelley Duvall.
Shelley Duvall is a slender actress whose best-known role is as Wendy Torrance in the 1980 horror film The Shining and, appropriately enough, as Olive Oyl in Popeye.
When the Writers Guild of America goes on strike, movies tend to be put on hold, but some TV shows will soldier on, often with a noticeable drop in quality. Writers' strikes have occurred in 1960 and 1981, with particularly long ones taking place in 1988 and 2007-2008.
Kukla, Fran and Ollie is a television show featuring puppets that aired from 1947 to 1957. It was originally produced for children, but adults were soon attracted to it as well, including such luminaries as Orson Welles, John Steinbeck, and Adlai Stevenson.
You can't make me, you can't make me!
A classic bit of comedy shtick popularized by Bob Denver as Gilligan in the TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island (see below note). When Gilligan was being urged to do something outrageous, such as dress up in a grass skirt and coconut brassiere, he would repeat “You can’t make me, you can’t make me!” –followed by a jump cut to Gilligan dressed in a grass skirt and coconut brassiere. The technique became so firmly associated with the show it is now known as a “Gilligan cut.”
See above note.
Which one of them is Ginger and which is Mary Ann?
Gilligan’s Island was a CBS sitcom that aired from 1964 to 1967 about a group of people stranded on an island after their boat wrecked during a storm. The premise was stretched beyond credulity in a 1974-1977 Filmation animated series, three reunion films (including the improbable The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island), and the 1982-1983 animated series Gilligan’s Planet, set in space. Mary Ann Summers, played by Dawn Wells, was a country girl who always managed to scrounge together the ingredients for pies. Ginger Grant, played by Tina Louise in the show and other actresses in the subsequent series and films, was a movie star who, for some reason, packed hundreds of outfits for her three-hour boat trip.
He got smeared with Rust-Oleum.
Rust-Oleum is a company founded in 1921 by sea captain Robert Fergusson that makes protective paints and sealants. It was a family-owned company until 1994.
Don't touch my hair. I work hard on my hair.
In the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever, Tony Manero (played by John Travolta) is fussing over the styling of his hair before going out dancing. His father keeps hitting his coif during family dinner until Tony explodes. Actual line: “Would ya just watch the hair. Ya know, I work on my hair a long time and you hit it. He hits my hair.”
And you can get those little cow cream pitchers.
You would not believe how many different cow-shaped cream pitchers there are. They appear to date back to the early 18th century, when they were popularized by Dutch silversmith John Schuppe, who sold them to the British gentry. The great Staffordshire potteries began manufacturing ceramic cow creamers for the masses, and the rest is history.
Looks like a lava lamp. Oh, it's the Dark One.
Lava lamps are an icon of 1960s culture, featuring a diamond-shaped glass tube filled with colored water and a waxy ooze that, when heated by a light bulb, flows around the lamp in undulating patterns that are extremely fascinating to people under the influence of mind-altering chemicals. Lava lamps are still sold; they are made by Lava Lite in the U.S. and Mathmos in the rest of the world.
She looks like the new Lily Munster.
Lily Munster is the vampiric matriarch of the monstrous Munster family on the television show The Munsters. She was played by Yvonne De Carlo (1922-2007) in the original series (1964-1966) and a reunion movie (1981). In the revival show The Munsters Today (1988-1991), she was played by onetime Catwoman and Miss America Lee Meriwether. In two later TV movies, the character was played by Veronica Hamel and Ann Magnuson.
“We have nothing to fear ...” –But fear itself.
“The only thing we have to fear is (pause) fear itself,” is a famous line from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inauguration in March 1933. At the time, the country was gripped in the depths of the Great Depression, and Roosevelt was attempting to steel his listeners’ resolve for the difficult task that lay ahead.
Then send Dolenz and Nesmith, too.
See above note on The Monkees.
Number nine, number nine, number nine.
A reference to the song “Revolution 9” by The Beatles, which appears on the 1968 album The Beatles (a.k.a. “The White Album”). It is eight minutes and twenty-two seconds long, the longest track the group ever released. It was performed by John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison, even though the composer credit reads “Lennon/McCartney.” In fact, Paul McCartney tried his best to keep it off the album. Often referred to as “avant garde,” or “crap,” the composition includes odd musical sweeps, random noises, distortion, and the repeated phrase “Number nine, number nine ...” The song also fueled the “Paul is dead” rumors that were circulating at the time of its release, because the “number nine” part of the track sounds like “Turn me on, dead man” when played backwards.
Revive with Vivarin!
Vivarin is an over-the-counter caffeine pill, similar to NoDoz. “Revive with Vivarin” was their ad campaign’s tagline for many years.
Yeah, do you know Elmer Fudd? What about Barbara Walters, Truman Capote, Daffy Duck?
Elmer Fudd is a character with a speech impediment in Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons: a hunter usually pitted against Bugs Bunny. He first appeared in 1940’s Elmer’s Candid Camera and was voiced by Arthur Q. Bryan from 1940 to 1959. After Bryan’s death, he was voiced by Hal Smith, Mel Blanc, Jeff Bergman, Greg Burson, and Billy West. Barbara Walters is a journalist who first rose to prominence as an anchor on NBC’s Today show (from 1961-1976) and then later as an anchor on ABC Evening News (1976-1978) and ABC’s 20/20 (1984-2004). She is famous for her in-depth interviews with celebrities and world leaders, as well as her odd manner of speaking, which was mocked effectively by Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live with a character named Baba Wawa. Truman Capote (1924-1984) was an author and actor best known for writing Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood. He is also remembered for his odd voice. Daffy Duck is another Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes character. He first appeared in the 1937 short Porky’s Duck Hunt. Daffy was, initially, very screwball in his antics; he evolved over the next decade or so to become an angry foil for Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and other characters. He was voiced by Mel Blanc until Blanc’s death in 1989. Later voice actors included Jeff Bergman, Joe Alaskey, Greg Burson, and Dee Bradley Baker.
Gee, I know there’s an E-Z Mart around here somewhere. If only we could find the city.
E-Z Mart is a Texas-based chain of convenience stores with hundreds of locations throughout the Midwest.
Greystoke, do something! C’mon, little buddy!
A reference to Tarzan, the fictional British character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, who was marooned in the jungles of Africa when he was a baby. His given name is John Clayton, Lord Greystoke. In 1984, a film titled Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes was released, starring Christopher Lambert as the title character.
I knew bolos were popular but (gag). –He really wears it well.
Bolo ties (or shoestring ties) are synonymous with Western wear and date back to the late 1800s. Bolas, on the other hand, are connected cords with weighted balls at each end that wrap around the body of the opponent when thrown properly. Ancient versions have been found in South America.
Oh, it’s a spare. Gutter head.
In bowling, two rolls of the ball are allowed to each player each frame. If on the first roll the player fails to knock down all of the pins but succeeds on the second roll, then that player scores a spare. This means that the person has scored ten points for the frame, plus the number of pins knocked down on his or her next roll.
Hey, it’s a Billy Idol video. –They’re just dancing with theirselves.
Billy Idol is a rock musician who hit it big in the 1980s with hits like “White Wedding,” “Rebel Yell,” and “Dancing with Myself.” The music video for the last song has Idol performing for a rag-clad audience in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
She studied under Buckwheat, I guess.
Buckwheat is a character in the Our Gang (syndicated as The Little Rascals) series of shorts from 1934 to 1944; he is remembered for his wild hair, occasionally bugged-out eyes, and odd speech inflections. He was played by Billie Thomas (1931-1980). In the early 1980s, the character was revived in the public consciousness thanks to a series of sketches on Saturday Night Live starring Eddie Murphy as Buckwheat.
Now where is that city? –Queens is back there behind ya there.
Queens is the largest (geographically, if not by population) of New York City’s five boroughs. Located on the west end of Long Island, Queens has a population of more than two million, nearly half of whom are foreign-born. Its residents come from more than a hundred nations.
Scarecrow? Tin Man? Lion?
A reference to three lead characters in the aforementioned Wizard of Oz books and films.
Hey, who’s the guy in the Huggies? –That Depends. –Oh, stop it.
Huggies is a brand of disposable diaper made by Kimberly-Clark. They were test marketed in 1968 but not sold until 1978. Depend undergarments are a brand of adult incontinence products first sold in 1984.
Worst matte painting yet.
In filmmaking, matte paintings are backgrounds that are created as a kind of special effect, sometimes at the same time the actors are being filmed and sometimes as a post-production effect. For most of the past century of filmmaking, they were hand painted on glass, which was placed in front of the camera while an unpainted section framed the actors. More recently, matte paintings have been produced on computers after filming.
[Imitating Underdog.] In this compartment of my ring I fill, with a proton super energy pill. –Thank you, shoeshine. You are humble and skeletal.
Underdog is an animated superhero (voiced by Wally Cox) whose series ran from 1964 until 1973. A simple shoeshine dog, he became Underdog when he swallowed his pill. (A bunch of cartoon heroes got superpowers from pills in those days. One, The Eighth Man, used cigarettes.) The pill was kept in his ring, and he declaimed when he took it: “The secret compartment of my ring I fill/With an Underdog super energy pill.” In the early 1970s, references to swallowing his pill and shots of him actually doing so were edited out of the episodes for the sake of the children.
It’s Jerry Garcia.
Jerry Garcia (1942-1995) was the lead singer of the Grateful Dead, a rock band from the heyday of the 1960s, though they remained active until Garcia’s death. Their biggest commercial hit, “Touch of Grey,” was released in 1987. They are mostly remembered for inspiring caravans of hippies to follow them on tour and for their absurdly long “jams.”
If you were a twee, what kind of twee would you be?
An imitation of the aforementioned Barbara Walters and a reference to her (in)famous interview with actress Katharine Hepburn in 1981. Walters said that Hepburn was a legend, and Hepburn replied that she was a tree. Walters then asked, “What kind of a tree are you, if you think you are a tree?” Hepburn’s reply: “I hope I’m not an elm with Dutch Elm disease, I don’t know. Because then I’m withering. Everybody would like to be an oak tree. Very strong. Very pretty.” Despite the fact that Hepburn was the first to bring up trees, Walters has been endlessly mocked for it ever since.
Ravi Shankar is an Indian musician known for his mastery of the sitar, a stringed instrument. His association with The Beatles during the 1960s helped introduce the West to Indian music.
Hey, it says, “Basement to the Alamo.” C’mon guys. Single file, don’t push. On your right, you’ll see the Alamo root cellar and on your left, the Alamo rumpus room. Watch your head there. There you go, Kai.
The Alamo is an old mission in San Antonio, Texas, that in 1836 was the site of a famous battle during the Texas war for independence. The Texans lost and were slaughtered, and the phrase “Remember the Alamo!” became a rallying cry for the war. The Alamo is located in downtown San Antonio and is a major tourist site. The reference to the Alamo’s basement comes from the 1985 Tim Burton film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. After Pee-wee’s bike is stolen, a fortune teller tells him it is in the Alamo’s basement, but the mission has no basement.
Aren’t you glad you use Dial? –Don’t you wish all subterraneans did? –You've got underworld wetness.
Dial was the first antibacterial soap made in the United States, in 1948. The longtime slogan for Dial, introduced in 1953, was “Aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everybody did?”
“If they knew we were coming…” They’d have baked a cake.
“If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake” was a number one hit song in 1950. Written by Al Hoffman, Bob Merrill and Clem Watts, the hit version was performed by Eileen Barton, with many cover versions over the years, including two versions on Sesame Street, both involving Cookie Monster. Sample lyrics: “Well, well, well, look who's here/I haven't seen you in many a year/If I knew you were comin' I'd 've baked a cake/baked a cake, baked a cake/If I knew you were comin' I'd 've baked a cake/How-ja do. How-ja do, How-ja do.”
[British accents.] Hello, Cleveland! Rock and roll! –Let’s do it!
A reference to the 1984 “mockumentary” This Is Spinal Tap, about a hapless heavy metal band. In one scene, the band gets hopelessly lost in a maze of corridors on their way to the stage for a concert in Cleveland.
The Nuge has a saggy diaper that leaks.
Ted Nugent is a rock guitarist and singer known for his wild ways. The cover of his 1980 album Scream Dream features Nugent in a loincloth not unlike Kai’s. A Pampers ad campaign in the 1980s expressed sympathy for any baby stuck in “a saggy diaper that leaks.”
Hey, Johnny. You headed over to TGI Smugglers tonight?
TGI Fridays is a middle-class restaurant that serves such things as potato skins, burgers, steaks, pasta, and mammoth desserts. It was started by Alan Stillman in New York in 1965.
How did Rosencrantz and Guildenstern get in this film?
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are characters in William Shakespeare’s classic play Hamlet. Childhood friends of Hamlet’s, they are working for Hamlet’s uncle as spies; a pretense through which the prince sees quickly. They are later dispatched on a mission to England, and Hamlet sends with them a note for the English king that the pair should be slain—a note originally intended for Hamlet himself. The characters later inspired two other plays: one by W. S. Gilbert (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) and one by Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead).
Listen to me. I was in Godspell once.
Godspell is a musical by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew. It first opened off-Broadway in 1971. The show ran off-Broadway for five years and finally made it to Broadway in 1976, where it ran for more than 500 performances.
Is he wearing the shirt that Brando wore in Streetcar Named Desire? –Yep.
Marlon Brando (1924-2004) was an award-winning actor who starred in such films as The Godfather, On the Waterfront, and The Wild One. A Streetcar Named Desire is a 1947 play by Tennessee Williams that was made into a film in 1951, starring Brando, Vivien Leigh, and Karl Malden. In the famous scene in which Brando melodramatically shrieks “Stellaaaaa!”, he is clad in a torn T-shirt, which is falling off one shoulder.
[British accents.] Hello, Cleveland! –Rock and roll! –Let’s do it!
See above note on Spinal Tap.
Could you get my lighter when you’re down there? –C’mon, you goldbricker, get up. You’re not hurt. Come on, shake it off. Wuss.
“Goldbricking” is an old slang phrase for someone who is loafing around on the job. Originally, it meant someone who was defrauding you. This stemmed from an incident in 1879 when a miner wasn’t able to deliver as much gold as he promised and therefore coated a worthless brick with what little gold he had to fool the banker. Later on, in World War I, civilians with little training promoted to first lieutenants were very often incompetent and shirked their duties. Enlisted men called them “goldbrickers” because their rank insignia was a single gold bar; thus the idea of someone being a fraud was combined with not doing their fair share.
He’s the crawdaddy. –He’d be great with drawn butter. –Or cocktail sauce. –He’s a Crustafarian. –You serve him with red, red wine.
Crawdaddy—along with crawdad, mudbug and mountain lobster—is another name for crayfish, a freshwater crustacean that resembles a small lobster. “Crustafarian” is an obvious play on “Rastafarian,” or a follower of the Jamaican religious movement Rastafari. It began in the 1930s thanks to Marcus Garvey, a “back to Africa” advocate, and Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, whom Rastafarians revere as a reincarnation of Jesus Christ (also known as “Jah”). Dreadlocks and the spiritual use of marijuana are strongly associated with the faith. “Red Red Wine” is a 1968 song written and recorded by Neil Diamond. The most famous version, however, had a reggae flavor and was released by the group UB40 in 1983. That one bested Diamond’s version, topping charts around the world.
[British accent.] Hello, Cleveland! Rock and roll. Let’s do it, Cleveland.
See above note on Spinal Tap.
Aren’t they the kids from Fame? –They’re gonna dance forever. We’re gonna learn how to cry. –I just hope they don’t get to a lunch room.
Fame is a 1980 musical film about students at the New York High School of Performing Arts (a real place). The film spawned two sequel TV series (1982-1987; 1997-1998), a traveling stage version of the film, and a big screen remake in 2009. The original film included a theme song by Irene Cara, titled “Fame,” which was a hit on its own and won an Oscar for Best Original Song. The lyrics included these lines: “Fame/I’m gonna live forever/I’m gonna learn how to fly/(High)/I feel it coming together/People will see me and cry.” The “lunch room” comment refers to the film, as the school’s cafeteria was often the site for some “spontaneous” singing and dancing.
Oh, hi ya, Crusty. –Hello, Ladyfish.
In the 1964 live action/animated film The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Don Knotts fell into the ocean and somehow was transformed into the titular cartoon fish. With glasses. He befriended a hermit crab named Crusty (voiced by Paul Frees) and the cleverly named Ladyfish (voiced by Elizabeth MacRae). Limpet’s adventures under the sea included fighting Nazi submarines. I’m not kidding.
A Cylon wannabe.
In the original Battlestar Galactica television series (1978-1979), Cylons were a reptilian alien race at war with the Twelve Colonies of Man. The Cylons were nearly extinct in the series, but their chrome-covered robotic creations continued to fight humanity. Cylons have been remembered for decades as the shiny robots with a single scanning red eye that carried laser rifles and swords and were generally badass. In the 2003-2009 “reimagined” series, the robotic Cylons were made the creation of humanity that revolted against their masters.
Wouldn’t it be funny if they ran into master carpenter Norm Abramson (sic)? –[Imitating.] What we’re doing here, Bob, is, uh, we got this little robot problem.
Norm Abram (not Abramson) is a carpenter and television personality who has appeared on the PBS home improvement show This Old House since 1979 and has always been called “master carpenter.” Abram got his own show, The New Yankee Workshop, in 1989, which ran until 2009.
They look like Heart, the rock group. –Kinda. The Wilson sisters there? –Oh yeah.
Heart is a rock band fronted by Ann and Nancy Wilson. The group was formed in 1973 and has had several hits, including “Magic Man,” “Barracuda,” and “Crazy on You.”
You got a blemish there. –It’s a robo-shanker. –He used to play with The Beatles. –Robo-shanker?
The Beatles were, arguably, the most influential popular music group of all time. The members were Paul McCartney, John Lennon (1940-1980), George Harrison (1943-2001), and Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey). Stuart Sutcliffe (1940-1962) left the group in 1961, and Pete Best was fired and replaced by Ringo in 1962. They were active from 1960 to 1970 and had twenty number one singles in the U.S. and seventeen in the U.K. To this day, they are, by far, the best-selling group in popular music. See above note on Ravi Shankar.
Some of us are Equity.
The Actors’ Equity Association, generally referred to simply as Equity, is an American labor union that represents live theatrical performers, as opposed to film and television actors. It was formed in 1913 and boasts more than 49,000 members.
[Sung.] The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout ...
“Itsy Bitsy Spider” (a.k.a. “Eency Weency Spider,” “Ipsy Dipsy Spider,” etc.) is a children’s nursery rhyme and song that was first published in the early 20th century.
[Imitating.] Oh, Mata. Lancelot? Lancelot? Come back, you dummkopf, come back here!
Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp was a Saturday morning, live-action program that aired on ABC from 1970 to 1972. It featured chimpanzees with dubbed voices in a Get Smart-esque spy comedy. Lancelot Link (played by Tonga and voiced by Dayton Allen) was portrayed with a variation on Humphrey Bogart’s delivery. Link’s partner was Mata Hairi (played by Debbie and voiced by Joan Gerber). Their primary enemy was Baron von Butcher (voiced by Bernie Kopell), who spoke with an exaggerated German accent. “Dummkopf” translates literally as “stupid head.”
Well, my friend has Bob Fosse’s home number.
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).
And Ramses said to build a city.
Ramses (or Ramesses) is a common name among Egyptian pharaohs, and may refer here to Ramses II (a.k.a. Ramses the Great; c. 1303-1213 B.C.), who was well-known for his push to build more cities throughout his reign. Ramses II is also believed by many to be the pharaoh depicted in the biblical story of the Exodus.
My favorite food? Cherry Pez, no question about it.
A paraphrased line from the 1986 film Stand By Me: “If I could only have one food to eat for the rest of my life? That’s easy. Pez. Cherry flavor Pez. No question about it.” Pez is a hard candy that comes in a variety of plastic dispensers, many with cartoon characters on them. It is manufactured by Pez Candy Inc. The candy itself was created in Austria in 1927; the dispensers were first made in 1945; heads were first placed on those dispensers in 1955.
Then we can make some s’mores.
S’mores are a favorite campfire snack, consisting of a toasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate (ideally Hershey’s) sandwiched between two halves of a graham cracker. Its origin is unclear, but recipes have appeared as early as 1927. The origin of the name is a bit more obvious: a contraction of “some more.”
There’s the Nuge. Locked, cocked, ready to rock. –Dude, dog scratch ... no, cat scratch! I’ve gotta go tell somebody! Cat scratch fever, this is great!
“Cat Scratch Fever” is a song by Ted Nugent, off the 1977 album of the same name.
You think they shop at the same place Mad Max does?
Mad Max is a 1979 movie starring the then-unknown Mel Gibson as a punkish anti-hero in a post-apocalyptic world. The film spawned two successful sequels: The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Hey, I had a dream about a big doughnut like that. –You know what that means. –He was hungry? –Sometimes a doughnut is just a doughnut. –It’s the wheel of misfortune. –Looks like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.
The phrase “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” is attributed (without substantive evidence) to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), generally considered the father of psychoanalysis. He was a firm believer in analyzing one’s dreams to gain insight into the unconscious, and he placed a heavy emphasis on phallic imagery. Wheel of Fortune is a long-running syndicated television game show, which first aired in 1975. The Disneyland theme park was opened by the Walt Disney Company in 1955 in Anaheim, California. Pirates of the Caribbean is an attraction consisting of animatronic pirates at Disneyland and three other parks. It first opened in 1967. The ride has since spawned a franchise of feature films, novels, video games, and more.
It’s Rex Smith.
Rex Smith is an actor and singer known for his 1979 top ten hit “You Take My Breath Away” and his role in the 1985 TV series Street Hawk, in which he played motorcycle vigilante Jesse Mach.
Kitty! Bad kitty.
One of the oldest running gags on the show. According to Trace Beaulieu, Crow simplified the entire animal kingdom into either “doggies” or “kitties,” though most of the time he just said “kitty.” This dates back to the earliest of the KTMA episodes.
[British accents.] Rock and roll! –Let’s do it! –Cleveland!
See above note on Spinal Tap.
That woman changes clothes more often than Mary Tyler Moore. –Lord knows she’s got more pantsuits than Angie Dickinson.
Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017) was an actress best known for her eponymous TV series The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which aired from 1970-1977. She also appeared on The Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961-1966. Angie Dickinson is an actress who has appeared in more than a hundred movies and television shows, including Ocean’s 11 (1960), Police Woman (1974-1978), and Dressed to Kill (1980). It was her role as Sgt. Pepper Anderson in Police Woman that brought her a level of fame (?) for her revolving array of pantsuits.
She must’ve studied at the Gabor Institute of Acting and Attitude.
No doubt a reference to the Hungarian socialite/actress sisters trio of Eva, Zsa Zsa, and Magda Gabor. Eva (1919-1995), the youngest, is best remembered for her role on the sitcom Green Acres. Zsa Zsa (1917-2016), the middle child, is best remembered for her nine husbands and for slapping a cop in 1989. Magda (1915?-1997), the eldest, is best remembered for ... well, nothing you’ve ever seen.
Meanwhile, back in the basement ...
See above note on “Meanwhile ...”
Must’ve been something he ate. –Or something that ate him. –Well, somebody’s been watching Alien.
Alien is a classic 1979 sci-fi/horror film directed by Ridley Scott. Perhaps the most vividly remembered scene occurs around the dinner table when Kane (played by John Hurt) rejoins the crew after having been attacked by some sort of ... alien. While they’re all munching on spaghetti, gurgle, gurgle, pop: a tiny creature bursts from his chest and scampers off into the bowels of the ship, where he grows with amazing speed into a seven-foot-two-inch Nigerian design student in a rubber suit (Bolaji Badejo). The reactions of the cast in the chest-bursting scene are genuine: they had seen the creature’s designs, but they didn’t know it would be that gruesome.
Could we get some Pepto-Bismol? How about a flea collar?
Pepto-Bismol is an OTC medicine for relief of diarrhea and nausea invented in 1901 by a New York doctor. It is manufactured by Procter & Gamble.
Go touch the fence. –I’m not gonna touch it. You touch it. –Let’s get Michelle to touch it. She’ll touch anything.
A reference to an old TV ad for Life cereal, which ran from 1972-1984, making it one of the longest-lived commercials ever. In the ad, two boys are arguing over which of them has to try a new cereal first. Suddenly, inspiration strikes: they’ll get their younger brother, Mikey, to try it. “He hates everything!” Except Life cereal, evidently: “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!” The role of Mikey was played by John Gilchrist, who appeared in more than 250 commercials over his career; the older brothers were played by his actual siblings. Gilchrist now works as an advertising executive.
[Imitating Shaggy.] Oh, Scooby! We’ve gotta get outta here!
An imitation of Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, a scruffy, goateed character on the animated TV series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (CBS/ABC, 1969-1978). He was voiced by Casey Kasem, the well-known syndicated DJ.
What’d she say, Dark-tagnon?
Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d’Artagnan (1611-1673) is a historical figure who served in the court of French King Louis XIV as captain of his Musketeers, but he is better known as a lead character in a trilogy of works by Alexandre Dumas, including The Three Musketeers. (Did you know that Dumas cribbed much of his work from Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras’s novel Mémoires de M. d’Artagnan? Neither did I.) The character has appeared in more than two dozen fictionalized portrayals on both big screen and small. Famed actors who have played him include Douglas Fairbanks, Don Ameche, Gene Kelly, and Michael York.
A reference to the character John Dortmunder, created by Donald Westlake. He’s a career criminal who is the lead in a series of comic novels and short stories. He first appeared in 1970’s The Hot Rock.
An imitation of the “Necktie Killer” in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1972 film Frenzy.
Can the balloon juice, sparky. Just do something, will you?
Balloon juice is slang dating back to the early part of the 20th century that means nonsense talk; the phrase is derived from the “hot air” that fills the balloon.
The week before, that guy was playing Hamlet.
Hamlet is a play by William Shakespeare, written sometime around 1600. The title character is the Prince of Denmark, who discovers that his uncle, who has since married his widowed mother, murdered his father, the king. He spends the rest of the play deciding what to do about it.
Shouldn’t they get a wallet under his tongue or something? –It’s too late for that.
It has long been a misconception that when a person suffers an epileptic seizure, you should place something (a spoon, wallet, etc.) in their mouth to keep them from swallowing their tongue. In reality, a) you can’t swallow your tongue, and b) by putting something in their mouth, you may end up doing more harm than good. Instead, you should clear away any potentially dangerous objects they might hit while convulsing; after the seizure, place the person on their left side and stay with them until they recover.
[Sung.] Underoos are fun to wear ...
Underoos are a brand of children’s underwear produced by Fruit of the Loom and featuring various licensed designs ranging from Batman and Superman to the Dukes of Hazzard. They were first marketed in 1978. “Underoos are fun to wear” was part of the advertising jingle.
Hi ya, Crabby. –Ladyfish.
See above note on Mr. Limpet.
I guess he’s gonna penny them in there, and do the shaving cream under the door gag.
“Penny them in there” refers to a prank wherein the prankster jams as many pennies as possible between the door and the door jamb, above and below the handle, putting so much pressure on the handle mechanism that it becomes physically impossible for the person inside to open the door. A popular prank in college dorms, where the big, heavy doors tend to work well for this trick. "Shaving cream under the door” refers to another prank wherein a large envelope is filled with shaving cream and then the open end is slid under the door. The prankster then jumps onto the envelope so that the shaving cream is blasted into the victim’s room.
Take cover, quick before the RA gets here.
RA stands for Resident Assistant or Resident Advisor—a peer leader with a certain amount of training who supervises students in a residential hall at a college or university, or patients in a residential mental health or substance abuse facility.
Hey, looks like the set from The Wiz.
The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is a musical by Charlie Smalls that opened in 1974. Simply put, it was a contemporary, urban-set, and African-American–focused retelling of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. In 1978, a film version (just called The Wiz) was released. It starred Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as Tin Man, Ted Ross as Cowardly Lion, and Richard Pryor as the Wizard.
Spinach-chin, you go that way.
The Three Stooges was a slapstick comedy trio that performed for five decades in the 20th century. They got their start in a vaudeville act called Ted Healy & His Stooges. The lineup included mainstays Moe Howard (Moses Horwitz; 1897-1975) and Larry Fine (Louis Feinberg; 1902-1975), along with several other actors. “Spinach-chin” sounds like the kind of insult that Moe would heap upon his comrades, but in fact he used it once against a bearded man (played by regular Stooges foil Vernon Dent) in 1949’s Malice in the Palace.
It’s ze wango ze tango! We got ya Maserati!
A couple of lines from the 1980 Ted Nugent single “Wango Tango.” Maserati is an Italian car maker founded in 1914, known for their high-end vehicles. Since 1993, they have been owned by Fiat.
As a Gorgeous Lady Of Wrestling.
GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) was founded in 1986 during the heyday of the NWA, WCW, and WWF as wrestling grew once again in the public mindset. It was started by Jackie Stallone (mother of Sylvester) and David McLane. The heavily choreographed and over-the-top “bouts” were recorded in Las Vegas and then aired in syndication throughout the U.S. for four seasons, from 1986 to 1990. Some of the better names include Sally the Farmer’s Daughter, Big Bad Mama, and Matilda the Hun. GLOW was revived in 2001 and continues today as a small touring group.
If that thing goes off, you’ll be playing Vincent.
Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990) was a television drama that aired on CBS. Featuring a modern take on the fairy tale, it starred Linda Hamilton as Catherine (the Beauty) and Ron Perlman in cat-like makeup as Vincent (the Beast).
Martinis good for you guys?
Martinis are a genre of alcoholic cocktail made with gin and vermouth and usually garnished with olives or lemon rind. They were first served in the late 1800s.
That guy needs a Kleenex real bad.
See above note on Kleenex.
Oh, pulsating glass ball with hair like Sam Donaldson, please tell me what to do?
Sam Donaldson is a venerable television journalist who has appeared on ABC News in various positions since 1967. He anchored the Sunday Evening News, This Week, Primetime Live, and 20/20 before his retirement in 2009. It has frequently been suggested that Donaldson is, in fact, a Romulan.
That guy had a tough day. He’s off to Murray’s for a schmiddy.
Murray’s could be a reference to Murray’s Restaurant, a popular steakhouse and cocktail lounge in Minneapolis since 1946. “Schmiddy" is an Australian term—primarily used in Sydney—for a 12 oz glass of beer. There’s also a “pony” (5 oz), a “middy” (10 oz), and a “schooner” (15 oz).
Ever seen this one? I can walk the dog, too.
“Walk the dog” is a famous trick that can be performed with a yo-yo, in which the yo-yo hangs at the end of the string, spinning (a move called a “sleeper”), and then is lowered to the floor and allowed to move forward a short distance before being brought back up to the performer’s hand.
How much would you pay for this robot? Wait, stop. There’s more. It slices. It dices. It makes a great julienne fry.
A collection of tropes from various television commercials for products such as the Veg-O-Matic by Ronco. The phrase “But wait, there’s more” was used as far back as the 1950s in an ad featuring Ronco founder Ron Popeil. In ads for the Veg-O-Matic (released in 1963), Popeil said, “It slices; it dices; it makes julienne fries.”
In the future, all robots will act like Don Knotts.
Don Knotts (1924-2006) was a comedian who played a wide variety of roles over the course of his lengthy career. He is perhaps best known for his role as bumbling deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968) and as landlord Ralph Furley on the sitcom Three’s Company (1977-1984); he also appeared in a string of movies for Disney.
I saw Darth Vader do that once.
Darth Vader was the primary villain in the original trilogy of Star Wars films. He began life as Anakin Skywalker, a student of Obi-Wan Kenobi who was corrupted by the Dark Side of the Force to become a Dark Lord of the Sith, second only to his master, Emperor Palpatine (a.k.a. Darth Sidious). The man in the suit was most often Welsh bodybuilder David Prowse; his voice was provided by James Earl Jones.
She shouldn’t be by that Worthington machine. You know, those things are known to, uh, have a problem with their...uh, yeah.
The device they’re standing in front of may be a processing machine produced by Worthington Industries, founded in 1955.
She sounds kinda like an Obsession commercial.
Obsession is a fragrance sold by Calvin Klein beginning in 1985. In the late 1980s and into the ‘90s, commercials for the perfume were, shall we say, pretentious. Shot in black and white, slow motion, orchestral music, non sequitur dialogue. Mostly insufferable.
Aw, it’s the huge Nuge.
See above note on Ted Nugent.
That’s for R2-D2. That’s for C-3PO. That’s for Julie Newmar. And that’s just 'cause I wanna. What have I done?
R2-D2 is an Astromech droid that served the queen of Naboo and appeared in all six Star Wars films. R2 has a short, white body with blue accents and a rounded silver dome with blue accents and lights. It was controlled some of the time by a remote and other times with dwarf actor Kenny Baker inside. C-3PO is a protocol droid built by Anakin Skywalker on Tatooine that has also appeared in all six Star Wars films. It was humanoid in appearance with a primarily shiny, golden covering. C-3PO was both portrayed and voiced by Anthony Daniels. Julie Newmar is an actress and singer best known for playing Catwoman in the first two seasons of the ABC TV series Batman (1966-1968).
Aw, man, the huge Nuge. He’s got cat-scratch fever, right on his chest!
See above note on Ted Nugent.
Okay, well, you’re kinda cute. Kinda pretty. Drive a big car, too. And when I hold you in my arms I never know what to do.
A paraphrase of the first lines of the 1978 Stephen Bishop song "Save It for a Rainy Day": "Well she's kind of pretty/Drives a big car too/And when I hold her in my arms I never know what to do." (Thanks to Nate Jackson for this reference.)
It’s Eartha Kitt.
Eartha Kitt (1927-2008) was an actress and singer. Her most famous acting role came in the third season of the TV series Batman as Catwoman, and her biggest musical hit was 1953’s “Santa Baby.” Her career in the United States hit a decade-long roadblock beginning in 1968 when, at a White House luncheon, she harshly criticized the Vietnam War and reportedly made Lady Bird Johnson burst into tears.
Looks kinda like a Solid Gold dance routine.
Solid Gold was a syndicated TV series that ran from 1980 to 1988. It usually featured snippets from the Top 10 hits of the week, played while a bevy of dancers performed; it also sometimes had musicians as live guests.
C’mon, Edsel-head. Speak up.
The Edsel was a line of cars introduced in the late 1950s by Ford. They are generally considered to be a marketing disaster (because Ford never explicitly showed what the car looked like in ads), selling far fewer cars than was anticipated and being taken off the market within a few years. Ford invested nearly $400 million in the Edsel line and priced the basic models in the upper tier. Unfortunately, an economic recession hit in 1957 and the public couldn’t afford them. They should have taken a hint early on when Henry Ford II, grandson of the company’s founder, said he didn’t want his father’s first name used for the line, but Ford’s board overruled him.
Looks like something from One Fish, Two Fish.
Dr. Seuss’s One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish is a children’s book first published in 1960.
I am the eggman.
A line from the 1967 Beatles song “I Am the Walrus.” Sample lyrics: “Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come/Corporation T-shirt, stupid bloody Tuesday/Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long/I am the eggman, they are the eggmen/I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.”
Well, at least we know what McLean Stevenson’s been doing since M*A*S*H.
McLean Stevenson (1927-1996) played Lt. Col. Henry Blake, the commanding officer of the 4077th, on the television series M*A*S*H from 1972-1975. When the actor decided to leave the show, the writers had Blake’s plane shot down over the Sea of Japan. After M*A*S*H, he frequently appeared on TV game shows. He also served as the lead character in four failed television sitcoms over the next several years.
Hello, Larry (1979-1980) was one of McLean Stevenson’s failed sitcoms (see previous note), in which he played a radio show host. Critics reviled the show as unfunny and unlikeable, and Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show frequently skewered the show in his monologues. However, NBC’s ratings overall were so bad that the network actually gave the show a second season. To make the character more likeable, the storylines stayed away from the radio station and instead focused on Larry’s home life. In fact, NBC tried to prop up the show by placing it after one of their few hits, Diff’rent Strokes. They even went so far as to produce several crossover episodes, under the premise that Larry and Mr. Drummond (the adoptive father on Strokes, played by Conrad Bain) served in the military together. Didn’t work. Show got canned.
I’ve been wearing this ridiculous costume for hours. I’m cramping like Cathy Rigby.
Cathy Rigby is a gymnast and actress. She competed in the 1968 Olympics and won a silver medal at the 1970 World Championships. Before the 1972 Olympics, she was injured and unable to perform her more advanced routines to secure a medal that everyone believed she could win. She later became a commentator for ABC sports, appeared on an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, and began acting on stage, including a successful Broadway revival of Peter Pan in which she played the title role for over 30 years. In the 1980s, she spoke out about her difficulties with eating disorders and became a spokeswoman for Stayfree feminine hygiene products.
Crusty’s been watching old episodes of Mannix.
See above note on Mr. Limpet. Mannix was a television series starring Mike Connors (1925-2017) as Joe Mannix, a private eye in Los Angeles who indulged in frequent car chases, shootouts, and fistfights. It aired from 1967-1975. Mike Connors (under the name “Touch Connors”) appeared in Show 503, Swamp Diamonds.
“Run away!” was screamed by King Arthur (played by Graham Chapman) in the 1975 comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail as the French hurled cows at his party.
Nah, she's just got her beer goggles on.
“Beer goggles” is a slang term describing the lowering of sexual inhibitions thanks to alcohol consumption. Someone “wearing” beer goggles is inclined to find another person at least passably attractive who they wouldn’t be attracted to if they were sober.
Oh, what am I thinking. We’re on daylight savings. We have an hour still.
Daylight Saving Time, first instituted in the United States in 1918, is the practice of setting clocks forward one hour in the spring and back one hour in the fall. The rationale is to save energy by better aligning the hours most people are up and about with the hours the sun is up; indeed, it was originally introduced worldwide during World War I because nations needed to conserve energy for the war effort. DST has had a complicated history in America: it proved so unpopular that it was repealed in 1919, after the war ended; FDR reinstated it during World War II. In the postwar era, some states observed it and some did not, causing no end of confusion with railway timetables and whatnot; a coherent national schedule was not permanently achieved until 1966, although Congress has continued to tinker with the details over the years.
Look at me, I’m trying to have a fight and I’ve got Peter Pan here, hopping around.
Peter Pan is a character created by author J.M. Barrie that first appeared in 1902’s The Little White Bird. Peter is depicted as being a mischievous boy who was able to fly and never grow old. Barrie later wrote a play centered around the character that was a huge success; the book based on the play is a children’s classic.
That guy's been the sand in my shell long enough.
A variation on a line from the 1957 Broadway musical and 1962 film The Music Man. Actual line: “That fella's been the raspberry seed in my wisdom tooth long enough!”
Let’s see, the human goes through the hole, around the tank, uh ...
A riff on a mnemonic device, or memory trick, used to teach people how to tie a bowline knot. Imagining the end of the rope as a rabbit, one rhyming variation goes like this: "Up through the rabbit hole, round the big tree; down through the rabbit hole and off goes he."
That’s for Mrs. Paul. That’s for Gorton’s of Gloucester. That’s for Arthur Treacher. That’s for H. Salt. That’s for Filet-O-Fish.
Mrs. Paul’s is a brand of packaged seafood first produced in 1946. A power plant worker, Edward Piszek, and his friend, John Paul, sold crab cakes to earn extra money and found that frozen cakes tasted fine days later. They named the company after John’s mother when they got tired of Edward’s mom pressuring them to name it after her. Gorton’s of Gloucester is another frozen seafood company. It was started in 1874 by an out-of-work cotton mill superintendent in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Arthur Treacher’s is a chain of 40+ fast food restaurants that serve British-style fish and chips. It was named after an English character actor and opened in 1969. H. Salt Esq. is another fish & chips chain, this one founded in California in 1965 and still largely confined to that state. Filet-O-Fish is a fish sandwich sold by fast food chain McDonald’s. It was created in 1962 by a franchise owner in Cincinnati to appeal to Catholic customers who swore off meat on Fridays. (Thanks to Lynn Knott for the H. Salt reference.)
He’s Jack the Beanstalk.
“Jack and the Beanstalk” is a traditional English fairy tale dating back to the early 1800s (though oral versions go back much further), about a boy who climbs a magical beanstalk up into the sky and steals a hen that lays golden eggs.
This is what it sounds like when bulbs cry.
A paraphrase of a line from Prince’s 1984 song “When Doves Cry.” Actual lyrics: “Why do we scream at each other?/This is what it sounds like/When doves cry.”
This looks like the locker room for American Gladiators. –Smells like it.
American Gladiators is a syndicated show that aired from 1989 to 1996. It featured a pair of amateur athletes competing in a series of contests against professional wrestler types with names like Turbo and Nitro. The coolest round had to be Assault, which had the contestants navigating a course while Zap or whoever fired tennis balls at them from a cannon. The show was revived briefly in 2008 on NBC.
Looks like the closing night cast party of That’s Dancing!
That’s Dancing! is a 1985 documentary that looked back at dancing in film. It included portions of Fame, The Wizard of Oz, Oklahoma! and many more.
Better dead than a spread.
A paraphrase of the popular anti-communist (and anti-Soviet) slogan “Better dead than Red.” It was coined by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels during World War II, but it was used frequently by Americans in the 1950s as anti-communist fervor increased in the United States.
You can still get a job at Chi-Chi’s. You can be the job.
Chi-Chi’s was a chain of inexpensive Mexican restaurants. The first location opened in Minneapolis in 1975; at its height in 1995, there were 210 locations. In 2003, the chain filed for bankruptcy just a month before a Hepatitis A outbreak killed four and sickened hundreds in Pittsburgh. By the end of 2004, Chi-Chi’s ceased operations in the United States altogether.
Oh man, let’s pray it’s not a buddy picture. –He’s a robot. He’s a human. They’re detectives. –Hey, that’s not half bad. It’s all bad.
A play on the taglines for many police-oriented television shows and films. “Officer X is this thing. Officer Y is that thing, which is often the opposite of X. They fight crime!” is the usual formula. This riff itself may be referencing a short-lived ABC TV series called Holmes & Yoyo (1976-1977), which starred Richard Shull as a human and John Schuck as an android.
I liked seeing Nugent, you know, spread his wings and try some new things. –It’s nice to see he’s working ... –Did you know he’s George Clinton’s neighbor? –Who’s George Clinton? –He’s this guy on Earth, funkadelic ... He invented funkadelic. –So it’s a rockin’ neighborhood. –Brides of Funkenstein. –Yes, they have a block party. It’s a rockin’ block party. –The police have been called.
George Clinton is one of the founders of Parliament-Funkadelic (P-Funk), a soul/funk band that was huge during the 1970s. Clinton went on to have a solo career, although he occasionally toured with his old band mates. Brides of Funkenstein was a funk group that collaborated with P-Funk. Their biggest hit was 1978’s “Disco to Go.”
Wanna get going? –I want to see the key grip.
In filmmaking, the key grip is the lead crew member in charge of placing lighting, tracks, and other camera equipment.
Look, Mr. French. I didn’t know his first name was Ed.
On the TV show Family Affair, which aired from 1966 to 1971, Mr. French (played by Sebastian Cabot) was the valet who helped his bachelor employer care for three orphans. His first name on the show was actually Giles.
James Chau. Chairman Mao’s ... anagram.
Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976) was the leader of the Chinese Revolution in the late 1940s/early ‘50s, founder of the People’s Republic of China, and first chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung is a collection of various sayings of Mao, and was printed in a bright red cover, giving it the nickname "The Little Red Book," which became a pop-culture icon in the second half of the 20th century.