by Wyn Hilty
Remember—today's Hercules made from genuine Steve Reeves parts.
A reference to an old series of Ford commercials, in which they would say, “Remember, use only genuine Ford brand parts!” (Thanks to Monique Berger for this reference.)
[Sung.] Sylvia Koscina says Sylvia’s …
A paraphrase of the song “Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. Actual lyrics: “Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s busy, too busy to come to the phone/Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s tryin’ to start a new life of her own/Sylvia’s mother says Sylvia’s happy so why don’t you leave her alone/And the operator says forty cents more for the next three minutes.”
[Sung.] My movie has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R …
From an old advertising jingle for Oscar Mayer hot dogs: “My baloney has a first name; it's O-S-C-A-R. My baloney has a second name; it's M-A-Y-E-R. Oh, I love to eat it every day, and if you ask me why, I'll say, ‘cause Oscar-Mayer has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A.” The jingle was written by Richard Trentlage for a contest and sung by his kids; it debuted in 1963 and ran for 47 years.
Stephen Hawking presents the Silly String theory.
Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s foremost theoretical physicists. His book A Brief History of Time was an extremely successful work on science for laypeople. String theory, which Hawking has worked with extensively, is a popular theory of physics that is based on string-like objects as the building blocks of the universe, as opposed to the point-based model in use for many years. Silly String was a novelty created by inventor Julius Samann in 1969. It is a non-toxic foam that comes in an aerosol can and sprays out in a “string” form when fired at an unsuspecting victim. It has been used by the U.S. military in Iraq to test for hidden tripwires.
Hey, look—there’s the constellation Feces, right below Taurus the Bull.
In Greek mythology, the bull Taurus was actually the god Zeus in disguise, out to seduce one in a very lengthy series of maidens (in this case, Europa, the mother of King Minos of Crete). The constellation is one of the signs of the Zodiac, and, like most constellations, it bears only a passing resemblance to its namesake.
Oh, Ted Turner’s colorizing the universe now.
In the 1980s, media mogul Ted Turner announced plans to use “colorization” technology to add color to the black-and-white films in his library—including the Orson Welles classic Citizen Kane, considered one of the greatest films ever made. There was an immediate uproar, with many in the entertainment industry arguing that adding color would bastardize the original vision of the filmmakers. Turner went ahead with his plans to colorize some films (although not Citizen Kane, after producing some test footage), but colorized movies never really caught on.
[Sung.] Last night ... I think we've seen this all before ...
A reference to Show 408, Hercules Unchained. (Thanks to Joel Boutiere for this reference.)
Oh, he’s the finder of lost loves. –That’s James Franciscus.
Finder of Lost Loves was a TV series that aired for one season, 1984-1985. It starred Tony Franciosa (not James Franciscus) as a private eye specializing in reuniting people with their old flames. James Franciscus was an actor who appeared in several TV series, including Naked City (1958-63), Mr. Novak (1963-1965), and Longstreet (1971-1972).
So, um, uh, where’s the bouncing ball? Are we supposed to be singing?
The bouncing ball to help audiences follow along with song lyrics was invented in the ‘20s by Max Fleischer, for his animated shorts Ko-Ko Song Car-Tunes.
Pan flute master Zamfir was arrested today naked and drunk, running through a goat herd …
Romanian musician Gheorghe “Master of the Pan Flute” Zamfir is famed for his skill on the pan pipes. He has recorded a number of albums, which were extensively advertised on television in the 1980s.
My Friend Flicka is a novel by Mary O’Hara about a boy who takes responsibility for a young filly as it grows into adulthood. It was made into a movie starring Roddy McDowall in 1943.
Kibbles and bits, kibbles and bits, gotta get me some kibbles and bits …
Kibbles ’n Bits is a brand of dog food manufactured by Big Heart Pet Brands. The above line is taken from a 1980s TV commercial for the food.
[Hummed.] Music from North by Northwest.
A little of the opening title/chase scene music, composed by Bernard Herrmann, from the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest.
Not since Superman died.
Superman is the quintessential comic-book hero. He first appeared in Action Comics in 1938. He has also been featured in cartoons, movies, radio shows, and even a Broadway musical. In early 1993 DC Comics, with much fanfare and hoopla, killed him off. His death lasted less than a year before they resurrected the character.
That’s either Herc or Joe Piscopo. Can’t tell.
Joe Piscopo is a comedian who appeared on Saturday Night Live from 1980-84. After his stint on SNL, he got into bodybuilding after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer and bulked way up, even hawking dietary supplements for weightlifters in the early 1990s.
Eddie Rabbitt was a popular country/crossover singer in the 1970s and 1980s, with such hits as “Drivin’ My Life Away” and “I Love a Rainy Night” (both from 1980). He died young of lung cancer in 1998.
[Sung.] Drivin’ my life away … huh?
A line from “Drivin’ My Life Away” by Eddie Rabbitt, one of his biggest hits (see previous note).
Oh, it’s a Dodge. Ram tough.
“Dodge trucks are ram tough” is an ’80s advertising slogan for the Dodge trucks manufactured by Chrysler.
Why, it’s a ComfoRest adjustable rock.
ComfoRest was a brand of adjustable mattresses made by a now-defunct Minneapolis-based company.
Does this bug you? Plink!
“Does this bug you? I’m not touching you,” is a frequent MST3K catchphrase, possibly originating in one of U2 lead singer Bono’s remarks in the 1988 concert film Rattle and Hum: “Am I bugging you? I don’t mean to bug ya.”
Looks like an early Baywatch.
Baywatch is a television series about lifeguards on a resort beach that aired from 1989-2001. It starred David Hasselhoff as a veteran lifeguard who watches paternally over a string of younger, extremely good-looking lifeguards. The show was actually canceled due to low ratings after its first season; Hasselhoff brought it back in syndication to tremendous success.
Still, Lassie will taste good right now.
Lassie was a hyperintelligent collie who starred in an eponymous TV series, which aired from 1954-1974, as well as a series of movies. Lassie was originally played by a male collie named Pal; Pal’s descendants continue to play Lassie to this day.
No Pace picante sauce? Get the rope!
In the 1990s, Pace picante sauce ran a series of advertisements featuring rough-and-tumble cowpokes who are horrified to discover that their camp cook is using a salsa that is (unlike Pace) made in New York City. “Get a rope,” one of them says, preparing to string up the hapless cook.
Come on—taste it all.
“Taste it all” was an advertising slogan for Diet Coke in 1993.
I’m on Jenny Craig.
Jenny Craig is a chain of weight-loss centers located around the world. It was founded in Australia in 1983 and has grown to be one of the largest companies in the weight-loss industry. The company is known for its celebrity spokespersons, including Monica Lewinsky and Queen Latifah.
Hey, as long as you’re over there, hook me a Primo out of the fridge, will you?
Grain Belt Premium beer, a.k.a. Primo, is a Midwestern brand of beer originally brewed in Minneapolis. (Thanks to Minneapolis native Jeff Cech for this reference.)
“You know the story of my family.” [Sung.] A man named Brady …
A line from the theme song to The Brady Bunch, a TV series that ran from 1969-1974. It revolved around the adventures of a large step-family. Sample lyrics: “Here's the story, of a man named Brady/Who was busy with three boys of his own/They were four men, living all together/Yet they were all alone.”
[Sung.] Ah yes, I remember it well …
A line from the song “I Remember It Well,” from the musical Gigi. Sample lyrics: “Ah yes, I remember it well/We dined with friends/We dined alone/A tenor sang/A baritone.”
Excuse me while I have a strange interlude.
A paraphrase of a line in the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers (1930): “Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.” The line itself is a reference to the experimental 1928 Eugene O’Neill play Strange Interlude, in which the characters frequently interrupted the action of the play to make long soliloquies to the audience; in the film, Groucho takes a break for some crackpot philosophizing. (Thanks to Bluejay Young for the Eugene O'Neill reference.)
Hey, I found a pack of Trojans in the road!
Trojans are a brand of condoms manufactured by Church & Dwight Co. The founder of Trojan condoms, Merle Leland Youngs, made his product respectable by marketing it exclusively to pharmacists rather than consumers.
Oui. I did that thing.
An imitation of Michael Palin on the first season episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus “How to Recognise Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away,” in which he played Ron Higgins, a professional impersonator of French clergyman and statesman Cardinal Richelieu.
Excuse me, are you Hector Elizondo?
Hector Elizondo is a bearded actor who has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies; in fact, he had a role in every movie directed by the late Garry Marshall, beginning with Young Doctors in Love (1982) and ending with Mother’s Day (2016). He has also done a great deal of work on Broadway.
[Hummed.] Rocky and Bullwinkle theme.
This is the theme song for The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, aka Rocky and His Friends. Frank Comstock wrote the theme; he also wrote music for Adam-12, Happy Days, and F-Troop, among others.
“Swept over me like a bad omen.” Three: the final conflict.
Omen III: The Final Conflict is a 1981 horror flick starring a young Sam Neill as the Antichrist. It was the third in the series, which began in 1976 with The Omen.
Huh. A dark and stormy night.
“It was a dark and stormy night” is the opening line to the 1830 novel Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. It has become known as the epitome of hackneyed writing, to the extent that a Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest, sponsored by the English department at San Jose State University, is held annually to choose the worst opening sentence to an (imaginary) novel. In 2015, the winning entry was: “Seeing how the victim’s body, or what remained of it, was wedged between the grill of the Peterbilt 389 and the bumper of the 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT, officer ‘Dirk’ Dirksen wondered why reporters always used the phrase ‘sandwiched’ to describe such a scene since there was nothing appetizing about it, but still, he thought, they might have a point because some of this would probably end up on the front of his shirt.”
I dreamed I kissed Gavin MacLeod!
Actor Gavin MacLeod played Captain Merrill Stubing on The Love Boat, a TV romantic comedy that ran from 1977-1986, about a cruise ship on which a succession of washed-up guest stars found love every week. Before The Love Boat, MacLeod was also a regular on McHale’s Navy and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Looks like a Jim Dine sculpture.
Jim Dine is an artist, one of the central figures in the development of Pop Art, along with Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol. He is known for attaching everyday objects, such as saws, axes, and scissors, to his sculptures.
Anyway, this should hold till you get to Sparta.
Sparta was an ancient Greek city-state, the chief rival to Athens during Classical Greek times. It was known for its emphasis on military prowess to the exclusion of all else. Sparta still exists as a city in Greece; about 35,000 people live there.
There’s a new Sophocles play opening tonight.
Sophocles was a Greek playwright in the fifth century B.C.E. He wrote 120 plays, but only seven have survived, including Antigone and Oedipus the King.
Can we stop at a SuperAmerica soon?
SuperAmerica is a chain of convenience stores located throughout the Upper Midwest. They first opened in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the 1960s.
Hercules now concludes his broadcasting day. Good night, and may Herc bless.
In the days before 24-hour broadcasting, “WXYZ now concludes its broadcasting day” was a pretty typical station sign-off, along with shots of sunsets, rippling flags, poems, prayers, or a patriotic blast of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” “Good night and may God bless” was comedian Red Skelton’s trademark closing line on The Red Skelton Show (1951-1971). (Thanks to Bluejay Young for the station sign-off reference.)
Where is the sampo?!
A reference to Show 422, The Day the Earth Froze.
Hi. Hercules, reservation for two? It might be under Heracles.
Hercules is the Romanized version of our hero’s name; in Greek, his name is usually rendered as Heracles or Herakles.
Oh, no, really, they take this cheese, they get it really hot, then they pour retsina all over the top, and then they light it and say “Opa!”
A reference to the Greek dish saganaki; the above description is pretty accurate. The owner of the sadly defunct Parthenon restaurant in Chicago, Christos Liakouras, claimed credit for inventing the tradition.
“I can’t go on.” I’ll go on.
“You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on” is a line from the 1953 novel The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett.
“He stopped my horses. I knew who he was.” Why, he could be Roy Rogers.
Roy Rogers (1911-1998) was a singer and actor who starred in a vast succession of Westerns between 1938 and 1959. His TV series, The Roy Rogers Show, ran from 1951-1957.
Where’s my Rémy Martin?
Rémy Martin is a brand of French cognac; it has been bottled since 1724.
Friends are visiting from Europe.
A riff on the line “Friends are here from Europe,” immortalized in a TV commercial featuring Rula Lenska. Lenska is a Polish-born British actress who became famous in the U.S. in the late 1970s and early 1980s for actually not being famous, but being presented as if she were. A series of commercials for Alberto VO5 hair products began with her saying “I’m Rula Lenska …” in the classic celebrity endorsement style, even though she was virtually unknown to American audiences at the time. Parodies followed quickly: a sketch on Saturday Night Live aired with Jane Curtin playing Lenska, and “Who the hell is Rula Lenska?” became a running gag on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The “Friends are here from Europe” line was also parodied by Jambi the genie in the 1981 HBO special The Pee-wee Herman Show, which became the blueprint for the children’s TV series Pee-wee’s Playhouse (CBS, 1986-1990).
Right here on ESPN!
ESPN is a cable sports channel; this line was frequently used in station promos. (Thanks to Bluejay Young for this reference.)
Is it Dr. No?
In the first James Bond movie, Dr. No (1962), the villain of the title, played by Joseph Wiseman, is initially filmed so that you cannot see his face, a convention that has since become a cliché.
Is it the Millionaire?
On the TV series The Millionaire, which aired from 1955-1960, an eccentric rich man named John Beresford Tipton would send random people a check for $1 million. You never saw Tipton’s face on the series, only the back of his head and sometimes his arm and hand.
It’s the Punt, Pass & Kick competition!
The Punt, Pass & Kick competition is held by the NFL for boys and girls ages 6 to 15 to test their skills in various aspects of football.
It’s a Gore Vidal fantasy!
American novelist Gore Vidal (1925-2012) admired and wrote about ancient Greece; he also had long-term romantic and sexual relationships with men, although he refused to label himself “gay.”
[Hummed.] Rocky and Bullwinkle theme.
See above note.
Judd Hirsch is a sad-sack actor best known for playing Alex Rieger on the TV series Taxi (1978-1983).
Yeah, rhubarb, rhubarb, you know what I mean.
Along with “rutabaga,” “watermelon,” and “peas and carrots,” background extras mutter “rhubarb” to simulate conversation in TV shows and films.
Miss! Miss! Noonan … hey, batter … Noonan!
In the 1980 film Caddyshack, when protagonist Danny Noonan (played by Michael O’Keefe) attempts to sink a putt in a “caddy’s tournament” golf match, his fellow caddies, in a show of poor sportsmanship, try to distract him by heckling him from the sidelines.
Oh, he’s left it way right of the green, Chris, over the gallery.
“Chris” may be a reference to Chris Schenkel, a longtime golf announcer for ABC Sports. He frequently worked with fellow announcer Byron Nelson.
It ain’t over till it’s over.
“It ain’t over till it’s over” is a famous line by baseball player and longtime Yankees manager Yogi Berra, said about the 1973 National League pennant race, this time while managing the New York Mets; the Mets won. Berra is one of the most quoted figures in sports; other gems include “It’s déjà vu all over again” and “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
Determining it? With the thing with the … uh ... oh …
An imitation of the often-flustered and tongue-tied Woody Allen, the nebbishy comedian/actor/writer/director whose most famous films include Annie Hall (1978), Manhattan (1980), and Broadway Danny Rose (1985).
[Sung.] What’s new, pussycat? Whoa-oh …
A line from the Tom Jones song “What’s New Pussycat?” Sample lyrics: “What's new pussycat? Whoa-oh, whoa-oh/Pussycat, pussycat/I've got flowers/And lots of hours/To spend with you.” It was written as the theme song for a Peter Sellers film, but has become much more famous than the movie.
An imitation of comedian, actor, and TV pioneer Jackie Gleason (1916-1987) as his character Reginald Van Gleason III—a high-toned, dandy millionaire in a top hat.
It’s Clay Shaw.
Clay Shaw was a New Orleans businessman who was accused of being part of the right-wing CIA conspiracy dreamed up by New Orleans DA Jim Garrison to account for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1967 Garrison charged Shaw with conspiring to assassinate Kennedy; two years later he was acquitted by a jury. Shaw died in 1974.
Well, let’s see … yeah … throwing the discus …
An imitation of cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man’s typically scattered mutterings. Popeye’s under-the-breath mutterings were ad-libbed by Jack Mercer beginning in 1935, and many have speculated that some of them would have been censored if they’d been easier to understand.
Look out, Aeschylus!
Aeschylus was a Greek playwright in the sixth to fifth centuries B.C.E., known for his Oresteia trilogy. According to legend, he was killed when an eagle, mistaking his bald head for a rock, dropped a turtle on him in an attempt to crack open its shell.
[Sung.] Kyrie (from Requiem).
A possible imitation of György Ligeti’s Kyrie (from Requiem), used to announce the presence of the Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Bozo the lion!
Bozo the Clown is a much-beloved children’s character first introduced as the star of a series of children’s books in the 1940s. He quickly got his own television show, and soon there were Bozo shows springing up in local markets across the country. Although there were many actors who portrayed Bozo, probably the most famous was Chicago’s Bob Bell.
Come on, Bert Lahr’s a wimp! Come on!
Actor Bert Lahr (1895-1967) was best known for playing the Cowardly Lion in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
Oh, I’m telling Joan Embery from the San Diego Zoo!
Joan Embery, the “Goodwill Ambassador” for the San Diego Zoo, appeared on numerous talk shows in the 1970s and 1980s, accompanied by various zoo denizens.
Either this man is dead or my sundial has stopped.
A take on a Groucho Marx line from the 1937 Marx Brothers movie A Day at the Races: “Either he’s dead or my watch has stopped.”
Whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune …
A paraphrased line from the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy in the William Shakespeare play Hamlet. The full line: “To be, or not to be: that is the question:/Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer/The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,/Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,/And by opposing end them?”
Oh, I’ll alert the media.
In the 1981 film Arthur, Arthur's valet Hobson (played by Sir John Gielgud) responds to his announcement that he’s going to take a bath with an acerbic, “I’ll alert the media.”
I love my dead Greek son!
A take on a line from the black comedy Heathers (1989), which starred Winona Ryder and Christian Slater as a couple of teenagers who begin killing off popular students and making them look like suicides, including a couple of jocks whose bodies are left in compromisingly homoerotic circumstances. The actual line: “I love my dead gay son!”
The lion takes Vanquish?
Vanquish is an over-the-counter pain reliever that contains both aspirin and acetaminophen. It is manufactured by Strides Pharma.
According to the New Testament, Barabbas was the criminal whom the crowd chose to be spared when given a choice to free Barabbas or Jesus.
Maybe I’ll call Samson—see what he’s up to.
Samson is a figure in the Hebrew bible, sort of the Jewish equivalent of Hercules. He is betrayed by a woman named Delilah, who cuts off all his hair, causing him to lose his strength. He is captured by the Philistines and blinded; in the end, he prays to God to restore his strength and pulls down the temple, killing his captors as well as himself.
James A. Michener’s Adventures of Hercules!
James Michener (1907-1997) was an American author known for his massive novels, including Hawaii and Texas. In the late 1950s, Michener created a TV show called Adventures in Paradise (1959-1962), starring Gardner McKay as a guy who sails around the South Pacific looking for opportunities to meddle.
Shane! Come back, Shane!
Shane is a 1953 Western starring Alan Ladd as a retired gunfighter who unwillingly gets drawn into a range war. The line “Shane! Come back, Shane!” is uttered by little Joey as Shane rides off at the end of the film.
Hey, what’s for dinner, Hop Sing?
Hop Sing (played by Victor Sen Yung) was the Chinese cook for the Cartwright family on the TV series Bonanza, which aired from 1959-1973.
Howard Johnson is right!
A line from the 1974 film Blazing Saddles.
A reference to the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz.
Like Rod McKuen?
Rod McKuen was a poet, composer, and singer who was immensely popular during the 1960s. His critics derided him as simplistic and sentimental, but he remained a guru to the flower child generation and was extremely successful as a songwriter and serious composer.
A line from The Wizard of Oz.
Rip Torn, ladies and gentlemen.
Rip Torn is a respected actor who has appeared in many a movie and Broadway play. His films include Payday (1973) and Cross Creek (1983), for which he was nominated for an Oscar. He also played talk-show producer Artie on The Larry Sanders Show. Coincidentally, four years after this episode first aired Rip Torn provided the voice of Zeus in the 1997 Disney animated feature Hercules.
I need a salty dog.
An imitation of Rip Torn as Artie in The Larry Sanders Show (see previous note). Artie’s favorite drink was a salty dog—a cocktail made from vodka and grapefruit juice—but serving him was risky, as he tended to over-imbibe and become belligerent.
Live from the Fontainebleau Hotel!
The Fontainebleau Hotel is a luxury hotel in Miami Beach, Florida.
Boy, that dress melts my fillings, grrrr.
An imitation of comedian/actor Bob Hope's (1903-2003) typically lustful way of talking about his voluptuous co-stars.
You can’t handle the truth!
Jack Nicholson's famous line from the 1992 film A Few Good Men.
And now, funny man Morty Gunty.
Morty Gunty (1929-1984) was a comedian who appeared on many TV shows from the 1950s to the 1970s. He played himself in the 1984 Woody Allen film Broadway Danny Rose.
Dennis Day (1916-1988) was an Irish-American singer who frequently appeared on Jack Benny’s show (both radio and television). From 1952-1954 he had his own TV series, The Dennis Day Show.
Abe Lincoln looks cheesed here, huh?
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was the 16th president of the United States, who guided the nation through the Civil War (1861-1865) and was assassinated shortly after its end by disgruntled Southerner John Wilkes Booth. In 1860, when he was first running for president, a young girl wrote to him advising him to grow a beard because he would get more votes; he took her advice and grew the beard (without a mustache) that has since become iconic. Her name was Grace Bedell. He met her shortly after his inauguration and showed off his whiskers to her.
What, did Herc get on a swing choir barge?
Swing choirs (now usually called “show choirs”) are groups that combine choral singing with dancing, in carefully choreographed performances that involve specific themes and costumes.
If you’re gonna do an intervention, you’re gonna have to be more persistent than that.
In the context of addiction or other forms of self-harm, an intervention is when a group of concerned family and friends confront a person, give testimonials about their behavior, and try to persuade them to follow a program of recovery.
A line from the classic 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life.
Twelve angry Greeks.
12 Angry Men is a 1957 movie about a panel of jurors who must decide the fate of a young man accused of killing his father. The movie featured an impressive ensemble cast, including Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam, and Jack Klugman.
Geez, you’ve got to take orders from Pete Townshend in a dress.
Pete Townshend is a rock guitarist best known for his work with the Who, although he has also had a very successful solo career. There are pics online of Townshend dressed in drag for a 1986 benefit concert. They are horrifying.
[Sung.] C&H pure cane sugar …
“C&H pure cane sugar, that’s the one” is an old jingle for C&H sugar. C&H ads using this jingle in the ‘70s and ‘80s tended to use lush Hawaiian scenery as a backdrop.
Attack of the Mary Martins!
Mary Martin (1913-1990) was a stage and screen actress who performed in many musicals, including The Sound of Music and South Pacific, but she is best known for her portrayal of Peter Pan in the musical of the same name.
Even the archers are beautiful.
An imitation of Joel Grey as the Master of Ceremonies in the musical Cabaret.
“Follow me.” [Sung.] Where I go, who I am, what I know …
A line from the John Denver song “Follow Me.” Denver said he wrote it for his wife, Annie; early in his career the two were often separated while he was touring. Sample lyrics: “Follow me where I go what I do and who I know/Make it part of you to be a part of me/Follow me up and down all the way and all around/Take my hand and say you’ll follow me.”
It’s a wacky sitcom. –Or a wacky Satyricon!
The Satyricon is an ancient Roman satire written during the reign of Emperor Nero by the respected author Petronius. The fragments that survive tell of the misadventures of a trio of friends; it is sometimes considered an early precursor of the novel. Federico Fellini made a film version of the tale in 1969.
Hey, Skipper, look what I found!
An imitation of Gilligan from the TV series Gilligan’s Island, which aired from 1964-1967. The part was played by Bob Denver. One of the reasons Skipper puts up with Gilligan’s annoying behavior on Gilligan’s Island: Gilligan saved his life in the war (which war is unspecified).
She’s an Ellen Jamesian!
The Ellen Jamesians were a group of women in the John Irving novel The World According to Garp. Out of empathy for an 11-year-old girl named Ellen James, whose rapist cut her tongue after attacking her so that she could not identify him, they have had their tongues surgically removed and communicate by writing on small slips of paper.
It’s the Andrea Dworkin memorial cemetery.
Andrea Dworkin (1946-2005) was a radical feminist known for her fierce crusade against pornography, which she argued encouraged violence against women. She claimed that depictions of heterosexual intercourse in Western culture had created a climate in which sex itself was used to subjugate women, an argument that has often been oversimplified as “All heterosexual intercourse is rape.”
“Who said life sometimes hangs by a thread?” Bil Baird?
Bil Baird (1904-1987) was a puppeteer who formed his own company in 1934, touring the world for decades. His most famous puppet was Charlemane the lion, and he performed the puppetry for the “Lonely Goatherd” scene in The Sound of Music.
Who are you, Bobby McFerrin?
Bobby McFerrin is a jazzy pop singer best known for his 1988 hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Fake rumors began circulating as early as 1992 that he had killed himself.
It’s the Bataan Sex March!
The Bataan Death March was a forced march of American and Filipino prisoners of war during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in World War II. Of the 70,000 prisoners who set out on the march from the Bataan Peninsula to a POW camp, only 54,000 arrived; the rest died on the way or escaped into the jungle. After the war, the Japanese commander in the Philippines was executed for his role in the march.
It’s Little Big Man.
Little Big Man is a 1970 film about a white man (Dustin Hoffman) raised by the Cheyenne, who winds up at the Battle of Little Bighorn with General Custer.
Oh, they’re gonna carve Mount Rushmore.
Mount Rushmore is a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota that features the gigantic heads of four presidents, each about 60 feet high, carved out of the granite of the mountain: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. Originally, the sculptures were to feature the presidents from head to waist, but the project ran out of funding. Work on the memorial began in 1927 and was finished in 1941 under sculptor Gutzon Borglum.
Land of the Bea Arthurs!
Bea Arthur (1922-2009) was an actress who became famous in the 1970s for her portrayal of the acid Maude Findlay on the TV series All in the Family and later in her own spinoff, Maude. She also appeared on the TV series The Golden Girls in the 1990s. She was famous for her flowing caftans and tunics on that show.
Guess what’s for dinner? –Manwiches.
Manwich is a brand of canned sloppy joe sauce made by Hunt’s, and made famous by the 1970s slogan “A sandwich is a sandwich but a Manwich is a meal.”
It’s the Percy Faith Orchestra.
Percy Faith (1908-1976) was a bandleader known for his lush orchestral arrangements. Famous songs included “Moulin Rouge” and “Theme From a Summer Place.”
Esther Williams (1921-2013) was a swimmer and actress who became famous in a string of films in the 1940s and 1950s that featured elaborate aquatic musical numbers. She retired from acting in the 1960s and started a profitable line of women’s swimwear.
“All we want are supplies and provisions.” [Sung.] And a room somewhere …
A line from the song “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from the musical My Fair Lady. Sample lyrics: “All I want is a room somewhere/Far away from the cold night air/With one enormous chair/Aow, wouldn't it be loverly?”
They call me Mr. Tibbs!
“They call me Mr. Tibbs!” is a line from the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night, which starred Sidney Poitier as a police detective who finds himself teamed up with a racist redneck sheriff (played by Rod Steiger). The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In 1970 a sequel, They Call Me Mr.Tibbs!, came out.
“Some men are full of kind sentiments.” Like Alan Alda.
Alan Alda is an actor best known for playing Hawkeye Pierce on the TV series M*A*S*H, which aired from 1972-1983. He came to epitomize the sensitive ‘70s male for a lot of people.
The ooooh lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon is a 1980 movie about two children who are shipwrecked on a deserted island and grow up together, ultimately falling in love and discovering sex. The film starred Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins.
I see Sparta, I see Athens, I see someone’s …
A variation on an old playground taunt: “I see London, I see France. I see [insert name]’s underpants!”
Um, I’d like to do a scene from Baywatch, if I may? –By all means.
See note on Baywatch, above.
When Congress goes swimming.
Congress has had any number of sex scandals over the years, including the one in 1976 when a secretary for Rep. Wayne Hays admitted she couldn’t even type or answer phones, although apparently she had other talents. But the most recent one when this show aired (July 1993) was Senator Bob Packwood, who in November 1992 was accused of sexually harassing behavior ranging from kissing to forceful groping by ten women in a Washington Post story; he ultimately resigned in 1995.
What, did we tap into the Playboy Channel?
The Playboy Channel is an adult cable channel originally run by men’s mag Playboy, which sold it in 2011.
And so the men of the Calypso are all painted bronze. Falco cries, “When in Rome!” and dives into the water.
An imitation of French ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau. Albert Falco was the chief diver aboard Cousteau's boat, the Calypso.
Elinor Donahue is an actress who played the elder daughter, Betty, on the TV series Father Knows Best (1954-60); she also played pharmacist Ellie Walker on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968).
Destiny rides again.
Destry Rides Again is a 1939 film starring Jimmy Stewart as a young sheriff who believes in solving problems without violence. The film also starred Marlene Dietrich as a dance hall girl.
That guy’s got a saggy diaper that leaks.
A Pampers ad campaign in the 1980s expressed sympathy for any baby stuck in “a saggy diaper that leaks.”
That’s for Gene Wilder.
Gene Wilder (1933-2016) was a comic actor who appeared in such films as Blazing Saddles (1974) and Silver Streak (1976). In Woody Allen’s 1972 film Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), Wilder played a doctor who falls in love with a sheep.
He-hello? Hello? Speak, little boy. Hello?
An imitation of Flash Bazbo, Space Explorer, a recurring character voiced by Christopher Guest on The National Lampoon Radio Hour, which aired weekly in 1974.
Napalm is an incendiary weapon, made of jellied gasoline. It was first used by American forces during World War II; it became infamous during its use in the Vietnam War, when a picture of a little girl who had been horribly burned by napalm was seen worldwide. By 2001, the U.S. had destroyed its stockpiles of napalm.
Uh-oh, this is turning into a Porky’s, isn’t it?
Porky’s is a 1982 teen gross-out film about a group of teenagers trying to lose their virginity. It features a famous scene in which one of the boys spies on a group of girls taking a shower in a locker room.
I’m not going back, Jim!
This phrase, a reference to the Star Trek episode “This Side of Paradise,” was one of the writers’ favorites. Mary Jo Pehl’s comment, from the MST Episode Guide: “’I’m not going back, Jim’ was one of our favorite catchphrases around here, until we rented the video of that Star Trek episode and were stunned to realize that Spock never says that.”
The naked prey.
The Naked Prey is a 1966 film about a group of hunters on safari in Africa who run afoul of a local tribe. The sole survivor finds himself the huntee rather than the hunter, as a group of tribesmen chase him down.
A reference to the scene in The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy and her friends are overcome by a field of poppies and fall asleep.
He’s growing a victory garden there.
Victory gardens were home gardens of fruits, veggies, and herbs that were grown during World Wars I and II in an effort to reduce the strain on the nation’s food supply caused by the war. They were also seen as a way to boost morale; people growing a victory garden could feel they were contributing to the war effort.
[Sung.] Times like these were made for …
This is an advertising jingle from a series of commercials for Taster’s Choice coffee that ran during the 1980s.
The Solid Gold dancers!
Solid Gold was a syndicated TV series that ran from 1980-1988. It usually featured snippets from the Top 10 hits of the week, played while the Solid Gold dancers performed; it also sometimes had musicians as live guests. Several of the dancers went on to middling acting careers (e.g., Lucinda Dickey and Chelsea Field).
Mike Brady was the dad on the TV series The Brady Bunch (1969-1974); the part was played by Robert Reed. Gene Hackman was considered for the role but rejected as too inexperienced.
Can I get another Grolsch over here?
Grolsch is a Dutch beer; the brewery was founded in 1615.
[Irish accent.] Sure, it’s for the men, but I like it too.
A famous c. 1980 ad campaign for Irish Spring soap featured an Irishwoman delivering the line “Manly, yes, but I like it too”—referring to its traditionally masculine scent.
It’s a Who from Whoville!
A reference to the Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, in which the sour old Grinch plots to destroy the Whos’ Christmas; it was made into a classic animated TV special in 1966. The book begins with the line, “Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot.”
[Whispered.] Send in Cindy to rescue us.
Cindy Lou Who almost foils the Grinch’s plans when she toddles sleepily out of bed. In the TV special she was voiced by June “Rocky the Squirrel” Foray.
Grapefruits, fresh and delicious, they’re not just for breakfast anymore.
“Orange juice: it’s not just for breakfast anymore” is the tag line to a series of commercials for Florida oranges that ran during the 1980s.
Delicious juicy lemon pulp.
Possibly a reference to the wildly rambling labels on bottles of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap, which in addition to Deep Thoughts on Adam and Eve, "God's spaceship Earth," the Moral ABCs, bees, beavers, owls, and about seven hundred other topics, offered this helpful recipe for a contraceptive douche: "So, absolute clean, apply vaseline, oil, butter or cream, insert teaspoonful juicy lemon pulp, pH2. O.K.! Next day, douche with qt. soapy water, pH8, restoring pH5 balance God made!" Incidentally, don't do this. The citric acid in lemon or lime juice can severely irritate delicate vaginal tissue, leading to dryness, redness, tenderness, and (shudder) peeling. (Thanks to Bluejay Young for this reference.)
[Sung.] So long … farewell … auf Wiedersehen …
A line from the song “So Long Farewell” from The Sound of Music. In the film, the children accompany the song with big sweeping waves of their arms. Sample lyrics: “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night/I hate to go and leave this pretty sight/So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu/Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you …”
[Pounding on drum.] It’s a Gap jeans commercial.
Probably a reference to a 1990 Levi’s 501 ad that featured NYC street drummer Larry Wright, who uses 5-gallon plastic buckets as drums.
[Sung.] Liar! Liar! Liar!
The song “Liar” was originally recorded by British rock band Argent, but became a Top 10 hit for American band Three Dog Night.
Maybe if we get higher up we won’t hear Gordon MacRae down here.
Gordon MacRae (1921-1986) was an actor and singer who played the lead in two classic Rodgers & Hammerstein film musicals: Curly in Oklahoma! and Billy Bigelow in Carousel.
The Ohio State Buckeyes.
The athletic teams of Ohio State University are all called Ohio State Buckeyes. The mascot is Brutus Buckeye, a man with a horse chestnut for a head. (Thanks to Jeff Grindle for this reference.)
Maria Callas (1923-1977) was an operatic soprano who was one of the leading performers during the 1950s and 1960s.
[Sung.] Sail away!
A 1996 Beck’s beer ad showed ships sailing and suns setting and people enjoying good, wholesome beer, to the strains of “Sail Away” by German rocker Hans Hartz.
Let me live it as a blonde!
“If I have only one life to live, let me live it as a blonde” is a line from an old Clairol commercial from the 1960s.
It’s the Swiss Family Papodapoulos.
Swiss Family Robinson is a 19th-century novel by Johann Wyss about a shipwrecked family. It has been made into a movie several times, with the most famous probably being the 1960 Disney version. Animals on the island ranged improbably from moose to kangaroos to rhinos.
Hey, Commando Cody!
Commando Cody was the star of a serial that MST ran as shorts on various episodes during Season 1, starting with Show 102, The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy.
Hey, it’s the Jim Ignatowski/Tommy Chong/Gilbert Gottfried/Gino Vannelli tribe.
All people known for their explosions of hair: Reverend Jim Ignatowski was the wild-eyed, wild-haired character played by Christopher Lloyd on the TV series Taxi. Tommy Chong is a comedian, half of the stoner comedy team Cheech and Chong. Gilbert Gottfried is a gravelly-voiced comedian and actor best known for his portrayal of the parrot Iago in the Disney animated film Aladdin (1992). Gino Vannelli is a Canadian soft rock singer popular in the ‘80s.
Yeah, I mean, on top of that, they all look like the Nutty Professor.
The Nutty Professor is a 1963 film starring Jerry Lewis as a nerdy, disheveled professor who invents a potion that transforms him into a suave ladies’ man. A remake starring Eddie Murphy was released in 1996.
World champion gymnast Kurt Thomas made an enjoyably bad movie called Gymkata in 1985, in which he defeats the bad guys with the help of randomly placed gymnastics equipment.
Oh, wait, I think they said Golden Grahams, not golden ram.
Golden Grahams are a brand of graham-cracker-flavored cereal manufactured by Nestle. The original jingle for Golden Grahams cereal was sung to the tune of “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers,” an old minstrel show song traditionally performed in blackface.
Hey. [Sung.] I feel the earth move under my feet …
A line from the Carole King song “I Feel the Earth Move.” It was one of the biggest hits of 1971, spending five weeks at #1. Sample lyrics: “I feel the earth move under my feet/I feel the sky tumbling down/I feel my heart start to trembling/Whenever you're around.”
The original Gilligan’s Island led to two animated sequel series and three reunion films (including the improbable The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island).
Oh, nice doggy. Oh, good pooch.
A line from the film Ghostbusters, as Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) attempts to fend off a Devil Dog.
It’s the future site of Jurassic Industrial Park.
Despite the title, nearly all the dinosaur species featured in the film Jurassic Park lived during the Cretaceous period.
Throw him a Milk-Bone! A big one!
Milk-Bone dog biscuits, manufactured by Big Heart Pet Brands, were first sold in 1908. They were originally called Maltoids.
[Hummed.] Yakety Sax.
“Yakety Sax” by Boots Randolph was often used during sped-up chases on the British skit comedy show The Benny Hill Show.
Welcome to the Land Before Time!
The Land Before Time is an animated film about an orphaned Apatosaurus on a quest for a new home; it spawned thirteen direct-to-video sequels.
You know, that monster never read Getting to Yes.
Getting to Yes is a 1981 book on the psychology of negotiation written by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury, which teaches people how to bargain and compromise in a non-confrontational way.
Thank you, gods, thank you so bloody much.
A paraphrased line from the classic British TV show Fawlty Towers, spoken by John Cleese as hotel owner Basil Fawlty.
“It was the last request of the king.” Play “Stardust.”
“Stardust” is a 1927 song originally written and recorded by Hoagy Carmichael; it has been recorded more than 1,500 times since then.
I’ll walk it and feed it and call it gold.
An imitation of Looney Tunes character Hugo the Abominable Snowman, himself a parody of Lennie, the slow-witted farmhand in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
The inventor of 2000 Flushes, Al Eisen, claims he came up with it just to get out of cleaning the toilet.
Going down, Mr. Hercules?
The video for Aerosmith’s song “Love in an Elevator” opens with a young woman greeting singer Steven Tyler as he enters an elevator with “Oh, good morning, Mr. Tyler. Going … down?” Brandi Brandt, who played the elevator operator, was Playmate of the Month for October 1987, married Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, and later went to prison for conspiring to import cocaine into Australia.
Malcolm X is over there.
Malcolm X (1925-1965) was a radical black leader during the 1960s who preached racial pride and black separatism, as opposed to civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., who wanted to see blacks better integrated into mainstream (read: white) society. In 1965 he was shot to death during a rally; three Black Muslims were convicted of his murder.
Daddy, there’s a bunch of boys outside.
A paraphrase of a line from the Mike Douglas song “The Men in My Little Girl’s Life.”
Actually, it’s Thinsulate.
Thinsulate is a brand of insulation used in clothing and footwear; it is manufactured by 3M.
“Arrest them all.” [All.] You have the right to remain silent.
Although many people believe they must receive the Miranda warning when being arrested, in fact police must only read it before questioning a suspect in custody.
Ha! Missed me. Now you’re gonna kiss me.
“Missed me, missed me, now you gotta kiss me” is an old playground taunt.
Man, it must be South Central Greece.
In 1992, the riots in Los Angeles that followed the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King began in South Central Los Angeles, a mostly black neighborhood that had harbored years of resentment against what they perceived as a racist and violent police department.
What are you doing? Keep away from me!
An imitation of Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), the villain/comic relief from the campy TV sci-fi series Lost in Space.
He’s just invented the weed whipper!
A weed whipper, a.k.a. a string trimmer, is a gardening device that cuts grass and weeds with a whirling length of string, usually a plastic line.
Chains don’t kill people. Hercules kills people.
“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people” is an unofficial slogan of the National Rifle Association, a national organization dedicated to promoting gun ownership. It is a powerful lobbying organization, successfully and fiercely resisting any and all gun control measures.
Taste it all. Diet hemlock.
See note on Diet Coke, above. Other Diet Coke slogans throughout the years: “You are what you drink,” “Hello you …” and “I light it.”
I have a delicious poison in the morning, and … that’s it.
A paraphrase of the ad campaign for the Slim-Fast diet plan, which instructed participants to consume two delicious Slim-Fast shakes plus a “sensible dinner” every day.
“Men sometimes make mistakes, and now mine have caught up with me.” That’s what Michael Milken probably said.
Michael Milken was a Wall Street financier who created the market for high-yield bonds, better known as junk bonds, in the 1980s. In 1989 he was charged with racketeering and fraud in relation to a series of questionable financial moves. He ultimately plea-bargained down the charges, paid $1.1 billion in fines, and served a brief sentence in prison. He was banned for life from working in the securities industry.
[Sung.] School’s out for summer!
A line from the Alice Cooper song “School’s Out.” The music video for the song had Cooper dancing with “Muppets” in front of a wrecked classical temple. Sample lyrics: “School's out for summer/School's out forever/School's been blown to pieces …”
The National Guard was called in to help quell the violence.
Probably a reference to the tragedy at Kent State University in 1970, when the National Guard was called in to an anti-war protest at the school that had turned violent. The Guardsmen, many of whom were poorly trained, opened fire on a crowd of students, hitting thirteen and killing four; two of the dead were bystanders who were not involved in the protest. No Guardsmen were convicted of a crime in connection with the shootings.
Oh, man, if this were in Sensurround this would be so great.
Sensurround was a gimmick, like Cinerama and Smell-o-Vision, designed to lure audiences into theaters. It was used to hype the 1974 film Earthquake by promising to use high-decibel sound to literally shake the audience; unfortunately, the effect bled over into neighboring theaters and disturbed patrons, which discouraged any repeat performances.
So, uh, like, you want to grab a bite, or maybe lie out on the Lido deck or something?
In Great Britain, a Lido is a swimming pool and facilities, or a part of a beach where swimming is allowed. On a cruise ship, the Lido deck is where the swimming pool etc. is located.
“The End.” Or is it?
B-grade horror films in the 1950s and ‘60s liked this ending trope, implying more horror was yet to come. Examples: The She Creature, The Blob, The Thing From Another World.
[Sung.] Bali hai …
A line from the song “Bali Hai,” from the musical South Pacific. Sample lyrics: “Bali Ha'i may call you/Any night, any day/In your heart, you'll hear it call you/’Come away … Come away.’"
Iole did data entry at Fingerhut.
Fingerhut is a direct-sales company (catalogs, website, etc.) based in Minnetonka, Minnesota. They also have offices in Eden Prairie, MN, where MST3K was produced.
Yolae got really tired of coming home from Fingerhut night after night seeing this big demigod sitting on the couch slamming back Leinies and watching TV …
“Leinie” is a nickname for Leinenkugel beer, which is distributed mostly in the upper Midwest. Brewed in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, since 1867 (the brewery is Chippewa Falls’ oldest business), the brand is now owned by Miller Brewing Company.
Then Herc went through rehab and he started selling Kirbys door to door.
Kirby is a brand of vacuum cleaners sold exclusively through in-home demonstrations. Multiple complaints and lawsuits have been filed against its payment and sales practices.
Jason? He sold the golden fleece and bought himself a Rupp minibike.
Minibikes are a kind of smallish motorcycle that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Rupp was a popular brand of minibikes created by Herbert Rupp III. They are now considered a collectible.
Then he was killed in a tragic boating accident involving the Argo—you know, there were some [something] crew mates and there was a case of St. Pauli Girl …
St. Pauli Girl is a brand of German beer. Its name comes from the former St. Paul’s Friary located next door to the original brewery.