406: Attack of the Giant Leeches
by Chris Baumgartner
[Sung.] Behold Sub-Mariner, King of the Sea, Lord Namor of Atlantis is a prince of the deep.
Various characters from Marvel ComicÏs starred in The Marvel Super Heroes, a syndicated cartoon series that debuted in 1966 and featured a mixture of short segments on assorted superheroes, including Captain America, Iron Man, and the Incredible Hulk. Joel is singing the theme song from another featured character, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner: “Stronger than a whale/He can swim anywhere/He can breathe underwater/And go flying through the air/The noble Sub-Mariner, prince of the deep/So beware you deadly demons/Lord Namor of Atlantis/Is the prince of the deep.”
Oh look, it’s the undersea football All-Stars. They’re playing USC today.
The University of Southern California (USC) is a private research university in Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1880, it is famous for both its School of Cinematic Arts (a.k.a. USC Film School), which helped launch the careers of George Lucas, Judd Apatow, and many, many others, and its football team, the USC Trojans, which has won eleven national championships and produced seven Heisman Trophy winners.
[Sung.] “William Tell Overture.”
The “William Tell Overture” was written by the Italian classical composer Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868). The full opera, William Tell, premiered in 1829 and was Rossini’s last before he retired from opera (he continued to write cantatas and other short works). The fast-paced tune was famously used as the theme to the western serial The Lone Ranger on both radio and television, beginning in 1933.
Looks like rush hour on Spaghetti Junction.
“Spaghetti Junction” is a common nickname given to a very complex and intertwined set of freeway interchanges. Downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, has a big one, as does the north end of Atlanta, Georgia.
Huh? Oh, it’s Ben-Hur, I’ve seen this before.
Ben-Hur is an epic 1959 film that won eleven Academy Awards. A remake of a 1925 silent film, this version, starring Charlton Heston in the title role, had the biggest budget and biggest sets of any film up to that point. A highlight of the film is its spectacular chariot race, which took three months to shoot and used 7,000 extras. One stuntman was nearly killed during the filming, but fortunately escaped with a minor injury; they actually used the shot of his accident in the film. But this also resulted in an urban legend that a stuntman died during the race, and his death was included in the final cut.
G. Heileman Brewing Company, La Crosse, Wisconsin.
G. Heileman Brewing Company operated out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, from 1858 to 1996, when it was acquired by Stroh’s. Old Style Lager was its flagship brand, and it acquired many other brands as well, including Blatz, Colt 45, Lone Star, and Henry Weinhard. In 2016 the company returned to La Crosse to brew a special Old Style Oktoberfest. The storage tanks at its La Crosse plant, which held 22,000 barrels of beer, were painted to resemble Old Style beer cans and were dubbed “The World’s Largest Six Pack.”
When in Las Vegas, visit Excalibur.
Excalibur is a deluxe resort and casino in Las Vegas that is themed like a fairy castle. Opened in 1990, it is run by MGM Resorts. One of the permanent attractions is the Tournament of Kings, an indoor dinner theater/medieval jousting tournament featuring ten horses and more than thirty performers and crew.
Annapolis a day keeps the doctor-us away.
A riff on the old proverb “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” The phrase first appeared in print in 1922; an earlier version from 1860s Wales says: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”
Hey, he’s posing for a Wheaties box.
Wheaties is a General Mills cereal known for its association with athletes and sports. Marketed as “The Breakfast of Champions,” the wheat and bran flake mixture was first sold in 1924. The first athlete pictured on the box front was the New York Yankees’ Lou Gehrig in 1934. The Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan holds the record for most appearances on a Wheaties box: eighteen, followed by golf’s Tiger Woods with fourteen.
I am the god of hellfire!
The spoken-word intro to the 1968 psychedelic rock song “Fire,” written by Arthur Brown and Vincent Crane and recorded by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. In performance, Brown wore a metal helmet with two large, curving prongs at the top, which he would set on fire. (It occasionally burned out of control and set him on fire; an early attempt at the helmet resulted in two bystanders putting out the flames on his head with their beers.) Sample lyrics: [Spoken/yelled.] “I am the god of hellfire! And I bring you … [Sung.] Fire, I’ll take you to burn/Fire, I’ll take you to learn/I’ll see you burn!”
All these people are dead now. Isn’t that weird? Think about it.
This Undersea Kingdom short was made in 1936, which, according to Satellite News, makes it the oldest film—short or feature—that MST3K has ever riffed.
This makes me lonesome for my old electric football game.
The original vibrating tabletop football game came out in 1947. It was made by Tudor Metal Products, which is still in business as Tudor Games. The inventor, Norman Sas, passed away in 2012.
It’s Good Humor Man Day today.
Good Humor is a brand of ice cream treats first marketed in 1920. The “Good Humor Man” became an American institution every summer, as kids across America lined up to buy ice cream from the men who drove the trucks with the tinkling bells.
Oh, look. It looks like they’re playing in chocolate. It’s the Hershey Bowl.
Hershey’s, which dates back to 1899, is one of the largest chocolate makers in North America, based in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Bowl games, such as the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, etc., are post-season college football games. There is no Hershey Bowl, although there is a “Cocoa Bean Bowl,” held between Milton Hershey School and Hershey High School every year. The winner receives the prestigious Cocoa Bean trophy.
You know, in the future, people will pay to see women do this.
Mud wrestling is a novelty “sport” involving a wrestling match that takes place in a pit of some kind (such as an inflatable swimming pool) filled with mud or another viscous substance, like Jell-O. With scantily clad women as the prime participants, mud wrestling enjoyed its peak popularity in the mid-‘80s as a form of bar and nightclub entertainment.
Take it back, my sister does not swim towards troop ships.
One possible lyric from “The Limerick Song,” a bawdy tune that has been in circulation since the early 20th century. Often sung to the tune of “Cielito Lindo,” the verses basically consist of a series of limericks, the dirtier the better. One of the optional choruses: “Ay-yi-yi-yi/Your sister (or mother) swims after troop ships/Now sing me another verse that’s worse than the other verse/And waltz me around again, Willie!”
[Sung.] Well, I’d like to know where you got the notion … [Spoken.] Thank you, sailor. [Sung.] Oh, I’d like to know where … I’d like to know where you got the notion … hey!
Lyrics from the song “Rock the Boat,” written by Wally Holmes, which was a number one hit for The Hues Corporation in the summer of 1974. It is considered one of the earliest disco songs, and some have labeled it the first disco song to hit number one. Sample lyrics: “Our love is like a ship on the ocean/We’ve been sailing with a cargo full of love and devotion/So I’d like to know where you got the notion/Said I’d like to know where you got the notion …”
Wow, jeepers, hot dog.
“Jeepers” is a minced oath (subbing for “Jesus”). It first appeared in the 1920s.
And everywhere the smell of men enjoying themselves.
In 1983, Larry “Bud” Melman did a standup piece on Late Night with David Letterman in which he welcomed people to New York at that city’s Port Authority bus terminal. His most famous line from the bit was commenting that Port Authority had “the magical smell of men enjoying themselves,” which sent Letterman into gales of laughter, finally replying, “The smell of men enjoying themselves—you just can’t beat it. So to speak.”
[Sung.] Oh, she came in through the bathroom window …
The Beatles song “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” appears as part of a long medley on the 1969 Abbey Road album. Lyrics include: “She came in through the bathroom window/Protected by a silver spoon/But now she sucks her thumb and wanders/By the banks of her own lagoon.”
“Good work, Jimmy.” Jimmy Smits.
Jimmy Smits is an American actor who became famous for his work on the 1980s TV legal drama L.A. Law and the 1990s cop drama NYPD Blue. His more recent work includes playing Senator Bail Organa in the Star Wars TV shows and films and a story arc in the Showtime series Dexter. But in the MST3K universe, his name is legend. Specifically, just his name. As explained in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide—The 50 Most Obscure References: “This particular comment references a bizarre ad campaign for the box-office smash hit Switch with Ellen Barkin. A garden-variety ad until the very end when a new and different voiceover quickly tags on the words ‘Jimmy Smits.’ Not ‘starring Jimmy Smits’ or ‘with Jimmy Smits,’ just ‘Jimmy Smits.’ It was so strange, it caught our fancy and we had to refrain from doing it again and again and again.”
Give him a wedgie. –Purple Herman. Wet willy. –It was.
These are three pranks. A wedgie is pulling the waistband of someone’s underwear way up to cause them intense crotch pain. A purple Herman, also known as a purple nurple, is the act of twisting their nipple roughly. For a wet willy, you wet your finger in your mouth, jab it into your friend’s ear, and wiggle it.
The Tin Drum.
The novel The Tin Drum (1959) by Günter Grass is considered a literary classic. The surreal plot deals with three-year-old Oskar Matzerath, a toddler with the awareness of an adult, and his strange life during the hell of World War II in Poland. It was made into a film in 1979 starring 11-year-old Swiss actor David Bennent as Oskar. A dramatic moment in the film involves Oskar surveying the city from the top of a bell tower.
Victory at Sea.
Victory at Sea is an Emmy-winning documentary series that ran from 1952 to 1953. It primarily used film stock shot by the Navy, which was cut into sequences showing the major U.S. naval battles of World War II. There were 26 episodes made. It’s considered the first program to demonstrate that historical footage could be compiled into a popular documentary series, and was followed by many, many others.
“Billy!” Don’t be a hero!
“Billy Don’t Be a Hero” is a 1974 pop song written by Mitch Murray and Peter Callander that was a hit in the U.K. that year for Paper Lace and a few months later in the U.S. for Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. Though associated with the Vietnam War, which was ongoing at the time, the lyrics do not actually name the war, and it may in fact refer to the American Civil War.
Give us Barabbas!
According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament, Barabbas was the criminal whom the crowd asked Pontius Pilate to spare when given a choice to free Barabbas or Jesus. (Matthew and Mark point the finger at the “chief priests,” who whipped the crowd up against Jesus and urged them to free Barabbas. His crime varies—he is by turns a robber, a murderer and seditionist, or just a vague “notorious prisoner.”
Hey kid, feel free to dig your heel into my groin.
An imitation of Woody Allen, the nebbishy comedian/actor/writer/director whose most famous films include Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979), and Broadway Danny Rose (1984). “Just feel free to dig your heel into my groin like that” is a line from Broadway Danny Rose.
“What you say is very interesting.” But stupid.
An imitation of comedian Arte Johnson on the TV sketch comedy show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-1973), who would appear dressed as a German soldier to inform the audience that the preceding sketch was “Very interesting, but stupid!”
Ooh, the earth just moved for me.
The line “But did thee feel the earth move?” (along with a couple of other references to the earth moving) appears in Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. Before that, the phrase was not yet a reference to good sex.
“Everybody knows Crash Corrigan.” Everybody digs Bill Evans. So?
Jazz piano player Bill Evans released the LP Everybody Digs Bill Evans in 1959. The cover features praise and signatures from popular musicians. For example: “I’ve sure learned a lot from Bill Evans. He plays the piano the way it should be played.” (Signed) Miles Davis.
Answer unclear; ask again.
Magic 8-Ball is a toy fortune teller. Shaped like a large, black number 8 billiard ball, if you turn it over a floating randomizer displays one of 20 different possible answers in a small window: ten positive, five noncommittal, and five negative. There is no “Answer unclear; ask again,” but there is a similar one: “Reply hazy; try again.” It was invented in the late 1940s by Albert Carter, whose mother Mary worked as a clairvoyant. It is now owned by Mattel.
And it makes three different kinds of gelati.
Gelati is the plural of gelato, an Italian form of ice cream that is generally lower in fat, higher in sugar, denser, and more strongly flavored. It’s yummy.
“Just what do you mean by ‘they’?” Comedy Central.
Comedy Central was the first cable network devoted to all things comedy. It was started in 1989 (as The Comedy Channel) by Time Warner and provided MST3K’s first home on basic cable. Its first competitor was the Ha! Channel, started by Viacom, which merged with The Comedy Channel shortly thereafter to become Comedy Central. ViacomCBS, as it’s known today, now owns Comedy Central.
“Such signals must be the work of some human agency …” Ah, the William Morris Agency, huh?
The William Morris Agency was founded in 1898 in New York City to represent vaudeville entertainers, and later moved into film, television, and literature. In 2009 it merged with the Endeavor Talent Agency to form Endeavor, which now handles everything from bull riders to beauty pageants to podcasters.
[Bubbly voice.] Xanadu, stately underwater home of Charles Foster Kane. Cost? No fish can say.
The phrase “Xanadu: stately home of Charles Foster Kane. Cost: no one can say,” (and variations thereof) was one of the writers’ favorites. It is an imitation of the newsreel narrator from the 1941 film Citizen Kane; Xanadu is the name of Kane’s palatial home in the film.
It’s a Denver Pyle statue.
Denver Pyle (1920-1997) was a character actor who appeared in more than 260 films and television shows. He is perhaps best known for his role as Uncle Jesse on the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard, which aired from 1979-1985.
Jiffy Pop’s ready.
Jiffy Pop popcorn is sold in an aluminum pan with a spiral foil lid. As the pan is heated over the stove, the kernels pop and expand the lid into a bulbous container. It was created by Fred Mennen in 1958 and is currently manufactured by Conagra.
[Sings.] Dah-da-da-dah! [Spoken.] Imperial.
TV commercials for Imperial margarine for decades featured someone tasting the spread, followed by a “dah-da-da-dah!” fanfare, and a regal velvet crown appearing on their head. The brand’s logo shows the white silhouette of a crown on a red background.
Oh, no, the king’s men. He’s gonna make us pretend we’re the Rockettes again, run!
The Radio City Rockettes are a choreographed female precision dance troupe based out of Radio City Music Hall in New York City since 1932 (although they were founded even earlier in St. Louis, in 1925). They are known for their elaborate holiday season shows and for their very high kicks, known as eye-highs (because their feet reach eye level at the apex of the kick).
It’s the 1968 Chrysler Merrimack.
Chrysler, a subsidiary of the multinational auto conglomerate Stellantis, is one of the “Big Three” automakers in the U.S., along with Ford and GM. The USS Merrimack was a steam frigate built in 1855 for the U.S. Navy. At the beginning of the Civil War, the Union sank it to prevent it from falling into Confederate hands, but the Confederacy raised the ship and rechristened it the Virginia. The ship fought a famous (if inconclusive) battle in 1862 against the Union’s Monitor in Hampton Roads, near Chesapeake Bay—the first time two ironclad ships had met in combat. While neither side won decisively, the battle had an effect on navies around the world, which began construction on ironclad ships immediately.
Fondue in its original form is basically a pot of melted cheese, served on a stand and kept warm with a candle or other heat source. Diners take turns dipping pieces of bread into the cheese with long forks. The Swiss Cheese Union promoted fondue as the “Swiss national dish” starting in the 1930s, and fondue became popular at restaurants and parties in the United States in the 1960s, with a comeback in the early 2000s. Variations include dipping pieces of fruit in a pot of melted chocolate, and cooking pieces of meat in a pot of hot oil.
“The city is about to fall.” Well, Mayor Dinkins just ain’t cuttin’ it, is he?
David Dinkins was the mayor of New York City for one term, from 1990-1994. He was the first Black mayor of New York City. His inauguration coincided with the peak of the NYC crime rate, and although it began to decrease during his term, the perception remained that it was out of control. He lost the 1993 election in a rematch with Rudy Giuliani, who ran a “tough on crime” campaign.
[Sung.] Me and my shadow. Walking down the avenue. Oh.
“Me and My Shadow” was written in 1927 by Al Jolson, Dave Dryer, and Billy Rose. It has a strong association with jazz singer Ted Lewis, who used the song to close out his act.
They bomb horses, don’t they?
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is a movie from 1969, based on a 1935 novel by Horace McCoy, about a dance marathon during the Great Depression. It stars Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin. The film is a social allegory about the pointlessness of modern life.
There’s a bomb going into the air shaft.
In the Gulf War (1990-1991), after the initial large-scale U.S. invasion of Kuwait and southern Iraq under Operation Desert Storm, the operation’s commander, General Norman Schwarzkopf, held a press conference on January 30, 1991, in which he showed footage of smart bombs hitting their targets. His narration was quite jovial at times: “I’m now going to show you a picture of the luckiest man in Iraq on this particular day. Keep your eye on the crosshairs … And now in his rearview mirror. Okay, stop the tape, please.”
[Jetsons flying car sound effects.] Jane, I’m home!
On the animated TV show The Jetsons, which aired from 1962-1963, George, Jane, and their family traveled in an “aerocar” that looked like a flying saucer with a big transparent bubble dome on top. The car made a strange, high-pitched warbling noise as it flew.
David Crosby, no!
David Crosby (1941-2023) was a founding member of Crosby, Stills & Nash, as well as the Byrds, and one of the more influential folk-rock musicians of the 20th century. He co-wrote such classic songs as “Wooden Ships” and “Eight Miles High.”
Better finish your giant Rolaid first, sir.
Rolaids are a brand of over-the-counter heartburn relief created by chemist Irvine Grote in the 1920s. They are a chewable antacid tablet currently manufactured by Chattem.
This clown’s making change. This is a giant Welch’s grape jelly machine, and I’m out of here. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Good night now.
After a successful run in the early 1900s promoting unfermented Concord grape juice as a substitute for wine, Welch’s Concord Grape Jelly was introduced in 1923. The manufacturer, Welch’s Foods Inc., is owned by the National Grape Cooperative Association, a co-op of grape growers.
It’s the camera crew from Real Life.
Real Life is a 1979 mockumentary film by Albert Brooks that parodied the 1973 proto-reality PBS series An American Family. In the movie, the daily lives of a dysfunctional suburban family are documented by a team of camera operators wearing large helmets that act as primitive GoPros.
Set it for stun.
“Set phasers to stun” was a common phrase on the original Star Trek series, which aired from 1966-1969. Phasers were the standard energy weapons on the show, used both as hand weapons and as larger ship-based armaments. They could be set to stun or to kill.
You clinking, clanking, ca-littering collection of caliginous junk!
Dr. Zachary Smith, as played by “Special Guest Star Jonathan Harris,” was the mincing, villainous stowaway/saboteur on the TV series Lost in Space, which aired from 1965-1968. He would regularly insult the robot using flowery and highly alliterative hyperbole.
Oh, look, he’s packing a Tummysizer.
The Tummysizer was a gimmicky, TV-advertised “weight-loss apparatus” that appeared in the early 1990s. It straps around your gut, and as you distend your belly, it counts how many times you push. The commercials claimed it would help you lose weight without painful sit-ups. In 1999 the FTC ordered its manufacturer, Fitness Quest, to stop making wild claims about weight loss and health benefits.
[Sung.] The night Chicago died … Na-na-na, na-na-na, na-na-na, the night Chicago died … Brother what a night the people saw …
“The Night Chicago Died” is a song written by Peter Callander and Mitch Murray that was briefly a number one hit in 1974 for the British pop group Paper Lace; it was their follow-up to “Billy Don’t Be a Hero,” also written by Callander and Murray (see above note). The song tells the story of a fictional shootout between Chicago police and mobster Al Capone and his gang. Sample lyrics: “I heard my mama cry/I heard her pray the night Chicago died/Brother what a night the people saw/Brother what a fight the people saw.”
The American Tobacco Company, makers of Lucky Strike cigarettes, sponsored the popular radio and TV music program Your Hit Parade (1935-1959); commercial breaks featured a lightning-fast-talking tobacco auctioneer (played by L.A. “Speed” Riggs) taking rapid bids until finally ending with “Sold American!” Their other main slogans were “L.S./M.F.T. = Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco” and “So round, so firm, so fully packed, so free and easy on the draw.” The brand is now owned by British American Tobacco.
Troy Tempest [and] Phones equals Stingray.
Gerry Anderson created a number of marionette-based action TV series for children, including Stingray, which aired in Britain from 1964-1965 and in the U.S. in syndication in 1965. Captain Troy Tempest was a puppet based on the face of James Garner (Rockford Files), who drove a space age submarine. His voice was supplied by Canadian actor Don Mason. “Phones” was the submarine’s navigator and radio operator, who always wore large headphones. His real name was Lieutenant George Lee Sheridan, and he was voiced by Robert Easton. Easton can be seen chanting “Burn the witch!” in MST3K Show 908, The Touch of Satan, and modeling his back brace in Show 810, The Giant Spider Invasion.
Gray Lady Down, for Contel.
Gray Lady Down is a 1978 action thriller starring Charlton Heston as a retiring submarine commander. On his final voyage, his sub is hit by a freighter and sinks, requiring an elaborate rescue by Stacy Keach and David Carradine; the movie also features future Superman Christopher Reeve in his feature film debut. Contel was one of the largest independent phone companies in the U.S. before the big telecom deregulation in 1996. They have been a subsidiary of GTE since 1991. In the late 1980s, Charlton Heston did a series of TV commercials endorsing Contel.
Norton, get in here. Oh, you’re gettin’ in here.
An imitation of pioneering TV comedian Jackie Gleason in his role as Ralph Kramden, calling out to his pal Ed Norton, played by Art Carney. Ralph was a bus driver and Ed was a sewer worker; the characters appeared in a series of sketches titled “The Honeymooners” on the DuMont Network’s Cavalcade of Stars and then on CBS’s The Jackie Gleason Show from 1952 to 1955. The Honeymooners also ran as a half-hour sitcom on CBS in 1955, lasting only one season. The characters continued to appear off and on in sketches on other shows and TV specials until 1978.
We’re out of baking soda, sir. –This sub is powered by Fizzies.
A baking powder submarine (not baking soda) is a toy invented in 1953 by Benjamin and Harry Hirsch and sold through Kellogg’s the following year for 25 cents and one cereal box top. Later, a smaller version was included as a free prize inside Kellogg’s cereal boxes. Basically, they’re a small plastic submarine with a chamber you can fill with baking powder. When submerged in water, this creates carbon dioxide, causing the submarine to rise and sink repeatedly. Re-creations, touted as “The Original 1950s Cereal Premium,” are sold today in toy stores and online. Fizzies are tablets that produce a sweetened, flavored, effervescent soda when dropped into a glass of water. Invented by the Emerson Drug Company in the 1950s, Fizzies lasted into the 1970s before disappearing. Amerilab Technologies resurrected the brand and product in the mid-1990s; they were discontinued again in 2016.
[Imitating.] I want to take us down to 20,000 leagues.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a science fiction novel by Jules Verne published in serial form from 1869-1870. It tells the story of the mysterious Captain Nemo and his submarine, the Nautilus. The book has been filmed numerous times, beginning in 1907. This is an imitation of actor James Mason, who played Captain Nemo in the 1954 Walt Disney version.
Meanwhile, in young Billy’s bathtub … –Billy Bathtub, what a terrible movie.
The 1991 film Billy Bathgate was a commercial flop, costing $48 million to make and grossing less than $16 million. It starred Loren Dean as a poor teenager from the Bronx who goes to work for mobster Dutch Schultz (played by Dustin Hoffman).
[Spoken.] Hey, they got a [Sung.] Genie Automatic Garage Door Picker Upper underwater.
The Genie Company makes the popular line of Genie electric garage door openers. They have been around, under different names, since 1923. The Genie Automatic Garage Door Picker Upper had a jingle during the 1960s and 1970s: “Get a Genie Automatic Garage Door Picker Upper and you’ll never leave your car out anymore/Cause a Genie Automatic Garage Door Picker Upper will open and close your door.”
That’s a Swiss Army joke. –Sorry.
A Swiss Army knife is a tool resembling a standard pocket knife, though it carries many other devices, including scissors, a corkscrew, screwdrivers, etc. First produced in Switzerland in 1897, it was called “Offiziersmesser” (“Officer’s knife”), and dubbed the “Swiss Army knife” by American soldiers during World War II.
Wait a minute. I think we’re on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
Pirates of the Caribbean is an attraction consisting of a boat ride surrounded by animatronic pirates at Disneyland and three other parks. It first opened in 1967 and is the last attraction at Disneyland that was overseen by Walt Disney himself; he died three months before the official opening. The ride has since spawned a franchise of feature films, novels, video games, and more.
I knew Colonel Kurtz was close. He was real close.
Actor Martin Sheen, who played lead character Benjamin Willard, narrated much of the exposition and back story in the 1979 Vietnam War movie Apocalypse Now. Actual line: “He was close, real close. I couldn’t see him yet, but I could feel him …” The film is a modern interpretation of Joseph Conrad’s 1899 book Heart of Darkness, in which the main character, sailor Charles Marlow, becomes obsessed with Kurtz, an ivory trader who has set himself up as the ruler of his own little kingdom in Africa.
Vito Scotti (1918-1996) was a recognizable and widely used actor known for playing a wide variety of ethnic types (back when that was more acceptable). In the 1972 film The Godfather, he played Nazorine, the baker who baked Don Corleone a wedding cake and asked him to help his daughter’s fiancé Enzo stay in America; in Cactus Flower (1969), he played the romantic diplomat Arturo Sanchez, who woos Ingrid Bergman at a ball.
That your beeper?
In the Dark Times before smartphones, people who needed to stay in touch (like doctors) would use a little device originally called a beeper and later known as a pager that could be clipped onto their belt. Originally, beepers made a noise to indicate that the user had a message waiting for them at their office or answering service. Later models had a numeric display so the user could see the phone number of the person trying to reach them. They would then have to locate a landline telephone to return the call. MST3K trivia: An early version of Tom Servo was named “Beeper.”
It’s the Ponderosa under the sea!
The Ponderosa was the family ranch on the TV western drama Bonanza, which aired on NBC from 1959-1973. At 431 episodes, it is the second-longest-running western drama series, behind Gunsmoke’s 635 episodes. The show centered on the Cartwright family: widowed rancher and patriarch Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) and his three sons, each by a different wife—Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker), and Little Joe (Michael Landon). Bonanza creator David Dortort attempted a revival in 2001 with Ponderosa, a prequel show that focused on the Cartwrights’ arrival and early years at the ranch; it only lasted one season on Pax.
Hey, I think that’s a matte painting, check it and see.
In filmmaking, matte paintings are backgrounds that are either placed in the shot during filming or added later as a post-production special effect. For most of the past century, they were hand-painted on glass and placed in front of the camera while an unpainted section framed the actors. More recently, matte paintings have been digital effects added in post-production. The first digital matte painting was featured in the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes.
We now join Fitzcarraldo, already in progress.
Fitzcarraldo is a 1982 film written and directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski as an aspiring rubber baron who attempts to haul a steamship over a steep hill to reach a rich rubber territory in Peru. The boat in the film is three stories tall and weighed a whopping 320 tons. Five crew members were badly injured and one drowned during filming. One engineer quit after warning Herzog there was a 70 percent chance the cables holding the boat would snap, killing dozens of people—and the director went ahead with the shot anyway.
Hey, he’s being followed by Michael Nesmith. –Hey, did you know my mom invented Liquid Paper?
Michael Nesmith (1942-2021) was one of The Monkees, the TV-spawned musical group that had their own sitcom on NBC from 1966-1968. His trademark was a green knitted wool beanie. And yes, his mother, Bette Graham, invented the typewriter correction fluid Liquid Paper in 1956 and founded the company that originally produced it (until it was sold to Gillette in 1979). The chorus to The Monkees’ theme song began “Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees …”
The animated Saturday morning TV series George of the Jungle (ABC, 1967) featured the Tarzan-like George and his jungle animal companions. Among them was George’s faithful Toucan bird messenger, Tookie Tookie, known for his call “Ahh-ahh! Eee-eee! Tookie-Tookie!”
Well, remember where we parked, everyone. We’re in the giraffe lot.
A number of zoos—including Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park in Florida—name their parking lots after animals. Animal Kingdom does in fact have a giraffe lot, as do the Philadelphia Zoo and the Milwaukee County Zoo.
Hey everybody, here’s where those two roads diverge into a yellow wood. –Take the one less traveled.
“The Road Not Taken,” first published in 1915, is one of American poet Robert Frost’s most popular works. The actual stanza is “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/And sorry I could not travel both /And be one traveler, long I stood/And looked down one as far as I could/To where it bent in the undergrowth.” The poem ends with the lines “I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference.”
That is one sweet chariot. –Shirley MacLaine.
Shirley MacLaine starred as Charity Valentine in the 1969 movie Sweet Charity, about a woman who works at a dance hall and pursues love in a series of bad relationships. (The full title of the movie is Sweet Charity: The Adventures of a Girl Who Wanted to Be Loved.) It was directed by noted choreographer Bob Fosse and was based on the 1966 Broadway musical of the same name (also directed by Fosse and written by Neil Simon, but the stage version starred Fosse’s wife Gwen Verdon in the title role). This may also be a reference to the African-American spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” a hopeful hymn about the rewards awaiting Christians in heaven. (Specifically, the “chariot” evokes the biblical story of the prophet Elijah, who ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire.) Sample lyrics: “Swing low, sweet chariot/Coming for to carry me home.”
[R2-D2 sound effects.] [Imitating.] No, we are lost, R2.
An imitation of Anthony Daniels, who played the humanoid droid C-3PO in the 1977 sci-fi classic Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Along with his fellow droid R2-D2, C-3PO is stranded in the deserts of Tatooine. But the determined R2-D2 sets off on his mission to find Obi-Wan Kenobi, while the bewildered C-3PO sulks off in the opposite direction. Daniels became the only actor to later be involved in all the theatrical films in the Star Wars series, as well as multiple TV series, video games, etc.
[More R2-D2.] [Imitating.] No, you go that way. You’ll be breaking down in no time.
See previous note on C-3PO. The actual line in the film: “Go that way! You’ll be malfunctioning within a day, you nearsighted scrap pile!”
Hey, it’s the 34 horsemen of the apocalypse.
The four horsemen of the apocalypse appear in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. They symbolize the events that will occur in the time before Judgment Day. From Revelation 6:8: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
Hey, check it out, it says “Bill Shatner was here.”
Canadian actor William Shatner is best known for playing Captain James T. Kirk on the original series of Star Trek (NBC, 1966-1969) and in six feature films. This is probably a reference to the first-season episode “Arena,” in which Kirk fought a lizard alien called a Gorn in a craggy landscape similar to this one. It and other rock-intensive episodes were filmed at Vasquez Rocks, in northern Los Angeles County. Vasquez Rocks is within the “studio zone,” or within a 30-mile radius of Hollywood, so film companies can shoot there without having to pay their crews extra. So it has appeared in many, many movies and TV shows.
Great, they’re letting Jay North lead the pack here.
Jay North was a child star who played Dennis the Menace on the TV series of the same name from 1959 until 1963.
“It must be a mirage.” No, The Mirage is on the Strip.
The Mirage is on the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is a luxury hotel and casino with a large showroom. They were famous for hosting the magicians Siegfried and Roy and their white tiger act, which ended after Roy’s tragic mauling in 2003 (although they performed at one last charity benefit in 2009).
And around the clubhouse turn is Apartment House with plenty of room, with Bird Droppings on the rail, coming around the bend.
A riff on the 1948 novelty song “William Tell Overture” by Spike Jones and His City Slickers, which combined Gioachino Rossini’s famous 1829 opera overture, as performed on kitchen implements, with comical narration of a fictional horse race, complete with wacky names for the horses and sound effects.
It’s a world of illusion.
An imitation of Doug Henning (1947-2000), the longhaired, mustachioed Canadian magician/illusionist/escape artist and Transcendental Meditation (TM) proponent who first gained fame in the 1970s with a successful Broadway show, The Magic Show; he then became a regular figure on American television in the mid-1970s with his World of Magic specials, with all the bell-bottoms and rainbows that implies. His prominent overbite and reedy voice led to many parodies (notably by SNL’s Martin Short). At the end of each of his TV specials, he would tell the audience, “Anything the mind can conceive is possible. Nothing is impossible. All you have to do is look within, and you can realize your fondest dreams. I would like to wish each one of you all of life’s wonders and a joyful age of enlightenment.” He retired from the stage in 1980 and died 20 years later at the age of 52, from liver cancer. Skeptic James Randi, a fellow magician and a friend of Henning’s, blamed his death on Henning’s devotion to TM, claiming that he had neglected standard medical treatment in favor of more “natural” cures.
Get him, girls, he hit Buddy.
A riff from the 1974 Mel Brooks western spoof movie Blazing Saddles. Actual line, spoken by one of the dancers (Cecil Gold): “They’ve hit Buddy! Come on, girls!”
[Sung, slowly.] “Entrance of the Gladiators.”
While most people know this as “that circus song,” the actual title is “Entrance of the Gladiators.” It was composed in 1897 as a military march by Czech composer Julius Fučík. Circuses began to use it after a small band version was arranged by Canadian composer Louis-Philippe Laurendeau in 1901 under the title “Thunder and Blazes.”
[Imitating.] Well, round about that time, the Duke boys did a little body work on the ol’ General Lee.
An imitation of the folksy narrator, a.k.a. “The Balladeer” (played by country-music artist Waylon Jennings), from the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard, which ran from 1979-1985. The General Lee was the Duke boys’ (cousins Bo and Luke Duke, played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat, respectively) car: a bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger with a Confederate battle flag painted on the roof and the number “01” on each door; the name refers to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
[Sung.] Hot blooded, check it and … Huh?
These are lyrics from the song “Hot Blooded,” by the rock group Foreigner, from their album Double Vision. It reached number three on the charts in 1978. Sample lyrics: “Well, I’m hot-blooded, check it and see/I got a fever of a hundred and three/Come on baby, do you do more than dance?/I’m hot-blooded, I’m hot-blooded …”
[Sung.] Theme from Batman.
The catchy theme music to the TV show Batman (1966-1968), which has been sampled and covered by artists ranging from Snoop Dogg to The Kinks, was written by jazz trumpeter/composer Neal Hefti. He won a Grammy Award for it. Hefti also wrote the theme to TV’s The Odd Couple.
Fisher, Fisher, Fisher.
Fisher Nuts was founded in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1920. Their commercials emphasized the freshness of their product by showing a person opening a jar and hearing a whispered “Fisher” as the vacuum seal is broken.
Stop, wait, come back.
A deadpan line from the 1971 movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (adapted from the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl), which stars Gene Wilder as Wonka. He opens his miraculous factory for a once-in-a-lifetime tour for five lucky children and their guardians, and each child (except the titular Charlie) meets a foul end, thanks to their own bad behavior. Wonka utters a bland “Stop. Don’t. Come back” as Mike Teavee lunges for the Television Room machine that will shrink him and teleport him inside the TV.
I’m a little teapot, short and stout.
“I’m a Little Teapot (The Teapot Song)” was composed in 1939 by George Sanders and Clarence Kelley. At the time, Kelley and his wife owned a dance studio, and they used the song to help teach children a basic tap dance routine. But the song (and the dance) became extremely popular after a recording by Art Kassel and Marion Holmes was released in 1941. Sample lyrics: “I’m a little teapot, short and stout/Here is my handle, here is my spout.”
This is my handle, this is my gun, one is for pouring, one is for fun.
In Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, the abusive Marine drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (played by R. Lee Ermey), has his platoon drill in their underwear. With one hand holding their rifle and the other holding their crotch, they chant, “This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun.” See also previous note on “I’m a Little Teapot.”
Silly String begins life as a liquid. It contains a solvent that evaporates immediately upon contact with air. When propelled from an aerosol can, it turns into a continuous strand of brightly colored “string.” It’s used at parties and other celebrations much like confetti, and also has a military application: detecting tripwires.
G.E. We bring good things to death.
Multinational conglomerate General Electric used the ad slogan “GE: We bring good things to life” from 1979 to 2003. A much ridiculed (by MST3K, anyway) technique for naming an episode of a TV mystery or detective show was to replace the last word in a common phrase or title with either “death” or “murder.”
You know, I liked Meg Ryan in this role better.
Actress Meg Ryan played the love interest (opposite Tom Hanks) in the 1990 romantic comedy Joe Versus the Volcano. The climax of the film involved a volcanic eruption.
Admiral? Deploy the Cheddarwurst.
Cheddarwurst is a variety of smoked sausage made by Hillshire Farms that has cheddar cheese mixed into the sausage.
Looks like an e e cummings book cover.
e e cummings (1894-1962), as he preferred it to be written, was an American poet known for his eccentric punctuation, capitalization (specifically, his lack of it), and placement of lines on the page.
Typesetting by Smith Corona.
Smith Corona was one of the most popular mechanical typewriter manufacturers. They started making them in the late 1880s and were competitive until typewriters were replaced by PCs in the mid-1980s. Today they make shipping labels and thermal ribbons used in warehouses.
I’ll have a Dick Rubin. Hold the sauerkraut.
A Reuben is a type of sandwich made with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye bread. Several accounts are given for its origin; one credits a Nebraskan grocer named Reuben Kulakofsky, who requested the sandwich at his weekly poker game in Omaha in the 1920s.
Ryder rents sound services.
Ryder is a brand of rental trucks and moving supplies. The company was founded by James Ryder in Miami in 1933.
Laszlo also brings you a fine line of cosmetics for aging socialites.
Erno Laszlo (1897-1973) was a Hungarian-American dermatologist and cosmetics entrepreneur who founded the Erno Laszlo Institute in New York in 1939, which provided skin and beauty treatments to an exclusive clientele of the rich and famous: Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Jackie O, just to name a bunch. He entered the retail marketplace in 1966; both the Institute and the retail line are still going strong.
Roger Corman! Woo-hoo-hoo!
Known as “The King of B-Movies,” Roger Corman is the director with the second longest list of movies to be featured on MST3K: six, behind Bert I. Gordon’s eight. While the writers seem to have had a grudging admiration for Gordon, they made no attempt to temper their frustration with Corman’s filmmaking. As they put it in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide: “… let’s put an end to all this hooey that Roger Corman is somehow a respectable director just because he gave Jonathan Demme, Tobe Hooper, Joe Dante, Jack Nicholson, and Coppola their first breaks. Roger Corman is a horrible director … his films are punishingly dreadful.” By the way, when Corman was asked what he thought of MST3K, his response was, “If you don’t have any ability yourself, maybe you can make money by making fun of those who do.”
[Credit: Produced by Gene Corman.] Wonder if they’re related?
Gene (1927-2020) was Roger’s younger brother, but while Roger stayed in exploitation films all his life, Gene began and ended his career in the mainstream. He got his start as an agent, entering the business before his brother; he then teamed up with Roger to found New World Pictures and worked with him on a number of films. Later he became VP of 20th Century Fox Television.
[Credit: Directed by Bernard L. Kowalski.] A title sequence named desire. –Stella!
A Streetcar Named Desire is a 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tennessee Williams that was made into a film in 1951; both stage and screen versions starred a young Marlon Brando as the brutish Stanley Kowalski. One of the most famous scenes of the film is the one in which Brando, drunk and feeling guilty after a fight with his wife, melodramatically shrieks “Stellaaaaa!”
In a running gag on the TV sitcom Cheers, whenever regular bar patron Norm Peterson would enter, everyone would call out his name. Norm was a frequently unemployed accountant (who in later seasons became a house painter and interior decorator) played by George Wendt for the entire series run from 1982 until 1993.
This is a Hee Haw writing session. –So I was thinking Lulu could pop up from behind some corn. –Now that’s funny.
Hee Haw was a syndicated country variety show hosted by Buck Owens and Roy Clark. The show featured cornpone humor and appearances by virtually every major star in country music. It ran from 1969-1993, but has frequently remained on the air in reruns ever since. Lulu Roman was a regular on the show, and frequently appeared in their “cornfield” skits, which had various people pop up out of the corn to tell quick jokes—much as Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, which Hee Haw was modeled after, would have people pop out of small doors in its “joke wall.”
Tell little Jerry Lee to hold it down in there.
Jerry Lee Lewis is a rockabilly piano player and singer, known for such 1950s hits as “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” His career was derailed in 1957 when he caused an enormous public scandal by marrying his 13-year-old cousin, Myra Brown (while he was technically still married to his previous wife). Brown divorced him in 1970, alleging adultery and abuse.
Lolita is a 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov about a middle-aged pedophile, Humbert Humbert, and the 12-year-old girl whom he kidnaps and sexually abuses. The novel has regularly been the focus of censorship efforts, but it is also seen as one of the finest works of literature of the 20th century. In 1962, it was adapted into film by director Stanley Kubrick; it starred James Mason (who may be imitated here) and a 14-year-old Sue Lyon in the title role, who bears a striking resemblance to “Liz, honey” in this movie.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? –Yeah, Crest.
Crest is a brand of toothpaste introduced in 1954 as “Fluoristan,” becoming “Crest with Fluoristan” the following year. By 1962 it was the best-selling toothpaste in the United States.
Good one, Eb, I’ve gotta give you that one. Hee hee hee.
A reference to the TV sitcom Green Acres, which ran from 1965 to 1971 on CBS. It starred Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as Oliver and Lisa Douglas, former New York socialites trying to adapt to life on a broken-down farm near the rural town of Hooterville. Eb Dawson, a dimwitted farmhand who called the Douglases “Mom” and “Dad,” was originally a recurring character played by Tom Lester; audience popularity made him a regular.
“Regular arms on it like a man.” But made for a woman.
The commercial tagline “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman” belongs to the deodorant Secret, made by Procter & Gamble. It first appeared in 1972.
“Had suckers on ‘em.” Tootsie Pop, I think.
Tootsie Pops are lollipops filled with their signature chewy Tootsie Roll chocolate candy. The rolls have been around since 1908, but the pops weren’t created until 1931. They became widely popular thanks to a 1970 animated TV commercial that featured a boy asking an owl how many licks it takes to get to the center. (Answer: three. Then it becomes so delicious that you can’t stand it anymore and just bite down.) Trivia: the owl’s voice was supplied by Paul Winchell, better known as Tigger in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh cartoons.
“Like one of them octopuses.” That’s octopi, actually.
Well, yes and no. There have been three proffered plurals for “octopus” over the years: octopuses, octopodes, and octopi. Octopuses is a traditional English plural, because it’s an accepted English word. Octopodes is a Greek ending, because the word is originally of Greek origin. And octopi is a Latin ending, because the word took a swing through New Latin before ultimately landing in English. “Octopodes” is considered very old-fashioned now, but either of the other two is accepted, with “octopuses” perhaps holding a slight edge.
You gotta check with Stringbean to laugh?
Stringbean, a.k.a. David Akeman (1915-1973), was a banjo player and “comedy musician,” one of the original cast members of the TV variety show Hee Haw (see above note). He was also a star performer in the Grand Ole Opry for decades. On Hee Haw, he played a scarecrow in the cornfield who told terrible one-liners until the crow on his shoulder forced him to stop.
The Hooterville Seven.
Hooterville was the small rural town that was the setting for the CBS sitcoms Green Acres (1965-1971; see above note) and Petticoat Junction (1963-1970) and was referenced in The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971). “Seven” could be a reference to The Magnificent Seven (1960), a western about a group of gunslingers defending a small village in Mexico against a gang of outlaws. Or possibly it means the Chicago Seven, who were charged with conspiracy and other crimes after the protests and riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The results were a mixed bag of acquittals and convictions; all the convictions were later reversed.
Ordinary pantyhose are okay under your funky clothes, but gentlemen prefer Hanes.
Lines from a 1970s-era jingle for Hanes pantyhose. During the 1970s and 1980s, Hanes’ ad slogan was “Gentlemen prefer Hanes.” The line itself was a riff on the title of a 1925 novel by Anita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, that became two different stage plays and two movies; the most famous of which is the 1953 musical film starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe.
Pete Fountain (b. Pierre LaFontaine Jr., 1930-2016) was a famous clarinet player, best known for his Dixieland jazz. He owned a couple of clubs in New Orleans over the years and founded one of the most famous marching Krewes that performs in the Mardi Gras parade there, the Half-Fast Walking Club. He also did a turn with the Lawrence Welk orchestra for two years before quitting, saying in an interview, “Champagne and bourbon don’t mix.”
Boss Hogg After Dark.
Playboy After Dark was a short-lived TV series (1969-1970) that was hosted by Playboy magazine owner Hugh Hefner. The show featured live musical performances, the Playboy Playmates, and interviews in a “bachelor pad” apartment set; guest performers ranged from Linda Ronstadt to James Brown. Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg was the name of the corrupt county commissioner and series antagonist on the TV show Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985). He was played by Sorrell Booke (1930-1994).
I’m not hearing you, la la la la la la la la. [Sung.] Hot child in the city …
“Hot Child in the City” is a number one hit single from 1978, written and performed by British/Canadian singer-songwriter Nick Gilder. It took a record-setting four months from the time of its release to reach number one, according to The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits. Lyrics include: “Hot child in the city/Runnin’ wild and lookin’ pretty.” The cheery, poppy song is actually about child prostitutes in Los Angeles.
My name’s not Liz, it’s Blanche.
Blanche DuBois is the lead female character in Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire (see above note). An aging Southern belle with a murky past and a tenuous grip on reality, Blanche is forced to share a cramped, steamy apartment with her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley. Jessica Tandy won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Blanche in the Broadway production, and Vivien Leigh won an Academy Award for her performance in the 1951 film adaptation.
Oh, I love it when she puts on Nair, I just like the smell.
Nair is a brand of hair removal products made by Church & Dwight Co. Nair uses strong chemicals to break down the hair so it can be wiped away without shaving. Potassium thioglycolate, specifically, in the process of breaking down the keratin in hair, releases sulfur atoms, giving off a pungent scent. Nair is available in scented versions that help mask the chemical odor.
A frequently heard exclamation when a curvaceous woman is on the screen, Honey West is one of the first female detectives in popular fiction. Created by Gloria and Forest Fickling (under the pseudonym “G.G. Fickling”), the character appeared in eleven novels from 1957 to 1971, a twelfth novel by different authors in 2014, a television series starring Anne Francis that ran from 1965 to 1966, several comic books, and a three-part audiobook drama released in 2012.
“Where are you going?” A fellow named Humbert Humbert wants to see me.
See above note on Lolita.
Hey, it’s Jim from Wild Kingdom.
Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom was one of the first nature shows on television. Airing on NBC from 1963 to 1971, it went on to find even greater success in syndication, running until 1988, and was revived from 2002-2011 on the cable channel Animal Planet, still sponsored by the insurance company Mutual of Omaha. During its height of popularity, host Marlin Perkins was one of the most recognizable faces on TV. Ripe for parody were Perkins’ tendency to remain safely in a jeep or boat while co-host Jim Fowler (1930-2019) was out doing something dangerous with wild animals, and the show’s fondness for aggressively engaging with wildlife—wrestling animals to the ground or shooting them with tranquilizer darts—rather than passively observing them.
[Sung.] I don’t know how to [muffled] love him.
A line from the song by the same name, performed by the character of Mary Magdalene in the 1970 rock opera album, 1971 Broadway musical, and 1973 musical film Jesus Christ Superstar, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Sample lyrics: “I don’t know how to love him/What to do, how to move him/I’ve been changed, yes really changed …”
It’s suddenly Hee Haw.
See note on Hee Haw, above.
Could you leave the Mad Dog here?
MD 20/20 is a brand of inexpensive high-proof fortified wine made by Mogen David (now owned by The Wine Group). MD originally stood for Mogen David, but is popularly known as Mad Dog. The 20/20 used to signify 20 ounces of 20 percent alcohol (or 40 proof), but that no longer applies. The brand has nine artificially colored, artificially flavored wines with extra alcohol added. Most are 26 proof, with one as high as 36. Because they are cheap and potent, they are popular among the poor and homeless people, and some cities have banned them from being sold in areas with a high concentration of those populations.
Uh, he’s a mess. A chocolate mess.
In the 1970s, M&Ms ran a series of ads around the theme “No chocolate mess.” Probably the most famous was the 1972 ad that showed an Old West card player snarling over his hand, “These cards are marked.” “They’re a mess!” adds another. “Yeah,” says a third. “A chocolate mess!” Fortunately, the M&Ms intervene before violence is done to offer a solution.
Oh, this guy’s the sheriff of everything.
Gene Roth (1903-1976), who plays Sheriff Kovis here, played a nearly identical role as the skeptical, boorish, and gluttonous Sheriff Cagle in Show 313, Earth vs. the Spider.
Ah, shut up and finish your Kaboom.
Kaboom was a colorful, big-top-themed breakfast cereal made by General Mills, with clown-face oat cereal pieces and marshmallow bits shaped like bears, elephants, lions, and stars. It was sold from 1969 until 2010.
Gary Busey, ladies and gentlemen, Gary Busey.
Gary Busey is a wild-man actor with a Texas accent who has appeared in more than 170 movies and TV shows. Major parts have included the title role in The Buddy Holly Story (1976), for which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and road manager Bobby Ritchie in the ‘70s version of A Star Is Born. In 1988 he suffered nearly fatal head injuries in a motorcycle accident, and in 2003 he starred in a reality show for Comedy Central called I’m With Busey.
Only half a cup? Don’t I like my coffee?
A reference to an old ad campaign for Brim decaffeinated coffee, which was sold by General Foods from 1961 to 1995. (The actual line: “Only half a cup? Don’t you like my coffee?”) Its tag line: “Remember: fill it to the rim—with Brim!” A 2008 study revealed that the brand, and its slogan, had an 80 percent recall among consumers, who mostly didn’t remember that it was a decaffeinated product. In 2014, Sensio purchased the brand and relaunched it—as a coffee maker.
[Sung.] From the land of sky blue waters ...
This is an old radio and TV ad jingle for Hamm’s beer. The campaign launched in 1953 and featured (in the TV commercials) an animated bear mascot. Sample lyrics: “From the land of sky blue waters/From the land of pines, lofty balsams/Comes the beer refreshing—Hamm’s …” The Theodore Hamm Brewing Company was originally founded in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1865; the brand is now owned by Molson Coors.
Do you know any other camp songs? –Well, let’s see … Barnacle Bill?
The American drinking song “Barnacle Bill the Sailor” was first published in 1927 and was loosely based on California sailor and Gold Rush miner William Bernard. It’s adapted from an earlier traditional folk song, “Bollocky Bill the Sailor,” which in turn is adapted from the even earlier song “Abraham Brown the Sailor.” It’s a bawdy song, containing many references to sex and body parts. Some of the (less offensive) lyrics: “Shall we go to the dance?/Said the fair young maiden/Well … to hell with the dance and down with your pants/Said Barnacle Bill the sailor.”
It’s a swamp, uh, should we bring our evil in here?
In Swamp Thing: The Series (USA Network, 1990-1993), the opening narration declares: “The swamp is my world. It is who I am; it is what I am. I was once a man. I know the evil men do. Do not bring your evil here, I warn you. Beware the wrath of Swamp Thing.” Swamp Thing is a comic-book character in the DC Universe made of sentient vegetable matter. It first appeared in 1971 and was later made famous by respected comic book writer Alan Moore. In 1982 the comic was adapted into a film directed by Wes Craven and starring Dick Durock, Ray Wise, and Adrienne Barbeau, followed by a 1989 sequel, The Return of Swamp Thing, and the above-mentioned TV series in 1990 starring Durock. In 2019, DC Universe, DC’s streaming service, launched a new Swamp Thing series, and announced its cancellation after only one episode had aired, although they continued to air the remaining nine episodes. This ill-fated series starred stuntman and actor Derek Mears as Swamp Thing.
[Imitating.] Charlie, there’s leeches all over your back.
An imitation of Katharine Hepburn from the 1951 film The African Queen, in which she starred alongside Humphrey Bogart. Bogart plays boat captain Charlie Allnut, who helps Hepburn escape German soldiers by piloting his boat (the titular Queen) down the Ulanga River. At one point, they have to pull the boat free from a marsh and Bogart gets covered with leeches.
What, is she on her lunch break from Wendy’s?
Wendy’s is a large chain of fast food hamburger restaurants. Restaurateur Dave Thomas started it in 1969. He named it after his daughter Melinda “Wendy” Thomas, whose likeness was used as the logo. The old uniforms for Wendy’s employees, worn during the 1970s and 1980s, had vertical light blue and white stripes.
[Sung.] Hum-de-dum, wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald … hum-de-dum dee dee dee …
“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is a 1976 song by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. A number-one hit in the United States and Canada, the song commemorates the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, an American ore freighter that at that time was the longest ship operating in the Great Lakes. On November 10, 1975, “Big Fitz” encountered extreme weather conditions, broke apart, and sank in Lake Superior, killing all twenty-nine crew members. The Edmund Fitzgerald’s loss is the best known, but over the previous 150 years, the area of the lake where it sank had claimed 240 ships.
Kermit the Frog was a Muppet originally created by Jim Henson for the Washington, D.C.-area TV puppet show Sam and Friends in 1955. He was one of the original Muppets on Sesame Street (PBS/HBO, 1969-present) and was later the host and showrunner of The Muppet Show (ITV/syndication, 1976-1981). According to Kermit’s official biography, he was born in the swamps of Mississippi, along with his roughly 2,300 siblings. (He was the first to leave home.)
Be quiet, Phil Harris and Curt Gowdy are duck hunting back there.
Curt Gowdy (1919-2006) was a sportscaster. Before moving to a national TV network, he was the voice of the Boston Red Sox. Gowdy was also the host of The American Sportsman (ABC, 1965-1986), which took the audience along on a hunting and fishing trip with Gowdy and assorted celebrity guests. Phil Harris (1904-1995) was a regular guest on the show, appearing in tandem with singer Bing Crosby once a year for sixteen straight years. Harris was a popular radio comedian from the ‘30s through the early ‘50s and later became well known to young audiences as a voice actor in Disney animated features, most famously as Baloo the Bear in The Jungle Book (1967) and Little John in Robin Hood (1973).
Do you want Rice-A-Roni? There’s some steak tartare, and some O’Brien potatoes.
Rice-A-Roni is a brand of prepared rice and pasta mixture introduced in 1958 by the Golden Grain Macaroni Company and now sold by PepsiCo. “The San Francisco Treat!” is a trademarked slogan for the product. Steak tartare is raw minced steak served with various seasonings on the side, added to taste—onions, mushrooms, capers, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, etc.—and sometimes garnished with a raw egg. Potatoes O’Brien is a dish made with pan-fried potatoes and assorted bell peppers. Its origin is uncertain—some claim it was first made in a Boston restaurant and others claim a Manhattan birthplace. But it has been around since the turn of the 20th century.
I feel like Lewis and Clark. –Really? –You be Jerry Lewis and I’ll be Petula Clark. –Bah-dum tshhh.
Lots to annotate here. In 1804-1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (with the invaluable help of guide Sacagawea) explored what is now the western and northwestern United States, at the request of President Thomas Jefferson. Their expedition was enormously significant, both for surveying the territory and for the peaceful contacts they made with Native American tribes there. Jerry Lewis (1926-2017) was a popular nightclub comedian along with comedy partner Dean Martin (1917-1995). The pair made a number of successful movies in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Petula Clark is an English pop singer and stage/screen actress best known for bubbly ‘60s hits like “Downtown,” “Colour My World,” “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” and “I Know a Place.” Her best-known film roles were in the musicals Finian’s Rainbow (1968) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969). What’s often referred to as a rimshot, but is actually called a “sting,” is a drumming technique consisting of two fast snare drum hits and a cymbal hit. It has a long history of being used to accentuate the punchline of a joke: “Take my wife … please!” [bah-dum tshhh!]. An actual rimshot is a quick, simultaneous hit of both the head and rim of a snare drum, used to create an accented backbeat and commonly used in ska and reggae.
Will the leech survive? Will they drink more coffee, and will the fat guy’s wife ever touch him? And what about Naomi?
An imitation of a melodramatic soap opera announcer, a standard convention of radio and TV soaps in the old days—the announcer would review key unresolved issues in the plot of the story, usually in a series of open-ended questions, to hook the audience into staying tuned.
[Sung.] When a big Fig Newton (here’s the tricky part) the big Fig Newton …”
Fig Newtons are a brand of cookies made by Nabisco/Kraft. Their commercials in the 1970s featured a guy (actor James Harder) dressed in a giant fig suit, who sang a catchy jingle extolling the merits of Fig Newtons. Sample lyrics: “Wrap the inside in the outside/Is it good?/Darn tootin’!/Doin’ the big Fig Newton/Here’s the tricky part/The big Fig Newton.”
Did you eat the last MoonPie?
MoonPies are a dessert snack popular in the South: two round graham crackers sandwiching a layer of marshmallow fluff, all dunked in chocolate.
Dirty old man? The Ropers get more action than I—oh.
Stanley and Helen Roper, played by Norman Fell and Audra Lindley respectively, were the bickering landlords/neighbors on the TV sitcom Three’s Company, which aired from 1977-1984. The couple got their own spinoff series, The Ropers, in 1979. A running gag in the series was Mrs. Roper’s ongoing quest to have sex with Mr. Roper, and his desperate efforts to avoid it. It lasted two seasons.
Well, I’m real partial to them Hormel dinner meals.
Hormel Foods is a Minnesota-based company that manufactures a number of prepared food products, including deli meats, hot dogs, canned chili, and more. In the 1980s the company introduced Top Shelf dinners—microwaveable meals that didn’t require refrigeration. Hormel now sells Compleats, which are basically the same concept.
I’m the Ronald McDonald for this region.
Ronald McDonald, a clown character dressed in bright primary yellow and red, is the main mascot of the McDonald’s fast food restaurant chain. He was first depicted in three 1963 television commercials by Willard Scott, later The Today Show meteorologist (and who had previously played Bozo the Clown on a local Washington, D.C., TV station). Several hundred people at a time are trained to perform as Ronald McDonald at local appearances, although only one plays him in TV ads.
We now return to Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid: a Troma presentation.
Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid was filmed in 1983 as Zeisters and released in 1986 by Troma Entertainment under the longer title. Troma specializes in low-budget films that often spoof the conventions of 1950s and ‘60s B-grade monster movies. Some of its more famous films: The Toxic Avenger, Cannibal! The Musical, and Tromeo and Juliet. Another 1986 Troma production, Blood Hook, was directed by MST3K executive producer Jim Mallon; Kevin Murphy was key grip/lyricist. This was a couple of years before the KTMA debut of MST3K in 1988.
Swamp Blanket Bingo.
A reference to the 1965 teen beach party film Beach Blanket Bingo, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.
“Come home, beat up on me.” Oh, Merle Haggard. –Hey! –Well, George Jones then.
Merle Haggard (1937-2016) and George Jones (1931-2013) were two legendary country musicians and bad boys. Haggard was married five times, and his relationship with his first wife, Leona Hobbs, was particularly troubled. There were several incidents of domestic violence, including the time Haggard briefly tried to strangle Leona over her cheating and another time she had to jump out of a speeding car to get away from him. Jones’ alcoholism ruined his marriages to Tammy Wynette and several other women (and caused numerous problems in his career, giving him the nickname of “No Show Jones”). Wynette claimed that Jones was abusive while he was drunk, at one point chasing her through the house with a loaded gun, hitting her hard enough to bruise her face, and hurling her down the aisle of their tour bus. However, Jones denied her claims.
Then I dated David Soul for a while, and same thing.
David Soul is an actor who played Detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson on the TV cop show Starsky & Hutch (1975-1979). He also had a decent singing career in the ‘70s, including the 1977 hit songs “Silver Lady” and “Don’t Give Up on Us,” which hit number one in the U.S. Soul was also an abusive alcoholic, who was incarcerated for beating his pregnant wife; he is now in recovery. He has been married five times, with six children.
I’m gonna make you listen to Supertramp.
Supertramp is a British rock band formed in 1969. Their songwriting involves imaginative storytelling, and their music relies on lead singer Roger Hodgson’s ability to hit the high notes. “Dreamer” was a hit single off their 1974 album Crime of the Century, as was “The Logical Song,” off 1979’s Breakfast in America.
I know what you’re thinking. Did I fire one shot, or only one?
A riff on the famous line from the 1971 film Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood. The full line: “I know what you’re thinking: Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
[Hummed.] Gilligan’s Island incidental music.
This is the incidental music used on the sitcom Gilligan’s Island (1964-1967). There were five composers with music writing credits for the show; one of them was the legendary film composer John Williams.
Now it’s The Most Dangerous Game.
The Most Dangerous Game is a 1932 film adapted from a Richard Connell 1924 short story by the same title. It starred Joel McCrea and Fay Wray as shipwrecked passengers on a mysterious island whose owner (Leslie Banks) hunts humans for sport. Show 607, Bloodlust!, is a shamefully obvious ripoff of The Most Dangerous Game.
This is more like Night of the Iguana than Attack of the Giant Leeches.
Night of the Iguana is a 1961 play by Tennessee Williams, based on his earlier 1948 short story, about a disgraced minister working as a tour guide in Mexico. It was made into an Academy Award-winning film starring Richard Burton in 1964.
I got nowhere else to go.
An Officer and a Gentleman is a 1982 film starring Richard Gere as a young man struggling to make it through a tough flight school to become a naval officer. At a particularly brutal stage in his training, Gere screams this at his drill sergeant, Louis Gossett Jr., admitting that this is a do-or-die moment in his life.
[Imitating.] I’ll catch you, you wascally adulterers.
An imitation of Elmer Fudd, a hunter usually pitted against Bugs Bunny in the Looney Tunes cartoons.
Wait a minute; he’s loading his gun with Tootsie Rolls.
See above note on Tootsie Pops/Rolls.
What is with the mud? Did we miss some metaphor? –Soil of the soul?
“Soil of the soul” is generally a reference to the parable of the sower from the Bible (Luke 8:1-15). That’s the story Jesus told about the farmer sowing his seeds (very carelessly), but the ones that fall on rocky ground don’t grow, or get eaten by birds. Only the ones that fall on good soil grow and bear fruit. (So only the people who are ready to hear his words will take them into his heart and spread his message to others.)
Man, look at all the weed. Where are they? Tommy Chong’s back yard?
Tommy Chong is half of the comedy duo Cheech and Chong. The pair’s schtick revolves around drug use and intoxication. In real life, Chong is a longtime advocate of marijuana, and started his own line of drug paraphernalia, for which he spent nine months in federal prison back in 2003. Now, with marijuana laws considerably looser in many states, Cheech and Chong have their own brand of pot available for sale.
Suddenly, they’re the Defiant Ones.
The film The Defiant Ones (1958) is about two escaped prisoners, one black (Sidney Poitier) and one white (Tony Curtis), who are shackled to each other and must work together to elude their pursuers. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won two, for Best Cinematography and Best Screenplay.
Please, Dave! Bring back the chicken cordon bleu.
In 1992 (the same year this episode aired), TV commercials for Wendy’s fast-food chain featured founder Dave Thomas meeting various fans pleading that he bring back the Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich: a breaded chicken breast, ham, Dijon mustard, and cheese on a bun. Dave did bring it back, but only for another “limited time.”
Would you rob a shop? –[Sung.] Anything!
A riff on the song “I’d Do Anything” from the 1960 musical Oliver! and its 1968 film adaptation, in which Dodger, Oliver, and the other boys in Fagin’s gang sing about their devotion to Nancy. Sample lyrics: “Would you rob a shop?/Anything!/Would you risk the drop?/Anything!/ Though your eyes go pop?/Anything!”
An expression made popular by Bart Simpson (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) on the long-running animated comedy The Simpsons (Fox, 1989-present).
Gary Cooper in a cameo role. Gary Cooper, ladies and gentlemen. [Whistles, clapping.] Gary Cooper. –Yep.
Gary Cooper (1901-1961) starred in many classic films, including the great western High Noon (1952). He crafted a screen persona as a stoic man of few words, reportedly changing blocks of dialogue in a script to a simple “yep” or “nope”—something he himself would parody in interviews and appearances. He made a cameo appearance in the 1949 Doris Day musical It’s a Great Feeling that consisted entirely of saying “Yep” to every statement by his costar, singer Dennis Morgan, who thanked him at the end, saying, “You’ve been a great help.” “I have?” Cooper asked. “Yep,” Morgan replied.
Hey, it’s Bartles and Jaymes.
Bartles & Jaymes is a brand of fruit-flavored wine cooler made by the E & J Gallo Winery and introduced in 1984. It became a household name thanks to a series of TV commercials that ran from 1984 to 1991, featuring two elderly, folksy gents, Frank Bartles (who spoke) and Ed Jaymes (who did not), who ended each ad with the line, “And thank you for your support.” Bartles was played by David Rufkahr and Jaymes was played by Dick Maugg. Neither was a professional actor before being cast in the ads; Rufkahr was a cattle rancher and Maugg was a general contractor.
[Kookaburra on soundtrack.] Sounds like Africa.
The sound of the laughing kookaburra bird is strongly associated with films set in Africa, thanks to the old Tarzan films, which began using it in Tarzan and the Green Goddess (1938). But it has also turned up in settings like South America (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Mexico (Treasure of the Sierra Madre), the Himalayas (Black Narcissus), and North Carolina (Cape Fear). It is native to none of these places: the kookaburra hails from Australia.
Otis, your Quisp is ready.
Quisp was a kiddie cereal introduced in 1965 and often marketed in tandem with its sister cereal Quake in TV commercials produced by Jay Ward, the creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Dudley Do-Right. They were both manufactured by the Quaker Oats Company. Otis Campbell (played by Hal Smith) was the town drunk on the TV series The Andy Griffith Show (CBS, 1960-1968), who would regularly come into the jail drunk and lock himself up.
Oh, great. A swinger. Always on my shift. Can I eat the Quisp?
See previous note.
I just love these Hummels.
Hummels are collectible figurines based on the drawings of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, a Bavarian nun. A German porcelain company spotted the drawings and began making figurines based on them, with their creator’s approval, in 1935. Generally focusing on the innocence of childhood, the figurines became popular after World War II. Sister Maria Innocentia did not live to see their success; she died in 1946 of tuberculosis, at the age of 37. But a group at her convent continues to oversee the figurines’ production, now made by Hummel Manufaktur in Rödental, Germany.
Whoa. E-Z Lift needs adjusting.
Probably a reference to lift chairs, also known as power lift chairs. For the elderly, getting up from a seated position can be difficult. Lift chairs resemble recliners, but they employ small motors to lift and tilt the chair forward to help ease the occupant into a standing position. Popular brands include Easy Comfort and AmeriGlide.
[Sung.] O sole mio.
The song “O sole mio” was written by Eduardo di Capua and Alfredo Mazzucchi in 1898 in the Neapolitan language of southern Italy. The title translates as “my sun” or “my sunshine.” It has been recorded by many, many artists, including Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti. It has also been adapted into other languages; Elvis’s 1960 number-one hit “It’s Now or Never,” for example, is “O sole mio” with new English lyrics.
Got any Deep Woods Off!, there?
Deep Woods Off! (or Off! Deep Woods, to give it its official brand name) is a popular brand of DEET-based insect repellent sold by S. C. Johnson & Son.
Jerry Reed? Rex Reed? Willis Reed? Donna Reed, Lou Reed, Reed Richards. Robert Reed.
Jerry Reed (1937-2008) was a country singer known for early ‘70s semi-novelty songs such as “Amos Moses” and “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.” He was also an actor, best known for playing Cledus Snow in all three Smokey and the Bandit movies. Rex Reed is a film critic who has written film reviews for various magazines and newspapers and co-hosted the TV series At the Movies for several years following the 1986 departure of Siskel & Ebert. Willis Reed is a retired basketball player who played for a decade (1964-1974) with the New York Knicks. He later became a coach and then general manager for the New Jersey Nets. Donna Reed (1921-1986) was an actress best known for playing an all-American wife and mother in both the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life and in her own TV sitcom, The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966). Lou Reed (1942-2013) was a singer, songwriter, and musician. A founding member of the Velvet Underground, he enjoyed a varied and successful solo career after leaving the group in 1972, with songs like “Walk on the Wild Side” and, of course, “Satellite of Love.” Reed Richards is the “real” name of the superhero Mr. Fantastic, leader of the Fantastic Four in the Marvel Comics universe. Robert Reed (1932-1992) was an actor best known as uber-dad Mike Brady in the TV sitcom The Brady Bunch (1969-1974).
Don’t look now, I think they found Jimmy Hoffa.
Jimmy Hoffa (1913-1975) was a labor leader who served as president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from 1957-1971. He had well-known connections with organized crime, and in 1975 he disappeared from a Detroit restaurant where he was supposed to be dining with a couple of mob figures. He was never seen again and was declared dead in 1982. His disappearance is one of the all-time most famous missing-persons mysteries, with various suggestions for where he is buried ranging from a Florida swamp to a New Jersey landfill to Giants Stadium. (That last one was definitively debunked when the stadium was demolished in 2010.)
Gallagher. Said he sure is funny.
Gallagher (b. Leo Anthony Gallagher; 1946-2022) was a “prop” comic best known for smashing watermelons onstage with a sledgehammer. In Joel Hodgson’s early days as a prop comic, Gallagher was rude and dismissive to him backstage, leading to years of vengeful riffs about Gallagher on MST3K.
Don’t ever get off the boat.
In the 1979 Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now, while taking a patrol boat toward Cambodia, Jay “Chef” Hicks (played by Frederic Forrest) decides to go ashore to look for some mangos and encounters a tiger, which frightens him out of his mind. “Never get out of the boat” becomes his mantra thereafter. (Spoiler alert: In the end, Hicks stays with the boat, but he is ambushed there and beheaded by Colonel Kurtz’s men.)
This is the most fantastic undersea odyssey ever filmed.
“The most fantastic undersea odyssey ever filmed” was the tagline for the 1973 thriller The Neptune Factor, which starred Ben Gazzara and Ernest Borgnine. The film was set aboard a high-tech submarine searching for an underwater lab lost in an earthquake. Great if you enjoy lots of stock shots of fish.
Hey, Steve, you ever feel like you’re in a Gary Larson cartoon?
“The Far Side” is a comic created by Gary Larson that ran in nearly two thousand newspapers at its peak. It was characterized by surrealistic humor, anthropomorphized characters (often cows), heavyset women with horn-rimmed glasses and beehive hairdos, cavemen, scientists, and many other staples. It lasted from 1980 to 1995.
They’re not leeches, they’re—they’re Scientologists!
Scientology is an “applied religious philosophy” created in 1952 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. The Church of Scientology believes in reincarnation and positions itself as an alternative to psychiatry, claiming Scientology can solve all sorts of mental health problems. It has been officially labeled a cult in France, as well as in certain states in Germany. It is a fee-based religion, often mounting well into six figures to reach the upper OT levels. The church has attracted its share of critics over the years, who say its claims are exaggerated and its methods unscrupulous. It has historically responded to criticism with aggressive litigation.
They’re Sears ponchos.
A reference to the Frank Zappa song “Camarillo Brillo,” from the 1973 album (with the Mothers of Invention) Over-Nite Sensation. In it, Zappa says, “Is that a real poncho/I mean, is that a Mexican poncho?/Or is that a Sears poncho?”
Hey, look, Jim Henson’s Cracker Babies.
Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies was a children’s cartoon based on young versions of the classic Muppets. It ran from 1984-1991.
We still haven't got it right. We don’t want hillbillies with good taste; we want hillbillies that taste good.
Charlie the Tuna is the spokes-fish and cartoon mascot of the StarKist brand of canned tuna. Created in 1961, the original TV campaign involved Charlie’s attempts to prove he was hip and classy enough to be killed and canned, only to be told, “Sorry, Charlie, StarKist doesn’t want tuna with good taste, StarKist wants tuna that tastes good.” “Sorry, Charlie” became a popular catchphrase. The character was retired in the 1980s and revived in 1999.
[Sung.] You, you’ve blown it all sky high. Without a reason why …
A line from the 1975 top 10 hit song “Sky High” by the U.K. band Jigsaw. Sample lyrics: ”You … you’ve blown it all sky high/By telling me a lie/Without a reason why/You’ve blown it all sky high …”
There’s a madman across the water there.
Madman Across the Water is a 1971 album by Elton John. The title song was composed by the singer, with lyrics by Bernie Taupin. Sample lyrics: “The in-laws hope they’ll see you very soon/But is it in your conscience that you’re after/Another glimpse of a madman across the water.”
You know, I’m thinking about getting me one of those Speedo swimsuits, what do you think?
Speedo is a manufacturer of swimwear. Founded in Sydney in 1914, the company specialized in swimwear for athletes. Its trademark short, tight men’s briefs were introduced at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne and quickly became popular worldwide. The company is now based in Nottingham, England.
Liberty, Checkers, no!
These are the names of two politicians' dogs. Liberty was a golden retriever given to Gerald Ford during his presidency (1974-1977). She was frequently photographed, and had a litter of puppies in the White House in 1975, one of which (named Misty) the Fords kept. Checkers was a cocker spaniel owned by Richard Nixon prior to his election to the White House. Checkers gained immortality thanks to the 1952 “Checkers Speech,” in which Nixon, then the Republican candidate for vice president, disputed accusations of financial impropriety, claiming that the only gift he’d received was a dog for his children, and vowing, “We’re gonna keep it.”
Whoa, outta here, feets don’t fail me now.
The catchphrase “feets don’t fail me now” originated in vaudeville and was used by many Black actors in films from the 1920s through the 1940s, usually just before beating a hasty retreat from a ghost or similar frightening object. One famous example is Willie Best’s use of the line in the 1940 Bob Hope comedy The Ghost Breakers.
Yeah, yeah, we know, you saw the best minds of your generation destroyed by madness, we know.
This is the opening line of a famous 1955 poem called Howl by beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Sample lines: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,/dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix/angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night …”
I claim-a dis land-a, for da queen of de Spain.
A line from a 1951 Bugs Bunny Merrie Melodies cartoon titled Hare We Go. In the short, Bugs accompanies Christopher Columbus on his journey to prove to Queen Isabella of Spain that the world is round.
[Sung.] Wouldn’t you like to glide in my beautiful balloon?
Lyrics from the 1967 song “Up, Up and Away.” Considered a classic example of “sunshine pop,” the tune was written by Jimmy Webb and became a worldwide top ten hit for The Fifth Dimension. It won six Grammy Awards, including the big ones: Best Song and Record of the Year. Sample lyrics: “Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?/Would you like to glide in my beautiful balloon?/We could float among the stars together, you and I/For we can fly, we can fly/Up, up and away/My beautiful, my beautiful balloon.”
TGIF, huh fellas?
An abbreviation for Thank God (or Goodness) It’s Friday. Use of the phrase dates back to the 1940s, although it was popularized in the 1970s by an Ohio DJ named Jerry Healy.
Hmong folk art.
The Hmong are an ethnic group who live in the mountainous border region shared with Thailand, China, Vietnam, and Laos. Thanks to the Vietnam War, there are large Hmong immigrant communities in California and the northern Midwest, particularly Minnesota and Wisconsin. They are known especially for their textile arts, creating embroidered cloths that depict stories and elaborate geometrical patterns.
Yeah, remember Bub’s Daddy gum?
The Donruss Company created Bub’s Daddy gum in the late ‘60s. It came in one long rope, sealed in plastic, and was available in six flavors, including cherry, grape, and watermelon. Donruss became part of Leaf Brands in 1984 and the gum disappeared a few years later. Super Bubble gum uses the same formula, so it has the same bubble-blowing potential, but it comes only in standard “bubble gum” flavor, not the fruit flavors Bub’s Daddy offered.
“I had some training with an aqualung while I was in the Navy.” [Sung.] Riff from “Aqualung.”
A rendition of the big power chords that propel prog-rock band Jethro Tull’s 1971 song “Aqualung,” about a filthy homeless man. The song was based on photographs of transients taken by lead singer Ian Anderson’s then-wife Jennie.
Then why bring it up? –I was deliberately wasting your time.
A line from the Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch “The Cheese Shop. It originally aired on the 1972 episode “Salad Days.” In the skit, John Cleese tries repeatedly to buy some cheese from a cheese-shop clerk, played by Michael Palin. This line, however, comes from the Monty Python comedy album The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief (1973), which changed the ending exchange slightly. After asking for dozens of different types of cheeses, an anguished Cleese finally asks, “Have you in fact got any cheese here at all?”
Palin: Yes, sir.
Palin: No, sir. Not a scrap. I was deliberately wasting your time, sir.
Cleese: Well, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to shoot you.
Palin: Right-o, sir. [BANG!]
Cleese: What a senseless waste of human life.
[Imitating.] ‘Cause Pepperidge Farm remembers.
Character actor Parker Fennelly (1891-1988) became famous for his thick New England accent in a series of TV commercials for Pepperidge Farm cookies, pastries, frozen goods, and so forth during the 1970s. (He had actually appeared in Pepperidge Farm commercials as early as 1958, but his trademark “Pepperidge Farm remembers” did not become well known until the ‘70s.) Actor Charles C. Welch took over the role beginning in 1979 and continued as their pitchman until 1995.
Now it’s time for trout blasting in America, with your host Dick Brautigan.
Author Richard Brautigan (1935-1984) was a fiction writer and poet whose most famous work was a short 1967 novel titled Trout Fishing in America. Each chapter was an anecdote loosely tied together by the theme of trout fishing, which gently poked fun at various aspects of American society. The book was embraced by the counterculture of the 1960s, and it sold more than four million copies.
Looks like the cave of Dr. Calamari.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a 1920 silent horror film directed by Robert Wiene. Considered a prime example of German Expressionist filmmaking, and one of the earliest and most influential horror films, it’s the story of a mad scientist (Werner Krauss) who controls a sleepwalker (Conrad Veidt, perhaps best known for playing the German Major Strasser in Casablanca), told with a stark and surrealistic visual style. Calamari, on the other hand, is an English culinary term for squid; Americans are probably most familiar with the fried calamari appetizer, but it can be prepared in many other ways.
[Sung.] Love in an elevator, livin’ it up when I’m going down … dum dum dum …
Aerosmith’s song “Love in an Elevator,” off their album Pump, was a hit in 1989, especially when paired with a sexy video (featuring 1987 Playboy Playmate Brandi Brandt, who at the time was married to Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx). It topped out at number 5. Lyrics: “Jackie’s in the elevator/Lingerie second floor/She said, ‘Can I see you later/And love you just a little more?’”
Next week on MacGyver.
MacGyver was a TV series that aired from 1985-1992; in addition, two made-for-TV movies aired in 1994. It starred Richard Dean Anderson in the title role as a secret agent who always managed to rig up a scientific gizmo to get himself out of whatever predicament he was in. The show was rebooted in 2016 with Lucas Till in the title role; the remake was on the air for five seasons, airing its final episode in 2021.
Honey, that’s Bob there, get it? Sorry.
A riff on an old joke: “What do you call a guy with no arms or legs in a swimming pool? Bob.”
Say, are those Bugle Boy jeans?
“Excuse me, are those Bugle Boy jeans you’re wearing?” was the recurring question in a 1980s TV ad campaign for Bugle Boy jeans, a line of denim pants for men and boys. The company was founded in 1977, was popular during the 1980s, and went bankrupt in 2001, closing all 200-plus of its U.S. stores.
It’s what your body’s thirsty for.
Gatorade “gives your body what it’s thirsty for,” according to one of its ad slogans, in use in the 1980s. It was created in 1965 by University of Florida College of Medicine (Home of the Gators) for rehydrating athletes. Today it is made by PepsiCo.
“… suction wounds, like a giant leech might make.” Or a Hoover.
William Hoover didn’t invent the vacuum cleaner, but he hired the guy who did, a janitor and amateur inventor named James Murray Spangler. The Hoover Company (founded in 1908 as the Electric Suction Sweeper Company) has now been making vacuums for more than 100 years, eventually adding carpet cleaners, hard floor cleaners, handheld vacuums, and other related products.
[German accent.] I think we should use my new A-bomb!
Probably a reference to German scientist Wernher von Braun (1912-1977), architect of Adolf Hitler’s V-2 rocket program, which killed thousands of civilians and thousands more POWs and concentration camp prisoners, who were forced to work on the rockets. After the war, the U.S. secretly brought von Braun over to America, where he went to work designing rocket engines for NASA, his Nazi past and war crimes carefully ignored. Stanley Kubrick based the character of Dr. Strangelove on von Braun.
“… off a sunken transport off Salerno.” Butter cookie?
Salerno Butter Cookies are a brand of store-bought butter cookies that are round and shaped like a flower, with a hole in the center, and have the word “Salerno” embossed on them. They were introduced in 1933. The brand is now owned by Snyder’s-Lance, a subsidiary of the Campbell Soup Company.
“Steve.” [Imitating.] Steve. Spock!
Commander Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) was the half-human, half-Vulcan science officer who was the second in command on the starship USS Enterprise on the TV series Star Trek (1966-1969). William Shatner (imitated here) played his friend and commanding officer, Captain James T. Kirk. Shatner’s distinctive, oddly timed speech patterns have often been parodied but helped give the series its charm.
Calgon, take me away.
“Calgon, take me away” is a longtime advertising slogan for Calgon scented bath products, which include bubble bath, body lotions, and more. They were first sold in 1933. The name itself comes from “calcium gone”—derived from their very first product, Calgon water softener.
This must be the swimsuit edition of Leech Illustrated.
Sports Illustrated has been publishing an annual edition of their magazine known as the “Swimsuit Issue” since 1964. Each one features dozens of photos of models posing in skimpy swimwear in various exotic locales.
Meanwhile on Hollywood Boulevard …
Hollywood Boulevard is a major street in Los Angeles, but it’s known mostly for its tourist traps, not its palm trees: the Walk of Fame with its embedded stars, the Hollywood Wax Museum, etc. There are a few candidates for that famous shot of a long street flanked by tall palm trees, but one that is frequently mentioned is South Windsor Boulevard, between 4th and 5th streets. Another is Carmelita Avenue in Beverly Hills, near the intersection of North Hillcrest Road.
We now return to Hawaii Five-O.
Hawaii Five-O was a television show about the exploits of a group of police detectives in Hawaii. The series starred Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett and ran from 1968-1980. In 2010 the series was rebooted as Hawaii 5-0, starring Alex O’Loughlin as the son of the original McGarrett. It ran for ten seasons, ending in 2020.
[Hummed.] Gilligan’s Island incidental music. –Skipper!
See above note on Gilligan’s Island. “Skipper” refers to Captain Jonas Grumby (played by Alan Hale Jr.), the captain of the wrecked S.S. Minnow tour boat; “Gilligan” (played by Bob Denver) was his first mate and the title character of the show.
[Imitating.] Now you bring the swamp to a rolling boil.
An imitation of chef, author, and TV host Julia Child (1912-2004). The two-volume cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking (published in 1961 and 1970), which she co-wrote with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, is considered one of the most influential cookbooks in history, and her cooking show The French Chef was a mainstay on public television from 1963 to 1973.
Hey, it looks like the dad from Flipper. [Dolphin noises.]
The father of Sandy and Bud on the TV series Flipper (1964-1967) was park ranger Porter Ricks. The role was played by Brian Kelly, who had few major acting roles after the show. A serious motorcycle accident in 1970 ended his career, although afterward he transitioned into producing. Among other films, he served as the executive producer of Blade Runner (1982).
“Comfortable?” Make a nice living.
The punchline to an old joke: an elderly Jewish gentleman is injured in a car crash. As the paramedics are tending to him, they ask, “Are you comfortable?” And he replies, “I make a nice living.”
“Now, if he were going after barracuda …” [Sung.] Riff from “Barracuda.”
The instrumental riff from the 1977 hit song “Barracuda” by the rock band Heart. Lead singer Ann Wilson wrote the song in a fit of rage toward the band’s record label, which, as a publicity stunt, had spread rumors that she and her sister Nancy (guitarist and singer) were involved in an incestuous sexual relationship.
Goodbye, Gilligan, goodbye, Skipper. Sure hope those coconut air tanks hold out. –[Sung.] More Gilligan’s Island music.
On Gilligan’s Island, Roy “The Professor” Hinkley Jr., as played by Russell Johnson, was able to create an astonishing array of devices out of coconuts, sticks, vines, and palm fronds, such as a lie detector, a battery charger, and a washing machine. See above note on Skipper.
It’s the star of Ralph Bellamy, Ralph Bellamy, Ralph Bellamy.
Ralph Bellamy (1904-1991) started as a traveling stage actor and later formed his own theatrical troupe, the Ralph Bellamy Players. He received an Oscar nomination for his work in The Awful Truth (1937). He appeared in The Wolf Man (1941) and Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) and later in life played the scheming Randolph Duke in the 1983 Eddie Murphy comedy Trading Places.
I see London, I see France, I see little Steve-O’s underpants.
A riff on the age-old playground taunt “I see London, I see France, I see ______’s underpants.”
That’s not deep—it was filmed in Corman’s swimming pool.
See above note on Roger Corman.
[Sung in bubbling voice.] I’d like to be/Under the sea …
The song “Octopus’s Garden” appears on the Beatles album Abbey Road. It was their last studio album, released in 1969. Sample lyrics: “I’d like to be/Under the sea/In an octopus’s garden/In the shade.” The song was written and performed by Ringo Starr.
[Sung.] Gilligan’s Island music.
See above note on Gilligan’s Island.
“We’ll have to make some tests.” Like SAT?
The SAT (originally the Scholastic Aptitude Test, later changed to the Scholastic Assessment Test, now simply called the SAT) is a reasoning test given at the high school level in an attempt to classify students wishing to enter college. It is run by the nonprofit College Board, which charges a nominal fee for the test, which lasts several hours. It was introduced in 1926 and extensively modified in 1994. However, due to the difficulty of administering and/or taking the SAT during the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools stopped requiring SAT scores for admission, and this seems to have continued on past the worst of the pandemic’s lockdowns and closures.
I feel like I’m in Hef’s grotto.
The Playboy Mansion was the home of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner from 1974 until his death in 2017. The Los Angeles mansion famously features an enclosed stone pool and hot tub known as the “grotto” that was the scene of many parties over the years, both scandalous and tame. (It was also the source of a major outbreak of bacterial infection in 2011 that affected more than 120 people.) The house is now owned by Daren Metropoulos, co-owner of Hostess Brands, who began substantial renovations—and drained the pool.
Oh, I’ve seen this in Dementia 13.
Dementia 13 (1963) was a B horror movie that was Francis Ford Coppola’s first film, made with the help of director Roger Corman. The movie opens with two characters out in a boat on a lake at night. In the middle of an argument, one of them has a heart attack and dies, and the other tips their body overboard, where it quickly sinks to the bottom.
I see London, I see France …
See above note.
“What could’ve done that?” Steven Tyler?
Steven Tyler is the lead vocalist for the hard rock band Aerosmith. He is known for his full, prominent lips.
The Abyss is a sci-fi film from 1989 about a team of undersea miners who discover a mysterious life form that can control water at the bottom of the ocean. It starred Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and was directed by James Cameron.
Steve was in trouble. I had to act fast. I had to get my sons in the series.
An imitation of Lloyd Bridges, specifically his narration for the TV series Sea Hunt (syndication, 1958-1961). Bridges played adventure-seeking scuba diver Mike Nelson (hey!), and the show guest-starred his two young sons, Jeff and Beau, in various roles. Both went on to successful acting careers, including three Emmys for Beau and an Oscar for Jeff.
[Imitating.] Hey, Ma, I’d like to borrow your butcher knife, okay?
In Martin Scorsese’s 1990 gangster movie Goodfellas, Joe Pesci (imitated here) swings by his mother’s house for a quick meal and a knife so he can finish off a mob hit that is inconveniently still alive in the trunk of his car. Actual line: “Anyway, that reminds me, Ma, I need this knife, I’m gonna take this, okay?”
Then it was back to the lodge for a smooth Canadian Club.
Canadian Club is a brand of Canadian whisky made by Beam Suntory Inc. It was first produced in 1858 in Windsor, Ontario, just across the border from Detroit, Michigan, where founder Hiram Walker got his start. However, anti-alcohol sentiment in that state was fairly strong, so he decided to move his distillery over the border, and his “Club Whisky” became “Canadian Club” in 1889.
Tommy Bartlett invites you to ride the wild leech.
Tommy Bartlett (1914-1998) was a showman and entertainment entrepreneur best known for his “water skiing thrill show” at the Dells, a wholesome tourist trap in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. The Tommy Bartlett Show ran at the Dells beginning in 1952, featuring fast boats, hot babes on water skis, space shuttles, and suchlike. In September 2020 it announced it was closing permanently due to financial losses from the Covid pandemic. The Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, an interactive science center, is still up and running.
David Janssen, uh.
David Janssen (1931-1980) played the lead role, Dr. Richard Kimble, in The Fugitive, a TV series that aired from 1963-1967. He later played ex-cop turned private detective Harry Orwell on the show Harry O, which aired from 1974 to 1976.
But what of Emily, and her love for Chad? But what of the hair on Chuck’s chest? Stay tuned.
See above note on soap opera announcers.
Quinn Martin Productions made a string of successful TV series in the 1960s and ‘70s, including The F.B.I., The Streets of San Francisco, and The Fugitive (see previous note). All the shows used the same structure, employing an epilogue with an off-screen narrator to explain the show the viewer had just watched.
Who’s this guy? A roadie from Sea Hunt? Gee.
See above note on Sea Hunt. “Roadie” is the nickname for a member of a road crew for a touring music group: technicians and support personnel who handle equipment, transportation, construction, lighting, pyrotechnics, security, catering, etc.
Who’s hungry for blood sausage? Just kidding.
Blood sausage involves filling a sausage casing with pig, cow, sheep, or goat blood, mixed with filler such as meat, fat, cornmeal, onion, etc., and then cooking and cooling it so the blood congeals.