908: The Touch of Satan
by Wyn Hilty
Check the freshness date on it.
Freshness dating is a relatively recent innovation among beverage makers. One of the first to use it was the Boston Beer Company, back in 1985. Pepsi famously followed suit in 1994, with a major ad campaign proclaiming its commitment to freshness.
Have to give that ugly guy a call.
A possible reference to a mid-1990s TV ad campaign for Keystone Light beer, which promised relief from “bitter beer face” and featured a denture-less old guy who was especially skilled at contorting his facial features.
There’s my Walk Me Wet Me Susan.
I could not find a specific reference to a doll of this name; it appears to be a generic reference to those dolls that simulate eating, crying, walking, wetting their diapers, and other joys of motherhood for little girls.
When sore throat pain strikes.
“When _____ pain strikes” is a common phrase in many ads for pain relief products, particularly for the Tylenol drug family.
The American Gothic people take revenge.
American Gothic (1930) is a well-known painting by American artist Grant Wood (1892-1942). It depicts a salt-of-the-earth couple standing in front of their Midwestern home, the man holding a pitchfork. The painting has become an icon of hardscrabble Americana.
Cosmo Kramer was Jerry Seinfeld’s tall, lanky neighbor on the TV series Seinfeld, which aired from 1990 to 1998. The character, played by actor Michael Richards, was known for his trademark dramatic entrances.
A kabuki actor’s been hit!
Kabuki is a traditional form of Japanese theater characterized by highly stylized singing and dancing and spectacular costumes. While bugaku and noh theater entertained the Japanese aristocracy, kabuki was the theater of the common people. Kabuki actors wear dramatic makeup, with thick white covering their faces and their mouths and eyes starkly outlined.
Come on, Grandma dried apple head.
Dolls with heads made from dried apples are a traditional American folk craft. The doll maker carves a crude head from an apple and then allows it to air-dry. This causes the “head” to wrinkle, producing a face that looks like an old woman. The head is then attached to a body, often made of wire or soft sculpture.
The last days of Edgar Winter.
Edgar Winter is an albino blues/jazz/experimental musician. He has frequently performed with his older brother, musician Johnny Winter. His best-known song is “Frankenstein,” which hit number one in 1973.
“Squarehead” is a slur typically directed at Germanic and Scandinavian immigrants, dating to the late 19th century. It was primarily used in the Upper Midwest.
Ahhhh. –The touch of Satan. Softens your hands while you do the dishes.
Back in the ’60s, Palmolive launched its famous Madge the Manicurist ad campaign, in which a maternal beautician (played by Jan Miner) informs her shocked clients that they’re soaking their hands in Palmolive liquid soap. The campaign, with the slogan “Palmolive softens hands while you do the dishes,” ran for another three decades.
This is very ’70s. I’m guessing Anthony Zerbe must be in this.
Anthony Zerbe is a character actor known for his villainous roles in The Omega Man (1971) and Who’ll Stop the Rain (1978), among others. He won an Emmy for his performance in the mid-‘70s TV series Harry O, which starred David Janssen (The Fugitive).
No, you know, I think it’s Tony Musante as a kind of hip Satan who solves crimes.
Tony Musante (1936-2013) was an actor who appeared in a number of movies and TV shows, including the 1973 detective show Toma, which became Baretta after Musante left the show.
Emby Mellay? That’s not a name—that’s a bad Scrabble hand.
Scrabble is a classic board game produced by Hasbro, in which players draw seven letters apiece and then attempt to spell words on the game board, crossword puzzle-style.
Wakka-chukka wakka-chukka …
The “wakka-chukka” guitar sound was a staple of groovy 1970s songs, particularly themes and incidental music for TV shows and made-for-TV movies The 1971 Isaac Hayes song “Theme from Shaft” is an iconic example of the style. Also a possible nod to the 1972 album and song titled "Waka/Jawaka" by rock composer and friend of the show Frank Zappa.
With Screwtape on kettledrum. Wormwood on harpsichord.
Screwtape and Wormwood are the central characters in C.S. Lewis’s book The Screwtape Letters. Lewis, a devout Christian, wrote the novel as a series of letters from the devil Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, containing advice on the best ways to tempt Christians.
Okay, Crow, I’m putting you on Clu Gulager alert.
Clu Gulager is a character actor who has appeared in dozens of movies and television shows. He appears in several other MST3K episodes, including Show 322, Master Ninja I, and Show 614, San Francisco International.
Oh, David Spade as Satan!
David Spade is a comedian who appeared as a regular on Saturday Night Live from 1991 to 1996. He appeared in a number of movies with fellow SNL alum Chris Farley (1964-1997). After Farley’s death, he starred in several movies on his own. He was also a regular on the TV series Just Shoot Me (1997-2003).
The vineyards of Ernest and Julio ... Satan.
Ernest and Julio Gallo are major winemakers, with an enormous winery in the Sonoma Valley in Northern California.
He drives a Maverick? You know, I would have put the Prince of Darkness in a muscle car.
The Maverick was a model of car produced by Ford from 1970 to 1977. It was one of Ford’s most successful cars, even outselling the classic Mustang. The car Jodie drives in the movie is in fact a Maverick.
[Sung.] What do you get when you fall from grace? You only get cast into perdition ...
A parody of the song “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The actual lyrics: “What do you get when you fall in love?/You only get lies and pain and sorrow.”
Hasta luego, Maverick-driving cluitie! –Cluitie? –Cluitie? –Yeah. It’s Scottish. I looked it up!
“Cluitie” is an old Scottish name for the devil; one source says it is a reference to the devil’s cloven hooves. “Old Cluits” is a variant of this name. Also see the note on Mavericks, above. (Thanks to Tony's Pen for correcting my spelling on this one.)
Odd, disturbing score co-written by Mike Post and Igor Stravinsky.
Mike Post is a Hollywood composer who has written music for dozens of TV shows, including The Rockford Files, Magnum P.I., Hill Street Blues, NewsRadio, Law & Order, and countless more. Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was one of the founders of modernist music and one of the most important composers of the 20th century; the premiere of his The Rites of Spring in 1913 touched off a riot among the audience.
Sightsee on your own time, Beelzebub!
In the Bible, Beelzebub is referred to as the prince of the devils. In the Old Testament, Beelzebub is the name given to the god worshiped by the Philistine city Ekron (II Kings 1:1-18).
Satan’s harmonica band led by Toots Thielemans.
Jean “Toots” Thielemans (1922-2016) was a Belgian harmonica player who played with most of the famous names in jazz; his music has been heard in such films as Hard Rain (1998) and Jean de Florette (1986).
Mike—behind that tree! It’s Clu Gulager! –Where? –Oh, shoot—it was Monte Markham.
See note on Clu Gulager, above. Monte Markham is an actor who has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows. From 1989 to 1992, he played Captain Don Thorpe on Baywatch. He was also a regular on Melrose Place.
What was Anne Heche doing in there?
Anne Heche is a fragile blond actress who has appeared in such films as Volcano (1997) and Six Days, Seven Nights (1998). She is, however, best known as comedian Ellen DeGeneres’ (star of the Ellen TV series) lover. The pair dated from 1997-2000; the following year, Heche married her cameraman boyfriend and announced her pregnancy.
What with all these gas crises and Watergates, I needed a good laugh.
The 1970s saw a severe shortage of crude oil that led to skyrocketing gas prices and shortages at the pump. The first crisis was sparked by a 1973 oil embargo imposed by OPEC in retaliation for U.S. support of Israel. It was followed by a second in 1979 caused by the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. Watergate is a reference to the scandal that ultimately forced President Richard M. Nixon to resign in 1974. In June 1972, five men were arrested breaking into the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. The widening spiral of investigation that followed led to the indictments of a number of White House aides, and it eventually became clear that Nixon had been involved in the attempt to cover up the White House’s involvement in the Watergate plot. He resigned in order to avoid certain impeachment by the House of Representatives.
Wait a minute—the gas station guy forgot to give me my Roman Gabriel cocktail glass.
Roman Gabriel was a quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1970s. He retired in 1977. Gas stations in that era sometimes gave out glasses or mugs with pictures of sports stars with your gas purchase.
This looks like a nice, private place to practice streaking.
Streaking was a popular fad during the 1970s, consisting of a young man (or several young men) taking off all his clothes and running like hell through some public place. Florida State University claims that its students invented the tradition in 1974. The most famous streaking incident occurred at the 1974 Academy Awards, when a streaker dashed across the stage behind presenter David Niven, an event broadcast worldwide.
You know, I was just thinking: that Gerald Ford is rather clumsy.
President Gerald Ford (1913-2006) became president in 1974 after Richard M. Nixon resigned over the Watergate affair. He quickly developed a reputation for being clumsy after a few high-profile incidents (he slipped coming off Air Force One; he had a tendency to hit spectators and participants with balls while playing sports). This image was enshrined in the popular consciousness with Chevy Chase’s brilliant parody of him on Saturday Night Live. Ironically, Ford was actually a talented athlete (he played football at the University of Michigan), and a number of people have suggested that his clumsy reputation was unfairly bestowed.
Thank you, Lurch.
Lurch was the name of the harpsichord-playing, Frankenstein’s monster-esque butler on the TV series The Addams Family, which aired from 1964 to 1966. Ted Cassidy (1932-1979) played Lurch in the series, which was based on the macabre cartoons drawn by Charles Addams. The series was later made into a series of feature films, in which Carel Struycken played Lurch.
I’m gonna get out my guitar and practice “Sister Golden Hair.”
“Sister Golden Hair” is a song by the folk rock band America; it was their second number one hit, in 1975.
Wow—I’m the first one at the Rainbow Gathering.
The Rainbow Gathering is an annual event that began in 1972 and continues today. It consists of a bunch of people meeting in a U.S. National Forest and conducting a group meditation for world peace. There has been considerable friction over the years between the organizers of the gatherings and the U.S. government over the issue of permits.
[Sung.] But the trees can’t help their feeling/If they like the way they’re made ...
A paraphrase of the Rush song “The Trees.” Actual lyrics: “But the oaks can’t help their feelings/If they like the way they’re made/And they wonder why the maples/Can’t be happy in their shade.”
The first Richard Carpenter music video.
Richard Carpenter was half of the brother-sister musical team The Carpenters, along with his sister Karen. The duo released a string of soft-rock hits during the first half of the 1970s. Karen, who was an anorexic, died in 1983.
Let’s see Christopher Atkins skip a stone like that.
Christopher Atkins became a teen heartthrob upon the release of the 1980 idyllic romance The Blue Lagoon, in which he and Brooke Shields starred as two children who grow up and fall in love on a desert island. The passage of time was indicated by a scene of a little boy skipping rocks into the lagoon fading into a scene of the somewhat more grown-up Christopher Atkins skipping rocks in the same location. (Thanks to Perry Ramsey for the Blue Lagoon stone skipping reference.)
Are you Oliver Hardy? Just eat!
Oliver Hardy (1892-1957) was half of the comedy team Laurel & Hardy, which made a string of movies during the 1920s and ’30s. Hardy, a stout man, played a childish, bossy character opposite Stan Laurel’s thin, gentle incompetent. Although Hardy was generally the fussy one, it was actually Laurel who had a famous routine where he fusses endlessly with a dinner napkin (in the short film Twice Two).
I’m not going back, Jim!
Ostensibly a line from the Star Trek episode “This Side of Paradise,” the writers were shocked on viewing the show to realize Spock never actually says it.
What’s on the spit, pilgrim?
“What’s on the spit?” is a line from the 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson, starring Robert Redford as the mountain man. Cowboy actor John Wayne (1907-1979) used “pilgrim” to address co-star Jimmy Stewart over twenty times in the 1962 western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; he also used the term in the 1963 western McLintock! (Thanks to Mark Bell for the Jeremiah Johnson reference.)
Okay, you selling Herbal Essence or Irish Spring?
Herbal Essences is a line of beauty products produced by Clairol: shampoos, conditioners, hairsprays, and so on. Irish Spring is a scented soap manufactured by Colgate-Palmolive.
Just ram that moldy olive loaf into your loser face.
Olive loaf is a type of lunchmeat that features stuffed green olives embedded in the sliced meat-like product. (Thanks to Halley DeVestern11 for this reference.)
Want half a Mr. Pibb?
Mr. Pibb is a soft drink manufactured by the Coca-Cola Company to compete with Dr Pepper. The drink was first produced in 1972; however, in 2001, it was renamed Pibb Xtra and slightly reformulated with added cinnamon.
Yeah, keep on trucking, I guess. I guess you’ll do your thing and I’ll do mine. Yep, whip inflation now! Bye.
“Keep on truckin’” was a classic slogan coined by underground cartoonist Robert “R.” Crumb in 1968; it was popular throughout the 1970s. “You’ll do your thing and I’ll do mine” is a paraphrase of the “Gestalt Prayer,” which was written by therapist Fritz Perls (1893-1970) and became popular during the 1960s (“I do my thing and you do your thing./I am not in this world to live up to your expectations/And you are not in this world to live up to mine”). “Whip inflation now” was a slogan launched by President Gerald Ford’s administration in the 1970s to boost public confidence in an era of rising prices.
In sort of a floppy Rhoda way, I guess.
Rhoda was a TV sitcom (1974-1978) starring Valerie Harper as the title character. Rhoda was a spinoff of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, where Harper played the same part from 1970 to 1974.
Man, if she doesn’t love him after riding in his Maverick, she’s a total ice princess.
See note on Mavericks, above.
Surprisingly short run-on time for a ‘70s car.
“Engine run-on” or “dieseling” occurs when a hotspot in a vehicle’s engine continues to ignite gas after the ignition has been turned off.
You catch Kotter last night?
Welcome Back, Kotter was a TV series that aired from 1975 to 1979. It starred Gabe Kaplan as a teacher in an inner-city high school. The show gave Hollywood leading man John Travolta his big break, playing student Vinnie Barbarino.
“Hello, Jodie.” Or should I call you Buffy?
Young twins Jody and Buffy were two of the children on the TV show Family Affair, which aired from 1966 to 1971. (The third child was a teenage girl named Cissy.) The show starred Brian Keith as Bill Davis, a carefree swinging bachelor who suddenly found himself with custody of three orphans, whom he cared for with the assistance of his supercilious valet, Mr. French.
Herbert von Karajan is not pleased with that.
Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) was a controversial conductor who insisted on technical perfection in his orchestra—at, some would argue, the expense of emotion.Von Karajan led the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years. His membership in the Nazi Party during World War II elicited protests when he performed in America after the war.
“Hello, Jodie.” How is Uncle Bill?
See previous note on Family Affair.
“Oh, bosh!” Oh, Hieronymous!
Hieronymous Bosch (c. 1450-1516) was a brilliant Dutch painter in the years before the Renaissance. He is best known for his painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych depicting the creation of Eve, the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the fall of man—all this taking place in a surreal and boldly painted landscape filled with fantastical creatures.
You know, with Mitchum you can skip a week—did you know that?
A variation on the classic ad slogan for Mitchum brand deodorant: “So effective you can skip a day.”
I’ll just tell Leatherface you’re here.
“Leatherface,” played by Gunnar Hansen (1947-2015), was the central villain in the classic horror film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Leatherface, who wears a creepy stitched-together mask and has a fondness for power tools, is part of a family of cannibals who take apart a carload of hapless hippies in 1970s Texas. The story is loosely based on the true tale of Ed Gein, a serial killer in 1950s Wisconsin; Alfred Hitchcock based his film Psycho on Gein, and Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs bore a resemblance to Gein as well.
“My father’s a lawyer.” For the Tsar’s court.
Tsar (or Czar) is a title for a Slavic monarch. There were many Tsarist empires in Eastern Europe, the Tsarist period in Russia (1547-1721) being the best known in the West.
Hallmark Hall of Fame presents ... The Touch of Satan.
Hallmark Hall of Fame is an anthology drama series that has aired sporadically on television since 1951. It specializes in deeply wholesome, classic dramas, with much tugging of heartstrings.
In a Ron Palillo sort of way, sure.
Ron Palillo (1949-2012) was best known for playing Arnold Horshack on the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter.
Oh, now he’s rubbing his Ryan O’Neally face all over hers ...
Ryan O’Neal got his start on the TV soap opera Peyton Place. He became a 1970s heartthrob thanks to the film Love Story, in which he and Ali McGraw played a doomed couple. He also acted in the film Paper Moon (1973) with his daughter Tatum O’Neal. He and actress Farrah Fawcett were together for nearly 20 years, separating in 1997.
Great Bold Ones tonight, huh, honey?
The Bold Ones was the overall title for a collection of four rotating TV series that ran on NBC from 1969-1973. The most successful of the four was The New Doctors, which starred E.G. Marshall and John Saxon; it was the only one to last the entire length of the series’ run. The others were The Lawyers, The Protectors, and The Senator. (Thanks to Daisy for this reference.)
Hey—Beelzebub, Kali, and Lucifer!
See note on Beelzebub, above. Kali is the Hindu goddess of destruction, usually depicted brandishing weapons and wearing a necklace of severed heads. In Christian mythology, Lucifer was the name of Satan before he rebelled and fell from heaven.
A signed copy of the Necronomicon here.
The Necronomicon is a fictional book in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). He described it as a history of the Old Ones and a way to summon them.
Excuse me—I think I left a Sustacal back in the corner there.
Sustacal is a liquid nutritional supplement produced by Mead Johnson. It is similar to Ensure and Boost, but is marketed primarily to seniors.
“It's me.” Is Captain Hook there?
Captain Hook is the villainous pirate in J.M. Barrie’s classic kids’ tale Peter Pan. He is so called because he wears a hook in place of his hand on one arm. When Jodie says “It’s me,” it sounds like he’s saying “It’s Smee”; Smee was Captain Hook’s sidekick. (Thanks to Errin for pointing out the Smee reference.)
“She's an old lady, Judy.” They don’t know what they’re doing half the time.
The 1957 movie 12 Angry Men involves jurors deliberating over a murder case. Arguing about whether or not an elderly stroke victim could accurately remember something, one of the jurors says, “He was an old man! Half the time he was confused! How could he be positive about anything?” (Thanks to Greg S for this reference.)
I haven’t understood anything since McKinley went down.
William McKinley (1843-1901) was the 25th president of the United States. On September 5, 1901, McKinley gave a speech at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. The following day, the president was shaking hands with a crowd when an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz shot him twice in the chest and abdomen. He lived for eight days after the shooting, dying on Sept. 14. His vice president, Teddy Roosevelt, succeeded him as president.
You know, there’s a delightful scene later in the movie where this old woman raps.
The 1998 Adam Sandler film The Wedding Singer contains a famous scene in which a little old lady (played by Ellen Albertini Dow) raps at a wedding.
I just wanted to give her a Werther’s.
Werther’s Originals are a rich caramel-flavored candy sold in grocery stores around the country.
Oh, man—now a withered old Billy Zane is gonna come in and give her a withered old Coeur de la Mer ...
The 1997 film Titanic by James Cameron contains a scene in which Kate Winslet is sitting in front of a mirror when her fiance (played by Billy Zane) gives her a priceless necklace called the Coeur de la Mer (Heart of the Ocean). Replicas of the necklace were popular for a time after the staggeringly successful movie came out.
She turned into Cecilia Bartoli.
Cecilia Bartoli is an Italian soprano who is considered one of the leading lights of the operatic world. She has appeared in a number of operas around the world as well as solo concert tours in the United States and other countries.
I miss my Eddie Munster widow’s peak.
Eddie Munster was the young son on the TV series The Munsters, which aired from 1964 to 1966. He was played by Butch Patrick.
Ah, back to being Swifty Lazar.
Irving “Swifty” Lazar (1907-1993) was a legendary Hollywood and literary agent known especially for his spectacular post-Oscar parties at Spago.
Mom looks like Ron Popeil.
Ron Popeil is an inventor and infomercial mainstay who founded the company Ronco, manufacturer of such classic gadgets as the Dial-O-Matic, the Veg-O-Matic, and the Mince-O-Matic.
“That means a great deal to me, Luther.” I mean Mr. Vandross.
Luther Vandross (1951-2005) was one of the premier R&B artists of the 1980s. In addition to recording his own albums, he produced albums for other R&B artists, including Aretha Franklin. His hits include “Power of Love” and “Endless Love,” a duet with Mariah Carey.
[Sung.] Is this the little demon I carried ...
A parody of the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof, a successful Broadway musical that was made into a movie in 1971. The actual lyrics: “Is this the little girl I carried?/Is this the little boy at play?”
Hey, wanna play Pitchfork Bug?
A reference to Punch Bug, the classic road game designed to keep kids amused on long car trips: the first child to spot a Volkswagen Bug and shout out “Punch bug!” or “Punch buggy!” (there are a number of variants) gets to punch the other kids in the car.
[Imitating Don Knotts.] Well, now, Andy, I think there was a demon in the car!
An imitation of Don Knotts as Barney Fife, the hapless deputy on The Andy Griffith Show, which aired from 1960 to 1968.
He’s got two huge Sudafed on top of his car.
Sudafed is an over-the-counter decongestant manufactured by Pfizer Inc.
Um, hi! You seen the other Village People?
The Village People were a campy group from the heyday of disco, designed to appeal to a gay audience. Each member wore a costume depicting a gay icon: Indian, cowboy, biker, soldier, construction worker, and policeman. Hits that are still played today include “Macho Man” and “Y.M.C.A.”
Would he even fit in the Iron Maiden?
An Iron Maiden was a likely fictional instrument of torture: a box crudely shaped like a human being and lined on the inside of the doors with spikes. When the doors were closed slowly, the person inside was impaled on the spikes, although not deeply enough to kill them immediately.
“He’s running around over in Newport like he thought he was J. Edgar Hoover.” Pretty dress, though.
J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) was the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1924 until his death. His focus on anti-communism after World War II led him to virtually ignore the Mafia until the mid-1950s. He was known for his loathing of “subversives” of any stripe and launched notorious investigations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon. He was criticized for turning the FBI into a secret police force, amassing information that allowed him to intimidate sitting presidents. However, he also built the FBI into a professional, modernized, and effective crime-fighting force. Rumors of homosexuality dogged Hoover all his life, and in 1993 author Anthony Summers claimed he was a cross dresser, an image that quickly caught on in the popular imagination.
She’s gonna go buy a whole bunch of Procter & Gamble products.
Procter & Gamble manufactures an enormous range of consumer products, including Pampers diapers and Downy fabric softener. In the 1970s, a rumor cropped up in the southern United States that P&G’s logo—the man in the moon surrounded by 13 stars—was a satanic symbol. Fliers began circulating that claimed 10 percent of P&G’s profits went to the Church of Satan and that the company’s president had admitted as much on national television (which, needless to say, was not true). Finally, in 1985, the company retired the logo, but the rumors occasionally persist.
Why do I suddenly feel hungry for CARNATION ICE CREAM?
Carnation is a food brand founded in 1899 and acquired by Nestle in 1985. Best known for evaporated milk, Carnation also makes cocoa mixes and other milk flavorings, cereal, dog food, and yes, ICE CREAM.
I like this place because they have bulk eye of newt.
Eye of newt is a classic ingredient in witches’ brews, immortalized in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth: “Eye of newt and toe of frog/Wool of bat and tongue of dog.”
She gives him $15.55 just so she can get $6.66 back in change.
In the Book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Bible, the number 666 is the number of the beast, or the mark of the beast, as in Satan. Fear of the number 666 is known as hexakosioihexekontakexaphobia.
Hey, they’ve got a sale on mismatched beer! Steinlager, Pete’s ...
Steinlager is a beer produced in New Zealand. Pete’s Wicked Ale was a hugely popular microbrew in the ’90s, but it ceased production in 2011.
After the movie, remember to pick up some CARNATION ICE CREAM.
See previous note.
I do it out of Kinko’s.
Kinko’s was a national chain of photocopying stores. In 2004 FedEx bought it and renamed it FedEx Office.
You know, if she had another one of these, she could be Melissa “Two Sheds” Strickland.
In a classic Monty Python's Flying Circus skit, an interviewer drives composer Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson into despair by asking only about his nickname, not his music. Some sample dialogue:
Host: May I just sidetrack for one moment. This—what shall I call it—nickname of yours.
Jackson: Ah, yes.
Host: “Two Sheds.” How did you come by it?
Jackson: Well, I don’t use it myself, but some of my friends call me “Two Sheds.”
Host: And do you in fact have two sheds?
Jackson: No, I’ve only got one. I’ve had one for some time, but a few years ago I said I was thinking of getting another, and since then some people have called me “Two Sheds.”
Host: In spite of the fact that you have only one.
Host: And are you still intending to purchase this second shed?
Wait, you can’t use “Amazing Grace” in a devil movie!
“Amazing Grace” is a well-known Christian hymn, with lyrics by John Newton, first published in 1779. It became hugely popular in America during the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century. Sample lyrics: “Amazing grace/How sweet the sound/That saved a wretch like me/I once was lost, but now am found/Was blind, but now I see.”
Oh, she’s a talent agent for the Mormons.
Mormonism is a religion, the main branch of the Latter Day Saint movement of Restorationist Christianity. It was founded by Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844) in 1830.
Well, hey! A frog that’s not deformed!
In 1995, a group of students in Le Sueur, Minnesota, found a large number of deformed frogs. After the Washington Post ran an article on the frogs, it quickly became clear that it was a widespread problem in the state. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency began investigating, and has discovered deformed frogs in about three-fourths of the state’s counties. Scientists believe environmental contamination—such as pesticides—is to blame, but the exact cause has not yet been isolated.
Huh, your Maverick is rolling down the hill.
See note on Mavericks, above.
Oh, not again. Here’s your Allegra.
Allegra is an over-the-counter allergy medicine manufactured by Hoechst Marion Roussel.
Killer grandma got back!
A riff on “Baby Got Back,” a 1992 song by hip-hop artist Sir Mix-a-Lot; it hit number one on the Billboard charts in the summer of that year. Sample lyrics: “I like big butts and I cannot lie/You other brothers can't deny/That when a girl walks in with an itty-bitty waist/And a round thing in your face ...”
Now I gotta go over and bust Grandpa Walton for raising pot.
Zebulon “Grandpa” Walton was a character on the classic family TV drama The Waltons, which aired from 1972 to 1981. He was played by actor Will Geer until Geer’s death in 1978; the character's death was then written into the show's final season.
Well, right about then them Duke boys showed up.
An imitation of the folksy narrator from the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard, which ran from 1979 to 1985. The narrator, dubbed “The Balladeer,” was played by country-music artist Waylon Jennings, who also performed the show’s theme song, “Good Ol’ Boys.”
Whoa. Hot dog, French fries, ramen noodles. Wow, look at him go.
Ramen is a Chinese-style noodle popular in Japan. Instant ramen was first marketed in North America in the ‘70s and became a staple of poor college students’ diet.
At least they didn’t chain him to a Baldwin brother.
The 1996 film Fled chained good actor Laurence Fishburne to mediocre actor Stephen Baldwin; the two played escaped convicts on the run from the law. Baldwin is a member of the acting family that also includes brothers Alec, Daniel, and William.
Hey—there goes Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.
Don “The Snake” Prudhomme was a legendary drag racer during the 1970s and ‘80s. He earned his nickname from his lightning-quick reflexes at the starting line. Prudhomme retired in 1994.
You know, from the back she looks exactly like David Cassidy.
Actor/musician David Cassidy played Keith Partridge on the TV series The Partridge Family, which ran from 1970 to 1974. Within a year of the show’s premiere, Cassidy had been on pretty much every teen magazine cover, had a number-one hit, and was officially ranked as a teen heartthrob.
They should just call Harvey Keitel over to fix things.
Harvey Keitel has appeared in nearly 100 films and TV shows. The actor is known especially for his work in Martin Scorcese films, including Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. In Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), he played Winston Wolfe, a “cleaner” who is called in to dispose of an inconvenient corpse. Keitel also played a cleaner/assassin in the 1993 film Point of No Return, a remake of Nikita (1990).
Did all the actors drink a quart of Robitussin before shooting?
Robitussin is an over-the-counter cough syrup manufactured by Whitehall-Robins. Some varieties of Robitussin contain dextromethorphan, which if consumed in sufficient quantities acts as a hallucinogen and relaxant and is sometimes abused by teenagers.
Anyway, I hate line dancing.
Line dancing involves a group of dancers in lines or rows, performing the same steps at the same time without touching each other. Line dancing became associated with country music after a surge in popularity in the 1990s with such country hits as Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart,” but its origins lean more toward folk dancing.
Oh, you mean STAAAAYYY!
A reference to Show 806, The Undead.
I’ve seen his food cake.
Devil’s food cake is a classic chocolate cake recipe popular in America. It usually uses cocoa and boiling water instead of chocolate and milk.
“I’m possessed by the devil.” Michael Eisner?
Michael Eisner was the CEO of Disney from 1984-2005, and for two decades one of the richest and most powerful men in Hollywood.
He sang “Lend Me a Tenor.”
Lend Me a Tenor is a Broadway farce about a missing opera singer that is extraordinarily popular among community theater groups. It was written by Ken Ludwig.
Lesson: Never ask Kelsey Grammer to get your gloves out of your car.
Kelsey Grammer is a comic actor who played Dr. Frasier Crane on the TV show Cheers and later on the successful spinoff Frasier. Grammer has reportedly had a history of problems with alcohol and drug addiction. In 1996 Grammer flipped his car in an accident while driving under the influence; shortly afterwards, he checked himself into the Betty Ford Center for treatment.
I need that Scottish guy to come over and seal up my windows.
In the mid-1990s, TV ads for 3M/Scotch brand window insulation kits featured a guy in a traditional Scottish kilt insulating windows.
Check it out: she’s dressed like Ed Ames.
Ed Ames is a musician and actor who first rose to fame in the musical group the Ames Brothers. From 1964 to 1968, he played the Cherokee Mingo on the TV series Daniel Boone, which starred Fess Parker.
[Sung.] Skip a rope …
A line from the 1967 song “Skip a Rope,” written by Jack Moran and Glenn D. Tubb and performed by Henson Cargill, which became a number-one hit on the Country charts.
Time to go be a general in the Michigan Militia.
The Michigan Militia came to national attention in 1995, after Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City. McVeigh’s associate Terry Nichols apparently had ties to the militia, although the group denied any involvement in the bombing. The militia movement began in the early 1990s and quickly spread among conservatives who were deeply suspicious of the government and fearful of the “New World Order.” Some advocated armed resistance, while others were involved in the white supremacist movement. It was almost defunct by 2000, but after Obama’s election in 2008 it began to grow again.
Oh, I made a terrible sock monkey.
Sock monkeys became popular in the 1930s. They are stuffed animals that can be made with a pair of socks—specifically, the Rockford Red Heel socks manufactured by Fox River Mills. The socks even reportedly come with instructions for making a sock monkey.
It’s the Loneliest Firefly ... and his friends.
A reference to the children’s book The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle, who has also written The Very Busy Spider and The Very Quiet Cricket.
Binding polymers and you.
An old MST3K chestnut: the newsletter sent to members of the MST3K fan club was originally titled The Binding Polymer.
Oh, and go Packers, too, but mostly burn the witch!
The Green Bay Packers are a professional football team based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The phrase “Go Packers!” features prominently in Show 810, The Giant Spider Invasion.
... said Madeline.
Madeline is the main character in a series of children’s books written by Ludwig Bemelmans; the first book appeared in 1939. Madeline herself is a young schoolgirl in Paris. Several movies based on the books have been released.
“A dreadful sound is in his ears.” It’s Paula Cole, I think.
Paula Cole is an American singer-songwriter. Her 1996 single “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” was all over the radio, and she won a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1998. Cole was one of the original artists in the traveling Lilith Fair.
It’s Aunt Eller!
Aunt Eller is a lead character in the musical Oklahoma! The role was played by Betty Garde in the original Broadway production and by Charlotte Greenwood in the 1955 film version.
Pretty casual—it’s more like a Lake Wobegon witch burning.
Lake Wobegon is a fictional town in Minnesota created by National Public Radio favorite Garrison Keillor. Keillor told stories about Lake Wobegon on his show, Prairie Home Companion, from 1974 through 2016, when he retired from the program. He has also published several books about the town, including 1995’s Lake Wobegon Days.
Hey, Hoss has lost some weight!
Eric “Hoss” Cartwright was one of the Cartwright boys on the TV show Bonanza, which aired from 1959 to 1973. The character was played by actor Dan Blocker until his death in 1972.
You been hittin’ the booze again!
A reference to Show 810, The Giant Spider Invasion. Actor Robert Easton (1930-2011), who plays the leader of the lynch mob here, played alcoholic farmer Kester in that film. In real life he was a respected Hollywood dialect coach; among his achievements was the Ugandan accent for Forest Whitaker's award-winning portrayal of Idi Amin.
Left her at Gymboree.
Gymboree is a chain of activity centers that offer play, music, and art classes for kids ages 0-5.
And my soufflé fell today.
A soufflé (from the French word for “breathe”) is an extremely fluffy, lightly baked cake. They are notoriously hard to make, as they tend to collapse on themselves in the final moments of baking. That made soufflés a sitcom staple in the 1950s and ‘60s: housewives were ever baking a soufflé, and any slamming door or other loud noise would cause it to collapse.
Plague is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. If the infection is concentrated in the lymph nodes, it is known as bubonic plague; a massive epidemic of bubonic plague, known as the Black Death, is believed to have killed some 50 million people in 14th-century Europe, Asia, and Africa. Worldwide, 1,000-2,000 cases of bubonic plague are reported every year, with a mortality rate of 8-10 percent.
“I can only assume ...” ... that I’m Franz Schubert.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was an Austrian composer during the transition period from Classical to Romantic music. He is known especially for his lieder (songs).
Don’t these people have butter to churn, or taffy to pull, or prairie leagues to form … –Something.
The Prairie League was an independent baseball league in parts of Canada and the Upper Midwest; it ceased operations in 1997.
Hey, Neil Young!
Neil Young is an influential singer/songwriter. For a time in the early ‘70s he played with the band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and he has frequently recorded with the California garage-rock band Crazy Horse. Although commercial success has sometimes eluded him, he has amassed a devoted cult following.
You know, maybe if the Amish used buttons, they wouldn’t be so irrational?
The Amish are a conservative Christian sect found predominantly in North America; there is a large population of Amish in Pennsylvania. They are known for their plain, old-fashioned manner of dress—eschewing jewelry and other adornments—and their rejection of much modern technology, including electricity and cars. It’s a myth that the Amish shun all buttons. They allow plain buttons, but nothing that would draw attention, like brass.
[Sung to “Amazing Grace.”] This song is in the public domain … That’s why we used it twice …
See note on “Amazing Grace,” above.
You been hittin’ the booze?
See note on Robert Easton, above.
Let’s burn some Beatles records instead!
The Beatles were a staggeringly influential British rock band, consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. They produced a lengthy string of number one hits, inspired countless bands, caused riots among female teenage fans, annoyed the Establishment, and generally set the stage for the rock & roll revolution of the 1960s. In 1966, shortly before they were scheduled to tour America, John Lennon was quoted in a magazine interview as saying the band was "more popular than Jesus." The quip drew little attention in Europe, but when it was reprinted in the U.S., conservative Christians went ballistic. Radio stations (particularly in the South) banned the group's albums and organized record burnings. The Ku Klux Klan nailed a Beatles album to a wooden cross. The Memphis city council threatened to cancel their performance there. Brian Epstein, the band's manager, grew so concerned about their safety that he seriously considered canceling the tour. Finally Lennon gave another interview in which he apologized for the comment, and the furor died down; the tour went on as scheduled. When Lennon was murdered in 1980, his killer, Mark David Chapman, cited the "more popular than Jesus" statement as one of his motivations for committing the crime. (Thanks to Basil for the information on the record burnings.)
Yeah, hold on—I’m getting a call from Margot Adler.
Margot Adler (1946-2014) was a priestess of Wicca for more than 25 years and the author of Drawing Down the Moon, a classic study of neopaganism. She was a National Public Radio correspondent from 1979 until her death in 2014.
This is the weirdest Big Valley ever.
The Big Valley was a television series that aired from 1965 to 1969. It starred veteran actress Barbara Stanwyck as the head of a ranch in 1870s California. The valley of the title was the San Joaquin Valley.
Well, hey, look! Grannies do swing on the outhouse door without their nighties!
A paraphrase of a traditional camp song found under several names: “Juvenile Delinquent,” “I Want a Man,” “The Farmer and the Maiden,” etc. Sample lyrics: “And then there's grandma, swingin’ on the outhouse door/She lost her nightie, swingin’ on the outhouse door/Now here comes grandpa, swingin’ on the outhouse door/He found her nightie, swingin’ on the outhouse door ...”
Maybe this was once fast-paced and someone spilled a Grape Nehi on it and it got all gummy.
Grape Nehi is a purple, grape-flavored soda manufactured by Royal Crown.
“He rejoices in spilled blood, and the baying of dogs.” Who, Marilyn Manson?
Marilyn Manson is a shock rocker popular in the 1990s, considered by some a crusader for free speech and by others as the poor man’s Alice Cooper. He is known for his religious imagery, androgyny, and elaborate makeup. Manson has been the frequent target of attacks from the religious right, which pickets his shows and spreads dire rumors about him.
“He is Gorgo and Mormo.” [Sung.] And Joe.
Hardrock, Coco, and Joe is a Christmas short about three elves who help Santa deliver his presents. (Thanks to Joe Klemm for this reference.)
“You drove down our road yesterday because you wanted to see what was at the other end.” Just like that chicken.
A reference to the old joke: “Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.”
It's like when you wouldn’t believe in peanut butter.
In a 1976 commercial for Peter Pan peanut butter, a group of children refused to believe in peanut butter until a small cartoon Peter Pan appeared to explain that his brand of peanut butter is made from fresh roasted peanuts and “a little bit of magic.” The ad ended with the jingle, “If you believe in peanut butter clap your hands/If you believe in peanut butter, you’ve got to believe in Peter Pan!” (Thanks to Jeff Grindle for this reference.)
[Sung.] “Amazing grace...” ... and Chuck.
Amazing Grace and Chuck is a 1987 film starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Gregory Peck. The movie is about a young boy who goes on strike from his Little League team to press for nuclear disarmament; a professional basketball player follows his example, and soon athletes far and wide are refusing to play ball.
[Sung] It’s that witchcraft/Wicked witchcraft.
A line from the song “Witchcraft” by Frank Sinatra: “Cause it’s witchcraft, wicked witchcraft/And although I know it’s strictly taboo ...”
Aren’t there any Jesuits in the phone book?
Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, a priestly group in the Catholic Church. They emphasize missionary and educational work. The priest played by Max von Sydow in the 1973 film The Exorcist was a Jesuit.
Wow—Poopdeck Pappy getting all upset here.
Poopdeck Pappy was Popeye’s father in the series of short cartoons by the same name.
They turned me down for that policy—they said it couldn’t happen!
“Seniors cannot be turned down” appears to be a popular slogan in the insurance industry; I found variations on a number of insurance company sites, including Colonial Penn.
“Melissa.” Crossroads seem to come and go.
These are lyrics to the song “Melissa” by the Allman Brothers. Sample lyrics: “Crossroads seem to come and go, yeah/The gypsy flies from coast to coast.”
“That would make you 127 years old.” Man, she’s getting into Strom Thurmond country.
Former U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC; 1902-2003) died in 2003 at the age of 100, six months after he retired from office. He had served in the Senate since 1954; in 1948 he ran for president on a strict segregationist, anti-civil-rights platform, and he only got cuddlier after that. Reportedly in his last few years in office he became rather frail, and some questioned before his retirement whether he was still fully capable of carrying out his duties to the people of South Carolina.
John Quincy Adams!
John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) was the sixth president of the United States, serving from 1825 to 1829. He was known for his command of foreign policy and his determined opposition to the expansion of slavery.
Wow. Grandma used to work for the LAPD.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) earned a reputation for extreme violence after four white police officers were videotaped vigorously beating a black driver named Rodney King. The police officers’ acquittal (by an all-white jury) on aggravated assault charges caused serious rioting in LA in 1992. The department’s reputation was further sullied in 2000 when a police officer in the Rampart division came clean on a history of framed suspects, unjustified shootings, and criminal activity by his comrades.
Oh, and Grandma had just gotten a job as a greeter at Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart is the largest chain of retail stores in the United States. The first store was opened in 1962 by Sam Walton, offering discount merchandise at low prices. Often stores hired retirees to stand by the doors and welcome shoppers; these employees were known as “greeters.” In 2012 the company phased out greeters, moving the employees near registers to perform other tasks.
Aww—now she’s Melissa “No Sheds” Strickland.
See note on Melissa “Two Sheds” Strickland, above. In the same skit, the interviewer continues to plague Jackson about the shed:
Host: I see, I see. And you’re thinking of buying this second shed to write in!
Jackson: No, no. Look. This shed business—it doesn’t really matter. The sheds aren’t important. A few friends call me Two Sheds and that’s all there is to it. I wish you’d ask me about the music. Everybody talks about the sheds. They’ve got it out of proportion—I’m a composer. I’m going to get rid of the shed. I’m fed up with it!
Host: Then you'll be Arthur “No Sheds” Jackson, eh?
Man, never let Edie Sedgwick borrow your lake cabin.
Edie Sedgwick (1943-1971) was an actress who appeared in a number of artist Andy Warhol’s experimental films. She lived at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, where she once created a stir by accidentally setting her room on fire. Sedgwick suffered problems with anorexia, mental illness, and substance abuse, and reportedly died of a barbiturate overdose.
Grandma’s flash-paper bathrobe turned out to be a mistake.
Flash paper is a special paper used by stage magicians that flares brightly, burns quickly, and leaves no ashes behind.
Could you drop me off at Tanglewood? I’m conducting Mahler’s Tenth this weekend.
Tanglewood is the summer concert home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. “Mahler’s Tenth” is a reference to Symphony No. 10 in F-sharp Major by composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911).
Open the lens more. We need more light. More!
German author and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s last words were supposedly “Light! More light!” although some biographers insist they were the somewhat less inspiring “Open the second shutter so that more light may come in.” Goethe’s best known work is the tragic play Faust, first published in 1790. (Thanks to bcHelix for this reference.)
Oh, and don’t join Al Pacino’s law firm.
In the 1997 film The Devil’s Advocate, Al Pacino plays the head of a law firm who turns out to be Satan.
Fritz Kreisler used to wear a striped shirt like that.
Friedrich “Fritz” Kreisler (1875-1962) was an Austrian composer who is considered one of the greatest violinists of all time.
Where the heck is that village smithy?
The poem “The Village Blacksmith” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow opens with the lines “Under a spreading chestnut tree/The village smithy stands ...”
Hey, the odometer’s all sixes.
An odometer is a gauge on a car (or motorcycle, or bicycle) that shows the number of miles it has traveled. See note on 666, above.
We’re back at the beginning! This film is a Möbius strip !
A Möbius strip is a piece of paper that appears to have only one side. It is named after its discoverer, A.F. Möbius (1790-1868). You can make your own: take a long strip of paper, twist one end 180 degrees, and glue the two ends together. Then put your finger on the outer side of the strip at any point and trace along its length. When you return to your starting point, you will find that your finger is now on the inner side of the strip—without ever having left the paper!
The only known shots of Bigfoot in a T-shirt.
Bigfoot, a.k.a. Sasquatch, is a legendary apelike creature that purportedly haunts the forests of northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and western Canada. One famous piece of film shot in northern California purports to have actually captured proof of the creature, but it was debunked as a hoax in 2004.
“I love you, Melissa.” Almost as much as I love wide-wale corduroys.
Wide-wale corduroy pants were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. All corduroy has raised lines running lengthwise along the fabric; wide-wale refers to the width of those raised lines.
I’ve turned into Gloria Stuart at last.
Gloria Stuart (1910-2010) played the heroine Rose as an old woman in the 1997 film Titanic, a performance that earned her an Oscar nomination. She appeared in an immense string of movies in the 1930s and 1940s before largely retiring from acting.
“What’s wrong with my face?” Nothing, if you like Eubie Blake.
Eubie Blake (1883-1983) was a ragtime musician, composer, and actor. His best-known works include “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and “Shuffle Along.”
I’ve become Sigourney Weaver.
Sigourney Weaver is a Hollywood leading lady who is best known for her portrayal of Ellen Ripley in the popular Alien series of horror movies. She has also appeared in The Ice Storm, Ghostbusters, and Avatar, among many others.
You’re 127 years young.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, the Today show’s Willard Scott wishes happy birthdays to centenarians, referring to them as “100 years young.”
“Then save her.” Morley Safer.
Morley Safer (1931-2016) was a correspondent on the TV news program 60 Minutes from 1970-2016; he won twelve Emmies for his work on that show and died one week after announcing his retirement.
[Three Stooges noises.]
An imitation of noises made by the Three Stooges comedy troupe, most commonly Curly Howard.