320: The Unearthly
by Aaron Foster
Avis Films: We try harder!
Avis Rent A Car is an automobile rental company that has been in operation since the 1940s. Their motto since 1962 has been “We try harder.”
Hey, it’s Whistler’s mother! –I am Whistler’s mother.
Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother, also known as Whistler’s Mother, is a famous painting by James McNeill Whistler of his mother, Anna Whistler, sitting in profile.
The story you’re about to see is true. No names were changed because no one was innocent.
The crime drama Dragnet, which aired on the radio from 1949-1957 and on TV from 1951-1959 and 1967-1970, used the introduction, “The story you are about to see is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson is an 1894 novel by Mark Twain, focusing on a young lawyer named David Wilson whose unusual hobby of collecting fingerprints leads to the solving of a murder. The townsfolk do not understand his hobby, and call him “Pudd’nhead.”
It’s Imogene Coca!
Imogene Coca (1908-2001) was an actress and comedian best known for playing opposite Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows, which aired from 1950-1954. After that classic show went off the air, she got her own short-lived series, The Imogene Coca Show.
Like a Spartan god.
Sparta was one of the more prominent city-states of ancient Greece. Like other Greek civilizations of the time, Sparta worshiped the gods of the Olympian pantheon—Zeus, Hera, etc. Ares, god of war, was Sparta’s special protector, just as Athena, goddess of wisdom, favored Sparta’s rival city-state of Athens.
“Your body is like a growing tree.” With Dutch elm disease.
Dutch elm disease is a fungus that attacks elm trees, killing them sometimes within a month. It is spread by the elm bark beetle, which carries the fungus spores on its shell.
The ... larch.
In the episode of British comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus titled “How to Recognize Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away,” narrator John Cleese frequently interrupts the program with a slide of a larch tree; after awkwardly declaring it to be a larch, he moves on to the next slide, which is also a larch.
And now Red in the Silent Spot.
“Red” refers to Red Skelton (1913-1997), comedian and variety show host. On the later years of The Red Skelton Show (1951-1971), the show ended with “The Silent Spot,” which had Skelton performing in pantomime before he looked into the camera and said his trademark goodbye, “Good night and may God bless.”
Thank you, thank you very much. I’m wearing a lovely pantsuit.
An imitation of Carol Channing (1921-2019), a singer and comedian with a unique voice who starred as Lorelei Lee in the 1949 Broadway musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and won a Tony Award for her 1964 Broadway performance in the title role of Hello, Dolly!
Yeah, they’ll go to Burger King and get crappy hats.
Burger King is a chain of American fast-food restaurants founded in 1953. One of its best-known features is its giveaway of paper crowns for children.
That’s when the kids came up with a plan to blackmail Mrs. Reedy.
Mrs. Reedy was the name of Joel Hodgson’s nursery school teacher. (The teacher in this short is actually named Miss Martin.)
He’s got VPL. –Hey, lemme tell ya. Joel!
VPL stands for “visible panty line,” when the contours of someone’s underwear is visible beneath their outer garments. The phrase appears to have originated within the military sometime in the Vietnam era, but it was brought into the pop-culture vernacular by director Woody Allen’s Academy Award-winning 1977 film Annie Hall.
“... with hollow chest and tired head.” “She should just go home to bed.” Green Eggs and Ham. –Thank you, Sam-I-Am.
Green Eggs and Ham is a 1960 children’s book written and illustrated by Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. It focuses on a character named Sam-I-Am as he attempts to get another character to eat the titular green eggs and ham in various offbeat situations.
There’s no place like home ... no place like home.
In The Wizard of Oz (1939), Dorothy Gale undergoes a long journey in ruby slippers to find her way home. At the end of her adventure, she clicks the heels of her slippers together three times and says to herself, “There’s no place like home.” This magically takes her back home to Kansas.
And you truck like the doodah man! –Oooh, got your chips cashed in!
The 1970 blues-rock song “Truckin’” by the Grateful Dead features the lines “Truckin' got my chips cashed in/Keep truckin like the doodah man,” which according to the lyricist has no explicit meaning; the word “doodah” was taken from the song “Camptown Races” (“Camptown Races sing this song, doodah, doodah”).
You have got to be kidding me, Pyle! Look at that gut!
An imitation of Frank Sutton (1923-1974) as the long-suffering Sergeant Vince Carter on the TV series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., which ran from 1964-1970.
A playground where apes evolve from men?!
A reference to the famous line from the 1968 film Planet of the Apes: “A planet where apes evolved from men?!”
Hugh “Hef” Hefner (1926-2017) was the founder and publisher of Playboy magazine and head of Playboy Enterprises. He is commonly held responsible for bringing sex and pornography into the mainstream of American culture.
A frequent MST3K riff, “SLEEP!”—usually employed at any hint of hypnotism in the movie, or whenever someone is nodding off or even just seems dazed—first appeared in Show 302, Gamera, and was driven home when Bela Lugosi uttered the line (repeatedly, while hypnotizing young damsels, naturally) in Show 423, Bride of the Monster. A possible origin: in the 1980s, supposed “World's Fastest Hypnotist” Marshall Sylver appeared on several TV shows, including Late Night with David Letterman (NBC, 1982-1993), where he would entrance people while barking “Sleep!” at them.
It’s Ernest Borgnine!
Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012) was an American film and TV actor, perhaps best known for his role as Quinton McHale in the 1960s series McHale’s Navy.
[Hummed.] Theme to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. –Hey, it’s Hitchcock! –Yeah, after Slim-Fast!
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) was a portly British director, best known for his groundbreaking horror films and his television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965). The show opened with his shadow walking behind a screen to meet with a line-drawing caricature of Hitchcock’s silhouette, while the distinctive theme “Funeral March for a Marionette” played. Slim-Fast is a line of dietary supplements launched in 1977.
And who will have a Sealy Posturepedic childhood.
Sealy is the world’s largest manufacturer of mattresses; Posturepedic is their most popular brand. “It’s a Sealy Posturepedic morning! Yeah!” is a line from an old Sealy mattress commercial from the 1970s.
Reuben Hill, you still walk the fertile fields of my mind!
A paraphrase of a line in the song “Reuben James,” written by Alex Harvey and Barry Etris, that was a hit in 1969 for Kenny Rogers and the First Edition: “Reuben James/You still walk the fertile fields of my mind.”
Tommy’s the lathe of heaven!
The phrase “The lathe of heaven” comes from the writings of Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu, who stated, “To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.” Ursula K. Le Guin used it as the title of her 1971 science fiction novel about a man whose dreams can alter the reality around him.
A reference to Show 303, Pod People.
“Good night, father; good night, mother.” Good night, Oedipus.
The Greek legend of Oedipus centers on a young prince foretold by an oracle to kill his father and marry his mother. Although his family abandons him on a mountainside to die, his life is saved and he grows up to bring the prophecy to reality.
Mom leads a life of quiet desperation.
An allusion to Henry David Thoreau’s georgic novel Walden (1854). “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” is the full quotation.
“Well, there’s Tommy’s cowboy shirt, and his jacket.” He can rejoin the Village People now!
The Village People was a popular disco group of the 1970s. They were known for their costumes—a construction worker, a policeman, a Native American, a GI, a biker, and a cowboy—and the hit song and dance “YMCA.”
My mother is a saint!
After resigning as president of the United States, Richard Nixon’s rambling and emotional final remarks to his staff before leaving the White House in August 1974 included: “Nobody will ever write a book, probably, about my mother. Well, I guess all of you would say this about your mother—my mother was a saint.”
Mom, I translated a Beckett play this morning!
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) was an Irish playwright known for his modernist work. His most famous play is Waiting for Godot, a work about two men waiting at a crossroads for a man named Godot, and discussing each other’s lives. His work is known for elusive meanings.
Get Porky some pants.
Porky Pig is a character in Warner Bros. cartoon shorts, known for his comic stutter and the phrase “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!”
Starring, uh, John Carradine; that was Kung Fu, right?
John Carradine (1906-1988) was a prolific American actor and head of the Carradine dynasty. He was involved in a variety of projects, from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath to lesser films like The Unearthly. Kung Fu was a television series that ran from 1972 to 1975. It starred David Carradine—the son of John Carradine—as Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin monk who roams the American West. (Thanks to Michael Sutton for correctly pointing out that David is John’s son, not brother.)
No, no, no; he’s that guy in Revenge of the Nerds!
Revenge of the Nerds is a 1984 comedy about a group of nerds looking for acceptance on a college campus. Robert Carradine—the son of John Carradine—portrays Lewis Skolnick, one of the leads in the film.
Oh, isn’t he the guy that does all those Alan Rudolph films?
Alan Rudolph is an American director and writer. He is known for his avant-garde style of filmmaking. Keith Carradine—another son of John Carradine—has worked with him on several films, including Welcome to LA (1976) and The Moderns (1988).
Music by the Edgar Allan Poe marching band!
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was an American author and poet. Much of his work—such as “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and perhaps best known of all, “The Raven”—focuses on macabre subjects.
Y’know, I read in Video Watchdog that Geoffrey Dennis completely rewrote Jane Mann’s original script; she was really mad about it, too.
Video Watchdog was a bimonthly magazine that covered a variety of films, though its main focus was on horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films. First published in 1990, the last printed issue came out in 2017; Video Watchdog lives on as a monthly online blog.
Y’know what, I read in Starlog that Robert A. Terry had to be brought in to smooth things over; it was, it was really a mess, man!
Starlog was a long-running magazine devoted to science-fiction films. Beginning in 1976, it was published once a month until its last issue came out in April 2009.
Did you read in Fangoria about how Richard Currier and Morton Tubor were at each other’s throats?
Fangoria is a long-running magazine devoted to horror films. Beginning in 1978 as a sister publication to Starlog, Fangoria eventually bought out the other magazine. Fangoria now publishes four issues a year.
Did you read in Gorezone about the torrid love affair between Betty Sinclair and Paul Grancell? –Wait, why would the love affair be in Gorezone? –Have you seen Betty?
Gorezone was a magazine published by Fangoria in the late 1980s and 1990s dedicated to even more gruesome horror films than its more staid counterpart.
Y’know, I read in Newsweek that Henry Vars really resented Mitchell (sic) Terr supervising his music. –You read Newsweek? Heh—what a loser!
Newsweek is an American news magazine, published weekly. Founded in 1933 through 2012, its focus is upon broader, more socially impacting issues than the above-mentioned magazines.
What is this, Dog on a Hot Tin Roof?
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a 1955 stage drama by Tennessee Williams. It focuses on a night of turmoil in a southern family and was controversial for its themes of sexuality—most notably for its implication that one of the characters was a homosexual.
Hey, look; she’s dating Mr. Dithers from Blondie!
In the comic strip “Blondie,” Mr. Dithers is the boss of Dagwood Bumstead, the husband of Blondie Bumstead. Along with his trademark white hair and mustache, he’s known for his explosive temper and his disdain for Dagwood as an employee.
Avon Products, Inc. is a company that specializes in women’s makeup. Its products are mostly sold door-to-door by so-called “Avon Ladies,” and their catchphrase is “Avon calling.”
Oh, she’s Anne Sexton!
Anne Sexton (1928-1974) was a Massachusetts poet. Her style was highly confessional, talking about her life at home as well as more intimate details like her sexual habits. Her depression played a major role in her writing, and she eventually committed suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Precisely what does that mean?” I ask you, Morton Kondracke!
Morton Kondracke is an American political journalist, columnist, and pundit, best known for appearing on The McLaughlin Group (1982-1998). John McLaughlin, the host of the program, made a habit of directing his questions this way, although this is probably a reference to a series of Saturday Night Live parody sketches of the show.
“To youth.” “To eternity.” To Ted Kennedy.
Edward “Ted” Kennedy (1932-2009) was a Democratic senator from Massachusetts for nearly forty-seven years, and a brother of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy, two prominent politicians that met early, violent deaths due to the so-called “Kennedy Curse.”
What’s the word? Thunderbird. What’s the price? –Forty twice. Quite.
A paraphrase of the radio jingle to Thunderbird wine, a low-end fortified wine. The full jingle went, “What’s the word? Thunderbird/How’s it sold? Good and cold/What’s the jive? Bird’s alive/What’s the price? Thirty twice.”
We’ll be back with “Pons and Fleischmann: The Early Years”!
In 1989, two scientists at the University of Utah, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, announced that they had achieved cold fusion in their lab. Long a dream of scientists for its promise of cheap, clean energy, cold fusion involves achieving the same process of nuclear fusion (as opposed to fission, which is what generates energy at nuclear power plants) that takes place inside the sun, only doing it at room temperature. Pons and Fleischmann’s claim made headlines around the world, but the scientific community reacted with skepticism, with one prominent physicist referring to it as “pathological science.” Pons and Fleischmann proved unable to replicate the results of their experiment, and the story quickly faded from the news.
It’s Al Lewis!
Al Lewis (1910-2006) is an actor who is best known for his portrayal of Grandpa Munster on the TV show The Munsters, which aired from 1964 to 1966.
This is how you throw a knuckleball. I know Phil Niekro was old, but—whoa.
Phil Niekro (1939-2020) was a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves from 1964-1983, starting with them when they were still the Milwaukee Braves; he was known as “Knucksie” for his ability with knuckleballs.
Stop giving him Burgess Meredith injections.
Oliver Burgess Meredith (1907-1997) was a notable American actor. His best-known role was as Mickey “Mick” Goldmill, Rocky Balboa’s trainer in the series of Rocky movies starring Sylvester Stallone.
“Harry Jedrow has a sister. She’s been to my office trying to locate him!” Her name’s Elly May.
Elly May Clampett was a character on the television series The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971) played by Donna Douglas. Another character on the show was Jethro Bodine, the son of Jed Clampett’s cousin, who stayed with the family. (Thanks to Michael Sutton for supplying the correct name of the character.)
Tor make bundt cake.
Bundt cake is a German dessert made in a special pan designed so that the cake resembles a large ring.
Let’s mix up a little Oil of Olay here ...
Oil of Olay is a popular brand of skin care and makeup products owned by Procter & Gamble. Their main emphasis is on moisturizers to keep skin looking healthy.
Hey, check him out; he’s doing his Dangerfield! –Ah, no respect, no respect, yeah, I don’t get any respect, stairway, oh, it’s, hah …
Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004) was a stand-up comedian known for his self-deprecating routines, boisterous manner, and bulging eyes. His main catchphrase was “I don’t get no respect.”
Well, would you like to sample our antidepressant cart? We have Blue Cheese Valium, Flintstones Chewable Prozac, and William Styron tablets.
See note on Valium, above. Prozac is a popular antidepressant. Blue cheese is a type of cheese made from cow or goat milk and Penicillium cultures. Flintstones Chewables are a popular line of vitamin tablets for children, made with sweet flavors in the shape of characters from the cartoon The Flintstones. William Styron (1925-2006) was an American author who suffered from deep depression; his memoir Darkness Visible (1989) chronicles his descent into near-suicidal depression and his subsequent recovery.(Thanks to Michael Sutton for the Darkness Visible reference.)
Hey, isn’t he the guy from Monopoly?
Monopoly is an iconic real-estate board game published and sold by Parker Brothers. First published in 1924 as “The Landlord’s Game,” it eventually became an ironic form of entertainment during the Great Depression. The mascot of the game is a wealthy, balding man with a white mustache named Rich Uncle Pennybags.
“I’m glad, and I hope she makes an excellent subject for you.” The subject was roses.
The Subject Was Roses is a 1964 play by Frank D. Gilroy, later adapted into a 1968 film, about a soldier who returns home from World War II. The play won the Pulitzer Prize and two out of five of its Tony Award nominations.
“Good night, Sharon. Good night Charles.” “Good night, Loren.” Good night, John-Boy.
–Good night, McCloud.
This is a parody of the ending sequence to the television series The Waltons about a family that lives in Virginia through the 1930s and 1940s. The final sequence of each episode was of the rather large Walton family going to bed, with everyone saying good night to everyone else before finally going to sleep. “Good night, McCloud” is an impersonation of Sgt. Grover (played by Ken Lynch) on the TV series McCloud (1970-1977).
“All right, I wear a leather jacket and I’m not a midget; so what?” So you won’t be booked on the Sullivan Show.
The Ed Sullivan Show was a variety program that aired from 1948 to 1971. Hosted by Ed Sullivan (1901-1974), its focus was on showcasing many forms of talent. Many of them were off-the-wall, but some of the greatest acts in music—such as the Beatles—got their start on the program.
“You seem to be a bit wobbly.” “I’m all right.” I’m a Weeble.
Weebles are part of Hasbro’s Playskool line of toys. They are figures made with a rounded bottom and an internal weight, so that no matter what children do when playing with them, they will stand upright when released. The motto of the toy line is “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”
Hey, I wobble, but we don’t sit down.
See previous note.
“You know, I pity you.” This is a town without pity.
Town Without Pity is a 1961 film drama starring Kirk Douglas as a military lawyer assigned to defend four American soldiers charged with raping a young German girl.
This is a line from Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In it, the titular hunchback rescues the Gypsy girl Esmerelda from being burned at the stake by the wicked Judge Claude Frollo, and carries her into the church where she will be safe under the law of sanctuary. The book has been filmed several times, most famously in 1939 with Charles Laughton in the title role.
“I don’t follow you.” “You will, Scott.” After you read Dianetics!
Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health is a 1950 book written by L. Ron Hubbard, who would go on to found the religion of Scientology based on the handbook’s principles. According to the beliefs of Dianetics, negative memories are stored in an unconscious part of the brain and must be removed through Dianetic therapy, which critics have labeled a scam.
So round, so firm, so fully packed; it’s toasted. –LSMFT!
These are both mottos for Lucky Strike cigarettes, which were sponsors of The Jack Benny Program on TV and radio. The acronym LSMFT stands for “Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco.”
“It’s cold!” I like my Trix heated!
Trix is a brand of cereal manufactured by General Mills; it consists of multi-colored fruit-flavored shapes like grape, lemon, and raspberry. Trix is meant to be served unheated with milk.
Don’t start with me, George.
A reference to the Edward Albee play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, in which a quarreling couple’s marriage disintegrates in front of some new acquaintances after a party.
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.
This is a fragment from the chorus of Five Man Electrical Band’s hit 1970 song “Signs.” The song focuses on the great political change at the beginning of the 1970s; the protagonist is a hippie going from place to place complaining about the large number of signs restricting access to various areas.
Oh, Jacqueline Susann.
Jacqueline Susann (1918-1974) was an American author best known for her novel Valley of the Dolls, a book about the lives of three young women in New York City that broke sales records and spawned an Oscar-nominated 1967 film and a short-lived TV series.
A day in the life of Biosphere 2.
Biosphere 2 was meant to be a self-contained environmental structure, designed to study environments in a closed situation as well as to study human interactions without external interference. The “missions” were a notable failure, with crew members unable to get along.
What is this, an O’Neill play?
Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953) was an American playwright. His best-known work was The Iceman Cometh (1940), and his plays tend to involve heavy undertones of pessimism and tragedy.
Oh, I get it; he’s Lenny Bruce!
Leonard Alfred Schneider (1925-1966) was a standup comedian better known as Lenny Bruce. His routines were frequently profane and dealt with sexual topics; he eventually died in a bathroom of a drug overdose.
“To see the patients of life go by you while you remain eternally young and vigorous!” Carl Jung?
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of psychoanalysis. His most significant work is in dream analysis.
“Suppose you could wake up every morning and see your face untouched by time.” Like Dick Clark?
Dick Clark (1929-2012) was an American television personality and former head of Dick Clark Productions. He received several Emmy awards for his work in the Pyramid series of game shows, and was often the butt of jokes for his seemingly ageless appearance year after year as the host of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.
“They've always called the greatest scientists crazy: Pasteur, Freud, Madame Curie, Ehrlich ...” Westheimer!
Dr. Ruth Westheimer is a German-born American sex therapist. She has hosted radio and television shows where she would answer viewers’ questions about sex in frank terms, and this, combined with her grandmotherly appearance, turned her into a sensation in the 1980s.
“I’ll take every precaution!” I’ll take the curtain.
Let’s Make a Deal is a television show that originally ran from 1963 to 1976. It has come and gone again in various reincarnations; the current version has only been running since 2009. The basic format of the show was that a contestant was given a product that contained a check with an unknown amount of money inside; the guest had to decide whether to keep the item or trade it for an object behind one of three curtains or doors.
“Who’ll believe you?” The House Ethics Committee.
The House Ethics Committee is a committee of the United States House of Representatives; they set rules that representatives must follow in regards to ethical behavior and are responsible for the investigation and prosecution of any representative that breaks such a rule.
I think that’s the Visible Venus de Milo here.
The Visible Man was an educational toy, a plastic model of a human male with clear plastic “skin” that could be removed, revealing anatomically correct (and removable) organs and skeleton. Designed by sculptor Marcel Jovine for the Renwall Toy Corporation and introduced in 1959, The Visible Man sold for $4.98, and was soon followed by The Visible Woman. The Venus de Milo is an ancient Greek statue of the goddess Aphrodite (renamed Venus in the Roman pantheon), notable for the fact that it’s missing both of its arms. (Thanks to @Kouban for The Visible Man reference.)
Hey, HAL’s reading your lips.
This is a reference to a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), in which the super-intelligent computer HAL 9000 uses his optic sensors to read the lips of the two astronauts staying with him and deduce that they are plotting to shut him down.
It’s Jackie O and Lee Radziwill!
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994) was the wife of U.S. President John F. Kennedy until 1963, when he was fatally shot in the head next to her in a motorcade in Texas. She would continue to be a public icon for her stoic nature in the wake of the assassination, and later married the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis until his death in 1975. Socialite Lee Radziwill (née Bouvier) is Jackie’s younger sister. (Thanks to Michael Sutton for the Radziwill reference.)
Oh, that must be Ellen Barkin!
Ellen Barkin is an American actress known for her work in such films as The Big Easy (1986) and Bad Company (1995).
“I guess you could call it a nervous breakdown.” My nineteenth.
“19th Nervous Breakdown” is a song by the Rolling Stones that was a Top Ten hit in 1966. Sample lyrics: “You better stop, look around/Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes/Here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown/Oh, who's to blame, that girl's just insane/Well nothing I do don't seem to work/It only seems to make matters worse/Oh please.” (Thanks to Lynn Knott for this reference.)
“Doctor Conway wouldn’t like it.” Tim Conway?
Tim Conway (1933-2019) was an American actor and comedian, best known for his work on The Carol Burnett Show with Harvey Korman. Conway would frequently attempt to ad-lib and force Korman to crack during the performance, and more often than not succeeded.
Hoiman, Hoiman; you get me outta dis chair!
An imitation of Grandpa Munster (played by Al Lewis) on The Munsters, a TV sitcom that aired from 1964-1966. “Hoiman” refers to Herman Munster, the clan patriarch; the part was played by Fred Gwynne. (Thanks to Michael Sutton for the Grandpa Munster reference.)
Itsy Bitsy Spider …
“Itsy Bitsy Spider” is a popular nursery rhyme and children’s song, frequently taught with accompanying hand motions.
“Can you suggest any further treatment, Charles?” Anything further, father?
A line from the Marx Brothers film Horse Feathers (1932), first played straight by Zeppo, then mockingly by Groucho.
“It's Loren.” Hellooo, D.H.
David Herbert (D.H.) Lawrence (1885-1930) was a British author, playwright, and poet best known for his sensual, introspective novels, some of which are Sons and Lovers (1913), Women in Love (1920), and Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928). Several of these books, most notoriously Lady Chatterley’s Lover, were censored or deemed obscene for their (to modern eyes) mild sexual content and profanity.
[Imitating.] Jethro wants to be a rock star!
An imitation of meddlesome banker Mr. Drysdale (played by Raymond Bailey) on the TV sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies (CBS, 1962-1971). This is probably a reference to the third season episode "Teenage Idol," in which Jethro falls under the influence of teen idol Johnny Poke (played by Jesse Pearson, who also played the Elvis-like heartthrob Conrad Birdie in the 1960 Broadway musical and 1963 film Bye Bye Birdie). See note on The Beverly Hillbillies, above.
“Jedrow is dead.” Jedrow is dead. Long live Jedrow.
“The king is dead. Long live the king” is a proclamation made upon the death of a monarch and the coronation of their successor in some courts of Europe. It is a “business-first” approach to the whole event used to imply an immediate continuity of the monarchy and ensure the stability of the government.
[To the tune of “Charge.”] Dun-dun-dun-dun, dun-dun-dun-dun …
This is a version of the “Charge” fanfare written by USC student Tommy Walker in 1946. This fanfare is popular at baseball games, and is commonly followed by the crowd shouting “Charge!”
Looks like Tor Johnson’s going for the Don Johnson look here.
Don Johnson is an American actor best known for his portrayal of Sonny Crockett in the TV series Miami Vice. He has received many distinctions for this role, from a Golden Globe to a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His look included light suits worn with pastel T-shirts, loafers without socks, and a carefully maintained three-day beard stubble.
I’m sorry, I can’t think of the ending! –I can’t think of anything else.
These are lines from the Marx Brothers film Animal Crackers (1931). (Thanks to Michael Sutton for correcting which film these lines are from.)
It’s Elvis Costello.
Elvis Costello is a British musician. Of no relation to Elvis Presley or Lou Costello, he has written and sung since 1977 and is best-known for his contributions to the punk and new wave genres.
Lobo get ya-yas out.
Get Yer Ya-Yas Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert is a recording of concerts by British rock band the Rolling Stones in Baltimore and New York City in 1969. It was highly acclaimed, with critic Lester Bangs of Rolling Stone magazine calling it “the best rock concert ever put on record.”
Tor want Fats Waller now.
Fats Waller (1904-1943) was a jazz pianist, known for writing the song “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and for his skill with musical dynamics. His reputation was so solid that in 1926 he was reportedly kidnapped to perform at gangster Al Capone’s birthday party.
“Shall we retire?” Why, are you coming apart? Oh, that’s a different joke.
The punchline comes from the Marx Brothers movie A Night in Casablanca (1946). The full joke is “Will you join me?” followed by “Why? Are you coming apart?”
M.C. Escher (1898-1972) was a Dutch artist. Much of his work focused on tessellations—repeating, interlocking shapes—as well as many examples of impossible architecture. Some of his more famous works involve stairs, such as a staircase that infinitely goes upwards and a room filled with impossible stairways.
Door number one, door number two, let’s make a deal!
See note on Let’s Make a Deal, above.
No, no, it goes “DUM-dah-dah-DUM-DUM.”
This is the rhythm for the widely known musical couplet “Shave and a Haircut.” It is frequently depicted as a secret knock, followed by two knocks confirming permission to enter.
He’s wearing Playtex gloves!
Playtex used to be a brand solely associated with women’s underwear, eventually expanding to feminine hygiene and infant care products. Their line of rubber gloves for household cleaning tasks has been around since the mid-50s.
Whoa, it smells like Lobo in here! –He must be having a misadventure!
An American sitcom entitled The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo ran from 1979 to 1981 on NBC. The show was a spinoff from another series, B.J. and the Bear, and focused on a formerly corrupt sheriff (Claude Akins) as he tried to do his job without becoming a suspect himself.
Luke, it is your destiny …
An impersonation of Darth Vader as voiced by James Earl Jones in the Star Wars movies. More specifically, it is a reference to the movie The Empire Strikes Back, in which Vader confronts his son, Luke Skywalker, and informs him of his heritage in an attempt to bring him over to the dark side.
A Briggs and Stratton breathalyzer.
Briggs and Stratton is a company dealing in the manufacture of gasoline engines for outdoor equipment such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers. A breathalyzer is a tool used by law enforcement to measure the alcohol content of a person’s blood; it operates by analyzing the content of a suspect’s exhaled breath.
It’s the most wonderful scientific—hey, wait a minute; that’s an Uncle Josh’s pork rind!
Uncle Josh Bait Company is a Wisconsin company specializing in the manufacture of fishing merchandise, particularly bait. Some of their baits are made of pig skin, so they are known as “pork rind” baits.
[Imitating.] This Brown ‘N Serve is alive! Alive!
Riffing on the 1931 classic horror film Frankenstein, based on the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley, and the scene where the very excitable Dr. Frankenstein first sees his monster come to life, and exclaims “It’s alive! ALIVE!” Brown 'N Serve is a popular line of breakfast products; consumers can purchase precooked sausages and bacon, so all they have to do prior to eating is heat them up.
No, wait, this thing looks delicious! Butter! Log Cabin!
Log Cabin is a popular brand of maple syrup started in Minnesota in 1887.
Uh, we should really put a scuzzy port in here while we’re at it.
“Scuzzy” is the pronunciation of the acronym SCSI, which stands for Small Computer System Interface. A SCSI port is designed for a simple physical connection between a computer and a peripheral device such as a printer.
What do ya say we go to the Swamp and have some cocktails?
In the long-running TV sitcom M*A*S*H (CBS, 1972-1983), based on a 1968 novel which led to a popular 1970 film about a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in the Korean War, “the Swamp” was the nickname given to the tent which housed the senior surgeons, namely Hawkeye, Trapper (later replaced by B.J.) and Frank Burns (replaced by Winchester).
“He’s got some fantastic idea he can work miracles to keep people young forever.” It’s called Porcelana.
Porcelana is a brand of skin cream meant to lighten blemished and discolored skin.
“I’m here under my own doctor’s advice.” Your doctor is Claus von Bülow.
In December 1980, heiress Sunny von Bülow slipped into a coma. Her husband, Claus von Bülow (1926-2019), was accused of trying to murder her by injecting her with a lethal dose of insulin. He was found guilty in 1982, but had the conviction reversed on appeal and was ultimately acquitted in a second trial in 1985. Sunny died in 2008. The von Bülows’ story was told in the 1990 film Reversal of Fortune.
Oh, they turned on the Emergency Broadcast System.
The Emergency Broadcast System was used from 1963 to 1997 in the United States. It was designed as a warning system to be authorized for use by the president in case of an impending war, nuclear attack, or similar crisis.
This is a take on the American slang phrase “23-skidoo,” referring to a forced leave of oneself or another person. The origin of the phrase is unclear, but it dates back to at least the turn of the 20th century.
Is he reading poetry again? –Ferlinghetti.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021) was a poet from the beat generation, a painter, and a liberal activist. He co-founded the City Lights Booksellers and Publishers, the famed bookstore/publishing house in San Francisco.
Are we not men?
“Are we not men?” is part of a litany recited by human/animal hybrid creatures in the 1896 science fiction novel The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. The book has been adapted or heavily referenced many times in film, TV, music, and videogames, including the 1978 debut album from American new-wave band Devo, titled Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (Thanks to Michael Sutton for this reference.)
7-Eleven is a chain of convenience stores so named for their putative hours of business: from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. However, they are currently open twenty-four hours a day.
[Imitating.] What’s all the racket?
An imitation of Curly Howard (b. Jerome Lester “Jerry” Horwitz; 1903-1952), the best known and most imitated of The Three Stooges, who performed throughout the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s onstage and in many short films along with his older brothers, Moe Howard and Shemp Howard, and actor Larry Fine.
Here in the wine cellars of Ernest and Julio Gallo: all the best ...
Ernest and Julio Gallo were two brothers who founded the E&J Gallo Winery in 1933, following the repeal of prohibition. Their marketing strategies and premiere television advertising for wine -- including the slogan "All the best a wine can be," ensured them a place as California’s chief exporter of wine and established Sonoma County as a world-renowned region for wine growing.
Cripes, I’ve turned her into a Sleestak!
Sleestaks are green humanoid reptiles from the 1970s television series Land of the Lost, created by Sid and Marty Krofft. The series focused on the Marshall family as they explored an alternate, prehistoric universe.
Paul Bunyan, where’s your blue ox?
Paul Bunyan was a legendary giant lumberjack in American tall tales. He used his great size to chop down many trees at once, and he was supposedly responsible for many of America’s national landmarks, such as his axe dragging along the ground to create the Grand Canyon. He also owned an equally gigantic blue ox named Babe that was his loyal companion.
Ethan Allen is an upscale chain of furniture stores founded in 1932. It has nearly 300 locations worldwide.
She looks like Irene Ryan, but ...
Irene Ryan (1902-1973) was an actress best known for her role as Daisy May Moses (a.k.a. Granny) on the TV sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, which aired from 1962 to 1971.
Here, use my Ronson. Works every time.
The Ronson company specialized in the production of lighters, creating lighters that ignited and extinguished in one action. Ronson was purchased by the Zippo lighter company in 2010. One of Ronson’s classic ad slogans was “Lights the first time, every time.” “It works every time” was an advertising slogan for Colt 45 Malt Liquor, associated with the brand’s ambassador, actor Billy Dee Williams, from 1986 to 1991. The ads were criticized for marketing high-alcohol malt liquor to low-income audiences, and for their implied message that Colt 45 helped to make women more sexually available. Nonetheless, the campaign was revived in 2016, featuring a 78 year old Williams.
My Dinner with Andre had more locations than this film!
My Dinner with Andre is a 1981 film written by and starring Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory. The film centers on a conversation between the two actors as they discuss personal beliefs and criticize each other’s views. Nearly the entire film takes place in a restaurant, until Wallace Shawn leaves in a taxi at the end.
Adolf Hitler on vibes.
“Adolf Hitler on vibes” is a line from the song “The Intro and the Outro” by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was chancellor of Germany from 1932 to 1945 and head of the Nazi Party. His decision to invade Poland sparked World War II, and his role in the resulting Holocaust—a massacre of millions of people, including six million Jews—ensured him a place as perhaps the most reviled man in history. A vibraphone is a large musical instrument similar in design to a large xylophone, with aluminum bars, resonator tubes, and a motor-driven butterfly valve. (Thanks to Brent Silvia for the song reference.)
Mrs. Bates? Mrs. Bates ...
This is a reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror film Psycho, based on the 1959 Robert Bloch novel of the same name. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) runs the Bates Motel, under the strict jurisdiction of his mother. After a woman is killed in the shower, investigators into her death are also confronted, seemingly by Mrs. Bates, until it is discovered (spoiler alert!) that Mrs. Bates has been dead for years, and Norman was suffering from a split personality where he dressed as her and committed the murders.
You know, he’s—I think he’s looking for Dave Lennox.
Dave Lennox (1855-1947) was an American inventor and founder of Lennox International, a home heating and cooling company. Since his death, he has been portrayed in advertisements by two actors: Bill Tracy (1972-1986), followed by Bob Tibbets after Tracy’s death.
Looks kinda like David Janssen.
David Janssen (1931-1980) was an American actor best known for playing the title role in the TV series The Fugitive, which aired from 1963-1967.
Dah, Hoiman! Turn the light off; I’m resting!
See note on Herman Munster, above.
While strolling through park one day ...
This is a variation on the first line of the 1884 song “The Fountain in the Park,” written by Ed Haley. The final verse is more famous than the rest of the song, so the song is often referred to as “While Strolling Through the Park One Day.” The complete verse is “While strolling through the park one day/In the merry merry month of May/I was taken by surprise/By a pair of roguish eyes/In the merry merry month of May.”
What is this, a Three Stooges all of a sudden?
See above note.
Well, y’know, I do love these FantaSuites; now, are we in the Jungle Room, or the Tarzan Room?
A riff on FantaSuites, a former chain of “theme room” hotels in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Indiana; you could check into the Caesar room, the Space Odyssey room, the Jungle room, and so forth. The only one left is in Greenwood, Indiana. The MST3K Amazing Colossal Episode Guide's comment: “Bring your own sheets.”
Sissy Spacek is an American actress, best known as the title character of the 1976 horror film Carrie, based on the Stephen King novel. She also won an Oscar for her role in 1980’s Coal Miner’s Daughter.
“Yeah, that’s Natalie.” Natalie Weird.
Actress Natalie Wood (1938-1981) got her start as a child in the 1947 Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street, and went on to acclaimed roles in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Splendor in the Grass (1961), and West Side Story (1961).
Tisket, tasket, green yellow casket ... pun!
This is a play on the first two lines of the nursery rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” The lyrics are normally, “A-tisket, a-tasket/A green and yellow basket.”
Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands ...
This is the first line from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Village Blacksmith,” about a blacksmith’s life being balanced between work and family. The full line is, “Under a spreading chestnut tree/The village smithy stands;/The smith, a mighty man is he/With large and sinewy hands;/And the muscles of his brawny arms/Are strong as iron bands.”
He’s wearing Birkis!
Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG is a German shoe manufacturer better known as “Birkis.” They are best known for their manufacture of sandals developed from the interior arch structure of other shoes into their own shoe.
[Sung.] Mr. Lobo risin’ ...
This is a reference to the song “L.A. Woman” by American rock band The Doors. The song was included on the band’s album by the same name, and contains the phrase “Mr. Mojo risin’,” which is an anagram of the band’s singer and lyricist Jim Morrison’s name. This was the last album Morrison made before his death.
[Imitating.] A-guh-guh-guh-guh, he didn’t notice mes, gah, I’ll just go out and finish his jobsk for him. Yeah, he won’t know who did it then ...
This is an impersonation of popular comic and cartoon character Popeye the Sailor Man. In his cartoons, he’s known for continuously talking and chuckling to himself with his famous “a-guh-guh-guh-guh.”
Hey, Abe Vigoda!
Abe Vigoda (1921-2016) was an American actor with a lengthy and varied career. His more famous roles include Sal Tessio in The Godfather and Det. Sgt. Phil Fish in the TV series Barney Miller. Since the 1980s, he’s been on the receiving end of many jokes regarding his advanced age.
I'm feeling much better!
A line from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which a man is trying to dump his protesting elderly relative on the plague cart, claiming the man is already dead.
Well, what do you know; I am Ann B. Davis!
See note on Ann B. Davis, above.
Alas, poor Yorick; I knew him, Horatio.
This is an excerpt of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, and perhaps the best-known misquoted line from Shakespeare’s work. The line is often given as “Alas, poor Yorick; I knew him well,” but the version used here is correct.
This is what happens when you sign with William Morris.
The William Morris Endeavor Entertainment group is a talent agency representing clients for hire from all walks of the entertainment business.
It’s Jon “Bowzer” Bauman!
Jon Bauman is an American musician. He was a lead singer for several years for the rock group Sha Na Na, and was also host of Hollywood Squares from 1983 to 1984. He currently tours with the group Bowzer and the Stingrays.
Yeah, that's the ticket!
An imitation of comedian Jon Lovitz as Tommy “The Liar” Flanagan, a part he played on Saturday Night Live in the late 1980s.
Hmm ... who’s playing my Hammond?
Hammond organs are electric organs invented to provide cheap, low-scale organs for churches that couldn’t afford full-scale pipe organs.
Chris Isaak is an American musician. He has also contributed his talents to film and television.
Nothing, dear; just checking the joists!
An impersonation of John Cleese in the British comedy series Fawlty Towers. Cleese played Basil Fawlty, manager of the titular hotel, who always ran it in an aggressive manner. In one episode, he attempts to spy on a couple staying at the hotel to catch them in the act of making love, which is against hotel policy. His wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) suspects him of simply being a peeping tom, so he comes up with excuses such as “checking the joists” of the walls.
Okay, watch the lady, we’re gonna switch ‘em around, watch …
This is a reference to a common street scam known as three card monte, also known as Find the Lady. The scam focuses on three playing cards, two aces and one Queen, and the con man appears to mix them facedown when in reality he knows exactly where he places the cards.
Another impersonation of John Cleese as Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. Fawlty frequently argued with his subordinates, including the Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs) and the more-intelligent Polly (Cleese’s then-wife Connie Booth).
[Sung.] Take Sominex tonight and sleep ...
Sominex is an over-the-counter sleep medication manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. "Take Sominex tonight and sleep/Safe and restful sleep, sleep, sleep" was a late-1960s ad jingle for the brand.
Ah, somebody stole the strawberries.
In The Caine Mutiny (1954), the erratic, disciplinarian Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) goes to great lengths to discover the thieves of the strawberry rations, despite the pettiness of the offence.
Check out the collar on Anne Boleyn here.
Anne Boleyn (1501/1507-1536) was the second wife of British King Henry VIII. Henry VIII’s desire for a male heir was legendary, and when Anne Boleyn was unable to provide one, he had her beheaded. Anne’s daughter, however, became Elizabeth the Great, one of the most powerful female monarchs in history.
I’d like some Strawberry Quik and some cookies, though!
Nestle’s Strawberry Quik is a brand of sweet milk flavoring. It is sold in powder and liquid, and has a more popular chocolate-flavored counterpart.
“Now, listen; you and Grace take the main road into town. Remember, stay in the shadows until you’re clear of the house.” I’ll take the low road and be in Scotland before ye.
This is a reference to the first line of the chorus of the traditional Scottish song “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond.” The line goes, “O ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road/And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye …”
And as for you, Esmerelda ...
Esmerelda was the shy, inept witch who acted as the Stephenses’ housekeeper on Bewitched from the sixth through the eighth seasons; the part was played by Alice Ghostly. (Thanks to Michael Sutton for this reference.)
Hey, it's Bob & Carol & Tor & Alice.
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is a 1969 film starring Natalie Wood and Robert Culp as a sophisticated couple who have their lives changed by a therapy group.
Wow, we’re watching Down by Law all of a sudden!
Down by Law is a 1986 indie film about three convicts as they are placed into—and escape from—their prison sentences.
“Keep them here until I get back. Understand?” Yes, I keep them here until they get back ...
A reference to a sequence in the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which the King of Swamp Castle (Michael Palin) is trying to get two guards to understand his orders to keep Prince Herbert (Terry Jones) imprisoned in his room.
Take a look at these hands!
This is a fragment from the Talking Heads song “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” from their 1980 album Remain in Light.
‘night, Mother is a Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 play by Marsha Norman about a woman who tells her mother she has decided to commit suicide. It was made into a film in 1986 starring Sissy Spacek.
Tor’s hooked on phonics!
Hooked on Phonics is a series of educational materials for young children. It emphasizes using phonetic sounds to teach kids how to read.
Hey, they’re gonna give her a nose like LaToya. –Or like Michael. –What’s the diff?
LaToya Jackson is an American singer-songwriter and a member of the Jackson family. Michael Jackson (1958-2009), her brother, was also a singer and was the most successful member of the Jacksons. Both are infamous for their surgically enhanced noses.
Wait a minute. Pretty girl, young girl, old man, man with a gun!
A reference to “Man With a Gun,” a 1988 song by former Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison. Part of the chorus: “I said pretty girl, young man, old man/Man with a gun/Two people in love (two people in love)/The rules do not apply (to people in love).”
I've got the gun. –Warm gun. Makes me happy.
A reference to “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” the 1968 Beatles song, off their White Album.
I was about to give the world the gift of eternal life!” Teach the world to sing in perfect harmony!
This is a reference to the classic 1971 Coca-Cola advertising jingle “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony),” which became so popular it was re-recorded by The New Seekers.
Who are you to judge? I was in Stagecoach and The Grapes of Wrath!
Stagecoach was a 1939 Western film, and The Grapes of Wrath is a 1940 adaptation of the 1939 novel of the same name. Both films are considered classics, were directed by John Ford, and starred John Carradine.
Van Damme and Van Damme in Van Damme Yankees.
Jean-Claude Van Damme is a Belgian actor most known for his roles in action movies such as Double Impact (1991) and Street Fighter (1994). Damn Yankees is a 1955 musical comedy about a man who sells his soul for the Washington Senators to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.
[Sung.] There’s a scientist on a spree, and he’s skinny as can be!
This is a parody of the theme song to the TV show Car 54, Where Are You? (1961-1963). The series focused on the day-to-day lives of two NYPD officers who used Car 54.
One-Adam-12, movie needs resuscitation; see the movie.
A parody of the radio announcer in the 1968-75 police drama series Adam-12. The part was played by Shaaron Claridge, who worked as an actual dispatcher for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Come on, Otis! You know how to do that! –Otis, come on!
Imitations of, respectively, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts (as Deputy Barney Fife) from the TV sitcom The Andy Griffith Show (CBS, 1960-1968). When town drunk Otis Campbell was on a bender, he would routinely lock himself into, and let himself out of, the jail.
That’s for the Bach!
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was an accomplished musician, and writer of the celebrated Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which John Carradine played earlier in The Unearthly.
Dying is easy; comedy is hard.
The last words of somebody; they have been variously attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Donald Wolfit, and Edmund Gwenn.
Oops; blame it on the bossa nova ...
“Blame it on the Bossa Nova” is a 1963 pop song by Eydie Gorme.
See above note.
Oh, it’s the cast for Quest for Fire; they’ve saved the best for last!
Quest for Fire (1981) is a film adaptation of a 1911 French novel by the same name. It focuses on a group of cavemen eighty thousand years ago, shortly before the discovery and control of fire.
Brian Bosworth and Ben Davidson!
Brian “The Boz” Bosworth was a linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks. Ben Davidson (1940-2012) also played professional football with the Oakland Raiders, the Green Bay Packers, and the Washington Redskins.
Ian Anderson! Aqualung!
Aqualung was a 1971 album by Jethro Tull, as well as a song on the same album about a homeless, pedophilic, and dirty old man. The cover of the album showed Aqualung, a disheveled ancient with wild hair and a beard; a rumor persists that he was designed after the group’s leading man, Ian Anderson.
Get Michael Jackson on the phone; he may wanna buy one of these guys!
Michael Jackson was the most prominent member of the Jackson family of musicians and singers, after becoming a runaway success with the Jackson Five. As he grew into a solo career, he became known for wild eccentricities, such as owning a pet chimpanzee, making a shrine to Elizabeth Taylor, and attempting to buy the remains of the Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick.
The birth of the World Wrestling Federation.
The World Wrestling Federation, or WWF, was a professional wrestling group founded by Vincent J. McMahon in 1980. It met much success with events such as Wrestlemania and characters such as The Undertaker and Rowdy Roddy Piper. However, the World Wide Fund for Nature—which also used the acronym “WWF”—sued the World Wrestling Federation in 2000 over a violated agreement, and the name was subsequently changed to World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE.