810: The Giant Spider Invasion
by Wyn Hilty
It’s a giant spider invasion of savings at Menards!
An imitation of Ray Szmanda, the white-haired, hyper-exuberant man who has appeared in roughly 6,000 commercials during his 20-plus-year career as the pitchman for Menards, a chain of home-improvement stores based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Ah, this is when all those giant spiders came over from Britain.
The “British Invasion” refers to a period of time in the mid-1960s when a string of British rock bands achieved widespread popularity in the United States. Led by the Beatles, the invasion included such bands as the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and Herman’s Hermits.
[Sung.] Steve Brodie just closes his eyes again ...
A reference to the song "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright. Sample lyrics: "I've just closed my eyes again/Climbed aboard the dream weaver train/Driver take away my worries of today/And leave tomorrow behind ..." (Thanks to Blake Maddux for this reference.)
Wow, starring Alan “D'oh!” Hale!
Alan Hale (1918-1990), who plays the sheriff in The Giant Spider Invasion, played the Skipper in the TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island (1964-1967); his trademark exclamation was “D'oh!”
This is an orchestral piece called “The People’s Court Suite.”
People’s Court was a television series that ran from 1981-1993; it starred retired judge Joseph Wapner deciding actual small-claims court cases. Former NYC mayor Ed Koch took over for two seasons starting in 1997; he was replaced by Jerry Sheindlin, who was replaced by Marilyn Milian.
“Barbara Pokras.” Ah, of the beer barrel pokras.
“Beer Barrel Polka” is a traditional drinking song. Sample lyrics: “Roll out the barrel/We'll have a barrel of fun/Roll out the barrel, we've got the blues on the run/Zing Boom Terrara/Join in a glass of good cheer/Now it's time to roll the barrel/For the gang's all here.”
[Sung.] Gillette—the best a man can get …
This is an advertising jingle for Gillette disposable razors. It was composed by songwriter Jake Holmes.
I can see the giant spider moving slowly towards us, down and down …
A reference to Show 803, The Mole People.
[Sung.] I shot the sheriff’s office, but I did not shoot the deputy’s office.
A paraphrase of a line from the Bob Marley song “I Shot the Sheriff.” Actual lyrics: “I shot the sheriff/But I didn’t shoot no deputy …”
Hi, little buddy!
In his role as Skipper on Gilligan’s Island, Alan Hale referred to Gilligan as “Little buddy.”
[Sung.] Gilligan’s Island theme.
This is the theme to the TV series Gilligan’s Island.
Phyllis George was crowned Miss America in 1971. Since then she has been a morning-show host, a sportscaster, an author, an actress, and first lady of Kentucky.
An imitation of Granny Clampett on the sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, which aired from 1962-1971; the part was played by Irene Ryan (1902-1973). Also a reference to Show 802, Leech Woman.
Promise Keepers is a Christian organization founded in 1990 by Bill McCartney. The group held rallies across the United States throughout the 1990s, at its peak attracting more than 1 million attendees a year. It focused on men’s role and responsibilities as the head of the family and of the family’s spiritual life; critics argued it was an attempt to return women to a pre-feminist state of subjugation to their husbands.
[Sung.] Love, soft as an easy chair …
A line from the song “Evergreen.” Sample lyrics: “Love, soft as an easy chair/Love, fresh as the morning air/One love that is shared by two/I have found with you.”
It’s Zig Ziglar!
Zig Ziglar (1926-2012) was a motivational speaker and author who lectured on inspirational business topics such as “Increase Your Productivity Without Working Any Longer or Any Harder” and “Sell with Style and Integrity.”
Casual day at Hazelden.
Hazelden is a chain of alcohol and drug treatment centers. Its largest facility is located fifty miles north of Minneapolis. (Thanks to Brandon Gonzales for this reference.)
She’s drinking fermented Yoo-hoo.
Yoo-hoo is a chocolate-flavored drink popular among the kiddie set.
I’m ready for some muskrat lovin’.
A reference to the song “Muskrat Love” by America. Sample lyrics: “And they whirled and they twirled and they tangoed/Singin' and jingin' the jango/Floatin' like the heavens above/It looks like muskrat love.”
They saved a lot buying the old Gein place.
Ed Gein (1906-1984) was a notorious Wisconsin serial killer. In 1957 police discovered the headless body of a local shopkeeper hanging in the kitchen of Gein’s farmhouse outside Plainfield, Wisconsin. They searched the house and found belts, lampshades, bowls, and other items fashioned from body parts. Gein confessed to the murders of only two women, although he was suspected in four other cases; most of his “trophies” had been obtained by exhuming recently buried corpses from the local graveyard. Gein was committed to a psychiatric hospital and remained there until he died. Several movie killers have been based more or less on Gein: Norman Bates in Psycho, Leatherface and clan in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs.
I suppose I should move Grandma’s body out of the den now.
In Psycho (see previous note), Norman Bates keeps the taxidermied body of his deceased mother lying about the house.
The Professor made a toaster out of coconuts?
On Gilligan’s Island (see above note), Roy “The Professor” Hinkley Jr., as played by Russell Johnson, was able to create an astonishing array of devices out of coconuts, sticks, vines, and palm fronds.
“Hellfire and brimstone—that is what is in store for you!” Dennis Rodman, listening?
Dennis Rodman, he of the multiply-colored hairdo and assortment of tattoos, of the feather boas and wild parties, was a tremendously talented pro basketball player. Unfortunately, his career imploded after multiple suspensions and other erratic behavior, and the LA Lakers dropped him in 1999. Since then he has attempted a pro wrestling career and fought an ongoing battle with his neighbors in the upscale SoCal city of Newport Beach over his frequent loud parties.
This is not the purpose of 911, ma’am.
911 is the nationwide U.S. police emergency phone system, designed to make it easier for people to reach police, fire, and medical personnel in an emergency. The first 911 call was placed on February 16, 1968, in Haleyville, Alabama. It was officially designated as the nationwide emergency phone number in 1999.
A pony keg should tide me over.
A pony keg is a half-keg of beer, which holds 7.75 gallons, or about 80 12-ounce servings.
I saved you half a can of Pringles.
Pringles are a brand of potato chips manufactured by Procter & Gamble. Unlike other chips, which come in bags, Pringles are sold neatly stacked in cylindrical cardboard tubes.
The Joe Don Baker Museum.
Joe Don Baker is a beefy, Southern-fried actor known to MSTies as the much-abused star of Show 512, Mitchell. As Kevin Murphy writes in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, “Joe Don Baker hates us, and wishes us all dead, and if he met any one of us and knew who we were, he would probably take a swing, miss by a mile, spill his drink all over his rented arm-candy escort, and fall backward into the hors d’oeuvre table. Well, bring him on, I say, we’re ready for him.”
Crank up the Molly Hatchet and go to town!
Molly Hatchet is a Southern rock band that formed in 1975; its hit albums include Flirtin’ with Disasterand Double Trouble Live.
I like you, Dottie. Like!
A line from the Paul Reubens film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985).
Can I just get my Tupperware?
Tupperware is a brand of plastic storage containers that are traditionally sold at “Tupperware parties,” in which a sales representative (usually a woman) makes her pitch to a group (again, usually women) gathered at someone’s home.
Pull up, Laika, pull up!
Laika the dog was the first animal in space; she was launched into orbit aboard the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 2 satellite on November 3, 1957. At the time, there was no way to bring a space capsule back down to Earth safely, so Laika died in space roughly a week after the launch.
Aah, Brett Favre at home.
Brett Favre has been the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers since 1992.
Hud (1963) is a film starring Paul Newman as hard-drinking, hard-fighting, womanizing rancher Hud Bannon.
[Sung.] Like a rock!
“Like a Rock” is a song by Bob Seger, initially released in 1986. Chevrolet has used the song for more than a decade to market its cars and trucks.
Laserium. With music by Pink Floyd.
Laserium is the name for the laser light shows produced by a California company called Laser Images Inc.: laser beams projecting images to the sounds of various musicians. The British band Pink Floyd, best known for its albums The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, is a perennial favorite at laser shows.
Hooterville was decimated by Scud missiles that day …
Hooterville is the name of the small rural town that was the setting for the TV sitcom Green Acres, which aired from 1965-1971. The SS-1 Scud missile is a ballistic missile that was fielded by the Soviet Union from the 1950s through the 1980s. Scud missiles became a byword in 1991 when Iraq fired some 39 surface-to-surface Scuds at Israel during the Persian Gulf War in an attempt to draw that country into the conflict and thus inspire other Arabs to take Iraq’s side.
Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a French existentialist writer known for such works as The Stranger and The Plague. He was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 46.
Moses, move the bike!
Moses, the biblical prophet who led the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt, was informed of his mission by God in the form of a “burning bush,” which burned with flame but was not consumed.
Boy, I hope that bomb didn’t land on our pile of tires and our busted refrigerator in the yard and the rusted chassis of our ’68 Impala.
The Impala is a model of car produced by Chevrolet. It has been in production since 1958.
Steve Prefontaine (1951-1975) was a middle-long distance runner who won nearly every race he competed in; in the racing world, he is still considered the benchmark against which other runners are measured. He died in a car accident at the age of 24.
Bigfoot, a.k.a. the Sasquatch, is a legendary ape-like creature supposed to haunt the Pacific Northwest and western Canada. What is generally considered the best evidence for its existence—a blurry film taken in 1967—has been debunked as a hoax, but the debate rages on.
[Sung.] Like a rock! –Okay, I think that’s a little much.
See note on “Like a Rock,” above.
Of course, we are dumb cheeseheads.
A cheesehead is a native of Wisconsin, a state known for its dairy products. Fans of the Green Bay Packers football team wear foam hats shaped like wedges of cheese.
I’ll leave the light on for you.
In 1986, the Motel 6 chain began running a series of commercials featuring Tom Bodett that used the tagline “We’ll leave the light on for you.” The campaign proved phenomenally successful, running for 15 years.
This isn’t a very good remake of Sabrina.
Sabrina was a 1954 movie that starred Audrey Hepburn as the daughter of a chauffeur who becomes romantically involved with two wealthy brothers. It was actually remade in 1995 with Julia Ormond.
Packers fans: the horrible truth.
The Green Bay Packers are a pro football team based in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
[Sung.] It’s the good life …
A line from the Tony Bennett song “The Good Life.” Sample lyrics: “It's the good life to be free and explore the unknown/Like the heartaches when you learn you must face them alone …”
America Online tries to keep up.
In December 1996, online service America Online switched from a charge-by-the-minute payment plan to an unlimited-access, flat-fee plan. Subscriptions jumped 40 percent in the first month, and the amount of time customers spent online doubled. AOL, which had vastly underestimated the demand, was caught off guard, and subscribers began experiencing horrendous difficulties getting online as the increased demand caused massive traffic jams. AOL wound up spending $350 million to upgrade and expand its services.
So your space-based missile defense system won’t work?
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) proposed his Strategic Defense Initiative, a space-based system designed to intercept and destroy incoming enemy missiles. It was quickly dubbed Star Wars by the media. Many technical experts derided the idea as wildly implausible, but by 1990 the government had unsuccessfully poured $17 billion into its development. George W. Bush revived the program, pledging to have it in operation by 2005, at a modest cost of $60 billion. As of 2015, the system was failing intercept tests about half the time.
“You say your car won’t start?” Then you might be a redneck!
Jeff Foxworthy is a standup comedian whose shtick could be described as “You might be a redneck if …” Sample Foxworthy joke: “You might be a redneck if the local funeral parlor has a happy hour before every burial.”
Maybe he’s Amish and doesn’t believe in buttons.
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 buttons, jewelry, and other adornments—and their rejection of much modern technology, including electricity and cars.
Not a joke, but an incredible simulation!
The origin of this phrase appears to be from Beatlemania, a stage show that features four cast members impersonating the Beatles and playing their most famous songs. The show’s slogan: “Not the Beatles, but an incredible simulation!”
Film extra noir.
Film noir is a genre of movies that evolved during the 1940s. Noir (French for “black”) refers both to the stark, gloomy visuals of the films and to their moral content: flawed heroes, scheming femme fatales, corrupt cops, and cynical, disillusioned storylines.
Young Bill and Hillary struggle to make it.
Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, hail from Arkansas. Clinton grew up in a small town in extreme poverty, but went on to study at Oxford and Yale law school; his wife also received a law degree from Yale.
Oh, Magoo, you’ve done it again!
An imitation of Mr. Magoo, the elderly, near-sighted star of a series of short cartoons that first appeared in 1949. He was voiced by Jim Backus, who played Thurston Howell on Gilligan’s Island.
This must be like a homecoming for you, eh, Mike?
Mike Nelson grew up in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Our proud Viking heritage.
There are a great many descendants of Norwegian immigrants in the upper Midwest, particularly in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Norwegian immigration into Wisconsin began in the 1830s; by the end of the 19th century, there were more than 30,000 in the state.
Well, I’d better finish my silverfish en croute.
Silverfish are small, flattish insects covered in silver scales. They like to eat substances containing a high quantity of starch, such as wallpaper and books. “En croute” means in a crust: Brie en croute, for example, consists of Brie cheese wrapped in puff pastry and baked.
Well, Section 8 owns the house.
Section 8 is a housing voucher program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Guys, it’s Della Street!
Barbara Hale, who plays Dr. Jenny Langer in The Giant Spider Invasion, is best known for her portrayal of Della Street, the faithful secretary on Perry Mason, which aired from 1957-1966; she also played the part in a series of TV movies.
It’s the hot line to Paul’s operatives.
Paul Drake, played by William Hopper (who also appears in Show 804, The Deadly Mantis), was the private investigator who worked for Perry Mason (see previous note), finding evidence to help clear his clients.
So I thought we should cut to Cape Canaveral.
Cape Canaveral is an ocean cape in east-central Florida that serves as a site of operations for NASA. In 1963 it was renamed Cape Kennedy after the assassinated president, but it reverted to its original name 10 years later.
The philodendron story!
The Philadelphia Story is a 1940 film starring Katharine Hepburn as a socialite about to wed and Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant as the two men trying to talk her out of it. A philodendron is a common household plant that comes in a number of varieties.
That’s his double-wide.
A double-wide trailer is a mobile home that is twice the width (usually 30 feet) of the standard single trailer.
“Horton.” Where they hear Whos.
Horton Hears a Who is a classic children’s book by Dr. Seuss.
Grumpy old losers.
Grumpy Old Men is a 1993 film starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon as elderly neighbors who have had a running feud for 50 years.
[Sung.] She ran calling Wildfire …
This is a line from the song “Wildfire,” performed by Tracy Byrd. Sample lyrics: “Oh they say she died one winter/When there came a killing frost/And the pony she named Wildfire/He busted down his stall/and in a blizzard he was lost./She ran calling Wildfire.” (Thanks to Chris Kee for identifying the original performer of this song.)
What a remarkable pig!
In the classic children’s book Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White, the young pig Wilbur’s life is saved by Charlotte the spider weaving slogans such as “SOME PIG” into her webs. Wilbur becomes a tourist attraction, advertised as “Zuckerman’s remarkable pig.”
It’s Mean Gene Okerlund.
Mean Gene Okerlund is a pro wrestling announcer who rose to prominence in the mid-1980s. In 2002 he became the host of a new “behind-the-scenes” wrestling show called WWE Confidential.
One twenty-three, one twenty-four, one twenty-five …
Probably a reference to our moms’ admonitions to chew our food properly before we swallow it.
Tearing food stamps is hard.
Food stamps are a government program that gives low-income families assistance in buying groceries.
Ah, the Wal-Mart family.
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. Walton opened many of his stores in small towns, where they often drove local merchants out of business by undercutting their prices. By the time of Walton’s death in 1992, there were more than 1,700 Wal-Mart stores.
“They run the gamut from the blue giants to the red dwarfs.” Like Linda Hunt.
Linda Hunt is a diminutive actress who won an Oscar for her portrayal of male photographer Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously (1983). She has appeared in more than 30 films and TV shows.
“And then the more fascinating stars we call abnormal stars.” Like Linda Hunt.
See previous note.
“Then we have the white dwarfs.” Like Linda Hunt.
See previous note.
“Or collapsed stars.” Like Robert Downey.
Robert Downey Jr. is an actor who has had lengthy and well-publicized battles with drug abuse. In 1996, while under the influence, he wandered into a neighbor’s house and was discovered asleep in a spare bedroom. Since then he has rebounded to become one of the most successful and highly-paid actors in Hollywood.
What about the black UN helicopters, ma’am?
Black helicopters are a common feature of many a conspiracy theory. They are often spotted near areas where UFOs have recently been sighted; some conspiracists believe that they are under the auspices of the United Nations, which is plotting to take over the United States and use the helicopters to transport dissidents to detention camps. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was then secretary-general of the UN, told a reporter in 1996, tongue tucked firmly in cheek: “It’s great to be back from vacation. Frankly, I get bored on vacation. It’s much more fun to be at work here: blocking reform, flying my black helicopters, imposing global taxes.”
He’s entering through the kitchen of the Copa.
In the 1990 film Goodfellas, Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco enter the Copacabana nightclub through the kitchen, filmed in a famously long tracking shot. (Thanks to Jonah Falcon for this reference.)
She’s wearing Supp-Hose, if I’m not mistaken.
Supp-Hose is a brand of nylon support stockings for women. They were invented by Alfred Slaner.
He dresses like Johnny Carson.
Johnny Carson (1925-2005) started his career in show business as a ventriloquist and magician; he went on to become a writer for television before landing his gig as the host of The Tonight Show in 1962, a job he held for 29 years.
Let’s go to Mass.
Mass is a religious ritual of the Roman Catholic Church, consisting of readings from Scripture, a sermon, and the Eucharist.
Greg Norman at the Masters.
Greg Norman is a professional golf player who has won numerous international tournaments over the years. However, at the 1996 Masters he played possibly his worst round of golf ever: he began it six shots up and ended it five down, losing the tournament to Nick Faldo.
[Sung.] There is love … There is love …
Probably a reference to the Noel Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul & Mary) song “Wedding Song (There Is Love),” written for Peter Yarrow's marriage ceremony. It has also been recorded by Petula Clark and Captain & Tennille, among others. Sample lyrics: “The union of your spirits here has caused us to remain/For whenever two or more of you/are gathered in his name/there is love, there is love …” (Thanks to Mark J. Miller for correcting the original composer of the song.)
“Got Milk?” is an ad campaign run by American dairy farmers and processors.
I’m gonna put on a dashiki and blow your mind.
A reference to the 1970s blaxploitation film Ghetto Freaks, about a black man in New York City who seduces white women into being his love slaves. A line in the trailer intones, “A sweet funky black chick is all he wanted, but a freaked-out white chick in a dashiki blew his mind.”
[Sung.] Ooh, what a lucky man he was …
A line from the song “Lucky Man” by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Sample lyrics: “He had white horses/And ladies by the score/All dressed in satin/And waiting by the door/Ooooh, what a lucky man he was …”
The things I can do with my Spirograph.
Spirograph is a drawing toy first sold by Kenner in 1966, consisting of plastic disks with holes in them, which could be used to draw interesting spiral designs. The advertising jingle for Spirograph in the 1970s was: “I don’t believe it/I just don’t believe it/The things I can do with my Spirograph.”
Thirty lashes with a wet noodle.
This phrase (more commonly rendered as “a hundred lashes with a wet noodle”), indicating that the person being addressed is deserving of chastisement, entered popular parlance courtesy of newspaper advice columnist Ann Landers (1918-2002).
Oh, a McRib sandwich with McFlies.
The McRib sandwich is a boneless pork sandwich introduced by McDonald’s in 1989.
Cow tipping gone horribly wrong.
Cow tipping is apparently a favorite nocturnal sport among rural folks who have consumed between five and seven beers. Opinion is divided on just how prevalent and/or possible the practice is, but your basic cow tipping expedition goes something like this:
1. Chug aforesaid beers.
2. Find a field containing some dozing cows (which sleep standing up).
3. Climb over fence.
4. Sneak up on cow.
5. Push on cow’s side.
“You’re so dumb you wouldn’t know rabbit turds from Rice Krispies.” Snap crackle poop.
“Snap crackle pop” is the longtime advertising slogan for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal.
“I’ll butcher up the meat like I always do and sell it to Dutch’s Café.” Or to Jack in the Box.
Jack in the Box is an American chain of fast food restaurants. In 1993, about 400 people, mostly in the Northwest, became ill after they were exposed to the E. coli bacteria in tainted hamburger meat sold at the restaurant; three small children in the Seattle area died. The resulting outcry almost destroyed the company, but it seems to have bounced back.
Brought to you by the Pork Council.
There are many Pork Councils in the U.S. and Canada; for example, the North Carolina Pork Council has been praising the virtues of pig meat since 1962. They represent pork producers (i.e., pig farmers), and their job, unsurprisingly, is to persuade people to eat more pork so that their members can butcher more pigs and become wealthy.
We’ve tried scrubbing it out.
A reference to the old “ring around the collar” ads for Wisk detergent that ran from the 1960s through the 1980s, in which a frustrated housewife would lament her inability to remove the sweat stains from her husband’s collars. The wording varied, but they would usually contain something like “I’ve tried soaking it out. I’ve tried scrubbing it out. Nothing works!”
[Sung.] Rip your pantsuit from your back …
A paraphrase of a line from “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” which has been recorded by Elvis and Kris Kristofferson, among others. Actual lyrics: “Take the ribbon from your hair, shake it loose and let it fall/Layin’ soft upon my skin, like the shadows on the wall …”
Ghostbusters is a 1984 film starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as ghost-fighting entrepreneurs.
You know, I just don’t look at that table that often, you know, just occasionally. Really, it’s kind of a periodic table.
The periodic table of elements is a standard scientific tool, showing all the elements arranged according to their similar characteristics. It was first put together in 1869 by a Russian chemist named Dmitri Mendeleev; Mendeleev’s genius was that he left gaps in his table where he knew as-yet-undiscovered elements would fit; the gaps were slowly filled in by later scientists.
[Sung.] The hills are alive with the stink of that guy/His back brace is smelly …
A paraphrase of a line from “The Sound of Music,” from the musical of the same name. Actual lyrics: “The hills are alive with the sound of music/With songs they have sung for a thousand years …”
Honey, I don’t feel fresh.
"Mom, do you ever feel, you know, not so fresh?" was the opening line to a classic commercial for Massengill douches, spoken, for some reason, by a young woman on a boat.
Honey, let’s play William Burroughs and Joan.
William Burroughs (1914-1997) was a writer of experimental novels, of which the most famous is Naked Lunch. Along with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, he became one of the seminal voices of the Beat generation in the ‘50s. In 1951, after a wild party, Burroughs announced he wanted to perform his William Tell act. His wife, Joan, put a glass on top of her head for him to shoot off, but in his impaired state he missed, killing her with a single shot.
These two have every Married … with Children on tape.
Married … with Children was a raunchy TV sitcom about an unhappy family that aired from 1987-1997.
“I told you something landed here last night.” There’s a 747 just sitting there!
The 747 is a jumbo jet manufactured by Boeing; it first went into service in 1970. It is capable of carrying up to 500 passengers.
Mork of Ork was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital but pronounced dead on arrival.
Mork from Ork was the main character on the television series Mork & Mindy, which aired from 1978-1982. It starred Robin Williams (1951-2014) as an alien sent to Earth to study its inhabitants. The character first appeared on the series Happy Days in February 1978.
I gotta go drain the little buddy—I’ll be right back.
See note on “little buddy,” above.
Welcome to Hooters.
Hooters is a chain of restaurants whose attractive waitresses all dress in tight tank tops and very short shorts.
These are not a lovely bunch of coconuts.
“I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” is a song that has been performed by many singers: Danny Kaye, Monty Python, and the Muppets, among others. Sample lyrics: “I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts/There they are standing in a row/Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head/Give 'em a twist/A flick of the wrist/That's what the showman said.”
“Not that one. The big one.” Stanley.
An imitation of Oliver Hardy (1892-1957), 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, fussy character opposite Stan Laurel’s thin, gentle incompetent.
It’s the lead singer of the Spin Doctors.
The Spin Doctors were a briefly popular band in the early 1990s; their biggest hit was 1991’s “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.” Their lead singer was Chris Barron.
I’m glad he’s not a mohel.
A mohel is an observant Jew who performs the Jewish ceremony of bris, or the ritual circumcision of a male infant.
Honey, MIT called.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that is considered one of the top scientific and technological research centers in the world. It has made important advances in aeronautics and analog computing, among many other fields. Total enrollment is about 10,000; admissions are extremely competitive.
Ah, the Ropers.
Stanley and Helen Roper, played by Norman Fell and Audra Lindley respectively, were the bickering landlords/neighbors on the TV sitcom Three’s Company, which aired from 1977-1984. The couple got their own series, The Ropers, in 1979. It lasted one season.
Let’s get Mikey to try ‘em.
A reference to an old TV ad for Life cereal, which ran from 1972-1984, making it one of the longest-lived commercials ever. In the ad, two boys are arguing over which of them has to try a new cereal first. Suddenly, inspiration strikes: they’ll get their younger brother, Mikey, to try it. “He hates everything!” Except Life cereal, evidently: “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!” The role of Mikey was played by John Gilchrist, who appeared in more than 250 commercials over his career; the older brothers were played by his actual siblings. Gilchrist now works as an advertising executive.
Aryan … Nation … rules.
The Aryan Nation (or Nations) is a group of white supremacist Christians who believe that their race is the only one descended from Adam. This is a concept called Christian identity, which argues that Aryans, not Jews, are really the chosen people of God; the Aryan Nations is therefore anti-Semitic as well. In 2000, the group lost a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought by two people assaulted by its members and lost the rights to use the name Aryan Nations, along with pretty much everything else it owned.
[Sung.] Gilligan’s Island theme.
See note on Gilligan’s Island, above.
It’s them welfare moms sucking us dry.
In the mid-1990s, conservatives decided they knew what the underlying problem was with society: single mothers on welfare, whom one commentator described as the source of “"every threat to the fabric of this country." These mothers were invariably portrayed as teenaged, black, and content to sit at home having baby after baby while the welfare checks—paid for out of the pockets of hard-working Americans, it hardly needs saying—rolled in indefinitely. This despite the fact that the average single welfare mom at the time was in her 20s, white, and stayed on welfare for less than a year. And all this at a time when the funds for welfare amounted to a staggering 1 percent of the federal budget.
He’s Mrs. Pynchon.
Mrs. Margaret Jones Pynchon was the owner of the newspaper where Lou Grant (played by Ed Asner) worked on the TV series of the same name (1977-1982). The part was played by Nancy Marchand.
“NASA. Houston.” Where they have a problem?
The phrase “Houston, we’ve had a problem here” was famously said by Apollo 13 pilot Jack Swigert on April 14, 1970, 56 hours after their mission to the moon was launched. (In the 1995 film Apollo 13, the line—slightly altered to “Houston, we have a problem”—was given to mission commander James Lovell, played by Tom Hanks, instead.) Damaged wiring insulation caused a fire and the explosion of one of their two oxygen tanks. This severely crippled the ship, forcing them to abandon their moon landing. The three astronauts took refuge in the Lunar Module while the damaged craft looped around the moon and returned to Earth. Thanks to some frantic jury-rigging, the three astronauts splashed down safely in the South Pacific on April 17.
Now, do you recommend the chicken-fried steak or the walleye cheeks?
Chicken-fried steak is exactly what it sounds like: steak pounded flat, breaded, and fried. It is traditionally served with mashed potatoes and white gravy. Walleye is a popular sport fish in the Great Lakes region; the “cheeks” are considered the filet mignon of the fish.
Alas, poor Yorick. Woo-hee!
A paraphrase of the classic line from Hamlet, which is frequently misquoted as “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well.” The actual dialogue is: “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio.”
They whacked the Crypt Keeper!
The Crypt Keeper was the decayed host of the TV horror series Tales From the Crypt, which aired from 1989-1996. The part was voiced by John Kassir.
George Hamilton finally overtans.
George Hamilton is a famously well-bronzed actor who got his start as an MGM contract player and enjoyed a career renaissance in the late 1970s with the spoof films Love at First Bite and Zorro the Gay Blade. He and his tan regularly act as an escort for some of the world’s most beautiful and powerful women, having been spotted squiring Imelda Marcos and Elizabeth Taylor, among others.
Death of a kabuki actor.
Kabuki is a traditional form of Japanese theater that combines singing, dancing, and mime into a highly stylized art form. Actors (all kabuki performers are male) wear spectacular costumes and elaborate makeup.
Well, happy Arbor Day.
Arbor Day was born on January 4, 1872, when a Nebraska newspaper editor named J. Sterling Morton proposed creating a holiday to plant trees across the state. The first Arbor Day took place on April 10, 1872, with an estimated 1 million trees being planted. The tradition had spread nationwide by 1882. Today the holiday is traditionally observed on the last Friday in April, though it varies to take advantage of differing climates in different regions of the country.
What was that waiter’s name in Paris? Jean-Luc!
A reference to a television commercial for General Foods International Coffees, in which two women sit in a sidewalk café reminiscing about the hot waiters of yesteryear.
An afternoon with Sondra Locke.
Sondra Locke got her start in films with 1968’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, a role that earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She had a long-term relationship (15 years) with action star/director Clint Eastwood, appearing with him in six films.
If I know that spider, it’s not a virgin Bloody Mary.
A Bloody Mary is a cocktail consisting of vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, pepper, and celery salt, garnished with a stalk of celery. A virgin Bloody Mary would be the same drink without the alcohol.
We still on for the Richard Feynman lecture?
Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988) was a professor of theoretical physics at Cal Tech from 1950 until his death. He worked on the atomic bomb project during World War II and became famous to the general public in 1986 when he helped investigate the causes of the Challenger shuttle explosion. In 1965 he won the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Eww, my Bloody Mary has legs!
See previous note on Bloody Mary.
[Sung.] Waa-waa-waa, waa-waa-waa-waa …
This is a song called "The Stripper," performed by David Rose and his Orchestra. (Thanks to Juanita Walls for this reference.)
Charlotte’s doing bachelor parties now.
See note on Charlotte’s Web, above.
The family in Tobacco Road had a nicer farm than this.
Tobacco Road is a 1932 novel written by Erskine Caldwell (1903-1987), about a family living in squalor in the rural South.
Hey, pal, you got any curds and whey?
A reference to the nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet”:
Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.
“Curds and whey” was a popular snack in the 18th century that remains popular today, albeit under a different name: yogurt.
He’s doing kind of a grunge Amish look.
The grunge look became popular in the early ‘90s, when Seattle bands like Nirvana began making it big in the rock scene. Torn jeans, big boots, and flannel shirts were the style’s hallmark. See note on the Amish, above.
My assignment: Take out the greasy hick. With extreme prejudice.
Probably a reference to Martin Sheen’s instructions in Apocalypse Now (1979), which popularized the phrase: “Terminate the Colonel’s command. Terminate with extreme prejudice.” The phrase appears to have first surfaced as a euphemism for assassination in the 1960s, although there is some question whether it was ever really used outside the pages of spy novels.
I attempted the north face of Mount Cheesehead.
See note on cheeseheads, above.
Gotta nip it in the bud!
An imitation of Don Knotts as Barney Fife, the hapless deputy on The Andy Griffith Show, which aired from 1960 to 1968. “Gotta nip it in the bud” was one of his catchphrases.
Don Juan de Stinko.
Don Juan DeMarco was a 1995 film that starred Marlon Brando as a psychiatrist attempting to cure a young man (played by Johnny Depp) who believes himself to be the legendary ladies’ man Don Juan; instead, Brando finds his interest in life and romance revived by his patient.
[Sung.] "Dueling Banjos."
This is "Dueling Banjos," the banjo theme from the 1972 movie Deliverance, about a group of friends on a canoe trip who are stalked by the spooky locals; it has come to personify creepy hillbillies.
Is this Annette Bening’s bedroom from In Style magazine?
Annette Bening is an actress who has appeared in such films as Bugsy and American Beauty, among others. In Style is a gossipy women’s magazine that regularly features tours of celebrities’ homes, closets, and lifestyles.
She ran out of liquor, so she’s drinking her Jean Nate.
Jean Nate is an inexpensive perfume manufactured by Revlon and available at fine drugstores everywhere.
The Martha Stewart we never see.
Martha Stewart is an author, television host, and entrepreneur whose business is centered on beautiful living and domesticity: decorating, cooking, crafts, flower arranging, and so on. She hosts a syndicated weekly television show, publishes a magazine (Martha Stewart Living), and offers her own line of house paint.
[Sung.] I enjoy being a victim …
A paraphrase of the song “I Enjoy Being a Girl” from the musical Flower Drum Song. Actual lyrics: “When I have a brand new hairdo/With my eyelashes all in curl/I float as the clouds on air do/I enjoy being a girl!”
[Sung.] I feel shaky/Oh so trembly/I’ve had whiskey and vodka and gin …
A paraphrase of the song “I Feel Pretty” from the musical West Side Story. Actual lyrics: “I feel pretty/Oh so pretty/I feel pretty and witty and bright/And I pity/Any girl who isn’t me tonight.”
The house is decorated with the special Jim Varney Signature Collection.
Jim Varney (1949-2000) was an actor, comedian, and writer best known for his portrayal of the bumbling Ernest P. Worrell on commercials and in a series of movies.
Maybe if I left him little love notes … throw pork rinds on the bed …
Pork rinds are a snack food consisting of strips of pig skin deep-fried in lard.
Is there a Japanese tea ceremony taking place next door?
The tea ceremony, or sado, has been practiced in Japan since the 12th century. The ceremony takes place in a special room or tea-house that is decorated very simply, usually only containing a fireplace or brazier for heating the tea and a scroll or a flower arrangement in an alcove. The ceremony begins with the host bringing in the implements that will be used to serve the tea, serving the guests sweets, and then making and presenting the tea. After a period of conversation, the host carries the utensils from the room, concluding the ceremony.
Are we panning down to her Ab Roller? What the hell’s going on?
Back in the late 1990s, the fitness industry decreed that washboard abs were the muscle of the moment, and obligingly came up with an assortment of products to achieve them: Ab Rollers, Ab Rockers, and so on. Basically they were sort of U-shaped gizmos that worked like a rocking chair to help you achieve a smooth sit-up motion.
Does the Fonz usually sleep here with his head against the wall?
Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, as played by Henry Winkler, was the leather-clad greaser on the TV show Happy Days, which aired from 1974-1984.
Tora tora tora!
Tora! Tora! Tora! is a 1970 film that told the story of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II from both the Japanese and American points of view. (“Tora tora tora” was the Japanese signal to launch the attack.)
Tonight, on a very special Waltons, Mary Ellen runs around in her underwear.
The Waltons was a classic family TV drama that aired from 1972 to 1981. Mary Ellen, played by Judy Norton, was the eldest daughter in the family.
Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Lincoln! Abe!
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was the 16th president of the United States, from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. He brought to the White House an iconography any politician would envy: raised in poverty in a log cabin, self-educated as a lawyer—a real rags to riches story of the sort Americans love.
I’m a Woozle, and my name is Peanut.
From the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide: “Refers to ventriloquist Jeff Dunham and his weird vent figure named Peanut. The phrasing of his introduction makes it sound as though we’re supposed to know what a Woozle is.”
It’s morning in America. The back braces are a little sturdier. –The morning gin tastes a little smoother.
Paraphrases from “Prouder, Stronger, Better,” a political ad for the 1984 presidential re-election campaign of Ronald Reagan. Opening with a breezy, soothing narrator saying, “It's morning again in America,” the commercial pitched that America’s economic upturn of the early 1980s was due to Reagan’s presidency. The ad continued: “Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country's history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It's morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder, and stronger, and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”
So this is how Heidi turned out.
Heidi is a children’s book by Johanna Spyri, first published in 1880, that tells the story of a young girl sent to live with her crotchety grandfather in his home in the Swiss Alps. She learns to love her new home, and he learns to love her, before they are cruelly torn apart and Heidi is sent back to languish in the big city. Fortunately everything turns out happily in the end.
Mr. Gower is the druggist for whom George Bailey works as a boy, and whom George saves from accidentally poisoning a patient when he drunkenly fills a prescription incorrectly, in the 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life. The part was played by H.B. Warner (1875-1958).
Are they worth two months of my welfare checks?
De Beers, the South African mining company that single-handedly created the diamond engagement ring market, for years has intoned on its commercials, “How else can two months’ salary last forever?” (The price has gone up over the decades; in the 1930s it was one month's salary and was upped to two months' in the 1980s.) Just to helpfully give you a guideline for how much you’re supposed to spend on your fiancee’s rock.
The diamond anniversary ring. Tell her you’d marry her right out of high school all over again.
Not content with getting guys to shell out a huge chunk of change for a diamond engagement ring (see previous note), in the 1990s De Beers introduced the three-stone anniversary ring, with the slogan “Tell her you’d marry her all over again.”
So, seen Leatherface around here lately?
“Leatherface,” played by Gunnar Hansen, is the villain in the classic horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Leatherface, who wears a creepy stitched-together mask and has a fondness for power tools, is part of a family of cannibals that takes apart a carload of hapless hippies in 1970s Texas. The story is (very) loosely based on the true tale of Ed Gein (see above note).
Charles Manson, jeweler.
Charles Manson had a wretched childhood and adolescence, mostly spent being shuffled through various institutions for such crimes as robbery, pimping, check forgery, and so forth. At the age of 32, in 1967, he was paroled and headed for San Francisco, where he founded “The Family,” a cultish group of young dropouts with Manson as their unquestioned leader. By this time Manson was predicting a coming race war, a theory he had cobbled together from a mishmash of the Book of Revelation and Beatles songs. In August 1969, several Family members committed a string of seven horrific murders in Los Angeles in an attempt to jump-start the prophecy. Ultimately, five members of the Family were convicted of the crimes, including Manson. They were sentenced to death, but the following year the sentences were commuted to life in prison. One, Susan Atkins, died in 2009; the others are still behind bars.
“Let’s just say if you had a bucket full of these, a barrel full of these …” You’d be a fat cheesehead with a barrel full of these.
See note on cheeseheads, above.
[Sung.] Ooh, what a lucky man he was …
See note on “Lucky Man,” above.
Paul Reiser! This is a horror movie!
Paul Reiser is an actor, comedian, and writer who is probably best known for his work on the TV series Mad About You, which he created and co-starred in alongside Helen Hunt.
Ed Wood’s Lolita.
Ed Wood Jr. (1924-1978) was a legendarily bad film director; several of his movies were made into MST3K episodes, including The Sinister Urge (Show 613), and Bride of the Monster (Show 423). Lolita is a 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov. The novel is narrated by Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man with a fetish for young girls, who finally finds an accessible victim in Lolita. Humbert2 winds up in prison for killing the man who takes Lolita away from him and then abandons her.
Oh, Oscar, Oscar, Oscar.
An often-repeated line from the television series The Odd Couple, starring Tony Randall as Felix Unger and Jack Klugman as Oscar Madison. The show ran from 1970-1975.
They don’t even try to make it look like a real police car! –Real stories of the fake highway patrol.
Real Stories of the Highway Patrol is a television reality series, a la Cops, that first aired in 1993. It uses footage from cameras mounted on the patrol cars along with interviews with the officers themselves.
Walking Tall 3: The High Cholesterol Years.
Walking Tall is a 1973 film loosely based on real-life sheriff Buford Pusser, played by that slab of Southern-fried meat, Joe Don Baker himself (see above note). It spawned two sequels with Bo Svenson in the Baker role as well as a short-lived TV series, also starring Svenson.
I suppose you’re wondering what’s eating Gilbert Grape.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a 1993 film starring Johnny Depp as a young man who has to care for his obese mother and his mentally challenged brother Arnie (a role for which Leonardo DiCaprio earned an Oscar nomination).
Hey, I’m looking for a new Gilligan. You interested?
See note on Gilligan’s Island, above.
The pilot is Charlie Brown’s teacher.
Charlie Brown is the hapless protagonist of the comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles Schulz (1922-2000). The strip was first published in 1950 and was later turned into several successful television specials. In the specials, the voices of all the adults are heard only as a sort of muted, duck-like squawk.
“It’s a gravitational pull so intense that it makes a black hole in space.” Like Linda Hunt!
See note on Linda Hunt, above.
Paul and I brought his operatives out there for a picnic once.
See note on Paul Drake, above.
Johnny Appleseed, real name John Chapman (1774-1845), was a frontierman and professional nurseryman who sold and planted apple tree seedlings throughout the Midwest, helping to prepare the way for settlers—mostly by supplying the raw materials for making hard cider (in other words, booze). His alter ego became a figure of American myth, appearing in numerous folk tales and other fictional works. Meanwhile, Chapman died of exposure in Indiana in 1845.
Paul infected bunion.
Paul Bunyan is another figure from American folk tales, this one wholly fictitious. Paul is a gigantic lumberjack who, along with his blue ox Babe, appears in many tall tales, digging the Grand Canyon, creating Puget Sound, and the like. Bunions, meanwhile, occur when the big toe is bent in toward the other toes on the foot, usually as a result of wearing tight pointy-toed shoes. This creates a bump on the inner edge of the foot, a condition that sometimes requires surgical correction. Sometimes the skin over the bunion can be rubbed raw, resulting in an infection.
Old MacDonald had a cyst.
“Old MacDonald Had a Farm” is a traditional children’s song. Sample lyrics: “Old MacDonald had a farm/Ee I ee I oh!/And on this farm he had some chicks/Ee I ee I oh!/With a cluck-cluck here …” etc., etc.
[Sung.] Away out here they’ve got a name/Stinky hairy white guys.
A paraphrase of the song “They Call the Wind Maria” from the musical Paint Your Wagon. Actual lyrics: “Away out here they’ve got a name/For rain and wind and fire/The rain is Tess, the fire’s Jo/They call the wind Maria.” Amusingly, the hairy white guy in question, Robert Easton, actually had a small part in Paint Your Wagon, as Atwell. (Thanks to Megan Brannon for the tidbit about Easton.)
I always thought Mennonites had more dignity.
Mennonites are a Protestant sect found mainly in North America. They were originally a separatist sect, but they have since become more involved in mainstream society. They generally refuse to take oaths or serve in the military and are noted for their commitment to social causes.
This guy and Junior Samples were in Greater Tuna together.
Junior Samples (1926-1983) was a cornball comedian/country singer/harmonica player known for his long run on Hee-Haw, the country-western variety show that aired from 1969-1992; Samples appeared on the show until his death in 1983. Greater Tuna is a longtime political satire theater show that has been running for more than 20 years; its two-man cast satirizes life in an ultraconservative Texas town.
“If it’s the same aunt as last night, tell her she left a hickey on your neck.” My aunt is k.d. lang, okay?
k.d. lang is a country/rock musician who has released such hit songs as “Constant Craving.” She has publicly declared her lesbianism and is an outspoken advocate of animal rights, both traits that have occasionally brought her into conflict with her country-music audience.
You can see why Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to live in Wisconsin.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) is the founder of the “Prairie style” school of architecture, which strove to blend into its natural surroundings. He began his career in Chicago, but by the early part of the 20th century, he had begun work on his home/studio near Spring Green, Wisconsin, which he named Taliesin.
Hey, you want to make some crop circles while we’re here?
Crop circles, believed by some to be evidence of alien visitations to Earth and by others to be an elaborate hoax, have been common since the 1980s in a few counties in southern England, although they have occasionally been found elsewhere. They range from the simple—a circle of flattened corn in a field—to the ridiculously elaborate—a pictogram that spells out “WE ARE NOT ALONE.” They are generally accepted by all but the Area 51 crowd to be a series of hoaxes by some Brits who apparently think they’re hilarious. But you still run into the occasional conspiracy-minded holdouts who believe they’re UFO landing sites.
[Sung.] Helter skelter …
“Helter Skelter” is a song by the Beatles, on the White Album. Charles Manson (see above note) believed he heard in its lyrics a prediction of the coming race war; in fact, it is a song about an amusement park ride.
[Sung.] Have you seen the little piggies …
A line from the Beatles song “Piggies,” also off the White Album (see previous note). Sample lyrics: “Have you seen the little piggies/crawling in the dirt?/And for all the little piggies/life is getting worse/always having dirt to play around in …” Charles Manson (see above note) was taken with this song, believing the “piggies” were members of the establishment. At one of the murder scenes in 1969, the killers wrote “Death to Pigs” in the victim’s blood.
Oh, no—a spider the size of a Buick’s attacking his Buick.
A reference to a line from the 1977 Woody Allen film Annie Hall: “Honey, there's a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick.”
I distinctly heard him say ...
The start of a line from Annie Hall (see previous note). The full line, "I distinctly heard him say, 'Jew eat'!" (Thanks to Alice Phillips Walden for this reference.)
Packers! Whoo! Go Packers!
See note on the Packers, above.
Honey, the Packers won the Superbowl!
See note on the Packers, above.
I’m starting to wish the South would rise again, and crush the North.
The phrase “The South will rise again” appears to date back to the post–Civil War era (1861-1865), as a slogan to comfort the citizens of the conquered Confederacy. It remains a symbol of defiance, akin to flying the Confederate flag, among those sons of the South who are still fighting the War of Northern Aggression in their hearts.
Does Captain Stubing know you dress like that, Vicki?
Captain Merrill Stubing, played by Gavin MacLeod, was the captain of the Love Boat on the TV series of the same name, which ran from 1977-1986. It was about a cruise ship on which a succession of washed-up guest stars found love every week. Vicki Stubing was the captain’s teenage daughter; she was played by Jill Whelan, who appeared on the show from 1979 until it went off the air in 1986.
Packers won the Superbowl! Yaaay!
See note on the Packers, above.
Aloyisius Snuffleupagus was one of the Muppets on the children’s television show Sesame Street, which began airing in 1969. He was a friend of Big Bird, who for many years was the only one who ever saw him; the others believed he was imaginary, and teased Big Bird about him at great length. Starting in 1985 other characters were able to see him as well.
I put on too much Indian Earth!
Indian Earth is a brand of powder blush, made from “natural minerals,” that was introduced in the 1980s.
Oh, here comes a Duke of Hazzard.
The Dukes of Hazzard was a TV show about two “good old boys” in the South; it aired from 1979-1985.
He thought I was Dale.
The origin of this often-used quip is a hotly debated topic online, with some claiming the phrase “Mrs. Burke, I thought you were Dale!” comes from an Ivory Soap commercial and others claiming it is from a Grape-Nuts commercial. The definitive MST3K FAQ explains it thusly: “Actually, these references are all a mistake by Best Brains. Here's the whole story. Back in the 1970s, there was a series of commercials for Ivory dishwashing liquid, in which mothers were mistaken for their daughters--because the mom used Ivory and so her hands were young-looking. At around the same time, there was also a commercial for Grape Nuts, in which a teenage boy mistakes teenage girl Dale's mother for Dale and utters the deathless line: ‘I thought you were Dale!’ Best Brains only vaguely remembered these two commercials, and apparently mixed them up in their minds. There were apparently never any Ivory Liquid commercials in which a character said ‘I thought you were Dale!’ And the Grape Nuts commercial in which that line was spoken had nothing to do with hands. So basically they goofed. But the writers thought they were making a reference to the Ivory Liquid commercials.”
His Haggar pants have a waistband with repressed memories.
Haggar is a clothing manufacturer known for its varying lines of men’s dress slacks, many of which feature a “comfort fit” elasticized waistband. The company was founded in 1926 by J.M. Haggar Sr.
Barbara Hale and Doughy Guy in The Defiant Ones.
The Defiant Ones is a 1958 film starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier as two escaped convicts who, chained to each other, must learn to work together to evade capture. Both Curtis and Poitier were nominated for Best Actor Oscars for their work in the film.
Thrill as he doesn’t reduce speed when approaching Elroy, Danbury, Tomah.
Elroy is a small town in southwestern Wisconsin, about 75 miles from Madison. Population: about 1,500. Danbury is a tiny Wisconsin town about 100 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul; population, 500. And Tomah is yet another city in southwestern Wisconsin, with a population of about 8,500 people.
Nigel Tufnel’s playing a guitar solo.
Nigel Tufnel, as played by comedian Christopher Guest, is the guitarist for the heavy metal band Spinal Tap in the 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. Tufnel is known for his innovative solos, such as the time he played his guitar with a violin and the time he set his guitar on a stand and tossed horseshoes at it.
We’ve got to get to PetSmart to buy a box of enormous flies!
PetSmart is a nationwide chain of pet supply stores. Founded in 1987, the chain is based in Phoenix, Arizona, and boasts more than 600 stores.
This can’t be Wisconsin—there’s no billboards for Tommy Bartlett’s water show.
Tommy Bartlett was the founder of the wholesome tourist trap known as the Wisconsin Dells. The Tommy Bartlett Thrill Show has been running at the Dells for more than 50 years, featuring fast boats, hot babes on water skis, space shuttles, and other such claptrap. Tommy passed away in 1998.
The Shroud of Debbie.
The Shroud of Turin has been for centuries an object of veneration in the Roman Catholic Church. Purported to be the winding cloth of Jesus Christ, the length of cloth bore a faint image of a man with the marks of nails through the wrists, whip marks on the back, and lacerations around the head, as if from a crown of thorns. Numerous tests over the years meant to determine its authenticity proved inconclusive, but carbon dating in 1988 finally showed that the Shroud dated only to about the 13th or 14th century B.C.E. The Church has not taken an official position on its authenticity.
With this mucilage, I thee wed.
Mucilage is simply a type of gummy adhesive used on envelopes, among other things. “With this ring, I thee wed” is a common phrase used in marriage ceremonies.
We’d better put up snow fences.
Snow fences are barriers used to control drifting snow in areas that see heavy snowfalls and high winds in winter. They can be either manmade or what is called a “living snow fence”: a tall row of closely planted trees or hedges.
They’re petrified tribbles!
Tribbles were the small, round, furry, extremely fertile critters on “The Trouble with Tribbles,” an episode of the original Star Trek TV series (1966-1969) that first aired December 29, 1967. The episode was written by David Gerrold.
Little buddy? Trouble? Lagoon?
See note on Gilligan’s Island, above.
Gee, Davey, keep me filled in on everything.
Davey and Goliath was a claymation TV series that aired from 1962 to 1977. It was developed by Art Clokey (1921-2010), creator of Gumby, for the Lutheran Church as a Christian show for children.
Or we could do the neutron dance.
“Neutron Dance” is a song by the Pointer Sisters. Sample lyrics: “And it's hard to say/Just how some things never change/And it's hard to find/Any strength to draw the line/I'm just burning doin' the neutron dance …”
“Three hours.” A three-hour tour.
A reference to the theme song to Gilligan’s Island (see above note), in which the hapless castaways set out for a “three-hour tour.”
An imitation of a wide variety of funk songs from the 1970s that frequently turned up on the soundtracks of porn movies and blaxploitation films; the theme from Shaft, written by Isaac Hayes, is a fairly iconic example. Tom Servo does an extensive riff on “wakka-chukka” in Show 512, Mitchell.
[Sung.] What's the buzz, tell me what's a-happenin'/what's the buzz, tell me what's a-happenin' ...
A line from the song "What's the Buzz," from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
R. Crumb is leading them!
Robert Crumb, or R. Crumb, was an underground comix artist in the 1960s and '70s. He created Fritz the Cat, coined the phrase “Keep on truckin’,” and influenced an entire generation of counterculture artists.
Packers! Whoo! Go Packers!
See note on the Packers, above.
Packers! Whoo! Packers!
See note on the Packers, above.
“All right, everybody just …” Wang chung tonight!
A line from the song “Fun Tonight” by British new wave band Wang Chung, which hit the top 10 in 1986. Sample lyrics: “Everybody have fun tonight/Everybody have fun tonight/Everybody Wang Chung tonight/Everybody have fun tonight …”
They’ve got Old Milwaukee coming out of there.
Old Milwaukee is a beer produced by the Stroh Brewery. It has a reputation as a cheap beer popular among students and trailer park denizens, but it retains a loyal following.
It’s Suicide Days in New Richmond.
In the Midwest, community celebrations and festivals are frequently dubbed “_______ Days.” Examples include “Country Western Days” and “Gleason Days."
Beck is a musician who became an overnight success in 1993, with many critics hailing him as the new Bob Dylan. His music combines cryptic lyrics with beats drawn from many traditions: folk, rock, techno, hip-hop, and even lounge. His best-known songs include “Loser” and “Where It’s At.”
It’s Milling Around Days.
See above note.
The Lions Club medium-rare chicken booth.
Lions Club International is a worldwide fraternal organization with 1.4 million members. Lions collect used eyeglasses to recycle for needy families, build parks, work for charitable causes, and so forth.
Despair Days is fun this year!
See above note.
“Gleason Days.” How sweet it is!
An imitation of Jackie Gleason (1916-1987), a comedian who had his own variety show, The Jackie Gleason Show, which aired, in various incarnations, between 1952 and 1970. He became best known to later generations for playing Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners.
Packers won the Superbowl! Packers! Yaay!
See note on the Packers, above.
He could do a one-man show playing Queen Victoria.
Queen Victoria (1819-1901; ruled 1837-1901) was the ruler of England for more than 60 years in the 19th century, giving her name to that famous bastion of prudery, the Victorian era. In later life, she became rather famously dumpy, and after her husband died, always wore black mourning clothes. Despite her power, she shared society’s opinion of the capabilities of women, saying in 1870, “Let women be what God intended, a helpmate for man, but with totally different duties and vocations."
“In Gleason?” Does Jackie mind?
See note on Jackie Gleason, above.
Welcome to Beer Hall Putsch Days!
See note on “Days,” above. The Beer Hall Putsch was an early attempt by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) to seize power in Germany. On November 8, 1923, Hitler and his followers crashed a right-wing political meeting in a beer hall in Munich and persuaded them to march on Berlin the following day. They got no farther than the center of Munich, where they were fired on by police. Nineteen people died, and Hitler subsequently served eight months in prison, which he whiled away writing Mein Kampf. The experience convinced him that he needed to work within the system to claim power in Germany rather than attempting open revolution.
John Malkovich is an actor who has appeared in such films as Dangerous Liaisons and, of course, 1999’s Being John Malkovich.
Too late. Insurgents overthrew the Baraboo regime.
Probably a reference to the city of Baraboo, Wisconsin, a small city of about 15,000 people 40 miles from Madison. Baraboo is semi-famous as the place where Ringling Bros. founded its circus and is home to the Circus World Museum.
By the way, this is Wisconsin’s National Guard.
The National Guard, which has both Army and Air Force branches, is a part-time civilian branch of the U.S. armed forces, who are expected to pitch in in case of a military action or, frequently, a natural disaster.
Rebane was filming night for night here, wasn’t he?
Shooting “day for night” is a common photographic technique in movies in which exterior scenes are filmed during the day using special blue filters on the camera that makes the scene appear to be taking place at night. The goal is to save money, since night shoots are considerably more expensive than daytime shoots.
It’s a fish boil!
The fish boil is the Great Lakes region’s answer to the clambake. Supposedly brought to the area by Scandinavian settlers, a fish boil features fish, potatoes, and onions boiled together in a large pot, preferably outdoors over a wood fire.
Let’s you and I go up to Rhinelander and roll on each other.
Rhinelander is a city in northeast Wisconsin located near roughly 200 lakes, and is a tourism destination for water sports and cross country skiing.
Let’s go have a nice dinner at the Gobbler.
The Hartwig Gobbler was a restaurant/lounge/motel off I-94 in Wisconsin that specialized in turkey dinners and 1960s décor in all its plush-carpeted, stone-lined, ticky-tacky glory. Sadly, this classic of Googie architecture was demolished in 2002.
Robert McNamara escalates the war on Gleason.
Robert McNamara (1916-2009) was the secretary of defense under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He oversaw the escalation of the war in Vietnam throughout most of the 1960s and became for many anti-war protesters the symbol of everything they hated about that deeply divisive conflict. In the 1990s he acknowledged that the U.S. policy in Southeast Asia had been a tragic mistake.
Maybe if I kill myself, like Hemingway, people will remember me fondly.
Ernest “Papa” Hemingway (1899-1961) was a man’s man’s author who wrote intensely muscular stories and novels about war, bullfighting, fishing, and other testosterone-laden activities. In 1961, depressed and anxious after a series of electroshock treatments, he killed himself with a shotgun.
Rebane and Hale: like Scorsese and De Niro.
Martin Scorsese is a director noted especially for his brutal, violent films about life on America’s mean streets. His most famous works include Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and Goodfellas (1990). Not coincidentally, all three of those films star actor Robert De Niro, an actor who is inextricably linked in the popular imagination with Scorsese and who has done much of his best work for that director.
I’ll drive my Lark there.
The Studebaker Lark was introduced in 1959 as a smaller, more compact sedan than the cars the other American manufacturers were offering. It continued to be produced, with minor design changes, until the company went under in the mid-1960s.
The mob demands Whoopee John.
Whoopee John Wilfahrt (1893-1961) was the leader of a polka band that played regular gigs in Minneapolis-St. Paul for more than 20 years. In the mid-1950s his band was considered the leading polka band in the country. Wilfahrt was inducted into the Polka Hall of Fame in 1976.
Packers! Whoo! Packers!
See note on the Packers, above.
“You know why we’re all here.” Yeah, Packers! Packers! Whoo!
See note on the Packers, above.
Free Bobby Seale! –Free Mumia! –Free beer!
Bobby Seale co-founded the Black Panthers, a militant civil rights organization, in 1966. In 1969 he was tried as one of the “Chicago Eight” on charges of inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The charges were eventually dropped, amid protests that the defendants were being unfairly railroaded. In 1970 he was accused of participating in the torture and murder of an ex-Panther suspected of being a police informant; the trial ended in a hung jury. Several years later Seale left the Panthers entirely. Mumia Abu-Jamal is a Black Panther and radio journalist who in 1981 was convicted of killing a Philadelphia policeman and sentenced to death. His plight became a worldwide cause among people convinced of his innocence.
They’re toughening GED standards! No fair! –Boo!
GED stands for General Educational Development—the standardized test for people who never graduated from high school; passing the GED is equivalent to earning a high school diploma. In 1997 tougher standards went into effect: whereas before a student needed at least a score of 40 on each of the five sections or an average of 45 across all five tests, now they needed both a minimum score of 40 and an average score of 45.
Packers! Whoo! Packers!
See note on the Packers, above.
See note on the Packers, above.
U.S. out of North America! –And Packers! Whoo!
“U.S. out of North America” is a slogan popular among the leftist, anti-imperialist crowd; it shows up frequently on bumper stickers, buttons, and banners at protest rallies. See note on the Packers, above.
No more schools! –More hockey arenas! –More Packers!
See note on the Packers, above.
Fur is murder!
“Fur is murder” is a popular slogan among anti-fur animal-rights activists, who denounce the use of animals for making fur coats as cruel and unnecessary, given the ready availability of non-animal-based outerwear.
Violence erupted when Dave Dudley canceled his appearance in Gleason.
Dave Dudley (1928-2003) was a Minneapolis musician known for his trucker-themed songs, which were featured on such albums as Six Days on the Road and Christmas Truck Stop.
I’m headed over to Taco John’s till this blows over.
Taco John’s is an American chain of Mexican restaurants featuring tacos, burritos, nachos, etc.
Give my Hamm’s waterfall sign to my son.
Hamm’s is a beer manufactured in St. Paul, Minnesota. Its slogan is “From the land of sky-blue waters,” and many of its advertising signs feature a moving waterfall.
Dutch! Oh, Dutch. –Too many Jell-O shots. –No more tainted meat sandwiches.
Jell-O is a sweetened gelatin dessert made by General Foods Corporation. Jell-O shots are Jell-O made with booze instead of with water and then cut into little squares for consumption by college students.
Packers … –Packers?
See note on the Packers, above.
Um, Mr. Rebane, you really can’t see anything. –Shut up and keep filming, Mr. NYU Film Pants.
New York University’s Film School has been teaching film for more than thirty years and is considered one of the country’s finest film schools.
Why, it’s Barney! –You got to nip it in the bud, Andy!
See note about Barney Fife, above.
My emergency shipment of Lucky Strikes.
Lucky Strike cigarettes were one of the most popular brands in America during the first half of the 20th century, and the first brand to be marketed directly to women. Thanks to an ad campaign in the 1920s that urged women worried about their weight to “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet,” the number of teenage girls who smoked tripled in a decade.
It’s a VW in chenille.
The Volkswagen (or VW) Beetle was originally produced in Germany in 1937, based on a design suggestion by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. The cars were small, rounded, inexpensive vehicles aimed at the mass market. They did not catch on in the United States until 1959, when the cars, newly dubbed Beetles, began selling well. They have since become an icon of 1960s culture. The cars were favored by the (often broke) counterculture because they were inexpensive to buy, cheap to maintain, and lasted practically forever.
I understand you can repair these giant spiders yourself.
Yet another reason VW Beetles were so popular (see previous note) is that they were relatively easy to repair on those rare occasions when they did break down.
I wish John Agar were here.
John Agar (1921-2002) was an actor who appeared in a stunning number of terrible B movies in the 1950s and 1960s. He has appeared in several MST3K episodes, including Show 803, The Mole People.
She’s dressed like an Elvis impersonator.
Elvis Presley (1935-1977), the King of Rock and Roll, was one of the most popular musicians from the 1950s until his death in the late 1970s. He was a teen idol in the late 1950s, helped usher in the era of rock and roll, became a movie star, created an enormous and opulent home at Graceland in Memphis, developed problems with drug abuse, and finally died of a heart attack at the age of 42. Since his death, many, many people have earned a living by donning a sequined jumpsuit and pretending to be the King. There are more than 30 professional Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas alone.
If you see only ten thousand movies this year, make sure this isn’t one of them.
“If you see only one movie this year, make it this one” is a critic’s line that has been used for countless movies, to the extent that it has even been parodied in movie trailers: the trailer for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me in 1999 announced, “If you see only one movie this year, see Star Wars. But if you see two movies, see Austin Powers.”
Soon Hitler’s giant mechanical spiders had pushed past the Maginot Line.
The Maginot Line was a giant defensive barrier between France and Germany. It was built by France in the 1930s as a way to defend against another German attack like the one in World War I. Unfortunately for France, when Nazi Germany, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, finally decided to invade in 1940, they did so by way of Belgium, where the French border was essentially undefended.
These spiders have lousy heaters, though.
The heater in the VW Beetle (see above note) was notoriously terrible. Because the engines were air-cooled, it was difficult to channel excess engine heat into the passenger cabin.
It’s like Bigfoot in business casual.
See note on Bigfoot, above.
The spider’s gonna have a heart attack from eating so many cheeseheads.
See note on cheeseheads, above.
Jog-walk out of danger!
Jog-walking is an exercise program in which the runner alternates jogging with walking, ultimately working up to five minutes jogging, one minute running. Marathoners sometimes use this approach because it is less likely to lead to cramps and muscle fatigue.
Might as well get my Pall Malls while I’m here.
Pall Malls were one of the first “premium” brands of cigarettes, debuting early in the 20th century. Between 1960 and 1966 they were the top-selling brand in the country.
Hey, spider, you have a ball hitch? Mine’s busted.
A ball hitch is a type of hitch for automobiles that is commonly used for towing boat trailers and attaching bike racks.
Remember: I mate, then I kill.
The female black widow spider notoriously devours the male after mating is completed, although there is some evidence to suggest that Mrs. Widow’s lethal reputation has been somewhat exaggerated.
[Sung.] I injected a paralyzing toxin into the sheriff, but I did not inject a paralyzing toxin into the deputy …
See note on “I Shot the Sheriff,” above.
The first extremely tentative atomic test at Alamogordo.
Alamogordo is a town in New Mexico. On July 16, 1945, 60 miles from the air base at Alamogordo, the first atomic bomb was exploded. The following month, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, ending World War II.
I am death, destroyer of lawns.
J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), head of the top-secret Manhattan Project, has written that when he witnessed the detonation of the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo in 1945 (see previous note), a line from the sacred Hindu text Bhagavad Gita came into his mind: “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.”
The spider needs a Zantac.
Zantac is an acid reducer used to relieve the symptoms of heartburn. It is available in both prescription and nonprescription forms.
Alan Hale digests a kielbasa.
Kielbasa, also known as Polish sausage, is a type of sausage frequently flavored with garlic and smoked. It is made from either pork or a mixture of beef and pork.
I guess somebody tampered in God’s domain or something.
A reference to Show 423, Bride of the Monster.
And Andrea Scharf begat Kevin Brodie, who begat Alan Rebane …
An imitation of a section of Matthew, the book of the New Testament, in which the author traces the lineage of Jesus Christ: “Shealtiel begat Zerubbabel, who begat Abihud, who begat Eliakim, who begat Azor, who begat Zadok, who begat Achim, who begat Eliud, who begat Eleazar, who begat Matthan, who begat Jacob, who begat Joseph …”
What if Buck Gillett were the best a man could get?
See note on Gillette, above.
The filmmaker gratefully acknowledges the cooperation of the Gobbler, the G. Heileman Brewing Company, the Doughboy Corporation, Fort Howard toilet paper, Plochman’s Mustard Company, the BoDeans, the American Dairy Association, and the Wisconsin chapter of Wisconsin Dairy Farmers. And the Violent Femmes.
See note on the Gobbler, above. The G. Heileman Brewing Company was a Wisconsin brewery that produced a number of beers. In 1996 Stroh’s bought the company and closed most of its plants; the one remaining brewery was in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Doughboy Industries (today the Doboy Division of Sig Pak) is a company in New Richmond, Wisconsin, that manufactures parts for packaging machinery. The Fort Howard Paper Corporation is a paper products manufacturing company based in Green Bay, making toilet paper, paper towels, and so on. Plochman’s Mustard Co. is an Illinois company that started in Chicago; it makes, as you might have guessed, mustard. The BoDeans is a down-home guitar-rock band founded in 1985 by a couple of buddies from Wisconsin; their hit songs include “Outside Looking In” and “Closer to Free.” The American Dairy Organization is a trade group dedicated to increasing demand for cheese, butter, and so forth. It is based in Rosemont, Illinois. While there are any number of professional dairy organizations in Wisconsin, I could not locate one specifically called Wisconsin Dairy Farmers. The Violent Femmes are a rock band known for such hits as “Blister in the Sun.” The two founding members hail from Milwaukee.
Dedicated to the memory of Crazylegs Elroy Hirsch.
Crazylegs Elroy Hirsch (1923-2004) was a star running back at the University of Wisconsin and went on to play nine seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. He retired from coaching at the University of Washington in 1987.
See note on the Packers, above.