The episode: “The Unearthly,” ep. 320
The riff: Delivered enthusiastically by Joel as two proper gentlemen toast to their youths with glasses of wine.
The explanation: This joke is a reference to a famous ad campaign for notoriously noxious “bum wine” Thunderbird, which is known as “The American Classic.” In the famous radio jingle, played in the inner city and targeted toward low-income African American neighborhoods, the lyrics go “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.” This, I presume, meant Thunderbird cost 60 cents at the time. Joel is either referring to a price increase on Thunderbird, or is more likely just misremembering the jingle.
Novelty factor: This one jumped out at me and made me laugh because I was familiar with this slogan already. This hilarious website devoted to bum wines taught it to me. Thunderbird is rumored to possess an especially foul flavor, even in the world of bum wine. Even the TV ads for the product practically admitted this, with James Mason saying “Thunderbird wine has an unusual flavor all its own.” This was apparently the best they could do. Note the YouTube comments: “Thunderbird has an unusual flavor reminiscent of wood alcohol, radiator coolant and Kool Aid,” and my personal favorite “Thunderbird goes especially well with being face-down in the gutter.”