The episode: “Time Chasers,” ep. 821
The riff: Wondered aloud by Mike as the movie’s villain strokes his chin in his “mall skyway” office and looks troubled.
The explanation: I’ve always gotten the sense that the MST3k writers were very amused by business world jargon, and I submit this joke as an example. Later on in the same episode we get a joke about ISO-9000 certification, so they were mining much of the same territory as “Dilbert” did in its heyday. As it turns out, “core competencies” are supposed to mean “a specific factor that businesses see as being central to the way the company or its employees work.” Like most business jargon, though (hello, “paradigm shift”), terms like this are resented by many employees, who included “core competencies” on this “bullshit bingo” card.
Novelty factor: I’d always chuckled at this riff in the past, and I think it has something to do with my fondness for the early days of “Dilbert,” a comic that is a very sad state of affairs today. Enjoy this idiot explaining core competencies off a cue card sitting right in full view of the camera.