The episode: “The She Creature,” ep. 808
The riff: Sarcastically answered by Mike as two cops examine some beastly footprints and one asks the other, “Do you think a human could have done this?”
The explanation: Mudskippers are a variety of amphibious fish that are found largely in Asia and the African coast. They are able to live on land and breathe air for extended periods, although as the name suggests, they mostly stick to the mudflats. There don’t appear to be any mudskipper species that are indigenous to North America.
Novelty factor: I knew what they were because I’ve always been a bit of a nature geek and spent many childhood years watching Discovery Channel programming. This is of course before they switched to showing faux documentaries about mermaids. Still, despite the fact that I knew this, it seems like a pretty obscure and random reference for the SOL crew to throw out. I am curious how many average Americans would know what a mudskipper is.
The episode: “I Accuse My Parents,” ep. 507
The riff: Asked by Tom as our movie’s “hero,” the hopeless and hapless Jimmy, industriously cleans a shoe store window covered in white film as part of his new job.
The explanation: This is like one of those jokes where they could have substituted a million other products. As it turns out, Desenex is an “antifungal powder” and spray that is mainly used to treat athlete’s foot. In the context of the riff, though, they could have said just about anything that looked like white powder or foam. I presume they chose Desenex because it seemed obscure enough.
Novelty factor: I had no idea, never heard of Desenex before. With a name like that, I assumed from the riff that it was some kind of cleaning solution or something.
The episode: “Teenagers from Outer Space,” ep. 404
The riff: Observed by Tom as one of the villainous space teens, “Thor,” stands with only his bottom half in the frame, threatening the girl in the swimming pool below him. His white leather shoes can be seen gleaming in the sun.
The explanation: It’s all about the shoes, as I correctly guessed. Pat Boone was a hugely popular pop singer in the 1950s and 1960s, knowing for applying a coat of whitewash to black R&B songs like Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.” As it turns out, just about everything having to do with the fellow was white, and that included his trademark leather shoes. He wore them to just about every engagement. Tom is banking on the audience very quickly noting the shoes, as they’re only on screen for a second or two.
Novelty factor: Had no idea about Pat Boone’s shoe history, but when I heard the riff I guessed it had to be those stand-out white leather soles.
Don’t you step on my whitewashed shoes.
The episode: “Lost Continent,” ep. 208
The riff: Noted by Crow as a soldier goes on a misguided spiel about how to “talk to dames” properly.
The explanation: To many, “section 8” probably means government-aided “section 8 housing,” but in this example, they’re referring to a Section 8 discharge from the military. It is no longer practiced today, but it was applied to those found “mentally unfit” for service. For years, this was commonly applied to those found guilty of incidents such as “sexual perversion.” The term “section 8” could describe someone discharged for these reasons as well, and the term was referenced on TV shows like M*A*S*H and movies like “Full Metal Jacket.” It was even used as the title of a 2009 first-person-shooter videogame for PS3 and Xbox 360.
Novelty factor: From the context, I thought it had to be some kind of classification like this, but I immediately thought of the housing instead. That’s the only place I’d heard “section 8” before.
Enjoy this tribute to M*A*S*H’s Max Klinger, who was constantly questing for a Section 8 discharge with his wacky behavior.
The episode: “Teenage Crime Wave,” ep. 522
The riff: Inserted as an old man’s dialog by Mike as a gang of unruly teenage killers take over an elderly couple’s house as a place to lay low after committing CRIMES.
The explanation: The Symbionese Liberation Army was a small, left-wing radical/revolutionary group that was active in America for only a few years between 1973 and 1975. They made worldwide headlines for kidnapping media heiress Patty Hearst, who was subsequently brainwashed and renamed “Tanya,” and participated in a bank heist where she was subsequently captured. The group committed several murders and didn’t accomplish much as far as their ideology was concerned.
Novelty factor: This is the kind of small historical anecdote that we pretty much would have glossed over at my high school–I know the group for the Patty Hearst reference and that’s about it. I’d never done any further reading on them until now. I must say, I rather like the design of their symbol.
The episode: “The Phantom Creeps pt. 2,” the short in front of “Rocket Attack U.S.A.,” ep. 205
The riff: Spoken in an old-time radio announcer’s voice as a man in what looks like a recording studio is shown talking into a microphone.
The explanation: I’m not sure if “the old clock on the wall says it’s time for” is a reference to anything in particular, but the Longines Symphonette was a long-running classical music radio program. It was on multiple stations from 1943 to 1957, sponsored by the Longines watch company. Talk about pulling out a pretty obscure riff, here. The same radio program was also referenced in the They Might Be Giants song “Birdhouse in Your Soul.”
Novelty factor: I don’t think I need to tell you that I had no idea. I had to run multiple Google searches to even determine exactly what he was saying before figuring out it was “Longines Symphonette.”
The episode: “Terror from the Year 5000,” ep. 807
The riff: Spoken by Mike during a flurry of riffs where they mock a boring-looking man as he pilots his vehicle. This part of the movie seems to delight in showing us the most inconsequential parts of his travels.
The explanation: The man bears a resemblance to Martin Bormann, a prominent member of the Nazi party during WWII-era Germany. Bormann was a close confidant of Hitler’s, eventually becoming his personal secretary and mouthpiece of sorts. He was often tasked with disseminating the fuhrer’s orders and instructions, which gave him huge personal power within the Reich. He was thought to have escaped during the war, resulting in a 26-year-long manhunt. His remains were finally discovered in Germany in 1972, and DNA-proven in 1998.
Novelty factor: I had a vague idea of who Bormann was from my own knowledge of WWII history, but I never knew about the length of the manhunt in determining his death. That is a long time to wait for an answer. NOTE: Regardless of the DNA, there are still conspiracy theorists who assert Bormann survived and fled to South America. Observe.