The episode: “Time of the Apes,” ep. 306
The riff: Asked aloud by Joel while images of apes (and a chimpanzee in this shot) are shown.
The explanation: He’s referring to the TV show “B.J. and the Bear,” which ran on NBC from 1979-1981. The title character B.J. was a coast-to-coast trucker, and he made his runs with his best friend/pet “Bear,” a trained chimp. The monkey would wear clothing and a hat, in the style of college football coach Bear Bryant, who he was named after. Like “Smoky and the Bandit,” he was chased by a sheriff character, in this case the bumbling Sheriff Lobo, who received his own spin-off series.
Novelty factor: I’m surprised that I’ve never heard of the series before. It does, however, finally make me understand what Homer was talking about in “The Simpsons” with all his “Sheriff Lobo” references.