The episode: “I Accuse My Parents,” ep. 507
The riff: Exclaimed by Tom after Jimmy lies about how wonderful his mother is and the girl he’s trying to impress says she “never had a mother, myself.”
The explanation: This is a rather esoteric reference to the Greek god of wine and revelry, Dionysus. His birth was weird and complicated. Zeus had an affair with a mortal woman, as he was wont to do, and she became pregnant. His jealous wife Hera, in disguise, planted seeds of doubt in the woman’s mind about whether her lover was actually Zeus, so she demanded to see him in his true form. When he appeared as King of the Gods, it was too much for her to handle and she was destroyed. Zeus, however, was able to save the baby Dionysus and sewed him “into his thigh” until he was ready to be born a second time. Thus, Dionysus is referred to as “twice born.”
Novelty factor: You can probably tell from my explanation that I was familiar with this story already. Greek mythology was always one of my strong points in Scholastic Bowl.
Note the emerging head right in the thigh region.
The episode: “Space Mutiny,” ep. 820
The riff: Quipped by Mike as a bunch of thin women with long, flowing hair do their bizarre dance piece in an empty room.
The explanation: Laraine Newman is an American comic actress, best remembered as an original cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” She was part of the show’s first five seasons and played characters like Connie Conehead, but developed serious eating disorders and eventually a heroin addiction. In her later career she took an interest in voice acting, and has appeared in small roles in many animated films such as “Wall-E,” “Monsters Inc.” and “Despicable Me.”
Novelty factor: I’ve seen this episode many times and always wondered about that riff, although I didn’t really know who Newman was. Unlike contemporaries like Gilda Radner, I take it she wasn’t the most well-known SNL cast member in her day.
The episode: “Bloodlust,” ep. 607
The riff: Quipped by Tom in the style of a 1950s movie title after a couple kiss messily and Mike notes “Ew, he’s unhinging his jaw.”
The explanation: Lamprey are an order of jawless fish that are common throughout the world. The most famous species such as the sea lamprey are somewhat feared and reviled for their eating method, which is to attach to the side of a fish with their sucker-like jaw of fangs and drink the blood as a parasite. They have become invasive species in many of the Great Lakes, killing fish with no natural predators. The famous episode of “The X-Files” called “The Host” featured a monster-of-the-week called “Flukeman” that was largely inspired by lampreys.
Novelty factor: I first heard about these guys when news reports discussed the problems they were posing in Lake Michigan.
The episode: “Pod People,” ep. 303
The riff: Quizzically asked by Joel after a ditzy bimbo introduces herself to the group. I think what she says is “Hi, ya’ll! I’m Lori Stapleton!” but it’s tough to make out.
The explanation: Maureen Stapleton was a prolific American actress of both the stage and screen. She was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress on four different occasions, eventually winning the final time for the 1981 Russian revolution film “Reds,” in which she played anarchist Emma Goldman. She won two Tony Awards on Broadway and also started scooping up Emmy nominations toward the end of her career. This woman collected nominations like they were stamps.
Novelty factor: I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of Maureen Stapleton before. Even the name doesn’t sound familiar. I’m rather surprised by this.
The episode: “Danger! Death Ray,” ep. 620
The riff: Gaped by Mike as a spy’s boss compliments him and says “You deserve a special prize for your work.”
The explanation: Irving Thalberg was the co-creator of the movie studio MGM and was one of history’s most storied and successful film producers. Known as “The Boy Wonder” for his great success at a young age, he passed away at only 37 years old from pneumonia. The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Awards were established and are awarded sporadically at the Governors Awards ceremony to “Creative producers, whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production.” The most recent recipient was director Francis Ford Coppola in 2010.
Novelty factor: My film education taught me who Thalberg was, but I actually haven’t heard of the award before.
The episode: “Time of the Apes,” ep. 306
The riff: Noted by Tom Servo as a mercenary guy takes a knife out of its sheath and throws it, cutting down two kids caught in a net.
The explanation: Ed Ames was an American singer and actor, known for his adult contemporary music in the 1960s. He also acted on the 1960s NBC series “Daniel Boone,” where he played a Native American named “Mingo.” It was this role that brought him to The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, where he was supposed to demonstrate Tomahawk throwing. His first throw hit the wooden cowboy target square in the groin, which resulted in uproarious laughter from the audience. Carson then quipped “I didn’t even know you were Jewish,” followed by “welcome to frontier bris.”
Novelty factor: I haven’t heard of Ames, the incident or “Daniel Boone.” What do you think of THAT, hmmm?
The episode: “Teen-Age Crime Wave,” ep. 522
The riff: Exclaimed by Mike as a sheriff investigates a home where a couple is being held hostage and notices a plethora of cigarette butts all scattered around the ground.
The explanation: Rod Serling is of course well-remembered as the creator and narrator of “The Twilight Zone,” and those who remember him are also likely to remember his heavy smoking. A survivor of World War II, he got hooked on cigarettes in the army and smoked like a chimney for the rest of his life. Almost every publicity shot he ever took was with a cigarette or cigar. They eventually led to his death of a heart attack while already undergoing heart surgery, in 1975. He was only 50 years old.
Novelty factor: I was slightly confused for just a moment but then it occurred to me that Serling had been smoking in just about every “Twilight Zone” introduction.