The episode: “The Pumaman,” ep. 903
The riff: Said in a female voice by Tom as the beautiful Sydne Rome looks woozy under hypnosis from the evil villain played by Donald Pleasence.
The explanation: Tom is referring to a longstanding urban legend involving the mixing of Coke and the pain-reliever Aspirin. For whatever reason, over the years, young people have attributed all kinds of effects to consuming the two together. It’s been called everything from an aphrodisiac and a way to get high to a cause of instantaneous death. Apparently in the film “Grease,” a character even says she caught someone putting Aspirin in her Coke as a reference to the urban legend.
Novelty factor: I can’t remember if I’ve heard this in context before, but I’m not surprised by the belief.
More powerful than heroin.
The episode: “The Beginning of the End,” ep. 517
The riff: Slowly stated in a girly voice by Crow as a woman behind the wheel of a car lazily approaches the camera.
The explanation: Vivarin is the name of an over-the-counter caffeine pill, in the same mold as “No-Doz.” It boasts of being made with “clean caffeine” and “no hidden ingredients” and contains 200 mg of caffeine per serving. That’s roughly equal to eight cans of Coca-Cola or two 8 oz cups of coffee. These types of pills have historically been marketed as “stay-awake” supplements to students, truckers and anyone else needing to pull an all-nighter. Today, Vivarin is marketed to everyone from gamers to racecar drivers.
Novelty factor: I’ve never heard of this particular brand of caffeine pill before, but it doesn’t surprise me for some reason that the writers had.
The episode: “The Home Economics Story,” short in front of “Viking Women and the Sea Serpent,” ep. 317
The riff: Quizzically pointed out by Joel while the wholesome college youth celebrate a football victory and a well-groomed man strolls into the frame.
The explanation: Cassady was a figure of the Beat Generation and psychedelic movement of the 1950s-1960s and a friend of Jack Kerouac. The character of Dean in “On the Road” was apparently based on Cassady. He was also a member of the Merry Pranksters, a group that experimented heavily with psychedelic substances. He was known as something of a rogue, which would explain why Tom follows up Joel’s riff by saying “…only for chicks” under his breath.
Novelty factor: Never heard of him before. I’ve actually never read any Kerouac, as it wasn’t on our assigned high school reading material. This probably explains why I’ve never succumbed to the allure of the glitzy beatnik lifestyle.
The episode: “Last Clear Chance,” the short attached to “Radar Secret Service,” ep. 520
The riff: The riff is interjected by Crow during a lecture from a friendly highway cop on staying awake and alert while driving. The cop says “You should stop at least once every hour. Get out, stretch your legs…”, at which point Crow mumbles “…take some bennies.”
The explanation: As it turns out, “bennies” are a slang term for Benzedrine, an early form of amphetamine that was being abused as a stimulant as early as the late 1920s. It would appear that the drug was used in a manner similar to the classic “trucker stay-awake pills,” either ingested or inhaled for a pick-me-up. Urban Dictionary agrees with this assessment.
Novelty factor: I assumed the explanation was along these lines thanks to the context in the episode, but I’ve never heard the term before.