The episode: “Ring of Terror,” ep. 206
The riff: Asked by Crow after a guy pledging a new fraternity reaches for a glass of wine and someone says “Oh no, you have two more minutes to go and then you can have all you want.”
The explanation: The “est” meeting is a reference to Erhard Seminars Training, a series of motivational weekend workshops that were offered in expensive hotels from 1971-1984. Referred to in the promotional literature as “courses in human potential,” they promised to “transform one’s ability to experience living so that the situations one had been trying to change or had been putting up with, clear up just in the process of life itself.” The seminar’s creator, author Werner Erhard, was apparently the inspiration for the name of Dr. Laurence Erhardt, Dr. Forrester’s partner in mad science in season one.
Novelty factor: Never heard of these training sessions in my life, but it was interesting to find the MST3k connection.
The episode: “The Leech Woman,” ep. 802
The riff: Exclaimed by Tom after a scorned wife says “If you ever let me go again it will be the end of me,” and her husband replies “Don’t think of such things, just think of our being together.”
The explanation: Tom is playing off the title of a famous self-help book from 1986, entitled “Codependent No More.” Written by Melody Beattie, it focuses (obviously) on the topic of codependency, which typically manifests in one person being unhealthily fixated on the other person in a relationship to the detriment of their own wellbeing.
Novelty factor: I knew what codependency was, but I’ve never actually heard of the book before.
The episode: “Speech: Platform Posture and Appearance,” the short in front of “Red Zone Cuba,” ep. 619
The riff: Asked quizzically by Mike after the title card passes.
The explanation: Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs around the world that focus on teaching public speaking and communication. They operate speech contests, tutorials and do video series on overcoming speech anxiety and the like.
Novelty factor: I’d never heard of the organization before, but I find its name amusing. I guess he added “ancient” because it’s an older, black and white film, but it strikes me as an odd choice of words.
The episode: “The Phantom Creeps pt. 3,” the short before “Ring of Terror,” ep. 206
The riff: Inserted as dialog by Tom after a scientist mixing chemicals says “Now, if I can just get this formula properly recorded…”
The explanation: David Geffen is a well-known American businessman and philanthropist who is noted for his contributions to medical research in particular. He owned several record labels before also being one of the three founders of film studio Dreamworks in 1994. Tom is clearly referring to the guy in the film hoping to get a medical research grant or something of the like from Geffen.
Novelty factor: I’d actually never heard the name before, although I knew the two other founders of Dreamworks, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
The episode: “Cave Dwellers,” ep. 301
The riff: Exclaimed with surprise by Tom as the hero’s mute manservant stumbles into a secluded tent and finds a white-haired old man being held hostage.
The explanation: Timothy Leary was a former Harvard professor of psychology who became a famous figure of the counterculture drug movement in the 1960s for his experimentation with and advocating of psychedelic drugs, particularly LSD. G. Gordon Liddy, on the other hand, was the head of the Nixon White House’s “Plumbers” security division that was responsible for the Watergate break-ins, ultimately taking the fall for them as well. The two former foes formed an unlikely friendship in the early 1980s when they went on a lecture/debate series on college campuses, both being formerly incarcerated. They debated social topics of the day, with Leary generally espousing the left-wing stances and Liddy the right. They both made a boatload of appearance fees off the largely rehearsed stunt.
Novelty factor: I knew who Leary was of course, and I was vaguely aware of G. Gordon Liddy’s role in the Nixon administration, but I had no idea they ever went on this tour together.
The episode: “Devil Fish,” ep. 911
The riff: Quipped by Crow as a beer-swilling marine biologists listens with headphones and reaches for another brew.
The explanation: This seems to be a reference to self-help guru Tony Robbins and his 1991 book, “Awaken the Giant Within.” Robbins, known for his work with neuro-linguistic programming, is one of the better-known self-help speakers out there, someone you may have seen on TV hawking books. “Awaken the Giant Within” promises to help people “master your emotions, your body, your relationships, your finances and your life.” So basically, there’s a lot of mastering going on. Everything gets pretty much mastered.
Novelty factor: Never heard of the book, although I think most people know who Robbins is. Personally, I’ve always had a tendency to confuse his name with Tony Little, purveyor of the Gazelle work-out equipment. Presumably this is because they both show a pressing interest in remastering my body.
The episode: “Manhunt in Space,” ep. 413
The riff: Straight-facedly said by TV’s Frank as he explains the activities of the “weekly discussion salon” the mads have apparently been hosting.
The explanation: “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women” was a 1991 non-fiction feminist treatise by Pulitzer Prize-winner Susan Faludi, who wrote for a number of prevalent newspapers, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. In the book, Faludi argued that women of the 1980s and early 1990s were experiencing a “backlash” against feminist gains of the 1970s. Centrally, she claimed the backlash was blaming women’s problems of the 1980s on the adverse effects of feminism itself. In general, it just seems like the kind of book a “weekly discussion salon” might, you know…discuss.
Novelty factor: I don’t think I need to tell you that I’ve never heard of this book before, or Faludi for that matter. In the years that have followed, she’s written several more books on the subject, including “The Terror Dream,” which posited that the 9/11 attacks “reinvigorated in America a climate that is hostile to women.”