The episode: “Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders,” ep. 1003
The riff: Spoken as dialog by Tom as the film’s Julie Haggerty lookalike tells her husband “you’re scaring me,” picks up the aforementioned items, and leaves.
The explanation: This is a dual riff. “I’m taking the ___, that’s all I need,” is part of a hilarious running joke from the 1979 Steve Martin comedy “The Jerk.” As he walks out on his wife, he keeps insisting he doesn’t need anything, but then stops to pick up random objects like a paddle game, a lamp and a chair. A “Longaberger basket,” on the other hand, is made by The Longaberger Company, a longtime manufacturer of a wooden lattice baskets. Even their corporate headquarters is shaped like a giant basket.
Novelty factor: I love this bit from “The Jerk,” but I had no idea what a Longaberger basket was.
The episode: “Master Ninja I,” ep. 322
The riff: Sung by Tom as Timothy van Patten attempts to drive and a ninja blows out his tires with a throwing star.
The explanation: Tom is singing in parody of Texaco, the national oil and gasoline station chain. Throughout the 1970s they ran ads touting the chain’s reliability, saying “You can trust your car, to the man who wears the star.”
Novelty factor: I had no idea of this old slogan, but it’s a pretty clever riff now that I understand it. I also had no idea how over-the-top these Texaco ads were, this is like a Superbowl ad or something.
The episode: “Kitten with a Whip,” ep. 615
The riff: Spoken in a deep, newscaster-style voice by Crow as a blonde woman with feathery hair is shown on a TV in the background.
The explanation: “Suzy ChapStick” was a name given to American Olympic skier Suzy Chaffee in a popular series of ads for ChapStick lip balm, where she would invite others to call her “Suzy ChapStick” because she always wore it in dry “ChapStick weather.” As a skier, she was known for her good looks as much as her actual abilities. The ads appeared throughout the 1970s.
Novelty factor: I’m glad to be able to do this riff, because I’ve noticed multiple “Suzy ChapStick” references throughout the history of the series, most notably in “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” Now I finally know what the hell they were talking about.
The episode: “Operation Double 007,” ep. 508
The riff: Chided by Joel as a man in a flowing golden robe walks into the scene. He is quite bedazzled.
The explanation: My, this is one dense riff. First, a “kaftan” is a type of front-buttoned overcoat or overdress of many Islamic cultures. It came into the vogue among American hippies in the 1960s and 1970s. Jessye Norman, on the other hand, is a Grammy-winning contemporary opera singer associated with a lot of classical Wagnerian operas. I believe the reference refers to the sort of costumes she typically would end up wearing in these shows.
Novelty factor: This is one obscure riff, even for MST3k. Why do they even know this?
The episode: “The Legend of Boggy Creek II,” ep. 1006
The riff: Observed by Mike while the movie’s two female leads ineptly try to pry their Jeep loose from a big patch of mud. They are not successful in the least.
The explanation: Apparently, the Subaru line of Japanese cars has historically had a just under-the-radar line of support for LGBT causes. Targeting gay customers (which I suppose is a neglected market), they have had well-known ads with dual meanings, such as “It’s not a choice, it’s the way we’re built.” Over time, the Outback and Forester models in particular have become stereotyped with lesbians, to the point where some people apparently refer to them as “Lesbarus.”
Novelty factor: I am genuinely surprised to say I had no idea of this association before.
Kind of an odd SUV slogan, really.
The episode: “Gamera vs. Gaos,” ep. 308
The riff: Monologued by Servo as a bunch of excitable Japanese people on the interior of a bullet train bustle around and point at the monster outside.
The explanation: It’s the train setting in particular that inspired this reference to Dial-brand soap. In a series of commercials that apparently aired all the way from the 1950s to 1990s, this exact slogan was used: “Aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everybody did?” The commercials were set in crowded places with lots of people, including on the train.
Novelty factor: Never heard of the slogan before, but I was able to track down the commercial in question.
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.