362. “You can throw your star, at the man who drives the car…”

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.


302. “Tonight on Bravo, Martha Graham’s new dance company.”

The episode:Master Ninja I,” ep. 322

The riff: Spoken in a low voice by Joel as ninja Lee Van Cleef (a good guy in this film) clashes with three ninjas in head-to-toe black in a very dark room.

The explanation: All the black silhouettes (besides looking like an early version of that scene from Kill Bill: Part 1) have a very modern dance feel to them, hence the reference to Martha Graham. She was a choreographer with vast, sweeping influence over the whole of modern dance in a career that stretched for more than 70 years. The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance still performs today.

Novelty factor: Never heard of her, actually, but that’s not too surprising as my knowledge of the world of dance is just about zip.

12. “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Gerbil.”

The episode:Master Ninja I“, ep. 322

The riff: Snidely quipped by Crow as the movie’s hero Max, played by Timothy Van Patten, gestures to his pet gerbil Henry’s cage, which rests in between the front two seats of his A-Team-style conversion van. He’s talking to a young Demi Moore, by the way.

The explanation: A wordplay collision and reference to the 1986/1990 film “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” which was based on the life of real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. The film was completed in 1986 but not release in 1990 due to controversy and rating troubles surrounding its graphic violence, but today is something of a minor cult-classic. The ultra-low budget film was made for around $100,000 and starred Michael Rooker in the title role, today famous for his role as Merle in AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” It’s entirely reasonable to think that “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” is the performance that ultimately netted Rooker the juicy part of the demented Merle Dixon in cable’s most popular show today.

Novelty factor: I recognized the reference immediately because I’ve heard of this film, but I’ve yet to actually see it. It is currently buried somewhere in the depths of my Netflix queue, waiting to be viewed.