The episode: “Catalina Caper,” ep. 204
The riff: Observed by Tom as tons and tons of young white kids dance and even more well-groomed white kids arrive to join the party.
The explanation: The National Front is a British political party marked by its racist nationalism, neo-nazism and “whites only” policy. It reached the height of its popularity in the late 1970s but was never a true player. It still exists today but has no candidates in office. Some consider other breakaway nationalistic groups such as the British National Party to be successors of the National Front.
Novelty factor: I’ve never heard of the party before but it’s pretty obvious from context (it comes right after an apartheid joke) what kind of organization it’s going to be.
So…yeah. They’re serious about the racism thing.
The episode: “The Incredible Melting Man,” ep. 704
The riff: Yelled angrily by Crow at the screen while solar flares are shown, roaring up off the surface of our star.
The explanation: Crow is mocking Morton Downey, Jr., a right-wing radio and television host famous for “The Morton Downey, Jr. Show” in the late 1980s. Downey was a provocateur who liked to pick fights, and “pablum-puking liberal” was one of his best-known catchphrases. Pablum, meanwhile, is a processed cereal for infants that has been made since 1931. Because it is very bland an inoffensive, the word has subsequently developed a double meaning as “bland, mushy, unappetizing or infantile.”
Novelty factor: Context-wise, you get what he’s saying, but I didn’t know who Morton Downey, Jr. was OR what Pablum was before this.
NOTE: SUCK MY EARLOBE, STERN!
The episode: “Hired! pt. 2,” the short in front of “Manos: The Hands of Fate,” ep. 424
The riff: Added by Crow after the middle-aged salesman’s father says “You owe a lot of your success to the way Harry Carpenter worked with you.”
The explanation: Rather than just an affirmation of what’s on screen, it’s a subtle reference to a 1975 play and film called “Give ’em Hell, Harry!” about the life and times of Harry Truman. The phrase supposedly originated from the campaign trail of the 1948 presidential election, when a Truman supporter yelled “Give ’em hell, Harry!” Truman’s reply was reportedly “I don’t give them hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it’s hell.”
Novelty factor: Never heard of this before in any form. Can’t believe there’s both a play and a film based on the phrase.
The episode: “Gumby: Robot Rumpus,” the short in front of “The Screaming Skull,” ep. 912
The riff: Chanted by Mike as some of Gumby’s rampaging robots mess up the family’s house with spray paint on the walls.
The explanation: This appears to be a reference to the phrase “Yankee go home,” a popular sentiment over the course of decades in various foreign countries that have adopted anti-American standpoints for one reason or another. Often, the phrase has been used as something of a rallying cry against American imperialism and continued presence in countries like The Philippines.
Novelty factor: It’s all new to me on this one. Note sure how I’ll handle the mental shock of finding out that not everyone likes me by default.
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: “Mitchell,” ep. 512
The riff: Observed disapprovingly by Crow as Mitchell blows away a thug in a park who breaks off conversation with him and sprints away. Yes, the scene is as weird as that makes it sound.
The explanation: Daryl Gates was the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department from 1978-1992. He was extremely hard-line in carrying out his duties, favoring swift action and not shying away from violence. His administration came under heavy national fire following the 1992 police beating of Rodney King and the ensuing race riots that resulted in more than 50 deaths, and he resigned shortly thereafter. The bots are making fun of this bloody streak, about as political as they ever get.
Novelty factor: I know about the riots of course, but I was too young at the time to really be following the name of Gates in the media.
The episode: “Cave Dwellers,” ep. 301
The riff: Gawked by Crow as the name “Lisa Foster” appears in the film’s very strange, letterbox-style opening credits (complete with scenes from a different movie)
The explanation: Crow is simultaneously drawing parallels between the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 by John Hinckley Jr. and the coincidence of there being the similarly named Donald Regan as the president’s Chief of Staff in his second term. Donald Regan also served as Secretary of the Treasury in Reagan’s first term, and was a major figure of the “Reaganomics” movement. As Hinckley shot Reagan in an attempt to capture the admiration of actress Jodie Foster, Crow offers to shoot the lower-ranking Secretary to capture the attention of Foster’s long-lost “sister,” Lisa.
Novelty factor: I’ve seen this episode often and always understood the assassination reference, unsurprisingly, but I will admit I didn’t know who Donald Regan actually was. I always assumed it was just someone in entertainment, not actually a member of the Reagan administration. Enjoy this demonization of him: