333. “Laraine Newman and the Newmanettes.”

The episode:Space Mutiny,” ep. 820

The riff: Quipped by Mike as a bunch of thin women with long, flowing hair do their bizarre dance piece in an empty room.

The explanation: Laraine Newman is an American comic actress, best remembered as an original cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” She was part of the show’s first five seasons and played characters like Connie Conehead, but developed serious eating disorders and eventually a heroin addiction. In her later career she took an interest in voice acting, and has appeared in small roles in many animated films such as “Wall-E,” “Monsters Inc.” and “Despicable Me.”

Novelty factor: I’ve seen this episode many times and always wondered about that riff, although I didn’t really know who Newman was. Unlike contemporaries like Gilda Radner, I take it she wasn’t the most well-known SNL cast member in her day.


322. “Strewth!”

The episode:Space Mutiny,” ep. 820

The riff: Exclaimed under his breath (I know that sounds like an oxymoron) by Tom as the ship’s second in command gives an impassioned address to the captain, telling him they need to fight back against the mutineers.

The explanation: Throughout the episode, Mike and the Bots make fun of the second in command by saying “Oi!,” in reference to a series of Energizer battery ads from the 1980s featuring Australian football player Mark “Jacko” Jackson. “Strewth” is another term with meaning in Australia, although it seems to mean something slightly different in the U.K. In British parlance, it’s short for “It’s God’s truth,” a form of agreement. In Australia, though, it’s more of a general exclamation of surprise, similar to the better known “crikey!

Novelty factor: I was sort of familiar with the term (I remember reading it in “John Constantine: Hellblazer” comics), but I don’t think I’d ever looked up the definition before.

7. “Kalgan, blow me away.”

The episode:Space Mutiny,” ep. 820

The riff: Delivered by Tom Servo after the movie’s villain, the extremely oily Commander Kalgan, shoots somebody dead with a laser gun.

The explanation: This joke is a sly reference to a famous ad campaign for Calgon-brand water softener in the 1970s-1980s. An overworked housewife-type would be overwhelmed by all the stresses in her day before proclaiming, “Calgon, take me away!” Then they would cut to her relaxing in a hot bath with her Calgon products, blissfully free of her burdensome family, presumably plotting their demise. Calgon water softener had another, equally famous series of commercials in which a Chinese laundromat operator claimed his “ancient Chinese secret” got clothing clean, but really it was Calgon. Racism at its most hilarious.

Novelty factor: I actually knew this one when I first heard it, because my mother apparently watched a lot of these Calgon ads. When I was growing up, the poor, stressed woman would jokingly put her hands on her head and say “Calgon, take me away!” None of us knew what she was talking about at the time, and thus pretty much ignored it.