References you only thought you understood

A while back my wife introduced me to the 70s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. (Spoiler: it’s great)

Since then, I keep catching references to it in MST and in RiffTrax: jokes about Gabe Kaplan, impressions of Barbarino and Horschack, shouting “ooh ooh ooh!” every time someone asks a question, etc

Have you discovered a a running gag or series of references that you somehow never picked up on before? Have you ever thought you knew what a riff was about and then learned otherwise?


I have come across many a riff over the years and found it funny due to how it was delivered/executed, then only later learned that it wasn’t just a funny line but a reference to something. It’s fairly rare, as I get most references, but it’s happened at least once-twice in every season. Just had one resolved from S12 but can’t recall what it was. I do remember “gooble gobble, gooble gobble” but didn’t know it was a reference till I googled it some time later.


Sammo Hung in Blood Waters of Dr. Z


I’ll say that growing up on '80s Nick at Nite was essential to me understanding a LOT of MST3K references the first time around. But those references tended to be dealt in a way that ensured that the people who don’t get it will still find it funny.


I saw that one, but this felt different enough to warrant its own topic. It’s kinda the polar opposite question:

Riffs that weren’t for you or that you only discovered way later.


The Comedy Central era was rife with riffs that, ignorant teenager that I was, I only got later with maturity and experience.

For example, I was in the dark about Doctor Who until the 2000s, so those references, while I could catch their sci-fi-ness, just didn’t land with me.


I’ve always been a fan of Lord of the Rings (long before the Peter Jackson movies). MST3K was doing LOTR references almost from the beginning. Gotta help Strider move a couch!


Guildor and Strider took Frodo to Rivendell! (I’m ashamed I know that!)

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In the Mr. B Natural short, during the instrument showcase, they show a pile of dirty horns right before a showcase of shiny saxophones. During the cool, sexy tune that plays during the dirty horns, Joel goes “Honey West!” I never knew what he was referencing and assumed it was a celebrity not unlike Mae West.

Today, while combing through my YouTube Watch Later list, I came across a showcase of TV openings from 1966 across all the networks. On ABC, there was a show called “Honey West”, a female detective show whose opening was several still images depicting action, intrigue, danger, and sexy Anne Francis all set to a smooth, sexy jazz score with horns very similar to the tune featured in that segment of Mr. B Natural.