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Historical Hilarity

Pen/Finn: "What's going on? A-A-Abraham Lincoln?"
Lincoln: "Pen. Your mind has been transported back in time. And to Mars."
Pen/Finn: "What?"
Adventure Time - Pilot Episode

A type of joke that goes "Hey, look! A historical figure!" Apparently, there's something inherently funny about dead famous people, so that a quick cameo/reference is all you need to get a laugh. Part of the humor may come from putting the figure in an unexpected location or silly situation. Abraham Lincoln may be funny on his own, but Abraham Lincoln on a spaceship is even funnier. Another variation is to have the figure take some other form. Zombie Theodore Roosevelt, Robot Oscar Wilde, Evil William Shakespeare and the Giant Head of Errol Flynn could all be completely hilarious.

As far as historical figures who can be the subject of this kind of joke go, there seem to be three categories: those that everyone knows like Lincoln, those only known for one thing, like Grover Cleveland, and those where they are only known for not being known, like Millard Fillmore.

Compare Historical In-Joke and Been There, Shaped History. Compare also Allohistorical Allusion when this appears in an Alternate History setting. Also also compare Historical Character Confusion when the person being referenced isn't actually the person present. For situations when this applies to Adolf Hitler, see Adolf Hitlarious.

Examples:

Anime

Comic Books

Film

Live-Action TV
  • Late Night with Conan O'Brien employs this often. There was Gay Lincoln on a Swing for a while. Now there's S&M Lincoln who silently leers at Conan from afar even after the sketch is supposed to be over.
  • Police Squad! had Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln in the opening credits of every episode, even though Lincoln would never appear in any episodes.
  • Mystery Scince Theater 3000's Soultaker Episode had Martin Van Buren as an image from the pod attached to the SOL to hide Joel's cameo appearance.
  • One really odd episode of Star Trek, "The Savage Curtain", had Kirk and Spock beamed down to a planet which contained alien replicas of Abraham Lincoln and the Vulcan philosopher Surak as well as four alien replicas of some of the most villainous people in galactic history as part of an alien experiment to see whether 'good' or 'evil' was stronger. This is not an example of this trope, in that it was played perfectly straight and was part of the central conceit of the episode. The bit where Lincoln's head pops up on the viewscreen in the middle of space is a better example, however.
  • From the Torchwood episode "Dead Man Walking":
    Owen: You've read Proust?
    Jack: Yeah. Well, no. We dated for a while. He was really immature.
  • Doctor Who is probably the live-action TV king of this trope, as the Doctor namedrops historical figures only slightly more often than they actually appear on screen. Hell, other people are even doing it for him now:
    Liz Ten: The Doctor, old drinking buddy of Henry Twelve. Tea and scones with Liz Two... Vicky was a bit on the fence about you, wasn't she? Knighted and exiled you on the same day! And so much for The Virgin Queen, you bad, bad boy!

    Rory: Right. Putting Hitler in the cupboard.
  • Apparently Wannabe Badass Dean Moriarty likes having President one-six as his wingman when he's breaking up with Alex in his dreams. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • The Red Dwarf episode "Lemons" has the Red Dwarf crew meet Jesus. But not the Jesus. They do, however, meet him at the end of the episode. Along with Judas.

Literature

Music
  • Kansas politician William Allen White's face appears frequently during They Might Be Giants concerts. This might make sense if the band was from Kansas and not Brooklyn. But they chose his face at random out of an encyclopedia.
    • This trope is also invoked in their goofy tributes to the 11th president in "James K. Polk" and "Canada Haunts Me".

Video Games
  • Age of Empires III features a cheat unit known as "George Crushington", a giant bust of George Washington that headbutts enemies to death with visible comic book sound effects.
  • The Sam & Max games also love Lincoln. Not only is the Giant Head of Abraham Lincoln a recurring character, but Zombie Lincoln shows up in Night of the Raving Dead.
  • Scribblenauts features George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as summonable characters, despite its statement that proper names are not valid words.
    • Historical figures are also available as avatars, including Shakespeare and Cleopatra.
  • Shadow Hearts does this on occasion, but a little more subtly (that is, when it doesn't just apply In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous). You'll meet a character under one name, and then discover who they actually were in the Library - at which point you get a Late to the Punchline moment.

Web Comic
  • Half the point of Hark! A Vagrant.
  • Thinkin Lincoln (Guess who is the main protagonist...)
  • Casey and Andy had a Running Gag involving Andy's causality-defying feud with Grover Cleveland.
    • Which eventually proved central to the grand finale.
  • The xkcd strip "Windows 7" is a Hitler example.
  • MS Paint Masterpieces, during a filler explaining Time Travel, shows a destroyed alternate timeline labeled only as "Lincoln Went Super Saiyan", and then references it again in a later filler.
  • In Monster Commute the land of Monstru is ruled over by Abe Lincolnstein, the reassembled, reanimated and quite unsane (yes, unsane) form of the former president,who resides in Lincoln City, a massive complex from which he rules with an tyrannical iron fist.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Benjamin Franklin's clone was a major character for several early arcs and quite foul-mouthed, until he ran afoul of Mentor Occupational Hazard. When the Zombie Apocalypse happens, McNinja can't bring himself to kill the Zombie Ben Franklin he runs into, until he realizes it's the original Franklin not his deceased mentor the clone.
    • Dr McNinja goes to Dracula's moon base at one point as well, and there runs into Bruce Lee, Elvis Presley, and Hitler, among others. Turns out Dracula has been abducting "outstanding flavors" over the years.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • Futurama loved Abraham Lincoln jokes, to the point that a slightly exasperated Matt Groening brought it up in one commentary. The most famous appearance of Lincoln in Futurama is probably "real holographic simulated Evil Lincoln" who is, apparently "back" baaaaaaaaack!.
    • Futurama also features a plethora of heads preserved in jars, some of dead celebrities or politicians.
  • Two examples from The Simpsons- Mr. Burns never forgave his mother for her affair with President William Howard Taft ("Taft, you old dog, you!") and in another episode, Grandpa Simpson said that as a kid he got spanked by Grover Cleveland on two non consecutive occasions.
    • One of the writers on both The Simpsons and Futurama finds Grover Cleveland's nonconsecutive terms absolutely hilarious for no reason anybody understands.
    • A further example: During one of Bart's daydreams, he imagines himself riding down the river on a raft with Huckleberry Finn. Cue the zoom out showing the whole raft'':
    Bart: Hey Huck, what's L-I-N-C-O-N doing here?
    Huck: I don't know, it's your fantasy.
    Bart: Hey Abe.
    Lincoln: Hi, Bart.
    • While serving aboard PT-109, Abe Simpson learned John F. Kennedy's terrible secret...
    Kennedy: "Ich bin ein Berliner!"
    Abe: "He's a Nazi! Get'im!" (pummeling ensues)

  • In an episode of Dexter's Laboratory, Dexter and Mandark bring the heads on Mt. Rushmore to life. They then pit Lincoln and George Washington against one another.
  • Historical Hilarity is the entire premise of Clone High. Nothing better than a Love Triangle of Abe Lincoln, Joan of Arc, and Cleopatra.
  • In the Adventure Time, pilot, Penn's mind gets transported back in time. And to Mars. Where an Abe Lincoln with a classical halo tells him to believe in himself. It's just that kind of cartoon. Lincoln later appears in an episode of the cartoon proper, where he is revealed to be God Emperor of the Martian people and sacrifices his life to save Jake. He turns (back?) into the Lincoln Memorial statue when he dies.
  • Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force can transform into a shape described as Samurai Lincoln (though he claims it's Wayne Gretzky)
    • In the movie, Lincoln plays a part in the ATHF's backstory.
  • Girl Hitler From The Venture Bros..
    • And Ghost Lincoln from the episode Guess Who's Coming to State Dinner.
    • And, recently, the reincarnation/ghost/clone of actual Hitler in a dog's body.
    • In the episode Escape from the House of Mummies, Part 2 there is a B-story going on that the audience only gets to see parts of, making the appearances of Sigmund Freud, Emperor Caligula, and Edgar Allan Poe come of as very random bits of humor. This trope would also seem to cover flashbacks to earlier events surrounding the ORB and the creation of the Guild of Calamitous Intent which was appartently put together by old rock musicians and is now run by David Bowie.
  • From Family Guy:
    Peter Griffin: Oh yeah? Well everyone said the same thing about Benjamin Disraeli!
    [Flashback Cut to Benjamin Disraeli writing at his desk. He then turns to the audience.]
    Benjamin Disraeli: You don't even know who I am!
  • Also from Family Guy: the conclusion of the episode North by North Quahog takes place atop Mt. Rushmore, and the heads have the following exchange at the end-
    George Washington Head: Hey Jefferson, check it out. Chick getting nailed on my head.
    Thomas Jefferson Head: Sweet. Hey Teddy, pass the word down to Frankenstein over there.
    Abraham Lincoln Head: [sarcastically] Oh ha ha.
  • Giant Stone Abe Lincoln. Who has to be stopped by Giant Stone John Wilkes Booth.
    • Lincoln also appeared in South Park when Kyle was voted the ugliest boy in his class, to explain that even ugly people can achieve great things.
  • Robot Chicken featured a lightsaber duel between George W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln.
  • An episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy has the ghost of Lord Byron following Billy around. Abraham Lincoln also seems to still be alive in this universe too.
  • In an episode of The Weekenders, Tino keeps having dreams about the guys his mom is dating. Invariably, the dreams will end with Captain Dreadnaught about to fight an alien slugbeast, until he notices Martin Van Buren riding a model train through the living room chanting "Down with the cotton gin! Down with the cotton gin!"
  • In the Ralph Bakshi Mighty Mouse episode "Mundane Voyage," Mighty Mouse and Pearl enter the body of the president—who is Abe Lincoln—and rid it of a rogue germ. When Lincoln awakes, he suddenly becomes the host of a Soul Train-type show.

Hiccup HijinksAdded Alliterative AppealHitchhiker Heroes
Death CourseImageSource/Western AnimationAladdin: The Series
Historical Character ConfusionComedy TropesHit Me, Dammit!
Historical Hero UpgradeAlternate History TropesHistorical In-Joke

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