Historical Hilarity

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/adventure_time_lincoln.jpg

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?

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:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime  

     Comic Books  

  • Benjamin Franklin encounters the Kool-Aid Man in this narmy Product as Superhero comic.
  • Suske en Wiske: The cast uses Time Travel a lot, which allows for several gags about historical time periods and characters.
    • In Wattman the cast is in the 17th century and introduced to Louis XIV. When Lambik asks: "Louis the Fourteenth?" Jerom answers: "The other thirteen Louis are probably on vacation."
  • Astérix: There are many gags about the Roman Empire. One, for instance, is Brutus claiming: "I would never betray Caesar!"

     Film  

     Live Action TV  

  • Using this trope for educational purposes is essentially the premise of Horrible Histories.
  • 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 Science 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 Elizabeth I, 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  

  • They Might Be Giants
    • Kansas politician William Allen White's face appears frequently during 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.
    • The band occasionally write tributes to historical figures such as American president James K. Polk and Belgian artist James Ensor.
  • Propaganda, an A&M Records sampler featuring The Police and Joe Jackson, depicts Mao Zedong and some cronies playing a concert in front of a gigantic crowd.

     Video Games  

     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.
    • The head of Richard Nixon becomes a recurring character after being reelected President of Earth.
  • 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.
    • Speaking of Daydreams, "Mountain of Madness" sees Homer and Mr. Burns at each other's throat in the avalanche-buried cabin. After building snowmen, Homer hallucinates a cohort of snowmen behind Burns, dressed as German soldiers from World War I. Then this exchange:
    Homer: (Taken aback by Burns' Hun Snowmen) Uh,...I have powers! Political Powers!
    (Shot from Burns' POV, he hallucinates Homer backed up by a Pharaoh, Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Zedong, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, each brandishing a weapon. Burns recoils in fear)
    Lincoln: (Swinging pocket watch) It's SHOWTIME!
    • 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, Mandark uses his science to turn the head of George Washington from Mt. Rushmore into a stone Humongous Mecha so he can smash Dexter's lab. Dexter retaliates by likewise animating the Lincoln head and they clash...until the two Presidents find common ground in their legendary honesty, stop fighting, and walk off together chatting amicably.
Dexter and Mandark bring the heads on Mt. Rushmore to life. They then pit Lincoln and George Washington against one another.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HistoricalHilarity