Lampshaded the Obscure Reference
"Welcome to Julie Taymor's Playhouse.
[beat] Like five of you got that, but the five of you who got it are gonna be laughing
When a reference or Shout-Out
is made, and it's acknowledged In-Universe
to be obscure.
This isn't done all the time, because references tend to be subtle if they are obscure, so that those that don't get them can just enjoy the show. Doing it once in a while can give the audience a bit of curiosity about the reference, but not slow down the show with them wondering about every one.
of Genius Bonus
Compare Popcultural Osmosis Failure
, Shown Their Work
, Late to the Punchline
Contrast Small Reference Pools
Not to be confused with characters not getting a commonly known thing.
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- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. When two goons appear to accost Harry, one of them introduces himself and his colleague as "Ike, Mike, and Mustard"note . Harry doesn't get it, and even the other goon outright agrees that it's pretty damn obscure, and the two start arguing over it.
- Inverted in The Avengers. Almost all of the modern well-known cultural references are lost on Captain America, who has been frozen since World War II. When someone makes a reference to The Wizard of Oz, he points out that he actually gets that one.
- In the Arrested Development episode "S.O.B.s", Tobias brings up someone named Freddie Wilson while talking, prompting the other characters to say they "don't get that reference". This doubled as an in-joke about how some people thought the show's inability to gain mainstream appeal was caused by its numerous and sometimes obscure jokes about pop-culture and topical references.
- Played with in an episode of The Middleman, where Middleman '69 (who has been in cryonic stasis for the past four decades) makes a Star Trek reference and notes the unlikeliness of Wendy getting it.
- On 30 Rock, Liz tells her writers not to use Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on sketches. "No one knows who Krang is! It would be a waste of time to talk about Krang on television! No more Krang!"
- In the House episode "Perils of Paranoia," House's team doubts that their Patient of the Week was a victim of chlorine gas poisoning. House, however, says that there still might be a toxin involved because "Arceus created a universe with three states of matter and 300 solid or liquid poisons that could cause his symptoms." Puzzled, Taub asks, "Arceus?" House casually replies, "Look it up."
- In Father Ted, Ted makes a reference to the Jeff Bridges movie Fearless. When Dougal remarks that he hasn't seen it, Ted replies, "Not a lot of people have, Dougal, so it's probably a bad reference."
- Mystery Science Theater 3000. The episode Gamera vs. Guiron has what is usually acknowledged as the most obscure joke in the entire show's history. Tom Servo makes a reference to head writer Mike Nelson's recent break-up with his girlfriend (and the fact that she took his computer keyboard when she left):
[A girl runs away from the camera.]
Tom Servo: Look out, Mike, she's got your keyboard!
Tom Servo: Oh, it's obscure.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "New Moon Rising," Buffy threatens to "pull a William Burroughs" on MacNamaranote , earning a lot of blank looks until Xander speculates she intends to "bore him to death with free prose."
Buffy: Was I the only one awake in English that day? I'll kill him.
- Dennis Miller constantly uses obscure pop culture references in his stand-up routine. He occasionally mentions that he's doing so and that many of the people watching won't get them.
- Patton Oswalt also did this after making an H. P. Lovecraft reference.
- Mass Effect 3 - If James talks Shepard into buying some fellow marines a round, the soldiers start a toast based on Robert Burns (that was also used in the videogame Return To Zork). Shepard's half is based on a Renegade Interrupt - hit it, and James admits he wasn't sure they'd know the line.
- Animaniacs did a short where the Warner brothers (and the Warner sister) met Rasputin. They did a pun between "Anastasia" and "anesthesia", and Dot said "Obscure Joke. Ask your parents."
- Family Guy mentioned Benjamin Disraeli in the episode "One If By Clam, Two If By Sea" to set up a Cutaway Gag. It cut to Disraeli working at his desk, when he suddenly glares at the camera and snaps "You don't even know who I am!"
- "Karen Black? What an obscure reference."
- The Batman: The Brave and the Bold series finale had a character from The DCU appear for the first time.
"Ambush Bug? You're a pretty obscure hero, even for this show."
- The Simpsons has done this a few times.
: I was lonelier than Estes Kefauver at a meeting of Murder Incorporated! <beat
> That actually makes sense. Look it up!
- "They Saved Lisa's Brain":
Lisa: [reading Comic Book Guy's shirt] "C:/DOS C:/DOS/RUN RUN/DOS/RUN". [laughs] Oh, only one person in a million would find that funny.
Frink: Yes, we call that the "Dennis Miller Ratio".
- An episode of Robot Chicken spoofed the ending to Sleepaway Camp. At the end of the skit, the director of Sleepaway Camp quickly shows up, ecstatic that someone remembered his movie and decided to spoof it.
- On an episode of The Tick, a hand puppet compared The Tick to Achilles in his tent. When no one, even his ventriloquist, got it he said "The Illiad?" (looks around) "Homer?" (still no reaction) "READ A BOOK!!"
- A joke from Rocky and Bullwinkle:
Bullwinkle: Twenty dollars!? That's antihistamine money!
Rocky: Antihistamine money?
Bullwinkle: Thousands won't!
- In Archer season 1, when superspy Sterling Archer is teaching the admin clerk Cyril Figgus to be an operative like him, he hands him a pistol, identified as a Chekhov Gun, and a pen which is secretly a poison needle, telling him the gun goes off for "basically no reason" and that the protective cap for the pen comes off for "basically no reason," setting up a scene later in which a prostitute is killed when she reaches into the pocket containing the pen. Archer is furious, tells Figgus it's all his fault, at which point Figgus claims that he had thought if anything would go wrong, it'd be the gun, at which point Archer berates him further for trying to employ a facile argument. His housekeeper, Woodhouse, tells him that the reference is "...woefully esoteric, sir."
- In another episode, Archer makes a reference to Bartleby, The Scrivener, and is annoyed when no one else gets it.