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Lampshaded the Obscure Reference
Next time, make a Growlanser 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."
Doug Walker (during his tour of Austria)

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.

A Sub-Trope 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.


In-Universe Examples Only

    open/close all folders 

    Comedy 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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's delighted to be able to point out that he actually got it. In The Winter Soldier it's revealed he has a list of pop cultural things he has to experience, like Star Wars and thai food.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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!"
    • Another instance, this time when Liz is having a fake argument with Dot Com her pretend-boyfriend to make her new roommate move out (It Makes Sense in Context):
      Dot Com: I feel ANGRY! Like Warren Moon must have felt back in 1995!
      Liz: As I have told you many times in our relationship, no one gets that reference.
  • 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!
    Joel: Huh?
    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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Dino Attack RPG, after Rockford grumbled about Dino Attack Team's code being blatant Star Wars references, Mur just remarked that he was glad it wasn't a much more obscure Firefly reference instead, much to Rockford's confusion.
  • Stuart Ashen has a recurring segment in his reviews, "Quincy: a caterpillar that sings obscure Beatles songs".
  • The Spoony Experiment:
    • The Spoony One occasionally succumbs to this:
      Spoony: Actually my first thought was that he kinda looks like Locklear from Betrayal at Krondor... Oh God... I just made a Betrayal at Krondor reference in Two-Thousand-and fucking-Eleven... I don't get out much...
    • He also feels the need to explain to his younger viewers what things like floppy disks and BBS were.
  • Psycomedia does this, often via the use of Venn diagram. Often involving the Star Wars Expanded Universe in one of the host's case.
  • Linkara of Atop the Fourth Wall does this once in a while.
    Linkara: My thanks to the three people who get that joke.
  • In his "review" of The Dark Knight, MikeJ compares the flyover establishing shots in the film to the Disney attraction Soarin' Over California.
    MikeJ: It's like Soarin' Over Gotham! (beat) Little uh, theme park humour for you there so uh, thanks to those three people out there who got that joke. (whispers) You're my favourites!"
  • They Made Me Watch This thanked the 1% of his viewers who got one of his references.
  • Guitar Masterx 7's Master Chief series pulls one in the retard daycare episode, racial stereotype and all.
    Ali Baba: Nobody would be getting a Captain Planet reference!
  • Diamanda Hagan's crossover review of "Zombeak" with Jew Wario has her make a comparison between the goth characters in the movie splitting up with Tarja Turunen leaving the band Nightwish. Jew Wario sums it up in one line:
    Jew Wario: You lost me about five obscure references ago.

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs did a short where the Warner brothers (and the Warner sister) met Rasputin. They did a pun involving "Anastasia" getting mixed up with "anesthesia", and Dot said "Obscure Joke. Ask your parents." (This was years before that Don Bluth film came out.)
  • 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!"
  • The Batman: The Brave and the Bold series finale had a character from The DCU appear for the first time.
    Bat-Mite: Ambush Bug? You're a pretty obscure hero, even for this show.
  • The Simpsons has done this a few times.
    • "In the Name of the Grandfather":
      Grandpa Simpson: 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: Yes. It's not to be sneezed at. Get it? Not to be sneezed at?
    Rocky: I get it.
    Bullwinkle: Thousands won't!
  • Archer:
    • In season 1, when Archer is training Cyril to be a field agent, he gives him a pistol (Chekhov 9mm) and a poison pen, both of which, he warns, go off for "basically no reason". Later, when a prostitute is accidentally killed by the pen, Cyril bemoans that he figured he have to watch out for the Chekhov's Gun. Archer dismisses this as "a facile argument" and Woodhouse chimes in that it's "also woefully esoteric".
    • In another episode, Archer makes a reference to Bartleby, The Scrivener, and is annoyed when no-one else gets it.


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alternative title(s): Admittedly Obscure Reference; Acknowledging The Obscure Reference; Lampshading The Obscure Reference; Lampshade The Obscure Reference
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