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Historical In-Joke

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"Year 33 — The Malkavians claim that their greatest practical joke happens during this year when they perform a bit of graverobbing in Jerusalem."

Happens when a show references a historical event and provides additional information about the event, relating it to the show. This either changes the meaning of the event or shows what really caused it, as opposed to what everyone thinks really happened.

Donald P. Bellisario, the producer/creator of Quantum Leap, called these "kisses with history."

Given the painful lack of research that most writers perform before writing, it should come as no surprise that many Historical In-Jokes are painfully inaccurate anachronisms. Or they may be taken for being fiction by the audience.

The most common variation is that the characters are responsible for some famous bit of damage: Venus de Milo's arms, The Sphinx's nose, etc. Usually, these are shown to occur when the artifacts are new, even if the real damage occurred much later.

Naturally will involve a Historical Domain Character or two.

When this occurs in an Alternate History setting it's a case of Allohistorical Allusion.

Compare It Will Never Catch On, This Is Going to Be Huge. Been There, Shaped History (when a character does a lot of these) and Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act (which frequently inverts this). If the protagonists blunder into a famous event instead of interfering deliberately, this can also be evidence that In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous. For jokes which now need to be explained to be found funny, see Unintentional Period Piece. Naturally, this is a form of In-Joke.

Subtropes include:


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Inuyasha movie, we find out that the storm that thwarted the 1281 Mongol invasion of Japan was caused by a battle between Inuyasha's father and a Chinese demon lord.
  • This is less a joke and more a plot point, but in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, Jack the Ripper was a vampire created by Dio Brando to take out Jonathan, who, with the help of his mentor, destroyed him using the Ripple. Fridge Brilliance kicks in where we find out why Jack the Ripper was never caught or even identified: He was destroyed by Jonathan's Ripple attack before anyone even began to suspect him, and even if they did, they'd never find the remaining pile of ashes.
  • The Lupin III feature film The Castle of Cagliostro briefly features a scene explaining how the title nation's currency counterfeiting was responsible for the 1929 Stockmarket Crash and World War II.
  • The Mysterious Cities of Gold:
  • An omake in Psychic Squad reveals that it was BABEL's director who proposed a day where "girls give presents."
  • As a historical fantasy, Red River (1995) has a lot. Most of it is explanations of who certain people were, or how certain things happened. For example, the death of Prince Zannanza was caused by his scheming stepmother and that the Nefertiti Bust had one eye unfinished because the onyx used was from an earring she gave the artist, and she didn't have the other earring for him to use.
  • Reign: The Conqueror puts its own spins on the legendary exploits of Alexander, including cutting the Gordian Knot (so he can recruit a talented physician) and Diogenes asking Alexander to stop blocking his sunlight (which helped persuade him to not burn Athens to the ground).
  • The Rose of Versailles is filled with these, both as obvious as Oscar leading the mass desertion and mutiny of a grenadier company of the French Guards to Pierre-Augustin Hulin (the historical character on which Oscar is loosely based) being one of her soldiers and, after the Guards' mutiny, her de-facto second in command.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, the murder of Japanese minister of the interior Okubo Toshimichi in 1878 is retconned to have been executed by fictional character Seta Sojiro, rather than a group of sympathizers of Takamori Saigo. They just show up and take credit for it.

    Audio Plays 
  • In the Doctor Who audio play The Curse of Davros, Davros allies with Napoleon during the Battle of Waterloo with the intention of changing the history of mankind to later exchange his mind with that of a Dalek. Fortunately, the Sixth Doctor warns him and he loses the battle on purpose.

    Comic Books 
  • Angel, the Buffy ally. A black and white tie-in comic had the World War I-era Angel deciding that vampire reports from Europe needed looking into. He stabbed a lot of vampires, saving some Germans from being eaten/turned. One of them, of course, had his entire worldview altered. Corporal Hitler went back to the front lines a changed man. Oops.
  • Done a lot in the French comic Asterix. To name just a few examples:
    • In Asterix Meets Cleopatra, Obelix is revealed to be responsible for The Sphinx's missing nose.
    • In Asterix in Britain, Asterix introduces tea to the British and Obelix suggests introducing rugby to the folks back in Gaul (rugby is quite popular in several European countries, including both France and Great Britain). One of the Britons mentions that they've started digging a tunnel between Gaul and Britain, "but it looks like taking a jolly long time, what!" This pun was even funnier when the comic came out in 1966 because the tunnel had been planned for decades at that point but construction always was delayed in the last moment. Back then it seemed as if it would never occur at all.
    • In Asterix in Spain, when Asterix and Obelix ask if Unhygienix the fishmonger will rent his fishing boat to them, he mentions in passing that he'll take his payment in menhirs (stone monoliths), as he's looking to develop some land he owns in Britain (which a footnote explains is on Salisbury Plain, i.e. the location of Stonehenge). The original French version of this same book used Carnac instead of Stonehenge, a French town in the southern coast of Brittany, home to another big megalithic site.
      • Later in the book, Asterix accidentally invents bullfighting when he gets captured by the Romans and, instead of being thrown to the lions, is forced to fight a wild aurochs (a sort of now-extinct bull). Which might not sound very terrible, unless you know aurochs were twice the size of modern bovines. Kind of like having to fight a tank made of meat.
    • A Running Gag in Asterix And The Chieftain's Shield is whenever someone mentions Alesia (the last stand of the Gauls) to a Gaul, said Gaul will respond (usually enraged) that "I don't know where Alesia is! No one knows where Alesia is!" This is a reference to archeologists' then current doubts about the city's location.
      • Could also be a reference to the way people don't like to remember defeats and other shameful episodes, often to the point of denial (in fact after yet another enraged rant, a footnote claims said denial is the cause of the aforementioned doubts about Alesia's location). It is probably not irrelevant that the story is set in the part of France that includes the little spa town of Vichy.
      • Also in that album, they visit the town that is now Clermont-Ferrand to see a former Roman Legionary who owns a wagon-wheel manufacturing firm (Clermont-Ferrand is home to the Michelin tyre company). In the city they see a big statue of Caesar standing at the exact spot where today stands a big statue of Vercingetorix, so French readers know who turned out to be the moral victor in the end!
    • In Asterix in Corsica, the Corsican leader tells Caesar that Corsicans will never accept being part of an Empire unless it was ruled by one of their own.
    • In The Big Fight, Asterix and Obelix visit the druid Psychoanalytix, who specialises in diseases of the mind. The nurse is telling them about the patients as they go along, with the last one standing in the classic Napoleon pose. The nurse says "No one knows who this man thinks he is."
    • Caesar is oblivious to Brutus' treacherous nature through the series. One memorable scene has a furious Brutus draw his sword and Caesar telling him to sheath it before he hurts someone. In another scene, Caesar, enjoying the adulation of the crowds, orders Brutus to join in the applause with the words: "Et tu, Brute."
    • In the animated film Asterix Versus Caesar, Obelix is distracted by Panacea and accidentally bumps into a pillar at the Rome Colosseum, causing a segment of it to collapse.
    • Caesar's characterisation is based on the books about himself he wrote when he was alive, especially his Commentaries on the Gallic War. For instance, he is always a Third-Person Person when bragging about his accomplishments, as he wrote the books in the third person. Some of his more Bunny-Ears Lawyer traits in the comics are strongly implied by his own text.
  • In one Batman Elseworlds title set in the Old West, ("Batman: The Blue, the Grey, and the Bat"), Batman is an agent of Abraham Lincoln who repeatedly asks Lincoln if he can come back to Washington, as he has reservations regarding the President's security precautions...
  • Black Dynamite:
    • Black Dynamite fears that if the Illuminati takes over computer manufacturing, they'll put computers with tracking devices in the pocket of every man, woman, and child on the globe.
    • Paul "the Pole" Monroe is killed by an explosion from a (seemingly) defective 1972 Ford Pinto. Later, a newspaper can be seen with the headline "PINTO STILL A GOOD BARGAIN."
    • The future that Black Dynamite envisions caused by Paul Monroe's shoes parallels what does happen with Nike Air Jordans: namely, them being the subjects of fights, robberies, muggings, and murders throughout the black community.
  • A Dark Horse comic involved the Hindenburg, Doc Savage, and Prof. Reinstein (the inventor) of Captain America's super-soldier formula.
  • Dilbert has the character of The Big Topper, a man who butts in on conversations and pretends like he did bigger and better things. Usually, his boastings include him introducing things to famous people. Dilbert calls him out on it once. The response?
    Gandhi said that too, and I said: "I'm not eating until you take that back!"
  • Alan Moore's first D.R. & Quinch comic strip for 2000 AD is almost entirely based on this trope.
  • In East of West, the meteor strike at Armistice lines up with the Tunguska strike. One character even notes that it felt like it was supposed to land elsewhere.
  • Want to know how Amelia Earhart disappeared? According to Empowered, Imperial Pimpotron Alpha abducted her for a cosmic emperor's harem.
  • Ex Machina: In 2004, NYC mayor Mitchell Hundred's staff member quips that Elliot Spitzer is a shoo-in to be the next New York governor unless he's "caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy," an old political joke. At the time of the comic's writing, Spitzer had already been elected to the post and resigned amid a sex scandal (with live girls).
  • Hellblazer does this with John Constantine's ancestors, usually Johanna Constantine. One ancestor disrupted the dream that became "Kublai Khan" because Angels are describing how awesome Heaven is, which isn't kosher.
  • The Heroes graphic novels had Mindy Sprague accidentally causing the 1978 blizzard over the Northeastern United States in an attempt to avert a meltdown at Three Mile Island.
    • Also, apparently Benjamin Franklin survived his kite experiment because he had electrical superpowers.
    • And the Egyptians apparently used superpowers to build the Pyramids.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has quite a few of these, although most connect events in several other works of fiction — several of those are analogues for real-world events, like WW2 and Jack the Ripper murders. One of the funniest examples might be Orlando having posed for Leonardo Da Vinci — while changing her sex.
  • Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck features quite a few historical in-jokes. Apparently, during his rise to fame and fortune, Scrooge has met such personalities as Wyatt Earp, Theodore Roosevelt, and P.T. Barnum. And, as Rosa explains in the collected edition, all of the scenarios are somewhat plausible, as the people in question were, more or less, where Rosa has them. (All except Geronimo, that is. Rosa just handwaved that it would be just like Geronimo to sneak out of a reservation for a while without anyone noticing.) He prides himself on his research.
  • Lucky Luke has been involved in pretty much every major event in the history of The Wild West.
  • Marvel has revealed, among other things, that the San Francisco earthquake was caused by a time-traveling X-Club; Hitler's rise to power was backed by a cabal of sorcerers in an attempt to summon Dormammu, who had previously caused the Great Fire of London in battle with the Ancient One; the Hindenburg crashed in an attempt to prevent the unleashing of demonic entities onto Earth; Hitler was killed by the Human Torch when he tried to blow up Berlin; and Deep Throat was really the alien who crashed at Roswell.
    • This can cause problems as some events are explained in obscure stories leading to multiple explanations - the Salem Witch trials, for example, have been explained to have been due to the influence of Dracula, the influence of an ancient sorcerer who wanted to feed on the victims, a manipulative time traveler and many genuine witches (both good and evil).
  • In Marvel Generations, The Mighty Thor goes to ancient Egypt and fights Apocalypse; after his victory, he took the nose of their ridiculous lion-man as a trophy.
  • Papyrus: In the animated adaptation of "The Dark Sun of Set", Ames has reigned for three years since Papyrus and Theti have gone missing. Three years was the reign length of Amenmesse, as Ames was historically called.
  • This trope is also featured in the Predator comics, after it was already implied in the movies that these Sufficiently Advanced Aliens had been visiting Earth for a veeeery long time.
  • The Sandman (1989) has several, though "jokes" may not be the correct description. For a prominent example, William Shakespeare's talent comes as a result of a proto-Deal with the Devil with Morpheus (he gets his talent, but Morpheus essentially becomes his patron in return).
    • There's also a very meta-example. Wesley Dodds (the original Sandman in comics) was inspired by Morpheus through his dreams.
    • The Arabian Nights as Morpheus' deal with Harun al-Rashid, anyone?
  • Archie Comics' run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles revealed that Hitler killed himself because of the time-travelling Turtles spooking the hell out of him.
  • Transformers: Hearts of Steel has Tobias Muldoon, a young engineer, demonstrate his new invention, a 'sub-marine', to an audience that includes Jules Verne. In-story, this happens a couple of years before Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.
  • In-Universe example with Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Every major event in Megatron's life, from his birth to the start of Cybertrons Forever War, turns out to have been caused by time-traveling Autobots as they chased after a time-traveling Brainstorm who was trying to kill Megatron before he was born.
  • In Two for the Death of One, Superman gets dragged to the 14th century and later smashed into the Sphinx's face during a battle, which makes him responsible for its missing nose.
  • The Ultimates had a whole storyline about a race of aliens called the Chitauri who, as Nick Fury revealed, were the real Nazis trying to take over the world to subvert the people of Earth to their will if not for the actions of Captain America. They end up coming back to try again in the present day by infiltrating SHIELD, led by the very same Herr Kleiser who tormented the Allies in the past, which eventually leads to the resurrected Cap yelling the now famous quote, "Surrender?! You think this "A" on my head stands for FRANCE?"
  • One Wallace & Gromit comic had the duo traveling through time to find Wallace's missing slipper. At one point, Wallace attempts to prevent primitive roller-skates from causing too much havoc by providing a far more angular design to his caveman counterpart, Ug-Wallace, who proceeds to get the design completely wrong and invent Stonehenge.

    Fan Works 
  • The Parody Fic Captain Proton and the Planet of Lesbians opens with Proton being congratulated by the President of Earth for restoring the reputation of his illustrious predecessor George W. Bush.
    "To think that the infamous dictator Saddam Hussein tried to hide his weapons of mass destruction by sending them forwards in time, where his evil descendants could use them to conquer our now peaceful planet."
  • In Code Geass: The Prepared Rebellion, Urabe compares Zero's oratory with that of an EU demagogue who would've taken over an entire member state if there weren't safeguards in place to stop him. It's implied that this demagogue was either Vladimir Lenin, Benito Mussolini, or Adolf Hitler.
  • In the first chapter of Different Tales, Different Lessons, it's mentioned that Mr. Ping discovered that he can use little boxes to keep food fresh and makes it so that customers can take their food home (i.e., Chinese take-out). Tigress thinks It Will Never Catch On.
  • In Farce of the Three Kingdoms, the offscreen events of Real Concubines of Wu are real. That includes Sun Quan piling up dirt in front of Zhang Zhao's front door.
  • In Northumbrian's Harry Potter fanfic Research and Development, which is set in 2000, George and Ron invent a magical cell phone, inspired by Hermione's new Muggle cell phone. Their first prototype turns out to be quite similar to Hermione's phone, but Ginny thinks it's impractical, so Ron and George try to improve it. Their fifth prototype looks like a pocket mirror and is "about two-and-a-half inches wide, four-and-a-half long and no more than one-third of an inch thick." The mirror is "set into this solid block of wood." The corners are "smoothly rounded." You operate the phone by touching the mirror. Hermione complains that it doesn't look like a cell phone because it lacks buttons and it is "too thin, too long and too wide." Ginny says that "perhaps in ten years Muggle phones will look like this."
  • Triptych Continuum: From Trav(ap)est(r)y. Cluster quotes an ancient tract from Prance's original ambassador on how all future replacements should deal with Celestia: "You must always remember that the Princess is about seventeen." It's a reference to Sir Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice, who once noted that when it came to Theodore Roosevelt, one always had to remember that the President was about six.
  • An unusual example in The Writing on the Wall: the alleged Ancient Tomb that Daring Do is exploring is actually a proposal for a real building which hasn't been constructed yet. The Reveal of the true nature of the building changes the story from an Adventurer Archaeologist adventure to a horror story. Includes a modified and retranslated version of the warning proposed to grace the inside of the building:
    This is not a place of honor. No great deed is commemorated here. Nothing of value is here.
  • Zero no Tsukaima: Saito the Onmyoji implies that the Mongol invasions of Japan were foiled by large groups of Onmyoji joining together to create typhoons that wrecked their fleets.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • AVP: Alien vs. Predator: the Predators are the ones who taught the earliest human civilizations to build pyramids and temples, and in turn, the humans would offer human sacrifices to give birth to new xenomorphs for the Predators to hunt. When the hunt goes wrong the Predators blow themselves up and everything in a hundred-mile radius to prevent the xenomorphs from spreading, which explains how older civilizations disappeared.
  • Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part III show the "real" origin of rock-and-roll music, skateboarding, and Frisbee discs.
  • Dick explains the identity of the mysterious "Deep Throat" (the movie was made years before it was revealed in Real Life to be someone else), and the 18-minute gap in Richard Nixon's private tapes.
  • In Elf, an actual Macy's store was digitally altered to become a Gimbels. In Real Life, Macy's and Gimbels were longtime rivals, with Macy's ultimately buying them out in 1986.
  • Recurring joke in Forrest Gump (as Forrest inadvertently invents jogging and the smiley face, teaches Elvis to dance, etc.). The DVD includes a deleted scene of Forrest playing fetch with those nice police doggies playing with Mr. King and his sign-carrying friends.
  • Gettysburg
    • Shortly before the Little Round Top sequence, there is a brief, dialogue-free shot of a general and his staff surveying the grounds. The general is Gouverner Warren, who was credited with recognizing the tactical importance of Little Round Top and placing troops there. The actor is adopting the same pose as the statue that commemorates this (and is in fact standing between it and the camera).
    • The shot of a dead Confederate being dragged off at the feet of General Webb, who has a handful of swords from surrendered officers. The dead man is placed at a particular spot—the High Water Mark of the Confederacy, which is the furthest that the rebels got during Pickett's charge, which is in turn the farthest north they invaded.
  • The Godfather Part III RetCons the death of Pope John Paul I and the murder of the Vatican's chief banker into part of a Mafia vs. Vatican conspiracy. Assuming they weren't in the first place.
  • Godzilla (2014): The various nuclear tests conducted in the Pacific Proving Grounds during The '50s. It's revealed that rather than testing atomic weaponry for potential use against other nations, the real objective was to try and kill Godzilla with increasingly more powerful bombs.
  • In The Hudsucker Proxy, Tim Robbins supposedly invents the Hula Hoop and Frisbee. Presumably, the elevator boy eventually made good with his bendy-straw idea.
  • There are a few in A Knight's Tale, mostly centered around the fact that Geoffry Chaucer is a member of the group. At one point, Chaucer falls into the debt of and is humiliated by two men, who are identified as a pardoner and a summoner. He tells them "I will eviscerate you in fiction. Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day; you will be naked for eternity." The Pardoner and the Summoner are the most disgusting characters in The Canterbury Tales. At the end of the movie, Chaucer comments that he wants to write everything down, implying that the plot served as inspiration for The Canterbury Tales. Finally, Word of God is that the movie was deliberately set up to take place during a period of time when Chaucer really did go missing in real life, suggesting that the events in the film were adventures he might have had during that time.
  • Love Actually has a meta-example in that several characters make disparaging remarks about Martine McCutcheon's character's weight, while her love interest completely fails to understand why. At the time of filming, calling Martine McCutcheon fat was prime tabloid fodder, and nobody understood why; while it is true that she had gained some weight at the time, she was never bigger than she is in the film, and her shape there is at worst pleasantly curvy.
  • The Mask: In a deleted scene, Leif Erikson sailed to America not out of any desire to find new lands, but just to get rid of the mask. When pressed by his colleagues to name the new world, he said, "Leave that to the Italians. This land is now cursed."
  • Men in Black: The franchise runs on them.
    • The depletion of the ozone layer was caused by aliens siphoning it off to sell on the galactic black market. The well-propagated vicious rumors that fluorocarbons dissolve the ozone layer are just Plausible Deniability.
    • The great New York City blackout of 1977 was the result of a practical joke by an alien ambassador known as "the Great Attractor" when he released a Hyper-Destructive Bouncing Ball. He thought it was funny as hell.
    • MIB also shows that many of the famous celebrities and historical figures are/were aliens. Late in the movie, Agent K outright states that Elvis Presley's mysterious death was really him just returning to his own world. There's also a screen showing numerous celebrities that are really aliens, like Sylvester Stallone, Danny DeVito, Michael Jackson, Oprah and Dennis Rodman (although that wasn't much of a disguise). Two are Self-Deprecation: producer Steven Spielberg and director Barry Sonnenfeld. In 3 Andy Warhol is an undercover MIB agent who's so low on ideas on his art that he's painting soup cans and bananas as part of his cover.
  • In Oscar, mob boss Angelo Provolone asks his accountant Little Anthony why he doesn't remember something, to which Anthony replies, "You were in Chicago. It was St. Valentines Day?"
  • Plymouth Adventure takes two things that were probably accidents and portrays them as deliberate:
    • History records that it was an accident that the Mayflower ended up in New England instead of Virginia. In the film, the Virginia Company is portrayed giving Captain Jones secret orders to take the Pilgrims to New England, as a kind of backdoor to setting up a colony there.
    • Dorothy Bradford really did die after falling overboard, but this was probably an accident. In the film, it's implied to be suicide, the result of a fictional affair she had been sorta having with Captain Jones. This scenario was not invented by the film itself, by the way, but by a Harper's Weekly story from 1869.
  • In The Rocketeer, the Hollywoodland sign was shortened to Hollywood after the primary antagonist Neville Sinclair crashes into the 'LAND' portion of the famous sign.
  • Shakespeare in Love is another movie that lives and breathes this trope. It's subverted when Christopher Marlowe is killed in suspicious circumstances as he was real life, and the implication is that he was murdered because Shakespeare used his name as a pseudonym to Wessex. Then Shakespeare learns in relief that Marlowe's death was a coincidence, and had nothing to do with the plot.
  • Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights both had this. The end of the first movie revealed that Roy O'Bannon's real name was Wyatt Earp (a famous Western lawman from the 19th century). The second film was loaded with the things, from Roy's defense of losing Chon's money investing in dead-end airship research ("Chon, you're lucky I didn't invest in that ridiculous 'auto-mobile' idea.") to the appearance of a (very) young Charlie Chaplin. The Scotland Yard detective accompanying O'Bannon and Chon turns out to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We also learn why Jack the Ripper stopped killing.
  • Space Jam's evil aliens don't steal Michael Jordan's talent at basketball because he had temporarily retired from basketball at the time and was playing baseball instead. At the end of the movie, Michael Jordan goes back to playing professional basketball as a result of playing basketball with the Looney Tunes.
  • No direct changes, but in Time Bandits, the Mona Lisa is unintentionally transferred from Napoleon to Robin Hood (and possibly to before it was painted).
  • Rose, in Titanic (1997), is fascinated by the paintings of Picasso and purchases several while in Europe, despite her fiance Cal's assertion that they'll never be worth anything.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon implies that the real purpose of the Apollo 11 moon landings was to investigate Decepticon wreckage on the Moon. Also the Chernobyl disaster was the result of the Soviets attempting to reverse engineer Cybertronian tech.
  • A scene from Walk Hard implies that Dewey invented Punk music.
    • In addition, a Deleted Scene implies that he also invented grunge music.
    • Dewey becomes addicted to LSD in the late '60s and goes insane trying to record an absurdly complex concept album. This is a reference to Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, who went through a serious mental decline while recording the LSD-influenced Pet Sounds and Smile albums.
  • From Walk the Line: When Johnny Cash wakes up on the tour bus, he walks past a passed out Luther Perkins (his guitarist) with a lit cigarette in his mouth and he casually put it out. Luther Perkins died months after the At Folsom Prison recording/performance when he fell asleep in his Tennessee home with a lit cigarette in his mouth and died from injuries sustained in the resulting fire.
  • Watchmen involves the introduction of masked avengers into a "normal" Earth, and quite a lot of these result — amongst them, JFK's assassination is shown to be performed by The Comedian (unlike in the original comic, where it was only implied). Nite Owl punches out a mugger in front of a young Bruce Wayne and his parents. Silhouette and her lesbian lover enact the VJ Day Parade embrace photo. Nite Owl II meets Andy Warhol who has made a painting of him. Ozymandias is greeted by Mick Jagger and David Bowie outside Studio 54. More obscurely, the movie also shows Neil Armstrong saying, "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky!".
  • In the 1931 film Waterloo Bridge, the setting is around 1917. The characters joke about Americans, and the idea of prohibition. They laugh and say it never will happen. Well, guess what was still ravaging on in America in 1931?
  • X-Men Film Series
    • In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Wolverine and Sabretooth fight Weapon XI atop the cooling tower at Three Mile Island, destroying it in the process.
    • In X-Men: First Class, we see that the Cuban Missile Crisis was apparently set up by the Hellfire Club, who bullied the Russians and Americans into that position.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past:
      • Nixon is shown deactivating a tape recorder prior to his discussion with Trask, both referencing the recording system that would eventually lead to his downfall and providing an explanation for those recordings missing 18 minutes.
      • Magneto is held prisoner deep inside the Pentagon due to his involvement in JFK's assassination ("What else explains a bullet miraculously curving through the air?") When he's busted out he claims that he was actually trying to save JFK since the latter was also a mutant. The film gives no reason to suspect he was lying.
  • Young Einstein starring Yahoo Serious is basically a 91-minute long collection of historical in-jokes, although the end result is not quite an elaborated version of history as we know it. Albert Einstein is from Tasmania, invents foamy beer by splitting the beer atom and ends up romantically with Marie Curie... oh, and he also comes up with Rock & Roll.
  • Zoolander is informed by a former hand model how national affairs have been controlled for ages by the fashion industry, showing the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations being carried out by male-model hit men.

  • The entire 1632 series is full of these.
    • One of the more brutally ironic ones comes in 1635: The Dreeson Incident. Don Francisco Nasi (a Jew) names the ruthless purge of all organized anti-Semitic and witch-hunting activity in the USE "Operation Kristallnacht."
    • The Kremlin Games deals with an up-timer hired by the Russian royal family to help modernize the nation. Among other things, he insists on designating the newly designed rifles the AK series. By the end of the book the most high-tech model available is a modified version of the fourth production series designated the AK 4.7
  • Animorphs:
    • Erek is more than five thousand years old, was Franklin D. Roosevelt's butler, and apparently coined the phrase "New Deal" during a card game. Going back even further, he personally helped build the pyramids (No, he did not design them, he helped carry bricks) and then cut Catherine the Great's hair several centuries later.
    • Broccoli tastes bad to humans because it was brought to Earth by alien colonizers during the time of the dinosaurs. These aliens were then wiped out by the impact that killed off the dinosaurs, which was brought down by refugees of another race that had lost a war to the first mentioned race. A handful of survivors from one of those alien races apparently evolved into ants.
    • Elfangor (an alien in human form) was once friends with two guys named Bill and Steve, to whom he explained computers. They were unable to grasp the more complex concepts, so he had to simplify matters and explain it to Bill with the term "Windows."
    • Also, Mr. King was the one who suggested heat to Pasteur as a means to kill bacteria. Also, remember that painting of Washington crossing the Delaware? The kids go back in time and find out the river and the night were freezing. So not only did the kids see first-hand that Washington never posed like that, they directly state that if he posed like that in the middle of the night on the front of a boat crossing an ice-cold river, his soldiers would have thought he was a loon.
  • The Areas of My Expertise, by John Hodgman, is filled to the brim with them. Its sequel, More Information Than You Require, has one on every page.
  • Jonathan Stroud's The Bartimaeus Trilogy is filled with this, mostly in footnotes, where the titular demon often refers to his previous masters, most of them being real famous (along with a few more obscure) historical figures.
  • Umberto Eco's Baudolino, being a historical novel about an influential liar, is full of these. Among other things, it gives an alternate explanation for the death of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and reveals the "true" origin of the works of the Archpoet and the letter of Prester John, as well as the correspondence attributed to Abelard and Heloise, the inspiration for Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival and Robert de Boron's Merlin and Joseph d'Arimathe, the founding of Alessandria and its salvation from Barbarossa's wrath and the assassination of Emperor Alexios II Komnenos of Byzantium.
  • In Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock, a man goes back in time in an attempt to meet Jesus. However, he finds that Jesus' life is a total myth. He then takes it upon himself to become Jesus, preaching the teachings he learned in the future until he is finally crucified by the Romans.
  • The finale of Bride of the Rat God is the cause of the 1924 Lick Pier fire.
  • In the sixth book of The Dark Tower, the protagonists are trying to get rid of Black Thirteen, a cosmic artifact that continually brings bad luck and catastrophe to whoever holds it. As part of a plot necessity, they travel to New York City in 1999 and get a brilliant idea to stash the trouble-making object in a storage locker under the World Trade Center towers. As they leave the scene, Jake looks up at the towers, and wonders idly whether the object might be destroyed if say, the towers just happened to crumble on top of it somehow. It's further intimated that due to its evil nature, the presence of Black Thirteen may have caused the WTC attacks.
  • The Dead Zone protagonist and psychic Johnny Smith makes a habit of shaking the hand of various politicians. When he meets Jimmy Carter, he flashes on the fact that Carter will become President.
    • The book was published just a little too early, however, for him to have a similar reaction when he shakes the hand of Ronald Reagan. The book excuses missing any such future developments by saying that for many of the politicians, shaking hands has become so routine as to become meaningless, thus preventing Johnny from getting much of a read on them.
  • In Dinotopia, escapees from the island formed the Egyptian civilization, and it's suggested that Poseidos was the source of both the Atlantis myth and the sea-god's name.
  • Diogenes Club series:
    • In "Clubland Heroes", an English superhero team in the early 20th century set up their base outside a small village, where there's nothing much around and they're safe from prying eyes. The narration goes out of its way to emphasize how insignificant this village is and how no traveller ever has a reason to go there. At the end of the story, after the team disbands, the base is claimed by the government and turned into a military airfield. The village is Heathrow, and the airfield is the one that in real life evolved into London Heathrow Airport, England's premier international airport and one of the busiest travel hubs in the world.
    • In "Cold Snap", the 1971 bomb explosion at the London GPO Tower, which in real life was claimed by at least two different terrorist groups and never definitively pinned on anybody, was actually part of a battle between the vigilante Dr. Shade and a criminal gang who planned to hijack the Tower and turn it into a transmitter of mind-control rays.
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams ties together the origins of life on earth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic poem Kubla Khan, the extinction of the dodo and dozens of other epochal or trivial events into an excellent approximation of a coherent plot. It also explains how a couch can get impossibly stuck in a stairwell!
  • Dracula: The Un-DeadJack the Ripper is actually Countess Elizabeth Bathory.
  • Several times in The Dresden Files. Most notably, the White Court of vampires had Dracula written as an all-purpose how-to guide for killing the rival Black Court, a godlike necromancer named Kemmler was responsible for World War I, and Ebenezar McCoy caused Krakatoa and The Tunguska Event. There's plenty of others, though— for instance, Bob's offhand mention of the last time a loup-garou got loose.
    • The last time prior to the series that lead Denarian Nicodemus and his rival Tessa teamed up, the result was the Black Death.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series, two mages discuss some magical Noodle Incident which will probably make Loch Ness infamous. On the darker side, in another novel an evil Earth Master engineers and sends out the flu strain of 1918 in order to prolong the War. Then there was backlash after that earthquake when the Fire Master was killed in California... Throw a stone, you'll catch one such reference in the books.
  • Stanley K. in The Enchantment Emporium is thought to have set off the 1970s Oil Crisis as a side effect of trying to amass power in Syria around that time.
  • The novel series about Erast Fandorin revels in Historical In Jokes. What caused the rapid scientific advancement of late 19th century? A secret society of Well-Intentioned Extremists. Why did the Siege of Pleven take place? The machinations of a clever Turkish spy. Who murdered General Skobelev? A hitman hired by the government. Who was Jack the Ripper really, and why did his London murder spree end? He was a Russian med student, and he went back home. Who was behind the Khodynka Tragedy? A criminal mastermind who kidnapped a Romanov prince.
  • This is half the attraction of Flashman, which views the Victorian Age from its seedy underbelly.
  • In Avram Davidson's Full Chicken Richness, a time travelling cook kills off the dodo to use in his soup. (In Real Life, according to the sailors who discovered them, dodos tasted terrible.)
  • in the Harry Potter universe, there is debate among the wizarding community whether if The Great Fire of London began in the bakery or in the basement of the house next door, where legend has it a young Welsh Green dragon was being kept.
  • The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan:
    • The American Civil War (1861-1865) was at least partially a war between Roman half-bloods and Greek half-bloods. (You should see Hazel's reaction when she finds out the Romans were in the Confederate side).
    • The last child of Hephaestus that could create fire before Leo was Thomas Faynor, who may or may not have started the Great Fire of London in 1666.
    • Frank's ancestor was blamed for the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, though it turns out he didn't do it.
    • Jack London was a son of Mercury whose Wolf House burned down because it was built on sacred ground.
    • Inc. was apparently founded or taken over by actual Amazon warriors and used to ship goods to Amazons worldwide.
    • Johnny Weissmuller, US National Championship and Olympian (the sport version) swimmer, was apparently a merman trained by the ichthyocentaurs.
  • Hornblower and the Hotspur has the Hotspur drop anchor in the neutral Spanish port of Cadiz, near an American frigate, the USS Constitution. The narration mentions in passing that the ship's captain, Commodore Preble, is the latest in a long series of American officers tasked with fighting a war against Tripoli. Historically, Preble is famous for successfully drawing the First Barbary War to a conclusion after besieging and shelling the city.
    • Flying Colours also has Hornblower see another American ship and speculate that the Americans are going to be drawn into the Napoleonic conflict sooner or later. He's just not sure if they'll fight France or have another go at England.
  • In The Hour of the Donkey by Anthony Price, the Germans' slow response to the Dunkirk evacuation is explained as being the result of a convoluted British false flag operation.
  • The sequel of I, Claudius, Claudius the God, features the Emperor Claudius' lifelong friend, King Herod Agrippa of Judea, the grandson of Herod the Great. Herod Agrippa sends Claudius a letter warning him about a cult that believed that the now-deceased Joshua ben Joseph was the Messiah and asking for permission to do something about their current leader, Simon-called-Peter. Claudius barely cares. Interestingly, the book has Herod Agrippa meeting the same fate that both Josephus and the New Testament's Book of Acts gives him, being eaten alive from the inside by worms after proclaiming himself a god, which feels a bit out of place in the realism the rest of the novel promotes.
  • Many in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Just a few:
  • Grim Tuesday, the second book of Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series, reveals that The Great Depression was caused by Grim Tuesday's greedy meddling. This also counts as Parental Bonus as it's not outright stated and most of the 9-12-year-old kids that the books are marketed towards probably wouldn't know enough to make the connection.
  • YA novel Kruistocht In Spijkerbroek (Crusade in Jeans) by Thea Beckman has a number of these. Most notably, the time-travelling hero meets a medieval guy named Leonardo da Pisa, who becomes his best friend during the story. He teaches Leonardo modern math. The guy turns out to be Fibonacci.
  • Older Than Radio: Victor Hugo loved these. Les Misérables and Ninety-Three have so many that it is necessary to take several encyclopedias out of the library and maybe a history and mythology degree in order to know what he is talking about sometimes.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Message": The beach of northern Africa may have been the first time someone left the etching Kilroy Was Here. This story claims George Kilroy was a time-traveller collecting original research for an academic paper, and responsible for creating the Memetic Mutation.
  • In Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis, the third book in The Milkweed Triptych, the Germans' slow response to the Dunkirk evacuation is due to Gretel giving the generals really bad advice (after having already established her precognitive abilities to them, so they'll take her seriously). The first two books in the trilogy show what happens if she gives them good advice instead: The End of the World as We Know It occurs sometime in the 1960s.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Croup and Vandemar were responsible for burning Troy and spreading the Black Death. It is also hinted that they were the men who crucified Jesus.
  • Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov's The Norby Chronicles:
    • Norby and the Queen's Necklace:
      • Due to Accidental Time Travel, the protagonists are now at least somewhat to blame for "The Diamond Necklace Affair," because Albany took the real necklace when she time-travelled away from the jewelers' shop. This created an Alternate Timeline where The French Revolution was a peaceful affair, with the Queen being deported instead of beheaded, and her son becoming a constitutional monarch.
      • Jeff finds himself present on the streets of Paris during the original Bastille Day, and has to escape the crowd so that Norby can find him and take him back to Fargo and the others.
    • Norby Finds a Villain: In chapter four, Norby and Jeff are bouncing through time to find a place where Jeff can rest and eat for awhile before going back to when they're fighting Ing. The last place Norby tries is the kitchen of the RMS Titanic, on the day it sank.
  • In the first Percy Jackson and the Olympians novel - The Lightning Thief - when Grover is explaining to Percy about demi-gods, he mentions some famous demigods who successfully ventured to the Underworld and returned.
    Grover: ...Orpheus, Hercules, Houdini...
    • There are more Historical In Jokes like this in the series since one of the plot points is that the Big Three (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades) are not supposed to have any more half-mortal children, because the powers of their children keep leading to history being screwed up. World War II is mentioned as a battle between the children of Zeus and Poseidon, against the children of Hades.
  • The Squire's Tales has Geoffrey of Monmouth as a scholar at King Arthur's court.
  • The two-part Star Trek novel The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh is an attempt to reconcile real-world history with the fact that, in the Star Trek timeline, the Eugenics Wars occurred in the 1990s.
  • Lampshaded in Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers (1844). John Felton is so seduced by a captive Milady De Winter that not only does he set her free but also goes as far as assassinating her captor, George Villiers, the First Duke of Buckingham. Felton did, indeed, assassinate the Duke, but more likely for political reasons, probably due to discontent regarding the state of the English navy.
  • This is the entire premise of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, extended to all fictional events from written literature as well. In The Eyre Affair, for example, it is established early on that that universe's Jane Eyre ends differently from how it does in real life. Toward the end of the book, however, Thursday goes into the novel in order to put things back to normal... but, in her effort to catch Jane Eyre's attention without becoming mentioned in the first-person narrative, she ends up becoming the mysterious disembodied voice that is an integral part of real world Jane Eyre.
  • Sasquatch, a 1998 novel by Roland Smith, features a character named Buckley Johnson, who eventually admits he is D. B. Cooper (who hijacked a Boeing 727 in November of 1971 and demanded a ransom of 200,000 dollars) to the novel's protagonist, a boy named Dylan Hickock. Sadly, after jumping out of the plane with the ransom money, Johnson broke his leg when he landed, and so was unable to use his ill-gotten gain for its intended purpose: paying for cancer treatments for his son, who died before his father could return home.
  • Several at the end of the Tide Lords series. For example Cayal was Jesus, Crystal skulls were made to hide the key, and the asteroid belt is the leftover remains of Amyrantha.
  • In The Troy Saga, Odysseus is a co-founder of the settlement that will eventually become the city of Rome, known as the Seven Hills Settlement in the series. All the more amusing as the Romans hated Odysseus (known to Ulysses as them in Latin) for his role in destroying Troy as they considered themselves to the descendants of surviving Trojans.
  • Brazilian novel O Vampiro que Descobriu O Brasil has a Portuguese vampire coming after the body snatching one that bit him, leading both to Brazil. Among the many facts caused by them, the protagonist invents sunglasses, and the decapitation of a vampire mare leads to the Headless Mule myth.
  • Xanthippic Dialogues explains that the titular character and her husband were actually happily married and she was the one to stay with him as he died, not his students. There's also some psychoanalysis of Plato.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien
    • Tolkien couldn't resist slipping at least one of these into The Lord of the Rings, which claims that the nursery rhyme "The Cat and the Fiddle" is derived from an old hobbits' pub song written by Bilbo.
    • Earlier, in The Hobbit, the narrator claims that Bilbo's great grand-uncle, Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took, knocked the head off of the goblin leader Golfimbul with a club in the Battle of Greenfields; the head sailed one hundred yards through the air before landing in a rabbit hole, winning the battle and inventing the game of golf at the same time.
    • Then there is Numenor, an island civilization far in advance of any other part of Middle-Earth, whose people fall out of divine grace, worship evil, and provoke the gods so much that their island kingdom is eventually thrown down and sunk beneath the waves. In very small letters, once, in a footnote, Tolkien slips in the detail that it was also known as Atalante.
      • Tolkien probably did not intend that reference as this trope: the Akallabêth (included in The Silmarillion) is a reimagining of the Atlantis story, which (as also happened to The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings) got dragged into the same canon as The Silmarillion. The name Atalantë (actual Quenya for "The Downfallen") is far from the first linguistic pun in Tolkien's work.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. has historical in-jokes in virtually every episode, as Brisco encounters some gizmo which is sure to be the next "coming thing."
  • Ashes to Ashes (2008) had a scene in season 3 which made Gene Hunt responsible for the vandalism to the Blue Peter garden in the 80s.
  • Babylon 5: The episode "Comes the Inquisitor" revealed at the end that the titular character was Jack the Ripper.
  • All of Blackadder.
  • The Roaring '20s set Boardwalk Empire has a few. The pilot features Arnold Rothstein cheating at poker when eight years later he would be killed thanks to welching on a lost poker hand.
    • One of Nucky's friends brags about finding a great new Italian investor in Boston. A few episodes later he's broke, and we learn that the investor's name was Charles Ponzi.
    • Annoyed because of Masseria's demands to put a tax on their profits, Lucky Luciano tells Meyer Lansky that their business is "our thing, not his!"
  • Bosch:
    • Barrel investigated the Manson murders and Nightstalker.
    • Crate investigated Eddie Nash for the Wonderland murders.
    • Season 4 establishes that Terry Drake, one of the detectives involved in the Black Guardian lawsuit, was a participant in the corruption and misconduct at Rampart Division but escaped indictment or prison time.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike's a font of this type of joke.
      • Spike inspired Billy Idol.
      • He also lampshades the trope in his first line, mocking a low-ranking vampire claiming to have been at the crucifixion of Jesus.
        Spike: If every vampire who said he was at the Crucifixion was actually there it would've been like Woodstock. I was actually at Woodstock... that was a weird gig. I fed off a flower person and I spent six hours watching my hand move.
      • Spike knows Dracula (Dracula owes him money) and is rather annoyed at the latter for writing a book about his exploits, thus making it so that most mortals know how to kill vampires.
    • Angel had at least one of its own, with Angel saying he crashed Elvis and Priscilla's wedding.
  • A character from Charmed called "The Angel of Destiny" was the reason Britney Spears got famous.
  • The single-season NBC series Dark Skies centered around this trope, "revealing" that aliens or the Government Conspiracy to fight them have been involved in almost every major event over the course of the mid-'60s, from the Kennedy assassination on down.
  • The Defenders (2017): Stick tells Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones (2015), Luke Cage (2016), and Danny Rand that Pompeii and Chernobyl, events the history books like to call "catastrophes", were just cover-ups for the Hand's activities.
  • Naturally, Doctor Who, being a show centered around time travel, has plenty of these. Seriously, when you start watching a lot of Doctor Who, this trope starts to look like the summary of the show.
    • The Doctor himself, for instance, wrote Hamlet down for William Shakespeare after the latter had sprained his wrist writing sonnets, and the Great Fire of London was started by a dying alien.
    • The Fourth Doctor helped Isaac Newton discover gravity:
      Romana: Newton? Who was Newton?
      The Doctor: Old Isaac? Friend of mine on Earth. Discovered gravity. Well, I say he discovered gravity, I had to give him a bit of a prod.
      Romana: What did you do?
      The Doctor: Climbed up a tree.
      Romana: And?
      The Doctor: Dropped an apple on his head.
      Romana: Ah, and so he discovered gravity.
      The Doctor: No, no, he told me to clear off out of his tree. I explained it to him afterwards at dinner.
    • At the end of "The Unquiet Dead", Charles Dickens has been so inspired by the events of the episode that he declares he'll incorporate the Gelth into the book he's working on, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. As the Doctor explains to Rose, Dickens will die before he manages to finish writing it.
    • In "Father's Day", the whole of time itself begins screwing up due to interference with someone's death, causing such stuff as a phone ringing which when picked up treats the listener to "Watson, come quickly, I need you...", the first words ever spoken through a phone, by Alexander Graham Bell.
    • "The Shakespeare Code":
      • The Tenth Doctor accidentally suggests a good many of his most famous lines to the Bard, including "to be or not to be."
      • The Doctor even gives him Dylan Thomas' "Rage, rage against the dying of the light", but tells Shakespeare that "it's been used."
      • Also, Shakespeare wrote the sonnet beginning with "Shall I compare thee...?" to the Doctor's companion, who also happened to be the Dark Lady mentioned in some of his other poems. (Although that particular sonnet is not believed to be about the Dark Lady.)
      • One of those poems (Sonnet 130, a satire of the flowery love sonnets prevalent in his era) has Shakespeare complaining of his Dark Lady's reeking breath. Turns out his own is nothing to boast about when Martha turns down an offer of romance from Shakespeare because his breath stinks.
      • The Doctor mentions the Sycorax, the alien villains of "The Christmas Invasion", in front of Shakespeare, who likes the sound of the name and decides he'll have it off him as well. Scholars never have been able to figure out where Shakespeare came up with the name of a certain Posthumous Character from The Tempest...
    • "The Fires of Pompeii": The Doctor and Donna were responsible for the eruption of Vesuvius. Earlier in the episode, we get both a historical in-joke and a Continuity Nod, as the Tenth Doctor very quickly tells Donna that "Before you ask, that fire had nothing to do with me. Well, a little bit..." referring to the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, which in a very early episode was shown to have been inadvertently inspired by the First Doctor accidentally setting a map on fire with the light through his spectacles.
    • "The Unicorn and the Wasp":
      • Donna, being unaware of the exact point of Agatha Christie's career at the point where she meets her, tries to sell the author several of her own ideas, like Miss Marple or Murder on the Orient Express.
      • That same episode also deals with Agatha Christie's infamous disappearance. According to Doctor Who, a giant alien wasp started killing people in the same way as in her books, due to being linked to her. So when the alien died, she in turn fell into a deep sleep and then turned up in the hotel that was historically tied to her disappearance.
    • In "The End of Time", Ten informs Ood Sigma (who seems completely unimpressed, and probably has no idea what he's talking about anyway) that he married Queen Elizabeth I and that one of her nicknames is no longer accurate. We get to see the wedding later on, in "The Day of the Doctor."
    • "Vincent and the Doctor": The Doctor and Amy visit van Gogh; Amy greets the artist with lots and lots of sunflowers. Very subtle. (The Doctor also reveals in the same episode that apparently Michelangelo Buonarroti had a fear of heights.)
    • "Day of the Moon": The Eleventh Doctor gave Richard Nixon the idea of taping everything in his office... so he'd know if he had his mind wiped by aliens.
      • The same episode also explains why there is a two-second gap between the words "That's one small step for man" and "One giant leap for mankind." The broadcast was briefly hijacked during this time, featuring an out-of-context clip of a member of The Silence, who tells the viewers to kill any of The Silence on sight. All future reuploads would carry this order, with the viewers unknowingly killing The Silence due to having their memories blanked after taking their eyes off one.
    • "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" explains why Queen Nefertiti mysteriously vanished from Egyptian records fourteen years into her husband's reign: Thanks to the Doctor, she met British big-game hunter John Riddell, from 1902, and ran off with him.
    • "Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror": It turns out that Nikola Tesla really did pick up a signal from Mars. He detected the ship of a scavenger race called the Skithra, who decided to abduct him to force him to repair their ship after he sent a message back. Furthermore, the climax of the episode involves Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower being activated to shoot lightning. The tower really was activated the night of July 14, 1903 (the year the episode is set) and was seen to be shooting lightning, and Tesla never explained why.
  • Forever Knight had a Jack the Ripper episode, with the secret being that he was a strange, beastly vampire that Lacroix couldn't fully drain. He also was responsible for the crimes of a few other serial killers later on. There was also a flashback encounter between Lacroix and a young German soldier/artist who turned out to be Hitler, as well as Rasputin the Mad Monk being a vampire sired by Lacroix.
  • From the Glee episode "The Rhodes Not Taken":
    Emma: A couple of years ago I started an online flirtation with an old high school flame, Andy. Things got weird and I called it off. And two months later (Dramatic Pause) Versace was dead. (Dramatic Pause) Dead.
  • Sophia Petrillo, an immigrant from Sicily and a woman in her 80s by the time of the show, in The Golden Girls made a lot of these. It's usually unclear if she's lying or joking, her memories have really been twisted by old age or both. Among other things, she's claimed to have had affairs with Pablo Picasso (she ended it when she was offended by his portrait of her) and Sigmund Freud (Sophia recalls that he loved to drive through tunnels), to have been friends and business partners with Mama Celeste until they fought over a man, to have been a contestant on a game show called Torture that was hosted by Mussolini, and to have been present at the Valentine's Day Massacre with her husband and father when their car broke down in Chicago (although she does concede that it might have just been a Valentine's Day Massacre.)
    • Since the entire main cast is over 50, the others all engage in this to a lesser extent. For example, Andy Rooney wanted to have an affair with Blanche but she turned him down, and Rose's high school history teacher may or may not have been Adolf Hitler after he faked his death and was hiding under an alias. The main evidence for this is that Rose's high school gym teacher openly identified as Eva Braun.
  • Grimm: According to Gaugin's accounts, the reason why Vincent van Gogh went mad and cut off his ear was because of a muse (the mythical kind).
  • Highlander has a couple of these, most notably Methos and his three buddies inspiring the legend of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Then there's the immortal who was Cleopatra VII's handmaiden, and Duncan taking part in Operation Valkyrie and the Battle of Culloden...
    • One of the novels references Elvis Presley dying because he was an immortal and was getting too famous, only he kept popping up in different places, explaining the Elvis sightings.
  • I, Claudius has Nero proclaim, "What a pretty thing a fire is..." Uh-oh.
  • The Longest Day in Chang'an: Early in the series Li Bi recites part of a poem written by the real Li Bi.
  • In Lost Girl, the Sudanese genocide is thought to be partially attributable to the Djieiene, a mystical spider whose bite causes Hate Plagues.
  • A sketch on MADtv (1995) referenced William R. D. King, who was said to be a great Vice President. The joke is that William R. D. King was the only Vice President to never even make it to the White House, making him the most unimportant one in American history.
  • In Merlin, the court historian is none other than Geoffrey of Monmouth, the man who wrote Arthurian Legend. Of course, that's a bit of Artistic License (at best); the historical Geoffrey of Monmouth lived about 500 years after when King Arthur would have been alive (were he real-no one knows for sure). Given that the Kingdom of Camelot does not appear to even be on an island, that caveat is somewhat beside the point. No one is pretending these people are English or anywhere in actual history.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus got some nice examples. Like in e.g. 'The Funniest Joke In The World': "It was a fantastic success, over 60.000 times as powerful as Britain's great pre-war joke (cue PM Neville Chamberlain waving around a certain piece of paper in public note )!"
  • Murdoch Mysteries
    • A season 3 episode has H. G. Wells in Toronto to speak at a meeting of the "Eugenics Society", a group dedicated to the improvement of humanity by scientific means. The event and the discovery that a local scientist is experimenting on animals give Wells an idea for a story about human experimentation, "...perhaps on a remote island."
    • A different episode had Arthur Conan Doyle visiting the police station, where he finds Inspector Brackenreid is a great fan of his work. All through the episode, Brackenreid keeps trying to pitch him an idea for a new Sherlock Holmes story about "the hellhound of the Highlands."
      • Doyle returns in a later episode when they call him in to try and break through the delusion of a man who believes himself to be Sherlock. Doyle tries pointing out that Holmes died at Reichenbach Falls, and is taken aback when "Holmes" has a perfectly coherent explanation for both how he survived and where he's been since - the same one Doyle uses in "The Adventure of the Empty House." The episode also features a real criminal, who "Holmes" believes to be one of Moriarty's henchmen, called Sebastian Moran. Doyle mentions he likes the name.
    • The episode "All That Glitters" has two: in the main story, Murdoch's investigation of the murder of an Ontario surveyor leads to the Cobalt Silver Rush. In the B-plot, the painting Inspector Brackenreid did during his 10-Minute Retirement at the beginning of the season has been entered into a competition, and a young man is very impressed by it. The man, who particularly likes the way Brackenreid paints foliage with non-representative colours to make it stand out more (he ran out of green), eventually buys the painting for $15 to inspire his own work, at which point we learn his name is Tom Thomson.
    • In a Running Gag through the series, Murdoch is shown to invent devices not yet known, or to invent a precursor. George Crabtree comes up with a name matching what we call it, only for one of the characters to shoot down the name and call it something else.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a story arc where Pearl, Observer, and Bobo travel back to ancient Rome. As they leave for their own time, Bobo steals a wheel of cheese, knocking down a candle in the hay-filled room and starting a fire that can be heard throughout the end credits. It's implied that this is the great fire that burned down the city.
  • Mr. Jimmy James on NewsRadio has claimed to be the Watergate informant Deep Throat on more than one occasion. It's also strongly implied that he is D.B. Cooper note  (explaining how he came to be rich).
  • Pan Am is prone to a few of these, as it is set in the 1960s. Examples include:
    • "It's Castro's country. He'll never keep it."
    • "That Bob Dylan will be famous, mark my words."
  • Quantum Leap had at least one every episode, including (among other things) Sam teaching a five-year-old Michael Jackson to moonwalk.
    • Other notable figures Sam meets (or Leaps into!) include: Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Stephen King, and Lee Harvey Oswald.
    • Sam also suggests that a young would-be boxer who worked in a meatpacking factory train by sparring with the frozen beef carcasses hanging around his workplace, mentioning that it was "something I saw in a movie." The grateful young boxer thanks Sam and closes his locker, upon which is his name: "S. Stallone."
  • Red Dwarf did a double in-joke by having an alternate dimension President John F. Kennedy assassinate himself — from behind the grassy knoll.
    • "Timeslides" has a few for World War II. Using the titular 'timeslides', Lister travels back to a Hitler-led rally and attempts to persuade the crowd not to believe him because he's 'a complete nutter - and he's only got one testicle.' Lister returns from the past with a suitcase from Claus von Stauffenberg, which triggers a predictable panic if you know who he was.
  • Vorenus and Pullo from Rome have been called the Forrest Gumps of Ancient Rome. During the course of the show, they witness, cause or partake in pretty much every single important event during the end of the Roman republic. Caesar finally lampshades this in a later episode.
    • One good example is the second episode, where the attack on Marc Antony by Pompey's men when he's heading for the Senate is actually an attack on Pullo by a random thug Pullo gambled and argued with (and killed his friend). This attack on Antony is believed to be Pompeius's thugs trying to prevent Antony from wielding his lawful power of veto, and becoming the key incident that led to Caesar crossing the Rubicon. The episode is even titled "How Titus Pullo Brought Down The Republic."
    • Pullo is the real father of Caesarion, the historical son of Caesar and Cleopatra.
    • Vorenus believing himself responsible for Caesar's death, as he was to accompany Caesar the day of his assassination, but was stopped by a woman who told him that his daughter's child was actually his wife's child by another man, causing him to leave and confront Niobe, while Caesar goes and gets killed on his own.
    • Pullo uncovering the stash of gold and silver from the treasury looted by the Optimates, stealing it all for himself before handing it back over to Caesar when he's caught. Historically, it's said that none of Pompey's supporters, nor Pompey himself, managed to empty out the treasury, allowing Caesar to claim it for his war effort, seriously hampering the optimates' finances for the civil war, causing them to heavily tax the provinces of the east, drawing heavy resentment from them.
  • Hilda's and Zelda's exploits in Sabrina the Teenage Witch are liberally sprinkled with historical in-jokes. "And that was how Aunt Hilda started something called the American Revolution."
    "Oh, so that's why [the Parthenon is] in ruins!"
    "Yes! Luckily, History blamed the Turks."
  • Sanctuary does this with explaining several historical figures as being abnormals. Several of them are important characters.
  • Saturday Night Live:
    Lord Sarc: If it's not too much trouble, do you think we could make this roof leak a little more?
    Vassal: Why, yes. Yes, we could.
    Lord Sarc: That's wonderful! Here's an idea: maybe in the next house I have, maybe you can all go out and you can just throw together a collection of random stone blocks in the middle of nowhere and I'll live there! You think you can handle that?!
    Vassal: At once, my Lord.
    Narrator: And so Stonehenge was built.
    • In another sketch, the production of the incredibly freudian sitcom Switcheroo ended up traumatizing all the staff and actors involved, one of them being child actor Andy Cunanan, who left the business entirely.
  • In The Serpent Queen, set in sixteenth century France, a minor character makes a speech to King Henri II, in which he attacks the decadence of the royal court (and in particular the antics of the king's favorite Diane de Poitiers) and states that if they continue to carry on in the way they are, the wider population will revolt against them. A couple of centuries later, of course, a little thing called The French Revolution happened.
  • Sharpe: In Sharpe's Enemy, Sharpe comments on the effectiveness of his recently used and very lethal Napoleonic rocket technology:
    Sharpe: Well, Mr. Giliand, I wouldn't be surprised if one day we reach the moon with one of your rockets.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "1969", the team accidentally goes back to the titular year and are apprehended under suspicions of being Soviet spies. Jack is taken to be interrogated, and proceeds to take advantage of the situation by answering in almost nothing but future pop-culture references. Naturally, the interrogator doesn't realize that he's being messed with.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Star Trek: The Original Series "Wolf in the Fold" revealed the secret truth behind Jack the Ripper: He was Redjac, a Puppeteer Parasite which has been a serial killer on several planets, including Earth.
    • The two-part episode Time's Arrow in Star Trek: The Next Generation has Data accidentally sent back to 1893 San Francisco where he meets the author Mark Twain and a young bellhop named Jack London, who has an inexplicable desire to visit Alaska.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • In the episode "Trials and Tribble-ations", they actually did this to a bit of Star Trek's own history — in something much more than a simple Continuity Nod, the episode revealed that there was much more going on in the background of the original series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" than was initially seen by viewers in the 1960s. Also, the scene of Tribbles continuing to fall down on Kirk's head, one every ten seconds or so, long after the storage compartment had been opened and most of the tribbles had fallen out proves to be the DS9 team's tossing Tribbles aside once scanned.
      • In the episode "Little Green Men", where the Roswell aliens turn out to be Ferengi.
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • In the episode "Flashback", Tuvok flashes back to his service aboard the Excelsior... during the time of Star Trek VI. He's even the one who gave Sulu the tea that we see knocked over at the beginning of the movie. Interestingly, since the original Trek actors had aged a good bit, many scenes that happened exactly as seen in Star Trek VI had to be redone (or else, Sulu ages ten years once original footage kicks in). Watch 'em back to back and you'll notice the tiniest differences, like the way Valtane's hand moves when he puts it on the railing, or Sulu saying "Shields! Shields!" a bit more loudly, or a few camera angles being different. Also, the Excelsior's warp engines only glow in original (i.e., "shot for the show") footage, as a new model's being used — although the nacelles of the movie model were wired to glow, they didn't.
      • An incident occurred during the filming of the above episode that is either the greatest historical in-joke or the luckiest accident, of Star Trek history. During the flashback sequences, we see Dimitri Valtane die, despite his chronologically later appearance at the end of Star Trek VI. The writers jokingly suggested he had a twin brother serving on the same ship, but the general fanon response was that he had been successfully resuscitated off-screen. The former is now accepted as correct, however, because in the opening scenes of Star Trek VI, because of a poor editing job, Valtane is seen to be manning two separate consoles on opposite sides of the bridge. Only one of him appears at the end, so the twin theory is actually the best solution.
      • In the two-parter "Future's End" the Digital Revolution only happens because of a crashed timeship.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise pulled a cute one in the episode "Carbon Creek." Star Trek Canon states that humanity met the Vulcans in the late 21st century after Cochrane's warp flight. Apparently, a little-known fact is that a Vulcan survey ship crashed in Pennsylvania in the '50s. A Vulcan woman raises money for a boy to go to college by introducing the bank owner to a strangely adhesive fabric, better known as Velcro, invented in the real world by "George" de Mestral. (The name of one of the Vulcans? Mestral.)
  • That '70s Show did this a few times. One instance had Jackie being annoyed because a regular television program she watched wasn't airing as usual because it was bumped by some hostage crisis being on the news. In another case involving wrestling, wrestler Rocky Johnson talks with Red and Eric about his own son, and his belief that he'd grow up to be the most electrifying man in all of wrestling. Red wishes him sarcastic good luck with that.
  • Tracker had Cole reference Cirronians building ancient monuments like Stonehenge and the Pyramids.
  • Perhaps a bit early to count as "historical", but the 2013 Comic Relief The Vicar of Dibley skit is set during the 2012 vote by the Church of England laity as to whether to allow woman bishops. Dibley parish is inexplicably represented by Jim Trott, who's "No ... no ... no ... no ... no ... no ... yes!" is interpreted as meaning most of the parish council is against it. Which is why the motion was lost by six votes.
  • Vikings: One scene has Bjorn and Halfdan idly scratching at stone bricks in Sicily. Viking graffiti has been found scratched in stone in various places around Europe and the Near East.
  • Warehouse 13 loves these. Expect to hear at least two per episode. Usually in a one-line throw away gag, or even just items sitting innocently on shelves in the background.
  • Happens in Wizards of Waverly Place. While in 1957, Harper manages to invent both the poodle skirt and the sock hop. Max invents the high-five, but twenty years too early, so it ends up being called a "max" instead, which Alex considers a Close-Enough Timeline.
  • It's something of a Running Gag in Xena: Warrior Princess for Xena and Gabrielle to inadvertently stumble across historical or mythological events or people. Among other things, Xena is revealed to have led the pirates that kidnapped Julius Caesar, Gabrielle attended a bard competition with a young Homer (no, not that one), Xena's experience with healing inspired Hypocrites' famous Hippocratic oath, and they both fought at Troy (although between this show and Hercules the Trojan war happened at least 4 times, once against fish people). Never mind that said events occurred and people lived many centuries apart. It's all part of the fun.
  • The X-Files, "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", shows the CSM writing a fictionalized account of a mysterious government operative (himself) assassinating JFK and MLK. However, it is strongly implied that much of the story is made up to make him seem more important. He also gives a standing order for the Bills to never win a Super Bowl, which explains a lot.note  He also apparently drugged the Russian goalie during the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" when the US men's hockey team beat the far superior Russian squad.
  • A quote attributed to the historical Louis XIV is, "I am the State." In fact, he said the opposite: "I depart, but the State shall always remain." In the Young Blades episode "The Girl from Upper Gaborski", Louis utters a similar quote — "I am the mighty state of France!" — while flexing shirtless in the mirror and fantasizing about how to impress women. Putting the quote in the mouth of a 15-year-old Spoiled Brat/Cloudcuckoolander — someone who's just discovered women and the fact that he has royal power — explains how the same person could say both quotes.
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles sees Indy meeting virtually every major historical figure of the early 20th century before his 21st birthday.

    Print Media 
  • Issue #325 of Cracked includes a fictitious guide to collecting the magazine. Included in the guide to said issues are entries reading "Ghost of editor's dead wife hired as art director", "Ghost of editor's dead wife promoted to editor", and "1st appearance of editor's son as cover artist." These are all references to Paul Laikin's short tenure as editor in The '80s, which really did include him crediting his deceased wife as art director/editor and hiring his son as cover artist.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Old World of Darkness had a number of these; for example, the Malkavian clan claim to have done a bit of grave-robbery in Judea in the first century AD. If you're wondering, think The Joker as a vampire, and then make them thousands strong (though, as might be imagined, rarely united). Another, borderline example is Dark Ages: Werewolf, which linked the fairy tale of Red Riding Hood to a young werewolf's First Change — Red is the werewolf, and in the throes of her First Change, kills her grandmother and is found (and implied to be killed, or at least grievously wounded) by a lumberjack who finds her grieving.
    • In fact, in the old World of Darkness, the one thing the supernaturals never had an active hand in was the Third Reich and the Holocaust. This itself proved to be a pretty funny, if unintentional, historical joke in the context of the game. The intent was to avoid cheapening the full inhumanity of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany by ascribing it to supernatural influence; the effect was to make readers scratch their heads wondering how, in a game overflowing with Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, none of the countless supernatural groups had anything to do with the largest war and most notorious genocide in history.
    • Something of a running gag was that about half the Vampire clans and several other supernatural beings claimed Rasputin as a member.
  • Due to heavy cross-marketing between the Shadowrun and Earthdawn games, a number of early Shadowrun products indulged in this trope with immortal-elf references. If the spinoff novels are to be credited, Queen Elizabeth I was a usurping immortal elf in disguise, as was Leonardo da Vinci and (implied) the Apostle Thomas.
  • In one of the Sourcebooks for Mage: The Awakening, it states that the Halifax explosion was actually caused by a battle between Pentacle mages and Church Militant members of the Seers of the Throne. Mages are said to refer to the explosion as the "Battle of the Maritime."
  • Promethean: The Created claims that The Tunguska Event was the result of an attempt to summon an arch-qashmallim. The Knights of St. George failed to stop it in time.
    • Also, a qashmallim inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write Kubla Khan. A Promethean, in turn, was the "Person from Porlock" who interrupted him and caused him to forget the ending.
  • Unsurprisingly, given its premise as a Time Travel game, Continuum has its fair share of these- of particular note is the usual answer when asking members of the Thespian Fraternity how many times they've had to impersonate Adolf Hitler is a cold "Further Information is not available here."
  • Chronicles of Darkness sourcebook Chicago has quite a few of these. As just one example, Chicago's vampires are implied to be responsible for the murder of Illinois Senator Charles H. Percy's daughter (the local Prince favored Percy's opponent, and was offended when he wouldn't step down).

    Theme Parks 
  • Plenty of such jokes in The Time Machine ride at the Futuroscope. The Raving Rabbids happen to be responsible for the Lascaux paintings, the Venus de Milo losing her arms, the invention of the Olympic games, Beethoven's composition of the Fifth Symphony, etc.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • Many of the major characters that Altaïr is sent to assassinate in Assassin's Creed were real historical figures who died around the time the game is set, with any inaccuracies explained as the Templars having re-written the history books.
    • The sequel takes this up to 11 by making the times of death much more accurate.
    • Brotherhood has Machiavelli at one point say that he intends to write a book about Ezio. Given that Cesare's on the other side, it seems obvious who The Prince was really based on.
    • Revelations has more Historical In-Jokes compared to the first few games. Set in the Ottoman Empire, particularly in Constantinople. Constantinople/Istanbul jokes fly around.
      Ezio: "Istanbul? No doubt one of the many names for this city?"
      Yusuf: "Yes! It's quickly becoming the local favourite!"
    • In mentioning of The New World's name (Continent of Amerigo), Ezio smiles and remarks "poor Colombo..."
    • Piri Reis, a legendary Ottoman Admiral, was not an admiral by the time of the game, but the Assassins of Constantinople do jokingly call him "Reis" (Ottoman for "Admiral").
    • Prince-Governor Suleiman keeps on talking to Ezio about tolerance between the Ottoman Empire's subject peoples and a standard and written state law, things he will work on and accomplish as Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
    • Upon Sofia mentioning that she posed for a certain Albrecht Dürer, Ezio asks if he's an artist of some renown. Even better, the painting that Sofia has that Dürer painted of her is an ACTUAL Dürer painting, "Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman."
    • The tie-in comics also reveal that the Assassins and Nikola Tesla were responsible for the Tunguska event in 1908 when they attempted to obtain The Staff of Eden while blowing up the facility where the Templars were keeping it, but they weren't able to remove it in time so it wound up getting blown up as well, with only one member of the Assassin team surviving.
    • A series of missions in Unity has Arno protecting Désirée Clary, then Napoleon's fiancée, with the help of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, who ends up falling for her over the course of the missions. In later years, Bernadotte became a massive thorn in Napoleon's side and Désirée's influence was probably one of the reasons why he was never disgraced or even imprisoned.
    • In Rogue, the Assassins of all people are responsible for both the 1751 Port-Au-Prince and the 1755 Lisbon earthquakes, thanks to their negligent explorations of First Civilization sites , setting off devastating mechanisms contained inside. The latter earthquake in particular, triggered by the protagonist Shay, proves to be such a Despair Event Horizon for him that he defects to the Templars. In real life, the sudden nature of and the massive loss of life caused by the Lisbon earthquake had a profound effect on philosophy as a whole, in particular massively Liebniz's famous stipulation that "we live in the best of all possible worlds."
  • Call of Duty:
    • There's one in Modern Warfare 3, where Berlin falls to the Russians. Again.
    • World at War has one to its own series - in the first game, the final level has you playing a Soviet soldier in the battle at Berlin, ending with player witnessing another soldier wave the Soviet flag over the Reichstag. The final level of World at War has the same setting, except now the player themself is the one planting the flag over the Reichstag.
  • There are several examples in the Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2:
      • It plays the Cuban missile crisis too, in an alternate history: to achieve the best results, the Chronosphere had to be built in a specific place in the Earth's magnetosphere or the Allies can't use it to invade Moscow from across the globe. Problem is, said place is in the Florida Keys, well inside the range of the Soviet nukes in Cuba. Since the US and the USSR are already at war and Romanov won't negotiate as Khrushchev did in real life, the Allies say "screw negotiations" and instead chronoshift some troops into Cuba to blow the missiles sky-high before they could be launched. Cue the Villainous Breakdown from Romanov.
      • And the invasion of Pearl Harbor too, this time with Soviets as aggressors and the US anticipating the attack via U-2 spy planes. The USS Arizona Memorial is even present, even though the Japanese attack that sunk the Arizona never took place in this timeline. It can be played from both sides, interestingly, though the Soviet version has a South Korean fleet moving in to assist the defenders.
      • In the briefing for one of the Soviet missions the player is shown a picture of Stalin, with Yuri edited in on his right. This picture really exists and is famous for being doctored, the real-life version showing Stalin sat next to Lenin, who bears a fairly strong resemblance to Yuri. This version of the picture, created at the behest of Stalin, is a forgery to try and give him more credibility as one of Lenin's closest collaborators. Since the creators of Red Alert 2 also edited Yuri into the picture in Lenin's place, neither of the two persons shown on the photograph actually appeared in it.
      • The iconic acknowledgment "We will bury them!" from the Soviet tanks paraphrases a famous (and misinterpreted) quote by Nikita Khrushchev. note 
      • In the final Soviet video, the Soviets have taken over the entire world. One of the locations shown celebrating the foundation of the Global Soviet Union is of Soviet tanks driving down the streets of Paris in a victory parade. The newscaster comments that "it has been decades since we've seen anything quite like this", referring to the German occupation of Paris in World War II, which in the altered timeline never even took place.
      • Then came Yuri's Revenge, taking this trope to the logical extreme by making an in-joke on its own history: one Soviet mission had the player re-doing - via time travel - one of the vanilla game's Allied missions... from the other side. Bonus points because said mission enabled the Allies to win the war with the aforementioned re-take of the Cuban missile crisis... which this re-take mission, appropriately named "Operation Deja Vu", retcons into the Chronosphere prototype being destroyed and the Allies surrendering.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3:
      • It also has a defense of Pearl Harbor — by the Empire of the Rising Sun, against an Allied naval fleet.
      • As a call back, the penultimate Allied mission is a take on the Cuban missile crisis, with another historical in-joke: the blimps carrying the missiles launch out of hangars disguised as sports stadiums. In real life, one of the things that tipped the US off to the Soviet presence was the building of soccer fields (Russians play soccer; Cubans, at that point, preferred baseball).
      • Another joke in its in-universe history: in the first Allied mission of the second game, several Soviet Dreadnoughts are bombarding the Statue of Liberty until Tanya destroys them with explosive charges. A similar scene appears in the opening cutscene of Soviet Mission 9 in the third.
        Tanya: Just like old times, you commie scum!
  • Bram Stoker's novel Dracula is canon in Castlevania chronology, though with some changes. John Morris and Johnathan Morris, protagonists from Castlevania: Bloodlines and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin respectively, are descendants of Quincey Morris, even though he dies without children in the novel.
    • On the subject of Portrait of Ruin, which has Drac's ol' castle come to life due to an abundance of souls in the midst of World War II, the villain of the game is a vampire painter known as Brauner. He is, in fact, a real-life Jewish surrealist painter, explaining his motives quite clearly.
  • Evil Genius has you perform several Acts of Infamy based on real-life Cold War events, most notably staging the Cuban missile crisis.
  • Fallout 2 has a special encounter in which the player can return to Vault 13 in the past. The player cannot leave until they break the water chip, thus setting up the basis of Fallout. It's not canon, though.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is set in 1992. The primary antagonists of the game are police officers, Frank Tenpenny and Eddie Pulaski. Late in the game, their many, many crimes catch up with them and Tenpenny note  is arrested, put to trial... and acquitted. The city of Los Santos riots in response. Sound familiar?
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle: Funny Valentine (who in-universe is the 23rd president of the United States instead of Benjamin Harrison) insults Josuke's pompadour hair style by saying that he will not allow his people to have that style. Elvis would prove Funny wrong, though.
  • L.A. Noire, which takes place in 1947 when Richard Nixon was still in the California's 12th District House of Representatives, has Phelps be called out for suspecting the wrong suspect with this great line:
    And I hope this puts to bed that crazy stuff you had going about Leland Monroe! What were you thinking, Phelps?! You'll be calling Richard Nixon a crook next!
  • Like a Dragon: Ishin!: Saigo Kichinosuke, during a drunken ramble, stumbles upon a gang of thugs abusing a dog, and immeddiately beats them to a pulp. He then immediately starts cooing over the dog, laughs off it biting him, and declares it his latest retainer. Saigo Takamori, the historic figure the character is based on, was famous for being a dog lover, and is rarely portrayed without one by his side.
  • The Bakumatsu chapter of Live A Live sees the ninja Oboro-maru set out to stop a man named Ode Iou from throwing Japan into war by infiltrating his castle, rescuing a man he has prisoner, and killing him. The man turns out to be Ryoma Sakamoto, and you have the option of joining him at the end of the chapter. If you choose to, Oboro-maru becomes Sakamoto's bodyguard and is seen stopping an assassination attempt. In real life, Ryoma Sakamoto was assassinated.
  • In Medal of Honor, it's heavily implied that Jimmy Patterson and Manon settled down together after the war, by Heroes' post-credits narration and the fact that the main character of the 2010 reboot is Jimmy's grandson. The in-joke is that Manon's character is based on a real-life woman named Helene Deschamps Adams, a French OSS operator who worked closely with an American Army Lieutenant during the war and ended up marrying him. Aww.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater:
    • The Cuban missile crisis was actually resolved by handing over a Soviet scientist who'd defected to the West, and the Turkish nukes were outdated and going to be removed anyway.
    • Later, Snake makes a joke that the prototypical Russian helicopter which is smaller than the Hip should be called a Hind. His support team agree to use Hind as the code for the kind of helicopter from now on. Also a Continuity Nod, since a Hind helicopter was a boss fight in Metal Gear Solid.
    • Snake performing the world's first HALO jump (which was actually first performed in 1964 in real life), as well as Snake finding an XM16E1 and making suggestions for how it would be a better rifle, echoing complaints from soldiers in Vietnam who made the same suggestions that were ultimately incorporated into the rifle's design.
  • The first chapter of Reverse: 1999 has an especially spectacular example. Having arrived in Chicago on February 14th, 1929, Vertin and Sonetto are given the mission to prevent a hate crime against arcanists that will occur in a garage in Lincoln Park. By this point, anyone with a passing knowledge of the history of organized crime in the US or Chicago will be expecting this to be about preventing the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, but the punchline is that the massacre was actually someone else's method of preventing the crime — the victims of the massacre were the perpetrators of the crime that happened in the game world's original timeline, not the victims.
  • The Shadow Hearts series. Many of the catastrophes that occurred around World War I was all because of Lovecraftian hellspawn.
  • Shadow Hearts: From The New World takes place in The Roaring '20s. Being that the game begins in Chicago, Al Capone is of course a side character, and a subplot involves one of his (many) rival mob families trying to get into his turf. Later on, the player goes to Las Vegas and the rival gang has indeed gone there. At the time? The Mafia did indeed start to make their way into Las Vegas, Al Capone himself even had his eye on the city.
  • Touhou Project mostly just messes with mythology, but some actual history does get involved. Among other things, Apollo 13's failure was apparently caused by Eirin, and Futo burned down Japan's first Buddhist temple.
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order has one in a rather ironic parallel of the Bolshevik Revolution. The Nazis won the war on the Eastern Front when the Russian people revolted against the Soviet government following large numbers of casualties and military defeats.
  • Yakuza 0 takes place during Japan's "Bubble Economy", a period of economic prosperity. One of Goro Majima's sidequests involves rescuing a politician being attacked by store owners for wanting to implement a sales tax. Afterwards, Majima talks with the politician and makes some suggestions which, in retrospect, would be implemented only a few years later and result in the "Lost Decade", a severe economic recession that Japan is still recovering from to this day.

    Visual Novels 

  • Consolers is this with video game history and recent events.
  • Dead Duck has a bit since D.D's job involves going into the past to make sure historical figures died. Let's just say there are some things history overlooked.
  • In The Dreamer, Bea has dreams that she is in the American Revolution and meets some very important people along the way.
  • This is more or less the raison d'être of Hark! A Vagrant.
  • Homestuck:
    • The universe of Earth was created by the trolls, and so they had some influence on some things that eventually happened, like the Zodiac signs and possibly the existence of the Insane Clown Posse. A particularly amusing example comes from a trans-timeline bulletin board conversation involving a future instance of Vriska, aka arachnidsGrip (AG)...
      CCG: LATER, FAG.
    • Earlier on in the strip, it was also hinted that certain words like "bathtub" are derived from troll highblood vocabulary for the troll equivalents of those items.
  • Irregular Webcomic! provides a different explanation for the start of World War I.
  • Times Like This has generous amounts of this trope.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad! had the main character shooting Ronald Reagan, because, well: In "The Best Christmas Story Never Told", he originally wanted to kill Jane Fonda because he blamed her for the war on Christmas, then he found out that she was really influenced by Donald Sutherland. Stan is prevented from killing Sutherland, but by chance runs into Martin Scorsese. He convinces Scorsese to give up drugs, which in turn causes him to lose his edge. As a result, Taxi Driver is never made, so there's no star vehicle for Jodie Foster, and no one for John Hinckley to become obsessed with. As a result of that, Ronald Reagan is never shot, which means there was no incident to bolster public support; so Mondale won, and practically "handed over the country to the Commies." Thus, Stan Smith shoots Reagan. Also, in the same episode, Roger "invents" the genre of disco, based on a 'greatest hits of the 70's' tape Stan drops. Whew.
    • In "The Phantom of the Telethon", Roger is enraged that Stan stole his idea for a telethon, as he had similarly been robbed of a telethon idea by Jerry Lewis.
    • Another episode dealt with the creation of peanut butter in the style of The Da Vinci Code. It claims that the government started the myth that George Washington Carver invented it in order to ease relations after the civil war and that the real inventor was Mary Todd Lincoln, among other things.
  • Archer: Mallory Archer has been involved in Operations Gladio and Ajax and Woodhouse of all people is revealed to have been the one who performed the botched William Tell routine that led to the death of William S. Burroughs' wife as part of a bet for drugs.
  • Arthur: Arthur tries to justify his breaking of a window to his sister DW that kids have done important things in history. He tells of how King Tut broke his dad's new sphinx with a baseball, the roman 'Arthurius' playing with his discus and cutting off the arms of the Venus de Milo, and an American kid hitting the Liberty Bell and cracking it, with braying horses in the background.
  • Clone High being what it is, it's rife with these. In it, Marie Curie is a giant, misshapen mutant of a girl because of her irradiated DNA. People such as the clones of Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and half of Lynyrd Skynyrd go up in a plane made of junk.
  • In Extreme Ghostbusters many events in history happened because of ghosts, a gremlin was responsible for sinking the Titanic, and the disappearances of ships and planes in the Bermuda Triangle were the cause of a giant fog Eldritch Abomination.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to an alternate past comes near the end of the special "The Secret Origin of Denzel Crocker." Right after '70s-Jorgen shows up to erase everyone's memories of the fairies being revealed, present-Jorgen shows up to take Timmy back to his own era and says that Timmy is forbidden from returning to March of 1972, but can still travel to any of the other months "so long as you don't interfere with the election of President McGovern." This implies that either The Fairly OddParents! takes place in an alternate continuity where Nixon was never re-elected, Timmy didn't listen and is somehow responsible for Nixon's re-election, or Timmy's interference already made McGovern the president without Jorgen realizing it.
    • There was the one where Timmy released three godkids from Cosmo and Wanda's "Hall of Infamy." One of them "took out" Archduke Franz Ferdinand, triggering World War I, and most conflicts that followed, including World War II, the Holocaust, and the Cold War. Maybe that's why the rule that you can't wish for someone to be killed exists.
    • In "Father Time!", present Cosmo and Wanda inspire a young boy to "connect every computer in the world together." 70's Wanda's response? "That Billy Gates and his CRAZY ideas," Of course, thanks to Cosmo, he gets the name wrong...
      Billy Gates: I'll call it the Internet.
      Cosmo: That's silly, you should call it "The Timmy"!
      • And at the end of the episode we find out that "The Timmy" apparently stuck, and his mother calls out "Oh Internet, breakfast is ready!" Although, thanks to Negative Continuity, that doesn't catch on.
    • It's also been mentioned several times that Cosmo is responsible for having destroyed the city of Pompeii, and even sunk Atlantis nine times.
  • Family Guy is fond of this, in flashbacks which sometimes don't even relate to the show in any way. For example, when Peter was arguing that Stewie might be too young for potty-training, a flashback suggested that the Lindbergh baby was accidentally flushed down a toilet. And that Amelia Earhart was done away with for witnessing it.
  • In Futurama: Bender's Big Score, the titular robot travels back to the year 2000, where his virus-induced homicidal rampage accidentally destroys a large number of ballots in Florida. This virus was used by a group of greedy, nudist, and narcissistic alien scammers to make Bender go back in time and steal treasures, and as a result, he is seen with several artifacts that have gone missing, like the Sphinx's nose and the Holy Grail.
    • His time-traveling also causes several in-show historical in-jokes as well. For example, one episode revolved around Fry finding his pet dog Seymour as a fossil in a museum and his attempts to resurrect it. In the movie, while the scammers are forcing Bender to assassinate Fry in 2012, the year Seymour died at a "healthy old age", one of Bender's futuristic weapons misses him and encases the poor dog in stone. This quickly goes from a joke to a happy when one recalls that Fry decided not to bring Seymour back because he thought he died of old age, but now we find out he died of old age after spending an entire life with Fry's time-clone.
    • Time-travel is also how Zoidberg became the Roswell alien.
    • One of the Brainspawn also killed the dinosaurs.
  • The Simpsons
    • The "Treehouse of Horror XVII" story "The Day The Earth Looked Stupid" suggests that Wiggum's ancestor's insult to Orson Welles inspired Citizen Kane.
    • In "Simpsons Tall Tales", at the end of the Paul Bunyan tall tale segment, Paul saves the town from a meteor. He throws the meteor towards Chicago, starting the Great Chicago Fire. This is, of course, standard for Paul Bunyan stories.
    • In "Insane Clown Poppy", Krusty the Clown was the reason why the attempted assassination of Saddam Hussein failed, as Saddam provided most of his joke material, and he had stopped the woman who was going to hit him with a bazooka.
    • In "The Trouble With Trillions", Mr. Burns shows Homer around his mansion, showing him that he has the suit Charlie Chaplin was buried in, suggesting that Burns was the one who stole Chaplin's coffin in 1978, a few months after Chaplin's death and funeral.
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
    • Ickis' father was the one responsible for causing the crack on the Liberty Bell when the humans he scared dropped it.
    • When the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, the reason why everyone in the audience was screaming was because of a monster scaring them, not because of hysteria over The Beatles' music.
    • A monster inspired Franklin D. Roosevelt to include "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" in his inaugural address. A monster was also the reason Christopher Columbus discovered America.
    • An old monster the trio had to escort home told stories of himself of scaring George Washington (which motivates him in crossing the Delaware River) and Albert Einstein (which is why his hair is what he's known for).
  • An episode of Justice League revealed that ancient hawkmen were responsible for the rise of Egypt as a civilization.
  • The Post-Credits Scene of an episode of Rick and Morty has a pair of time-travelling 5th dimension beings skimming across history looking for Rick to take revenge. Instead, they find a similar-looking elderly scientist, beat the crap out of him, and tell him not to mess with time before leaving. Said man composes himself, limps to the chalkboard defiantly declaring "I vill mess vith time!" and begins writing the Theory of General Relativity on the board.
  • Rocko's Modern Life showed that Heffer's past lives were responsible for why the Leaning Tower of Pisa leans and the Hindenburg disaster.
  • Pretty much the entire premise of "Peabody's Improbable History" segment on Rocky and Bullwinkle. The legend of the Kerwood Derby, which reportedly made its wearer the smartest person in the world. Newton wore it when he discovered his theory of Gravity, Archimedes wore it in the bath when he discovered his theory of water displacement (or at least remembered where he left the soap) and Einstein wore it when he discovered his Theory of Relativity. Reportedly the Kerwood Derby was worn by Alexander the Great when he conquered the world, by Ghengis Khan when he conquered the world, by Philip of Macedonia when he conquered the world, and by Elvis Presley when he... well, you get the idea.
  • South Park. Chef gave Meat Loaf his nickname and he introduced Elton John to the songwriter which gave him his first hit. He also told Ozzy Osbourne to buy a pompadour hat...
  • An in-universe example in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "SB-129", where Squidward goes back to the age of the trilobites and teaches primitive sponges and starfish how to catch jellyfish.
  • Time Squad did this almost every episode, as the entire premise of the show was that they went back in time to make sure that history happens correctly. The main characters are singlehandedly responsible for such things as The Boston Tea Party, the Battle at the Alamo, and the invention of peanut butter.
    • Another episode had Betsy Ross and the rest of Washington's army become hippies only to regain their fighting spirit by coffee. One of the hippies likes the coffee so much that he vows to "spread it throughout this great land." His name as a hippie? Starbuck.
    • After a whole episode dealing with putting Abraham Lincoln's presidency back on track, the time travelers return to the future just as Abraham suggests to his wife that he feels like visiting Ford's Theater...


Video Example(s):


It Looks Better That Way

The real reason that the Venus de Milo has no arms.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

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Main / HistoricalInJoke

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