Obscure References - My Comedic Strength, and My Comedic Downfall

I love obscure humor. There's nothing funnier to me than being in a room with many people and catching an obscure joke that a majority of the room missed. It's not a feeling of elitism or anything, but rather realizing that the person making the obscure reference is going out on a limb hoping someone out there will catch it. The Simpsons has this all the time; entire scenes are based on movie clips from 20 years ago, which half of the audience misses because they didn't see the film. It may seem like a bad idea at first, but the result is hysterical comedy for those who get it, sending the quality of the humor skyrocketing (again, for those who get it).

The television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 (which by the way loses some potential die-hard viewers just because of its name, in my opinion) is another great source of this type of comedy. Three characters watch bad movies in a theater, making jokes about them the whole time. The comments/jokes can range from the non-obscure (a killer is frantically looking around for a knife and someone screams "Where's the remote control??!?") to the extremely obscure (a kid is walking along a fence hitting it with two sticks, and someone says "Hey, it's Neil Peart!"). One I remember well is when a good guy hiding behind a door clubs a villian in the back of the neck when he comes in the room, and they all start humming the music from Star Trek when Kirk was in a fist fight, but they stop after 5-6 notes and say "Eh, forget it".

Humor without any obscurity is like a comedy with a laugh track: you always know if you missed a joke, and by the time you realize it, it's not worth figuring out what the joke was. You also know almost certainly that there aren't any hidden or obscure jokes, because these would have been "tagged" with laughs.

Strength and Downfall

What enables obscure material to succeed on TV and in movies is often a mix with clear, simple humor. A Simpsons scene based on Westworld can still seem funny if the robots are Itchy and Scratchy attacking one another, even if you miss the Westworld reference; all the other jokes in an episode of Duckman are funny, even if you miss the fact that the now-sentient SuperComputer in that episode just requested that he from now on be referred to as Loretta (an obscure reference from a scene in Monty Python's "The Life Of Brian").

Obscure humor can also succeed among friends without this padding. Phrases like "Almost there...", "It's only a flesh wound!", and "... it is .......... green" can be a riot in and of themselves at the appropriate times, to people who know the references.

Now although I'd sometimes rather remember other things, I remember tons of quotes from movies, comedy routines, etc whether I like it or not. As a result, I've got this huge swarm of references that come out as jokes whenever appropriate/funny, which I love having. However sometimes they'll be so obscure that no one around gets it, and my attempt at humor falls to the ground like a bag of wet cement.

Anyway, here's my on-going list of obscure phrases/references, in case you ever hear me babbling away and you have no idea what I am muttering to myself about. If you know me and think of any classic ones we've shared, ("Ohh.. but I was gonna go to the Tashi station and get some power converters! - GLUG GLUG GLUG", etc) mail 'em to me (or submit them below, which just mails 'em to me) and I'll add them.

Enjoy!
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