Four Horsemen of the Apopcalypse – Pop culture references in The Colbert Report: August 17-20, 2009


Welcome to No Fact Zone’s weekly roundup of cultural references on The Colbert Report. From Darcy to Danger Mouse, String Theory to Shakespeare, we’ve got the keys to this week’s obscure, oddball, and occasionally obscene cultural shout-outs (hey!).

Hey Zoners!   Last shows before the break.  I’m happy for Stephen and the staff,  and sad for us viewers, but I’m also looking forward to all the fun stuff we’ve got planned at NFZ for the next few weeks.  Be sure to stick around!  I think, aside from the joy-spreading character breaks, my favorite bit this week had to be Stephen’s health care debate with furniture.  Utter silliness, and it still makes a good point (go Barney Frank!).  Have a favorite joke or reference this week?  Post it in the comments!  (* = TCR/TDS link)

Monday: Bill McKibben

“We should all have end of the world sex right now. Anything goes, right? We’re all going to die. Masque of the Red Death, right?”

In “The Masque of the Red Death”(1842), a supremely spooky short story by Edgar Allan Poe, wealthy nobles attempt to avoid a plague ravaging the town by hiding in Prince Prospero’s abbey.  Indifferent to the suffering of the townspeople, Prospero and his guests throw a masquerade ball. When a mysterious stranger arrives costumed gruesomely as a victim of the Red Death, Prospero confronts him. To say more would be a spoiler, but let’s just say that wealth and isolation can’t save the nobles from their fate.

Tuesday:  The Word – Arch Enemies & Tip/Wag – German Campaign

“Like being born poor, but beautiful enough to be saved by a prince.  Sorry ugly stepsisters, you’re dying alone. [After Writing “Eat, Pray, Love”]”

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, a 2006 memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, describes her world travels after a divorce, and her reflections on spirituality, love, and balance in life. The book got mixed reviews, with many praising Gilbert’s skilled writing, but lamenting her shallow, self-conscious insights.

“If you really want to break them up, you have got to seduce Veronica. [Betty Veronica Barcelona]”

The 2006 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona follows friends Vicky and Cristina on holiday in Barcelona, where they become entangled in the love and sex lives of Spanish painter Juan Antonio and his wife. Sounds more appealing than a freaky cartoon three-way with Archie!

“Whoa! Ich bin ein Berliner, in that I am reminded of jelly donuts.”

Many of you might have heard about President John F. Kennedy’s supposed “Berliner” gaffe: In a 1963 speech in West Berlin, Kennedy expressed his solidarity with the people of Berlin by proclaiming “Ich bin ein Berliner!”  Journalists with an apparently poor understanding of the German language, and even less knowledge of the local Berlin culture, said that by including the article “ein”, Kennedy had not declared “I am a Berliner!”, but “I am a jelly donut!”.  It’s a very amusing story, but entirely untrue – Kennedy’s speech was perfectly grammatical, and residents of Berlin didn’t even use the word “berliner” to refer to jelly donuts.  Nevertheless, the story stuck, and has been repeated as fact over the years. Truthiness wins out again.

Wednesday: Sugar Shortage

“I knew we should never have baked the world’s largest cupcake.  We flew too close to the sun.”

In ancient Greek mythology, father and son Daedalus and Icarus were captives on the isle of Crete.  In an attempt to escape, Daedalus crafted wings for the pair out of wax and feathers. Incautious and exhilirated by flight, Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting his wings and plunging to his death in the sea.

“Prices haven’t been this high since 1981, when John Hinkley Jr. bought all that sugar to impress Jodi Foster.”

Wow, I guess I remembered that historical moment all wrong – though Stephen’s version of history isn’t all that much stranger than the actual events.  After repeatedly watching the film Taxi Driver, loner, drifter, and perpetual student John Hinkley Jr. developed an obsession with actress Jodi Foster, and eventually enrolled in Yale University where Foster was a student in order to stalk her.  On March 30, 1981, in a bid to impress Foster (and paralleling a plot in the film), Hinkley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.  The President and three others were shot, including Press Secretary James Brady (who was permanently disabled by a shot to the head).  Hinkley was later found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental institution.  James Brady went on to become a *prominent advocate for gun control, and thus the * Number One Threat to America on the very first Report.  Brady never came on the show, so I guess that makes him a coward.

Thursday: France Bans Elephants & Chris Matthews

“I am mad. Or as they say in your language, Je suis merde. Grande merde.”

We already know * Stephen’s French language skills * are a bit lacking. I guess Comedy Central doesn’t need to censor swearing as long as it’s not in English.  As this is a family friendly blog, I won’t translate this for you, I’ll let Babelfish do it.

Chris Matthews: “You know, what did Al Capone say – you get more with a kind word and a gun than just with a kind word. You know where I learned that from? Professor Irwin Corey.”

Comedian ‘Professor’ Irwin Corey is known as the World’s Foremost Authority.  Over a stand up and television career spanning some 70 years, Corey is known for his rambling treatises of florid but meaningless authoritative doublespeak. And at 95, he’s still performing standup!  Wouldn’t you love to see a battle between Irwin Corey and * all around Expert John Hodgman for the title of Most Authoritative Authority? (Also see a favorite of mine – * John Hodgman giving Jon Stewart a taste of his own editing medicine)


  1. Thank you wren, I really enjoy these roundups. You seriously rock.

    I had always believed the “jelly donut” version (and felt a bit embarassed for JFK for making such a gaffe). Thanks for setting me straight.

    “Professor” Irwin Corey sounds awesome! I am going to have a look at some of the links. Love John Hodgman too.

    • ColbertGirl27 says:

      I always believed the “jelly donut” story as well! Good to know that it was mere truthiness:)

  2. Thanks from me too wren!

    I have to say that I did know the “Ich bin ein Berliner!” reference but I had never heard the “jelly donut” version. Hmm. Glad to know that JFK got it right.

    I’m amazed that Professor Irwin Corey is alive and performing! I seem to remember him appearing on Johnny Carson and other shows of that era. Good for him. Perhaps laughter does keep you young!

    By the way, this is OT I know but any of you who have never seen Johnny – reruns of his show are showing on the REELZ cable channel – well worth checking out! Perhaps they’ll show Professor Corey.

  3. ColbertGirl27 says:

    Wow. I knew of the Hinkley’s attempted assassination of Reagan, but I had no idea that it was in an effort to impress Jodie Foster!

    Thanks for another great round-up wren!

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