Four Horsemen of the Apopcalypse – Pop culture references in The Colbert Report: March 15-18, 2010


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!  That was a great week to slide us into a well-deserved break for the show.  Lots of fun segments (hooray for the return of Cheating Death, and with a new intro, too!), interesting (if sometimes evasive) interviews, and goofiness galore.  Just the way I like it.  What were your favorite segments this week? Post them in the comments!
(** = TCR/TDS link, and there are some sweet ones!)

Monday: Daylight Savings Time & I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buddha – Raj Patel

“You know who I blame for this? Ben Franklin. He invented Daylight Savings Time, probably during some syphilitic fever dream.”

Ben Franklin as the inventor of Daylight Savings Time?  Well, not exactly, but he might be credited for putting the idea out there, if in jest.  Ever the wit and creative thinker, in 1784 Franklin wrote a humorous essay for the Journal de Paris, on the subject of energy savings. The essay, “An Economical Project”, expresses Franklin’s surprise that the sun should give off so much light so early in the morning for free. It’s really a tremendously funny read.  As for the syphilis rumor (not so, he actually died of a ruptured lung artery), Stephen asked the man himself in  **Better Know a Founder (full disclosure: I am a sucker for a man in a tri-corner, breeches, and a frock coat. Go watch this clip!)

“I am at least the John the Baptist of Share International. And I have to say, I do look great with my head on a platter.”

An oddly apt comparison – John the Baptist, who in his ministry recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and was ordered beheaded by Herod (his stepdaughter Salome asked for the gift of John’s head).  Stephen wasn’t beheaded for deifying Raj Patel, though – **it was all about workers’ compensation.  Do you know **you earn 2,634 weeks of workers’ comp for a severed head?

Tuesday: I’s on Edjukashun & Rebecca Skloot

“… and requiring that the history of McCarthyism include how the later release of the Venona papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in the U.S. government.”

In post WWII America, anti-Communist sentiment ran high.  Senator Joseph McCarthy led the charge against suspected Communist sympathizers, and ushered in a shameful era of paranoia in which thousands of Americans were wrongly accused of disloyalty and treason, blacklisted, and even imprisoned.  The Venona papers, Soviet intelligence messages sent from 1942-1945 subsequently decoded by US and British cryptanalysts, have thrown new fuel on the fire.  Since the papers were publicly released in 1995, analysts have attempted to connect code names of the contacts mentioned to actual identities.  In some cases, individuals have been verified as Soviet agents, but many may have also been listed because of innocent exchanges, or were never contacted by the Soviets at all.  Some historians worry that the Venona papers are now being improperly used to justify the overreaches of the McCarthy era.

If you’re interested in learning more about the story of Henrietta Lacks, Wired Magazine recently published this fascinating graph of the many scientific and medical advances that stemmed from the HeLa cell line.

Also, I loved the visual shout-out to my all-time favorite 80’s arcade game, Centipede (this version gives you a taste, but it’s not the same without the big trackball.  Yes, this was a serious, serious favorite, as in High Score at the arcade, baby!)

Wednesday:  United States Census 2010 & Nell Irvin Painter

I do enjoy Stephen’s mistranslations.  The show Más Sabe el Diablo actually translates as “The Devil Knows Best”, though I think “More Sauce on the Devil” is a better title.

“Scots-Irish are not Irish. There’s no Irish blood in Scots-Irish people.  They are Scots Presbyterians who were given land in Ireland. They took our land, and drove my people across the River Shannon, where we were forced to farm rocks by Oliver Cromwell, and I will see him rot in hell before you call Scots-Irish people Irish!”

I love a good rant, and this one was a beauty.  I don’t know about anyone else, but if you’re of Irish descent, you’ll have heard (or given) this one before.  If not, here’s a brief history of the Ulster Scots in Ireland. Or you may prefer Stephen’s history – **long story short, he’s been drinking all day.

Thursday: Middle Eastern Dogs & Mary Matalin & Sign-Off

“Bob Barker tried to warn us. Why didn’t we listen?”

Bob Barker, for 35 years the host of TV game show The Price Is Right, is an outspoken advocate for animal rights; in his regular show sign-off, he urged viewers to “have your pets spayed and neutered”.

“He said I will make you fishers of men. I don’t believe Jesus said ‘If you don’t work you don’t eat’. I believe that was from Cool Hand Luke

The sign-off caption, 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 , references the quote that Mary Matalin paraphrased during her interview (“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat…”).  Cool that they acknowledged Matalin’s quote wasn’t far off, though I maintain that Stephen was closer to the spirit of the message.


  1. The Mary Matalin quote started with “Jesus said teach a man to fish, don’t give him fish” attributing a quote by Confucius to Jesus. Then she switched to “You don’t work you don’t eat” which at least is in the bible but was not a quote of Jesus. Even better – ” He who does not work, neither shall he eat” was used by Lenin (and I don’t mean John).

    So Mary is espousing Chines and Russian ideals?

    • Yeah, it seems to me if you’re going to quote the Bible to make a point, you should at least know what you’re talking about.

    • It was Paul writing to the Thessalonians. So, not a Jesus quote.

      I loved how they were so *on* it!

      • lockhart43 says:

        I had to look it up in the Bible right after the show ended just to see why they put it up there. And I agree – I love that they got on it right away and put it on the screen at the end!

  2. magdalena says:

    Thanks so much Wren for doing these roundups, it’s nice to have a reason to geek-out completely. I really enjoy watching the show and guess what will be mentioned here. And then get lost in the links you post.

  3. lockhart43 says:

    Thanks for the roundup wren! Love those TCR links! And that Benjamin Franklin essay was too funny – especially the part when he suggests every one with shutters on their windows be fined for trying to block out the extra sun, ha.

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