“The fish flies at night”

EMILY: [on phone] I need the hat rack.
LORELAI: [whispers mysteriously] The fish flies at night.

A parody of the messages given in code in spy films, such as the James Bond and Mission Impossible series. Lorelai decides her mother’s comment sounds like a code sign, so she jokingly gives the “countersign”. Get Smart often used ridiculous signs and countersigns like this.

It’s rather similar to an exchange in the sitcom Murphy Brown, where Murphy tells someone she’s pregnant by saying in shock, “The stick turned blue!”. The other person thinks it must be code for something, and mutters back, “The dog barks at midnight”.

Marx Brothers

TRISTAN: Uh … you left this [handing Rory her notebook.]
RORY: Oh yeah, I did. Thanks.
TRISTAN: Sure. [both try to go through the doorway together and back up]
RORY: Well, that could have been a potential Marx Brothers moment.

The Marx Brothers were an American family who formed a highly successful comedy act in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in film, from 1905 to 1949. They are generally known by their stage names: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and Gummo. Considered to be among the greatest comedians of the twentieth century, several of their films are regarded as comedy classics.

During the show, it became apparent that The Marx Brothers made some of Lorelai and Rory’s favourite films. Amy Sherman-Palladino is also a big fan of The Marx Brothers.

“Then he’s gay”

(Rory is packing everything which reminds her of Dean into a cardboard box).
LORELAI: Sweater’s brand new.
RORY: Well, he [Dean] saw me in it yesterday and he liked it.
LORELAI: Well, then he’s got good taste.
RORY: He said it brought out the blue in my eyes.
LORELAI: Well, then he’s gay.

Gay jokes are always funny in Lorelai’s world. I think it’s all the 1970s films and television shows she watches, when you could pretty much just say someone was gay and everyone would crack up hysterically.

Oxymoron

LORELAI: Curtains?
LUKE: No.
LORELAI: Manly curtains.
LUKE: Oxymoron.
LORELAI: What did you call me?

An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two contradictory terms are linked together as an apparent paradox; the word comes from the Greek for “sharp foolish”, an oxymoron in itself as “sharp” and “foolish” are opposites. Common oxymorons include “love-hate relationship”, “deafening silence”, “working holiday”, “only choice”, “friendly fire”, and “sweet sorrow”.

I don’t know how many times the word has been used in comedy so that a character can take (or pretend to take) offence, as oxymoron sounds like an insult.

Later in the season, we discover that Luke is in fact rather fond of ruffled curtains, which he picked out for his own apartment.

Zero and Zero

LUKE: Don’t you have anything better to do with your Saturdays?
KIRK: What can I say, I’m addicted to comedy. [to Rory and Christopher] Half an hour they been playing and it’s tied zero – zero. [louder] Hey, if you ever take this show on the road I got a name for you, Zero and Zero. Dean Zero and Luke Zero – get it?

Kirk seems to playing with the concept of double acts in comedy often being billed by their surnames, such as Abbot and Costello, or Laurel and Hardy [pictured]. Kirk is saying both Dean and Luke are a double act of “zeros”, and therefore a pair of losers.

Joan and Melissa Rivers

EMILY: Lorelai, you’re being morbid.
LORELAI: I’m being morbid? … Joan and Melissa Rivers here think I’m being morbid.

Joan Rivers, born Joan Molinsky (1933-2014) was an American comedian, actress, writer, producer, and television host. She was known for her controversial comedic persona, which was often viciously insulting towards celebrities and politicians. Actress Melissa Rivers (born Melissa Rosenberg in 1968) is her daughter, who worked alongside her mother on several occasions.

Joan and Melissa Rivers appeared as themselves in the 1994 television movie Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story, which we learn in the next season is favourite viewing for a mocking Lorelai and Rory.

In the film Joan and Melissa recreate the anguish they went through after the suicide of Joan’s husband and Melissa’s father, Edgar Rosenberg – who had often been the butt of his wife’s jokes during her comedy routine, and whose death was also milked for humour by Joan.

Lorelai equates Richard and Emily’s glee at getting their hands on their dead acquaintance’s house at a good price as being in a similar vein of poor taste.

Anvil

LORELAI: Hey, four menus, a coffee and an anvil please.
LUKE: What’s the anvil for?
LORELAI: For Rune.

Lorelai is referring to a common trope in cartoons where an anvil is dropped on a character’s head with hilarious results. It seems to have first been used in Disney animated films, and was perfected by Warner Bros. in their Looney Toons cartoons. (Possibly not a coincidence that Lorelai sees Rune off with a “Bye, Loon”.

The comedy anvil drop may have its origins in real life. A traditional celebration on the Fourth of July in America was launching an anvil into the air with gunpowder from atop another anvil, then watching it fall onto the other anvil with a thud. Presumably everyone stood well back during this exciting spectacle and hopefully nobody got an anvil on the head.