MISS PATTY: Now remember, one of the most important things in ballroom dancing is to remember to spot, otherwise you’re gonna get dizzy. So, what you wanna do is you wanna pick out something to focus on. I usually like to find a lonely seaman. Then when turning, whip your head around and find your spot again. [spins around] Hello sailor, hello sailor, hello sailor.
One of the show’s more groan-worthy sexual jokes. Note the reference to “hello sailor”, used again.
RORY: I went out onto the patio. LORELAI: Ugh, Rory, that’s like accepting the position as the drummer in Spinal Tap.
Spinal Tap is a fictional English heavy metal band created by American comedians and musicians Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer. They first appeared on a 1979 sketch comedy pilot called The TV Show, but are best known from the critically-acclaimed 1984 mockumentary film, This is Spinal Tap, considered one of the best films of the 1980s. The heavy metal fan and comedic Lorelai must surely love it.
Spinal Tap’s fictional history includes a succession of drummers, all of which have died in strange circumstances, such as a “bizarre gardening accident”, “choking on someone else’s vomit”, two suffering spontaneous combustion on stage, and one death a mystery police thought better to leave unsolved.
Lorelai’s saying that Rory was doomed the minute she went out on the patio.
LORELAI: Ugh. There have been very few moments in my life where I have actually wished I had one of those enormous cream pies you can just smash in someone’s face, but this is definitely one of them.
Cream pie attacks and fights have been a staple of slapstick comedy since the days of the English music hall. English comedian Fred Karno (1866-1941) is credited with popularising the pie-in-the-face gag, and they were often used in films by his proteges, Charlie Chaplin, and Laurel and Hardy. A cream pie in the face is a staple of traditional clowning. The cream pies are, these days, usually canned whipped cream or shaving cream in an aluminium pie plate.
MICHEL: It is a weekend, and on the weekend I like to move, and the ladies, they like it too. LORELAI: Especially when you move out of town. Ba zing!
Lorelai’s comeback to Michel’s statement mimics the one-line quip beloved of classic stage comedians to their “straight man”, even providing her own ba zing in imitation of the cymbal being hit to mark the punch line. Another indication that Michel was originally meant to be heterosexual.
Amy Sherman-Palladino’s father, Don Sherman, was a stand-up comedian in the 1960s, and there are numerous references to classic stage comedy in Gilmore Girls.
DEAN: You’re going to build a house? RORY: It’s for charity and I’m late, and why don’t you go on inside and you and my mother can continue the “Rory’s building a house” routine, and when that gets boring you can move on over to “Who’s on First?”
“Who’s on First?” is a famous comedy routine by Abbott and Costello, in which Abbott is identifying players on a baseball team for Costello. The comedy comes from the fact that their names sound as if they are answers to Costello’s questions. For example, the first player is named Who, thus the answer to “Who’s on first?” is “Who’s on first”, leading to utter confusion.
This was a style of routine very popular in the early twentieth century, and Abbott and Costello had a big hit with “Who’s on First?” in a vaudeville revue in 1937. In was performed on radio in 1938, and copyrighted in 1944. Abbott and Costello performed it numerous times in their careers, rarely the exact same way twice, and performed it for President Franklin D. Roosevelt several times.
Abbott and Costello included a shorter version of their routine for their 1940 film debut One Night in the Tropics, and a longer version for their 1945 film The Naughty Nineties, considered their best recorded version of the routine. The “Who’s on First?” bit they did for their 1950s television program The Abbott and Costello Show is considered the definitive version.
LORELAI: Call me when you get home, and please be careful. RORY: I will. LORELAI: I mean it Timmy, no falling down the well.
Lorelai is referencing an old joke relating to the television show Lassie, earlier discussed.
In the show, Lassie would bark to give warning of danger, with her human friends apparently understanding exactly what she was saying. Thus it was parodied as, “Woof, woof!”, “What’s that, Lassie? Timmy’s fallen down the well?”. The joke relates to the 1957-1964 period, when the little boy on the show was Timmy Martin, played by Jon Provost (who called his memoirs Timmy’s in the Well: The Jon Provost Story).
In actuality, Timmy never fell down a well, although he suffered a number of similar situations, such as falling in a lake and getting trapped in an old mine, a pipe, and down a badger hole. The list of Timmy’s perils is very long, and includes wandering onto a minefield and being exposed to radiation, not to mention more mundane concerns like tigers and bears. Lassie did once get stuck down a well herself, though.
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”.
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.
(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.
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.