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Pen/Finn: "What's going on? A-A-Abraham Lincoln?"Pen/Finn: "What?"
Lincoln: "Pen. Your mind has been transported back in time. And to Mars."
—Adventure Time - Pilot Episode
A type of joke that goes "Hey, look! A historical figure!" Apparently, there's something inherently funny about dead famous people, so that a quick cameo/reference is all you need to get a laugh. Part of the humor may come from putting the figure in an unexpected location or silly situation. Abraham Lincoln may be funny on his own, but Abraham Lincoln on a spaceship is even funnier. Another variation is to have the figure take some other form. Zombie Theodore Roosevelt, Robot Oscar Wilde, Evil William Shakespeare and the Giant Head of Errol Flynn could all be completely hilarious.
As far as historical figures who can be the subject of this kind of joke go, there seem to be three categories: those that everyone knows like Lincoln, those only known for one thing, like Grover Cleveland, and those where they are only known for not being known, like Millard Fillmore.
- Fritz Lang serves as Ed's mentor in Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conquerer of Shamballa. Ed has no idea who he even is until about halfway through the film and even then he's not particularly impressed with him.
- Probably the most triumphant example for people of a certain age: Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure.
- In The Dark Knight Saga, the police station has a corkboard with pictures of people suspected to be Batman. Including Abraham Lincoln.
- Late Night with Conan O'Brien employs this often. There was Gay Lincoln on a Swing for a while. Now there's S&M Lincoln who silently leers at Conan from afar even after the sketch is supposed to be over.
- Police Squad!! had Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln in the opening credits of every episode, even though Lincoln would never appear in any episodes.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000's Soultaker Episode had Martin Van Buren as an image from the pod attached to the SOL to hide Joel's cameo appearance.
- One really odd episode of Star Trek had Kirk and Spock beamed down to a planet which contained alien replicas of Abraham Lincoln and the Vulcan philosopher Surak as well as four alien replicas of some of the most villainous people in galactic history as part of an alien experiment to see whether 'good' or 'evil' was stronger. This is not an example of this trope, in that it was played perfectly straight and was part of the central conceit of the episode. The bit where Lincoln's head pops up on the viewscreen in the middle of space is a better example, however.
- From the Torchwood episode "Dead Man Walking":
Owen: You've read Proust?
Jack: Yeah. Well, no. We dated for a while. He was really immature.
- Doctor Who is probably the live-action TV king of this trope, as the Doctor namedrops historical figures only slightly more often than they actually appear on screen. Hell, other people are even doing it for him now:
- Apparently Wannabe Badass Dean Moriarty likes having President one-six as his wingman when he's breaking up with Alex in his dreams. It Makes Sense in Context.
- Kansas politician William Allen White's face appears frequently during They Might Be Giants concerts. This might make sense if the band was from Kansas and not Brooklyn.
- Age of Empires III features a cheat unit known as "George Crushington", a giant bust of George Washington that headbutts enemies to death with visible comic book sound effects.
- The Sam and Max games also love Lincoln. Not only is the Giant Head of Abraham Lincoln a recurring character, but Zombie Lincoln shows up in Night of the Raving Dead.
- Scribblenauts features George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as summonable characters, despite its statement that proper names are not valid words.
- Shadow Hearts does this on occasion, but a little more subtly (that is, when it doesn't just apply In the Past Everyone Will Be Famous). You'll meet a character under one name, and then discover who they actually were in the Library - at which point you get a Late to The Punchline moment.
- Half the point of Hark! A Vagrant.
- Also true for Thinkin' Lincoln (Guess who is the main protagonist...)
- Casey and Andy had a Running Gag involving Andy's causality-defying feud with Grover Cleveland.
- Which eventually proved central to the grand finale.
- The Xkcd strip "Windows 7" is a Hitler example.
- MS Paint Masterpieces, during a filler explaining Time Travel, shows a destroyed alternate timeline labeled only as "Lincoln Went Super Saiyan", and then references it again in a later filler.
- In Monster Commute the land of Monstru is ruled over by Abe Lincolnstein, the reassembled, reanimated and quite unsane (yes, unsane) form of the former president,who resides in Lincoln City, a massive complex from which he rules with an tyrannical iron fist.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Benjamin Franklin's clone is a major character and quite foul-mouthed. Interestingly when the original Franklin is brought back as a headless horseman by Dracula it may seem a case of this, but it works rather well given that Franklin's preferred not to bother thinking about if Jesus was divine or not, as he would find out when he died.
- The Steampunk Fauxtivational Poster featuring Abe Lincoln with a Gatling gun in place of a right forearm.
- Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog has Fake Thomas Jefferson as a member of the Evil League of Evil.
- Cats That Look Like Hitler
- The Cloak's sidekick is The Disembodied Head of Film Noir Legend, Robert Mitchum.
- George Washington He threw a knife into heaven and could kill with a stare.
- "Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny" has a zombified Abe Lincoln wielding a machete and an AK-47.
- Futurama loved Abraham Lincoln jokes, to the point that a slightly exasperated Matt Groening brought it up in one commentary. The most famous appearance of Lincoln in Futurama is probably "real holographic simulated Evil Lincoln" who is, apparently
- Two examples from The Simpsons- Mr. Burns never forgave his mother for her affair with President William Howard Taft ("Taft, you old dog, you!") and in another episode, Grandpa Simpson said that as a kid he got spanked by Grover Cleveland on two non consecutive occasions.
- One of the writers on both The Simpsons and Futurama finds Grover Cleveland's nonconsecutive terms absolutely hilarious for no reason anybody understands.
- A further example: During one of Bart's daydreams, he imagines himself riding down the river on a raft with Huckleberry Finn. Cue the zoom out showing the whole raft:
Bart: Hey Huck, what's L-I-N-C-O-N doing here?
Huck: I don't know, it's your fantasy.
Bart: Hey Abe.
Lincoln: Hi, Bart.
- While serving aboard PT-109, Abe Simpson learned John F. Kennedy's terrible secret...
Kennedy: "Ich bin ein Berliner!"
Abe: "He's a Nazi! Get'im!" (pummeling ensues)
- In an episode of Dexter's Laboratory, Dexter and Mandark bring the heads on Mt. Rushmore to life. They then pit Lincoln and George Washington against one another.
- Historical Hilarity is the entire premise of Clone High. Nothing better than a Love Triangle of Abe Lincoln, Joan of Arc, and Cleopatra.
- In the Adventure Time, pilot, Penn's mind gets transported back in time. And to Mars. Where an Abe Lincoln with a classical halo tells him to believe in himself. It's just that kind of cartoon.
- Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force can transform into a shape described as Samurai Lincoln (though he claims it's Wayne Gretzky)
- In the movie, Lincoln plays a part in the ATHF's backstory.
- Girl Hitler From The Venture Brothers.
- And Ghost Lincoln from the episode Guess Who's Coming to State Dinner.
- And, recently, the reincarnation/ghost/clone of actual Hitler in a dog's body.
- In the episode Escape from the House of Mummies, Part 2 there is a B-story going on that the audience only gets to see parts of, making the appearances of Sigmund Freud, Emperor Caligula, and Edgar Allan Poe come of as very random bits of humor. This trope would also seem to cover flashbacks to earlier events surrounding the ORB and the creation of the Guild of Calamitous Intent which was appartently put together by old rock musicians and is now run by David Bowie.
- From Family Guy:
- Giant Stone Abe Lincoln. Who has to be stopped by Giant Stone John Wilkes Booth.
- Lincoln also appeared in South Park when Kyle was voted the ugliest boy in his class, to explain that even ugly people can achieve great things.
- Robot Chicken featured a lightsaber duel between George W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln.
- An episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy has the ghost of Lord Byron following Billy around.
- In an episode of The Weekenders, Tino keeps having dreams about the guys his mom is dating. Invariably, the dreams will end with Captain Dreadnaught about to fight an alien slugbeast, until he notices Martin Van Buren riding a model train through the living room chanting "Down with the cotton gin! Down with the cotton gin!"