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Pen/Finn: "What's going on? A-A-Abraham Lincoln?"

Lincoln: "Pen. Your mind has been transported back in time. And to Mars."

Pen/Finn: "What?"
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.

Compare Historical In-Joke and The Gump. Compare also Allohistorical Allusion when this appears in an Alternate History setting..

Examples of Historical Hilarity include:


Anime

Comic Books

Film

Live Action TV

  • 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:

 Liz Ten: The Doctor, old drinking buddy of Henry Twelve. Tea and scones with Liz Two... Vicky was a bit on the fence about you, wasn't she? Knighted and exiled you on the same day! And so much for The Virgin Queen, you bad, bad boy!

Music

  • 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.

Video Games

  • 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.

Web Comic

  • Half the point of Hark! A Vagrant.
  • 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.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • 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 "back" baaaaaaaaack!.
    • Futurama also features a plethora of heads preserved in jars, some of dead celebrities or politicians.
  • 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)

 Peter Griffin: Oh yeah? Well everyone said the same thing about Benjamin Disraeli!

[[[Flashback Cut]] to Benjamin Disraeli writing at his desk. He then turns to the audience.]

Benjamin Disraeli: You don't even know who I am!

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