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"Are you a genie who does references only my parents get?"

Often, you'll want to get some Parental Bonus or cool and hip comedy into your work to broaden your appeal to the Periphery Demographic.

One common method of doing this in Science Fiction and Fantasy is by having a non-human character or a magical creature of some sort appear to be in tune with the cultural zeitgeist of the time period when the work was made, but not the one the work is actually set in, adding an extra touch of spice to the Anachronism Stew. Thus, space aliens will watch Casablanca, Gremlins will cosplay as Rambo, and, yes, the Genie will impersonate Jack Nicholson.

Though this particular gag did not originate in The Nineties, it became very popular for a long time following the smashing success of Disney's Aladdin.

A bit of trivia: This trope was almost called "The Genie Knows John Wayne". In the original script, Genie was supposed to do a John Wayne impression. (note the line about being a "straight shooter") But, Robin Williams did a better Jack Nicholson impression.

Very much comes under the Rule of Funny and Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

Examples of The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson include:

Anime and Manga

  • Puck in Berserk, who occasionally dresses as Yoda.
    • He's also apparently a fan of sumo wrestling.
    • Corkus himself at one point did several Hulk Hogan gestures.

Films -- Animated

  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • The Sword in the Stone did it first, with Merlin lamenting the fact that he lives before indoor plumbing and going to 20th century Bermuda when the mood suits him. He even comes back in a Hawaiian tourist shirt. The gag is true to the original The Once and Future King, in which Merlin makes a number of anachronistic reference's to 20th century events due to living through history in reverse.
    • The Genie from Disney's Aladdin is this to the max, as well as the Trope Namer. His accurate impressions of movie stars (such as, notably, Jack Nicholson) provided ample Parent Service, and like Merlin in The Sword in the Stone, he exhibits ample working knowledge of twentieth-century zeitgeist and technology. In the sequels and television series that followed, he frequently alluded to several other Disney franchises and impersonated their characters, including Pumbaa from The Lion King and Pinocchio.

      Worth noting is that Aladdin lampshades the Genie's tendency to do this in the cartoon series. "What's the genie doing?" "Dreaming about references to some form of entertainment that hasn't been invented yet." It's occasionally mentioned that Genie sometimes time-travels in his spare time, which explains how he knows about pop culture icons from the future. There is one episode of the show that explictly shows him in another time, with Napoleon. There's also a fairly popular fan theory that the movie actually takes place in the distant future, which also explains it handily.
    • During their musical number, the gargoyles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame are seen playing a piano centuries before it was invented, as well as throw in references to Michaelangelo's David (the film is set nearly a quarter-century before the statue's completion) and Amadeus (an Actor Allusion; Tom Hulce, who plays Quasimodo, also played Mozart). And there's a huge shout-out to The Wizard of Oz when Laverne "sics" her birds on the enemy...
    • Mushu in Mulan gets to do most of the anachronistic jokes, including using a modern toothbrush after biting Ling, and lamenting about not having an entourage.
    • While the humor of Hercules mostly comes from being The Flintstones in Ancient Greece, the Fate with the ability to see the future gets a line about the success of indoor plumbing, and passes it off as if she is giving out insider trading tips.
    • In the first The Lion King, Zazu, while being held prisoner, sings "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen", "It's a Small World After All", and "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" in that order. The POV Sequel, meanwhile, had Timon and Pumbaa making jokes like, "We moved into the theater district," and "Something tells me this ain't the traveling company of Riverdance" (followed by them making the dance from that play as they exit the scene).
  • Devon and Cornwall, the two-headed dragon from Quest for Camelot is this film's answer to Aladdin's Genie. During their big musical number, everything from The Lion King to Godzilla gets a Shout-Out, including Raiders of the Lost Ark and Friday the 13 th, and they close up with impressions of Elvis Presley and Sonny and Cher. Bladebeak may also qualify; he makes a pun based on Dirty Harry.
  • Prehistoric possums Crash and Eddie, in Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs, demonstrate that they are somehow familiar with "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)", despite predating both Christmas and the Chipmunks themselves by quite a wide historical margin.
    • And that was only the third movie. In the second movie a certain R. Kelly song line is being sung.
  • Chicken Run is supposed to take place during The Fifties, but during the musical number "Flip, Flop and Fly", Those Two Rats Nick and Fetcher do dance moves borrowed from The Blues Brothers, Saturday Night Fever, and hip-hop.

Films -- Live-Action

  • General Katana in Highlander 2: The Quickening references The Wizard of Oz and sports drafts, despite being an alien who has never been to Earth before.
  • Gizmo, and the eponymous creatures from Gremlins, are like this. In the first movie, this quality is restricted to their love of the movie Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, but in the sequel (a more humorous take on the first movie's premise), the gremlins are total pop culture junkies mere hours after having been spawned, going so far as to stage elaborate recreations of scenes from Batman, The Wizard of Oz, and The Phantom of the Opera, among others, not to mention their enormous, balls-to-the-wall musical rendition of 'New York, New York'. It's somewhat more reasonable with Gizmo, since Billy taught him to watch television, and thus his infatuation with Rambo makes some sort of sense.
  • Draco in Dragonheart, when called out on having eaten a human. "I may have chewed in self-defense, but I didn't swallow!"
  • Ivan Ooze in Power Rangers: The Movie states that he regrets missing the Black Plague, the Spanish Inquisition and the Brady Bunch Reunion. He's also familiar with the concept of "teenagers".


  • The Once and Future King has Merlin make all kinds of references to 20th century events and culture in "The Sword in the Stone," to the point that this section is more of a satire and commentary on T. H. White's time than it is a retelling of Athurian myth.
  • Throughout Myhr's Adventure in Hell, Myhr and his wizard companion make constant pop culture references. It's Justified by having the pair as universe-hopping travelers; when Myhr tries to get Terrin to tone down the jokes so that they don't risk driving off a prospective client, Terrin insists that they'll expect the wizard to seem a little surreal and difficult to understand, anyway.
  • The butterfly in The Last Unicorn. All of its conversation consists of random quotes, some of them suspiciously modern-sounding for the world it lives in.
  • The Myth Adventures series is full of Schizo-Tech, with lizard-drawn carriages in the streets and computers in the banks. This still doesn't explain the constant pop culture references, as the human home dimension is stuck in the Middle Ages and is definitively not Earth.

Live-Action TV

  • The Doctor from Doctor Who is a time traveler, so he often references time periods that occur after the time period he's currently visiting.
  • Crow, Tom Servo and Gypsy from Mystery Science Theater 3000 drop pop culture references left and right when riffing or doing sketches, despite never having been to Earth and having limited communications to the planet. Joel might have programmed them with these references, but whatever. It's just a show, as the theme song reminds us.


  • Belial (a half-angel, half-demon) from Painkiller Overdose.
  • The characters of Touhou Project, ranging from humans to demons, tend to all freely make references to recent Japanese pop culture, despite being sealed off from the modern world.


  • Richard from Looking for Group is a partial example, what with webcomics generally not needing any Parental Bonus, but otherwise fits: in the Medieval Fantasy setting, the warlock is quite prone to anachronistic (Anageographic? Anaparallelrealitic?) references to pop culture.
  • Angel from Castlevania RPG. Constantly makes references to culture and events that may not EVER exist in that universe.

Western Animation

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