Meta-jokes are all the rage on TV these days: 30 Rock makes them all the time, and both Community and Glee kicked off the current season with premieres that made use of the device to hilarious effect. But one of the more entertaining subsets of the world of meta-humor is what I can only really describe as actor-inspired self-reference—basically, when TV shows make jokes that are rooted in their actors' previous work.
The series premiere of Fox's Running Wilde recalled star Will Arnett's most beloved role—Arrested Development's Gob—when the narrator mentioned Steve Wilde's worry over making "a huge mistake." (Hear Gob and the rest of the gang utter the familiar AD catchphrase here).
Then, last week, the show did it again when David Cross' character, Andy Weekes, let out a frustrated "Come on!"
Meanwhile, the pilot of Raising Hope paid homage to show creator Greg Garcia's last project, My Name is Earl, with a newscaster's mention of a petty criminal who's completed his "bucket list."
And those are just the recent ones. Ahem:
This past spring, Community's Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) channeled Mad Men's Don Draper (Jon Hamm) as he practiced hitting on Annie Edison (Alison Brie)—a nod to Brie's other role as Trudy Campbell on the 1960s drama.
And in what is quite possibly the ultimate example of this self-referential humor, Seinfeld creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld spent several episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm's seventh season debating—and then staging—a Seinfeld reunion.
If regular TV is like a Hershey bar, then these winks and nods are kinda like expensive Belgian truffles: deliciously rich, thoroughly enjoyable, and appreciated only by an in-the-know minority. Also, they make TV more fun. Remember when How I Met Your Mother's Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) sat down to write in his blog, Doogie Houser-style? Or when Arrested Development's Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler) jumped over a plush shark, a la the Fonz on Happy Days? Trendy as meta-humor may be, I just can't get enough of these clever little gags. So keep 'em coming, I say!
Have you noticed any other good ones lately? Speak up (and post video links!) in the comments.