My wife, Ashley, and I don’t branch out too much when it comes to our sitcom watching. We know what we like, and we stick to it. That mainly involves watching all of Everybody Loves Raymond, Scrubs, The Office, Friends and How I Met Your Mother over and over again. When we finish one show, we start another.
A few weeks ago, we finished the last episode of The Office, again. The next night, after we got the kids to bed, I looked at her, and said, “So, what’s next? How I Met Your Mother? We haven’t watched them all since it ended last year.” She shrugged and said, “Sure!” and we settled in for another 4 or 5 month venture.
1. Aggle Flabble Klabble
Last year, Ashley was watching an episode (“Unpause”) of the last season live, without me. I’m not sure what I was doing, but I wasn’t home to see it. When I did get home, Ashley told me, “You missed it! There was a Knuffle Bunny reference in How I met Your Mother!”
“Really?” I asked. There aren’t a whole lot of people out there, that I would call a “hero” but Mo Willems is one of them. I love everything Mo writes, and Knuffle Bunny has a special place in my heart. It was one of the first picture books we bought our son, and he has always loved it. Later, when watching the episode online, I saw that Ashley was right. Barney gets really drunk and mutters “Aggle Flabble Klabble. Wumpy Flappy Snurp!” before passing out! All Mo Willems and Knuffle Bunny fans would have immediately recognized the exact words frustrated Trixie yells and whimpers at her dad when she’s trying to communicate that she left her bunny at the laundromat.
“Interesting,” I thought to myself. “The HIMYM writers know their kid’s lit. I wonder if there are other hidden kid lit references throughout the series?” That was the first time I thought about it, but it wouldn’t be the last. For the time being, I set the thought aside.
2. The Cockamouse
It came back again a few weeks ago, when Ashley and are were rewatching the “Matchmaker” episode. In the episode, Ted has hired a matchmaker company help find his perfect match with the help of a computer program. As a back story, Lily and Marshall, have a pest problem. Lily thinks it cockroach and Marshall is sure it is a mouse, but at first, they can never get a good view of it. Later they trap it, and discover that it’s some sort of cockroach/mouse mix that they refer to as a “cockamouse.” I’ve always loved the cockamouse idea. I thought it was hilarious, but I never thought much else about it. Near the end of the episode, Ted refuses to become discouraged when the matchmaking company cannot find him a suitable match. He tells them, “Hell, if a cockroach and a mouse can find love in this crazy city, then, damn it, so can I.” That’s when it hit me. A cockroach and a mouse.
In the picture book, Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, Martina is a young, beautiful cockroach searching for her perfect match (just like Ted). She goes through suitor after suitor, finding each of them unsuitable until she meets a mouse named Perez at the end of the story. A mouse and a roach find love in this story, just like Ted said. I turned to Ashley. “Martina the Beautiful Cockroach!” “Huh?” she asked. “The Cockamouse! It’s the child of Martina the Beautiful Cochroach and Perez!” She told me that I was crazy and that it was probably just a coincidence. She may be right, but after thinking longer on it, I’m convinced that I’m on to something. I mean what are the odds that a cockroach and a mouse who aren’t Martina found each other, fell in love and had a hybrid baby. I mean, it couldn’t happen twice, right? Ted seemed to be making the point that it was so improbable that these two would find each other, and then they did and that meant there was hope for him. I also don’t think it’s coincidence that the cockamouse was introduced in the “Matchmaker” episode, both this episode and Martina are about finding improbable love. Really, the whole show is the plot of Martina. Ted dates girl after girl before finally finding the right one (or two if you count the very end of the show.)
I firmly believe that the cockamouse is not only a very well hidden kid lit reference, but also the direct offspring of two picture book characters worked into the show. Brilliant. That’s what it is.
Well, that discovery got me pumped up, and I went on a HIMYM kid lit finding frenzy. I’m sure there are more out there, that I haven’t discovered, but here’s what I’ve found so far. (remember there are some crass references and crude terms used. Sorry if it offends anyone)
3. Tin Man
In the episode “Okay Awesome” Ted calls Barney “Tin man” because of his silver shirt referencing Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. The book is again referenced in “Not a Father’s Day” when Ted and Robin are discussing children and he tells her, “Maybe you could ask the wizard to give you a heart.”
4. Hansel and Gretel
In the episode “Slutty Pumpkin” Robin and her boyfriend dress up as Hansel and Gretel for Halloween.
5. Tortoise and the Hare
In “Best Prom Ever” Barney dresses up like a high school’s mascot, a turtle, to sneak into their prom. It takes him several attempts to get in, and Ted tells him, “Slow and steady won the race” referencing the fable, “the Tortoise and the Hare”.
6. “How Lily Stole Christmas”
This one is pretty obvious
7. The Giving Tree
In “Arrivederci, Fiero”, Marshall’s car bites the dust. He emotionally, refers to his car as “the Giving Tree of cars” referencing Silverstein’s classic picture book.
8. Where’s Waldo
In the same episode, they pick up a hitchhiker dressed exactly like Waldo from the Where’s Waldo books. There’s another Waldo reference much later in the series in “Last Time in New York” when Ted is wearing a red and white striped bathing suit.
9. Phineas Fogg
Is Around the World in Eighty Days a kids book? Well, I have it in my elementary library, and I read it as a kid, so I’ll count it. While Ted is shaving his “break-up beard” his friends call him Phineas Fogg because of his mutton chops. The book is again referenced in “Dopplegangers” when Barney announces his plan to seduce girls from around the world.He calls it “Around the world in 180 lays.”
10. Peter Pan
Barney wears a green suit for St. Patrick’s day in “No Tomorrow.” Somebody calls him Peter Pan. Later, in “The Broath,” we find out that Marshall played Peter Pan in a school play.
There are two Pinocchio references, and both times are in reference to a character lying. Robin in “Woooo!” and Lily in “The Mermaid Theory.”
12. Are You There God? It’s me Margaret.
“Are you there, Barney? It’s me, Horny.” Barney in “Big Days.”
13. Green Eggs and Ham.
When Marshall says he can beat “a bus or a cab or a train” in “Subway Wars” Robin mentions Green Eggs and Ham.
I’m really surprised there aren’t more Cinderella references. I’ve only found one. In “Blitzgiving” Ted compares Zoey to the evil stepmother.
15. Marry Poppins
In “Last Words,” Robin has “vice bag” and it is compared to the magical bag in Mary Poppins.
16. Harry Potter
When breaking up with a boyfriend, in “Legendaddy”Robin sarcastically mentions leaving to become the next defense against the dark arts teacher at Hogwarts. Marshall also references Harry’s invisibility cloak in “Ring up!”
17. Thomas the Tank Engine
In “Drunk Train” Ted calls the train “Thomas the Spank Engine.”
In “The Final Page,” Marshall says he’s on “Team Tedward” referencing Twilight.
19. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings
In “Ring up!” Marshall likens Robin’s engagement ring to the ring of power.
20. Casey at Bat
In “Bedtime Stories,” Marshall is trying to get Marvin to sleep by telling him stories about his friends. The first is “Mosby at Bat” referencing the classic picture book, Casey at Bat.
21. Escape from Witch Mountain
This one may be reaching, but in “Slapsgiving 3″ Marshall asks “Which Mountain?” and Red Bird responds, “Not Witch Mountain.”
22. The Hardy Boys
When Ted was a boy, he had a detective agency, consisting of only himself and he called it the Mosby Boys, referencing the Hardy Boys. It’s mentioned in“Dowisetrepla” and “Daisy.”
That’s all that I’ve found so far. I’m sure there are more. If you find them, please share them with me, and I’ll add them.
All of those kid lit references might not prove that the cockamouse is really the offspring of Martina and Perez. I think that it is, but there really isn’t proof.
Why all the kid lit references in an adult sitcom, though? Well, there might be some kind of connection between one of the writers and the kid lit world, but I really just think that sitcoms are a reflection of culture, and most of them are full of cultural references of the time. These stories that we all read as children become such a big part of who we are, that there are naturally lots of kid lit references mixed in with all of the Lebron James, Lady Gaga and Mitt Romney references. The stories are such a big part of us, that for the most part, it’s really not that remarkable when it happens.