Barney and Cidu

barney and Cidu

Six people have sent this to me so far, which I’m pretty sure is a record. So…

  1. The consensus seems to be it’s a reference to CIDU. Is it?
  2. If so, is it pro or con?
  3. If pro, thanks.
  4. If con, I think the Weingartens are missing the point, since collectively this is one of the least-clueless groups I’ve seen online.
  5. (If con, did somebody here say something unkind about this strip three weeks ago?)
  6. Even if con, it’s cool.
  7. No #7 really: it’s just that six bullet points might give the impression these were responses to the six people who sent me the comic.


  1. Put me down for knowing who all four of them are/were.

    And if this is a reference to CIDU, the “millions” is impressive. How many Samoans ARE there?

  2. I don‘t think it has to do with CIDU at all, it‘s simply that the Weingartens are aware that they like to crack obscure jokes, and when they do, they probably get enough comments and/or complaints through traditional channels (such as letters to the editor).
    P.S. I can solve the two (or three) unfamiliar references in the first panel on my own (with a little help from Wikipedia). However, I’d like a little help with the punchline in the final panel (even Barney seems confused by that). Anyone have an idea what it is supposed to mean? Or is it just meaningless drivel, put there as a red herring to send us all on a wild goose Google chase?

  3. I agree with Kilby: It is not a CIDU reference. Gene sees plenty of complaints about obscure jokes, especially since he does a weekly online chat for the Washington Post.

    The ancient Greek Peloponnesian Wars had nothing to do with the medieval Hanseatic League, so the Weingartens reject the argument that a joke fails if it requires arcane knowledge.

  4. The Hanseatic League was founded about 1800 years after the Peloponnesian War, though I suppose with enough red yarn you could make the case that the Peloponnesian War led to the Hanseatic League. More likely, W, W & C just wanted to use big words.

  5. Obscure jokes are a form of “inside joke”, and they are extra funny to those few who actually get them, probably BECAUSE they are so obscure.

    Sometimes the outsiders resent the fact that they don’t get the joke. Sometimes one of the ones who are laughing says “You had to be there.”

  6. A little while back we had a discussion about obscure jokes and whether they were funny. I think it was too recently for it to have been an impetus for this comic, especially as this is a Sunday strip. OTOH, it really seems to fit the kinds of strips we talk about.

  7. Obscure jokes might not be funny to the people outside but the *sure* make the people inside feel good!

    I’m for ’em.

    And if you think Walt Kelly is obscure, then the world has the right to be discouraged and give you a dirty look (just don’t take it personally and realize it’s not your fault and it’s not actually directed at you).

  8. I don’t have a problem with jokes that are based on an obscure reference.

    I find the way that these comic writers often seems to be proud of the fact that they used some obscure reference, and patting themselves on the back as if it was some indicator of intellectual prowess, to be a little obnoxious.

  9. Horace is an occasional recurring character. He turns up, makes an obscure joke, and Clyde laughs, while Barney is confused. The joke is all in Barney’s confusion. We’re supposed to laugh at him, rather than with the joke.

    I’m not sure what’s going on in the first three panels. Is that supposed to be posters stuck to the wall, or is it narrative captions? Is that a cat hiding between the panel borders? And a rollerblind, or projection screen, or something. I’m not sure what it even is, or why it’s there. And it’s at two different heights, what’s with that?

  10. I’m sure James Burke (possibly a geezer reference himself) could somehow find a way to connect the Peloponnesian Wars and the Hanseatic League, but I don’t think there’s any actual intended meaning here; just two historical references a lot of people either haven’t heard of or at least don’t know much about. Obscure references with actual jokes in them was Dennis Miller’s stock in trade for many years.

    Is it a direct CIDU reference? I don’t know, probably not. Although that 80 percent figure sounds awfully familiar. Josh Fruhlinger has managed to get referenced a few times, both pro and con, so we’ve got a ways to go.

    @Pete: I think that’s supposed to be two different roller blinds. They’re walking down the street, passing things as they go. But I don’t see anything between the panel borders. A cat there would be more of a Brooke McEldowney thing.

  11. In retrospect, the nice thing about this comic was that two of the names in the first panel were ultra-geezer references, and the other two were ones that those same ultra geezers would never have known: excellent symmetry.
    P.S. @ Shrug – Walt Kelly was the only one of the four names that I knew for sure (I did know that Kefauver was a politician, but I didn’t know his history until I looked it up). I had never heard of Billie Eilish before, but today’s Grammy news made it entirely unnecessary to look her up (ditto “Lizzie”).
    P.P.S. @ Pete – They appear to be three separate posters on a discontinuous wall, broken up into comic panels because of the standard syndication Sunday format. Thanks for the info about Horace, I assume beckoningchasm’s confusing reference to Rick Nielsen was based on the superficial similarity (mostly the cap).

  12. My wife used to encourage kids who didn’t see the point of learning stuff with the adage “The more you know, the more jokes you’ll get.” Works for me.

    I knew three of the four, but only because Lizzo is local and I see (but skip reading) articles about her in the local paper all the time. I’ve seen the name “Billie Eilish” as a current pop musician who, along with Lizzo, seems to be the flavor of the month, but I couldn’t even tell you with assurance if hir was male or female. My bad, perhaps.

  13. Nor did I think it was actually directed to CIDU, but I did think that each of the points touched on would be resonant with this group.

  14. Wasn’t Billie Eilish in the news a couple of months ago because she said she had never heard of Aerosmith (or maybe it was Van Halen)? That’s an extra bit of resonance.

  15. I’m among those who have almost entirely given up watching Saturday Night Live. But this season I watched to see Phoebe Waller-Bridge (and it was well worth it). Since I was seeing a day later it via Hulu rather than over-the-air NBC live, I kept it in my watchlist with the benefit of being able to fast forward thru a bad sketch or musical number.

    And then realized that appearances on SNL or variety shows is how I may have gotten some actual musical glimpse of performers who would otherwise be unknown or reference-free names to me. That’s how I saw Billie Eilish, and kind of admire her. Also Lizzo, though I didn’t take much from her act. And I understood the name Dua Lipa, after seeing her do-a leap-a.

    Oh, and also as credited composer / singer of tv theme songs. I actually did have some acquaintance / admiration for Fiona Apple, but that was cemented by her extraordinary theme for “The Affair”. (Go ahead, you can tell me if that was an already-recorded and well-known song of hers that they picked up for this.) And Regina Spektor, for that song for Orange is the New Black.
    [I’ll save for another occasion my misunderstanding of Fiona Apple’s family connections.]

  16. I’ve been listening to Regina Spektor for many years, back to the days of Soviet Kitsch.She wrote the OitNB song for the production, and was nominated for a Grammy.

    Billie Eilish not too much, but some. I also saw her on SNL. She’s a big fan of the The Office (US). I saw an interview that Rainn Wilson did with her that included a tough quiz about the show where she did really well. She’s just a kid, yet she and her brother wrote all the songs on her debut album. Pretty impressive.

    Wolfgang Van Halen came out in her defense. Others have pointed out that the band has been largely inactive for a number of years. I’ve seen some older people pretty proud of themselves for not knowing who she is. Why is that better?

  17. Not targeted at CIDU.

    Got three out of the four references and don’t feel bad about not knowing an obscured politician from a country and time not my own.

    I don’t see what I’d want to join a society for the culturally clueless. I like to have at least some idea what is going on around me. Some of it turns out to be interesting. He inadvertently makes a key point, though. These are cultural reference. They are learned, taught to members of the group by other members of the group. I don’t think it’s particularly shameful to not be aware of most of this stuff. One should try to keep up on news and politics as it does affect your life and you may be required to vote on it.

    Having lived in Asia for 11, when I returned to North America, I found there was a large chunk of pop culture that I mostly ignorant of. For example, Nickelback rose to prominence (dominance, even) without me hearing of them, as they weren’t big in Singapore. Same with Great Big Sea (who are probably quite obscure to those outside Canada). I had heard of the Macarena and recognize the music but I do not know the moves to the dance. I have no desire to learn them. Plenty of TV shows came and went and references to them just get a blank look from me.

    If your audience doesn’t have the base knowledge to have any hope of getting the joke, yes, it’s a failure. There are “private jokes” that we might share with friends or family, but, generally, telling a joke that nobody can understand is like speaking to a group in a language you know they don’t speak. You’re showing off that you know something they don’t, rather than actually trying to communicate an idea.

  18. The comic set-up might work as an XKCD panel as well. Lots of inside jokes there that hard-core fans relish, while half the stuff just goes over my head.

  19. Billie Eilish is writing/singing the song for the new James Bond movie and is the youngest person to do so.

    As I write this after the Grammys, both she and Lizzo won major Grammys.

    Robert would probably know none of the 4, maybe the Peloponnese Wars as I have joked that whenever there is an ancient war mentioned on Jeopardy (this is back a couple of decades) the answer is always same.

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