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Community is a comedy jam-packed with great humor, recurring jokes, clever references and gags that are sometimes just barely noticeable but all the more brilliant for their subtlety. Hopefully, Season 4 will continue to build onto the list of excellent pop culture references and homages, character obsessions and quirks, and everything else that makes Community such a unique and hilarious comedy. In anticipation of tonight's premiere, here are ten great recurring jokes featured in the series over the course of the first three seasons, some of which we wouldn't be surprised to see revisited at some point during Season 4.
1. Abed's Impersonations
Danny Pudi is a great actor and even though it’s an absolute pleasure to watch him play Abed, uh, normal, not to mention Evil Abed, it is also a special treat to see him break into pop cultural impersonations. The most famous of these is probably his appearance as Batman but I prefer the two examples that happened to catch Annie’s eye. The two in question, of course, are his stints as Han Solo and Don Draper. The Mad Men references also ties into the next category since Alison Brie has the AMC drama on her résumé.
2. Résumés or In Real Life
It would probably be impossible to name every time Community made a reference to the talent’s real lives and bodies of work because creator Dan Harmon aka the founder of Greendale aka Dan(ielle) Harmon aka the God of Farts doesn’t shy away from the opportunity. Some favorites include: Annie being called Hannah Montana or Gillian Jacobs’s Cherry Daiquiri being mentioned. Jeff talking about how great Soup is during one of his big speeches. Or the show acknowledging Donald Glover’s social media bid to be Spider-Man (and Spider-Man 2) as well as his actual upbringing as a Jehovah's Witness. The Russo Brothers directed the pilot for NBC’s Running Wilde, hence the barrells and finally, the best of the bunch, ”nice sweater.”
3. Cougar Town
Another great running gag is Abed’s fascination with the ABC turned TBS sitcom Cougar Town. His primary TV indulgence before Professor Spacetime (found only because the Courteney Cox comedy was moved to midseason), Abed’s history with Cougar Town started with a simple story about being an extra on an episode. This tale was made true shortly thereafter when ’Chad’ sat happily in the background. One turn deserves another and Busy Phillips and Dan Byrd stopped by to watch some paintball. Some say that this flying gag is a tribute to the opening song of Season 3 but it’s nice when the shout-outs are clearly stated, like right in the opening titles.
4. Inspector Spacetime
And since we’re on Abed’s television obsessions and already discussed how he turned to the Doctor Who inspired Inspector Spacetime in a time of need and never looked back. Or forward. Who knows when with the Inspector and Constable Reggie. One of the funniest Troy and Abed tags, and there are many (maybe more on that later), shows the dynamic duo in action as their fictional counterparts taking on the evil blorgon. Before the reveal anyway. There was even a time when Annie was called on to play Deputy Constable Geneva. That didn’t last a long time. Or did it?
The Fox musical certainly isn’t Community’s only target, having set their sights on time-slot competitor The Big Bang Theory at least once, but there is a special kind of love-hate relationship going on with Glee. Mostly hate? There was that time they happily filled in for the glee club, even winning a trophy, but things weren’t quite so innocent in “Regional Holiday Music.” Britta, Annie, Shirley seem to say it all and Jeff really brings it home with this tearful confession. Still, some of the songs were quite catchy. It doesn’t hurt to have Childish Gambino on staff to save Christmas in song. Rap. “What the hell are regionals?
6. Changuage and Deanotation
When it comes to putting their names into speech, no one does it better than Chang (formerly Senor) or Dean Pelton. Over the course of three seasons the pair have dropped some gems, and by gems, horrible puns that still manage laughs, like ’Come On I’m Dean’, telling you to Tina Turner the clocks back or this whole pocket full of Changuage. And while this kind of uninspired humor might inspire some to tell them ‘you’re the worst,’ it can be put to good use in the form of holiday cheer as long as you recruit as few other catch-phrasers like My Name is Alex Starburns and Magnitude. Pop! Pop!
7. Long-Con and/or Callbacks
It’s hard to tell if moments are a running gag, a callback or just crazy foreshadowing and since there are so many on Community a short-list of favorites seemed like the only option. Some episodes were alluded to a few weeks early with Abed’s ‘Rowboat Cop’ memos or the ticker during GCTV Decision Gate while others took longer to payoff, like Pierce’s lyric about Air Conditioner Repair or the arrival of Bettlejuice. Troy suggesting Jeff take a Poetry Class and the former’s stuck in the vending machine fridge. Was Gwynnifer really code for Britta? Jeff's underwear parts 1 and 2. The fake film series Kickpuncher. Shirley’s friend Gary that the whole group hates. Not to mention everyone’s love of ”Daybreak” and butt stuff.
8. Shut Up, Leonard.
Leonard as a character is already kind of a recurring gag but the way the rest of the group, particularly Jeff, treat him like Greendale’s own version of Seinfeld’s Newman is hilarious. Before getting into a few of the other funny things that one of the most senior students at the school does, it’s probably worth saying shut up, Leonard and play the hits. On top of being repeatedly told to keep quiet, he also hosts Leonard’s Food Reviews on YouTube where you can watch him taste and then recommend buying both Let’s Potato Chips and Eugenio’s Four Cheese Frozen Pizza. But no Macaroni. Leonard also loves to share his thoughts with his own Chuck Lorre style vanity cards. And we all know about his crooked wang!
9. Dean Pelton’s Obsessions
Dean Pelton is an odd duck. If there’s is one thing everyone knows about the about the man in charge of Greendale Community College, it’s that he loves his outfits. Boy, there are plenty of greats to choose from. Aside from his fashion statements, he’s also got a flair for puns (as mentioned) as well as a penchant for awkward phrasing (about monkey hotels). While it’s all but impossible to miss his entrances, you may not have noticed his obsession with deanmatians, sorry, dalmatians. ”I hope this doesn’t stir anything in me. Oh. Almost forgot. He loves Jeff too. LOVES Jeff. Just seeing him on a rugged day can be alarming. And no one can forget the Kiss From A Rose. He tweeted it!
10. Troy and Abed in the End Tags!
The list has already highlighter a few of TroBed’s finer tag moments, fighting Blorgons and getting stuck in vending machines, but the one that caught everyone’s attention was Danny Pudi and Donald Glover’s Spanish rap La Biblioteca which was eventually followed up with an Anthropology Rap with Betty White. Then came the fan favorite Troy and Abed in the Morning!, a series that including a wide variety of guests like Starburns and even created spin-offs Troy and Abed in the Morning! Nights!> (Troy and Abed in the Morning! Nights Part 2) and wannabes. Sorry, Annie. Sometimes, they aren’t as focused or structured, because, well, sometimes you just have to krump. Like premiere day.
The fourth season of Community starts tonight with “History 101” at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Read our review of the episode and the third episode of the season here.