Bob’s Burgers makes a bunch of awesome literary references in their Burger of the Day, and in the shop next door and the exterminator’s van in the beginning of every episode. But the show goes much deeper than these quick visual jokes. Here are the top 5 literary references, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Crawl Space” Season 1 episode 2
Bob’s in-laws come to visit so Bob hides in the crawlspace to avoid them. Bob gets stuck and starts to lose his mind. He has a dream where he talks to Louise’s nightlight Kuchi Kopi. The whole scene inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s take on Stephen King’s “The Shining.”
Earlier in the same episode when Bob first goes into the wall, Gene asks if his dad can see a lion, a witch, or a wardrobe. Bob doesn’t get the reference at first. Gene tells him from a children’s book by Solomon Rushdie. Gene’s just a little off. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is by C.S. Lewis, and Salman Rushdie is the author of “Satanic Verses.”
So, close Gene, but no cigar.
“Bad Tina” Season 2 episode 8
In this episode, Tina succumbs to the peer pressure by Tammy, the new girl at school. At one point, Tammy gets Jimmy Jr. and Zeek to come over. They drink some margarita mix and put on some music. Jimmy Jr. knocks over Tina’s porcelain horse Horselain, breaking it’s leg. This is a reference to Tennessee William’s play “The Glass Menagerie” when Laura and Jim dance and Jim accidentally breaks her glass unicorn.
Coincidence? I think not.
“The Frond Files” Season 4 episode 12
When the kids write essays about “Why I love Wagstaff” (their school), it should be no surprise that the guidance counselor, Mr. Frond, finds them all terribly inappropriate. Bob and Linda take turns reading the stories out loud in his office. It’s Tina’s ‘erotic friend fiction’ story “Why I love Wagstaff: A Tale of Horror” that gives a nod to comic book series The Walking Dead. Tina takes the role of Rick Grimes’s sheriff, turned hall monitor. A vaccination for jock itch turns the boys’ basketball team into zombies. “We spent so much time asking if we could cure jock itch, we never asked should we cure jock itch.” Tina uses her flirty skills to stop the zombie’s rampage and they all fall in love with her and she starts dating all 15 of them at once. I’d love it if the real Walking Dead took a page from Bob’s Burgers and made Rick more flirty with the zombies.
“L’il Hard Dad” Season 5 episode 14
Tina has a book report on “Call of the Wild” by Jack London. Only problem is, she hasn’t read the book. Louise and Linda show her how to fake a book report with some razzle-dazzle. They dress Tina up like a dog and have a whole song planned. Tina goes up to do her presentation, barely gets through her line, “Ring, ring. Who’s this calling on the phone? It’s the call of the wild. Is anybody home?” and has a freak-out. The twist here is that the teacher loves her energy and feels she captured the spirit of the book perfectly.
“The Silence of the Louise” Season 8 episode 2
The students have to read 500 books to earn a trip to the waterpark Wetty, Set, Go.
We hear summaries from Zeek, Jocelyne and Louise. We get nods to “Old Yeller,” “Animal Farm,” “Charlotte’s Web.” Louise gets a good line that puts all YA in it’s place,
“And so apparently, in all children’s literature, a really nice animal dies in the end. And that’s not cool, reading. Not cool.”
The guidance counselor’s Mr. Frond’s therapy dolls are mangled and the trip to the waterpark is canceled. Louise reached out to her best frenemy Millie and the rest of the episode makes nodes to “The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris. Much like Hannibal Lecter, Millie uses her knowledge of obsession to help Louise solve the case, and gets paid in playdates. It all loops around back to Old Yeller in a very satisfying way.
The writers of Bob’s Burgers are incredibly well-read people. The show always makes big references to TV and movies, but I especially love combing through the episodes for the literature references. The way that the writers play with these storylines is one of the things that makes the show so wonderful.