Every Background Joke in ‘Community,’ Ranked
When it comes to meta shows like Dan Harmon's Community, it's not always easy picking up on every single joke happening at any given moment — what with each scene completely jam-packed with comedy sequences, pop culture references, and Joel McHale's hair. Fans have scrutinized every corner of every frame from this show over the years so that everyone knows the famous Beetlejuice gag that happened in the background and the fact that there most definitely is a Community/Cougar Town shared universe in the TV-sphere. Still, there are even more background jokes that most viewers missed the first time around...
The Monkey Who Stole The Pen
A classic case of blink-and-you'll-miss-it, the second season's episode "Cooperative Calligraphy" has Annie and the gang freak out over who took her pen. It's later discovered that it was Annie's Boobs (the monkey), but a background gag reveals that the thief actually did it on screen at the beginning of the episode.
The Running Wilde Crossover
In the second season's third episode, "The Psychology of Letting Go," Britta and Annie protest the gulf oil spill on campus. In the background, barrels from Wilde Oil can be spotted — a reference to Will Arnett's short-lived Fox sitcom Running Wilde.
Everything Luis Guzman
While the Greendale Community College campus has a statue of their most important alumnus — and we also get to see Guzman in an episode later in the series — the show is peppered with other hints at Greendale's obsession with him, like the signed autograph in the background of the administration office.
The QR Code
In the season two episode, "Epidemiology," Dean Pelton holds a package with a QR code at the back. Scanning it brings up a "Greetings from Greendale Community College" message.
The Amy Poehler Stock Photo
Yep, we have Community to thank for making us all aware of the fact that the famous SNL comedian once modeled for some stock photos. One of these can be spotted on the hospital waiting room's wall in the season two episode, "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking." The image was reportedly found while searching "volunteer" in Getty Images.
The Parks And Recreations Joke
Annie's Greendale College "To Do List" wall features a big sticker with only two words: "Fill pit." Any fan of TV sitcoms knows that it's a reference to that lot every second Parks and Rec character fell into.
The Future Plots Hiding In Plain Sight
During season two's "Aerodynamics of Gender" episode, the girls teach Abed how to be a "mean girl," causing him to turn his data collection into a RoboCop scanner to determine everyone's level of meanness. In small writing on the side of these scans, under "Memos," are future plots of the show, including the "Pillows and Blankets" episode and the Christmas Claymation one.
Annie: Citizen Of The Month, Every Month
In season four's "Heroic Origins" episode, we learn the gang's origin stories and how they overlapped. During one of the courthouse scenes, Britta can be seen in front of a board with pictures of Greendale's Citizen of the Month. Different photos of Annie occupy all but one of those frames, which appears to be a placeholder for next month's award.
Behind the Dean on the chalkboard, there's a written poem, with the first word of every sentence spelling out "SIX SEASONS AND A MOVIE" because they just couldn't help themselves.
More Future Plots References
In the second season's episode "Intro to Political Science," there's a great bit with Troy and Abed hosting the campus' TV show and the scrolling ticker featuring jokes about some of the future episodes. There's the upcoming paintball episode of the season, "A Fistful of Paintball," as well as the reveal of the monkey thief and his vent filled with campus loot.
The Vending Machine
In season one's episode "Basic Genealogy," Troy and Abed get stuck in a vending machine as the credits roll. Later, when they get an apartment together, their refrigerator has a poster of a vending machine stuck to it as a fond memory of a past shenanigan (and obvious love for vending machines).
After Troy leaves the gang in episode five of season five to sail around the world with LeVar Burton, we never hear from him again … except for two episodes later, when a chalkboard in the background of the study room reveals that Troy might be in the Bermuda Triangle. Troy's last coordinates seem to point to this location, as well as Abed's written question about whether Troy has entered "a perfect storm."
Also, later on, a news report features this particular scroll:
The Beetlejuice Joke
The best of the best, and not only because it took viewers quite a while to discover this long-game joke that stretched over the course of three seasons. It had its natural payoff as part of season three's Halloween episode, where one would expect to see someone dressed as Beetlejuice in the background without batting an eye. The fact that it was the third time someone said the striped ghoul's name in the show makes it the perfect background joke.
Abed’s Entire Own Background Episode
In "The Psychology of Letting Go" — the same episode where Annie and Britta fight over how to best create awareness about the impact of ocean drilling — Abed can be seen in the background of the entire show, having his own little story play out. He first befriends a pregnant woman, then gets bullied and shoved by her boyfriend, and finally helps the couple deliver their baby on campus. It's one of the best stunts a show has ever pulled in a single episode and, given the show's love for meta storylines, it's peak Community.