Mormon Fray
The Archive of Incidental Mormon References in Pop Culture...

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Beavis and Butt-head (1994)

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Season 4, Episode 12
"Late Night with Butt-head" 

Mike Judge's seminal creation: Beavis and Butt-head; a show embraced by the very demographic Judge was mocking, the show was inescapable in the 90s, as were irritating impressions of the title characters (both voiced by Judge). Judge would go on to create the TV series King of the Hill, and the movies Idiocracy, and Extract, as well as his masterpiece (so-far) Office Space.

Context: Beavis and Butt-head, the two adolescent slackers, are enjoying their favourite activity, criticizing music videos, when Donny Osmond's Sacred Emotion comes on. Beavis and Butt-head are apparently aware of the Osmonds' religious affiliation... sort-of.

Beavis and Butt-head

Exegesis: This clip is so juvenile (as was intended), it would be even more reductive than usual to pursue anything more than a cursory exegesis.

It's that old canard again: "Mormon" kind of sounds like "Moron", if you're an idiot. This joke is more or less identical to the one used in the "Married With Children" clip. Butt-head does correct his friend's malapropism (although he has just suggested that Donny's dad, "Lee Harvey Osmond", killed JFK), and points out that Beavis means "Mormon". How to describe Mormons to someone as simple as Beavis? Butt-head: "Those are those dudes who come up to your house on bicycles." Unphased, Beavis asks if the music he's hearing is the Moron Tabernacle Choir...

So we've got "Moron" for "Mormon", missionaries on bikes, the Tabernacle Choir... the only easy Mormon reference not mined for laughs in this clip is polygyny, and I'm not sure how that oversight was made.

With all that said, Donny Osmond (and his family) were real ambassadors for this Church in the 70s. There wasn't anyone as famous at that time who was a faithful member of the Church, let alone someone who was idolized by a lot of young people. (Not all young people, obviously.) To this day, their Mormonism tends to be mentioned whenever any of them are interviewed. In fact it may be the one salient detail most people know about them, along with the fact that Donny has a sister named Marie.
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Black Christmas (1974)

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1974, Dir. Bob Clark

Like this movie, I am Canadian. Unlike this movie, I am not credited by many as starting the "slasher" genre of horror films. (Besides, wasn't that Psycho?) This film has become a cult classic, and even spawned a critically lambasted remake in 2006 (bringing back fellow Canadian and SCTV alumnus Andrea Martin, whom you can see in the clip below, two years before SCTV began.) The 2006 version of Black Christmas does not retain the reference that earns the original a place on this site.

Context: It's Christmastime at a sorority house! The girls don't know that as they make merry inside, someone sinister is climbing the trellis outside into the attic. Soon after this mysterious and (spoiler alert: murderous) stranger arrives, the phone rings downstairs. The caller is identified by one of the girls as "The Moaner", and as the other sisters gather around to listen to his weird noises, one of the more incredulous girls asks if the sounds coming from the phone could possibly be made by only one person. Barb Coard (Margot Kidder) has a snappy answer...

Black Christmas

Exegesis: Ah, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Their fame is responsible for many of the references on this site. (Like, Fletch for example). Margot Kidder, who would go on to play the iconic Lois Lane in the Superman films, sells the line with her deadpan sarcasm. (You see, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir doesn't really make annual obscene phone calls...)

I recognize that to deconstruct a joke is to destroy it, but I continue to attempt nonetheless. The humour here stems from the dichotomy between the image of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (which is indeed comprised of more than one person) and the deranged pervert making the phone call.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, or "MoTab" as it is called by many Mormons (and perhaps others, I have no idea) is a world-famous choir. They are sponsored by the Church, and as far as I know, comprised solely of Latter-Day Saints, but they are financially self-sufficient, earning money from tours and album sales. (It doesn't hurt that all 360 of its members are volunteers.) You can learn all about them on Wikipedia, or on their very own website.


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