Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Jay Leno, in one of his monologues last week for 'The Tonight Show', talked about the visit by President Bush to the National Security Agency's ultra-secret headquarters:

"Awkward moment: Bush asked to see the Cone of Silence."

For the audience viewing at home, this was just Leno making a joke using a 'Get Smart' reference. But what did it mean for the audience viewing within Toobworld? After all, 'The Tonight Show' has played a fictional part in a variety of shows, from 'Cheers' to 'Columbo'.

There's the temptation to wave it all off with a dismissive "That was just a joke on a talk show." But I can't do that and still advocate the League of Themselves as a valid component in TV crossovers. Jay Leno has made about twenty appearances as himself in Television dramas and sitcoms alike.

One would think the Cone of Silence should have been kept classified, especially in this day and age of homeland security issues. But the spy agency that used it, CONTROL, never did have the best track record when it came to keeping their existence a secret from the general public. Telephone operators knew of it, so did delivery boys. Based on 'Police Squad!', probably the guy running the local shoeshine stand knew all about it as well.

Years ago, CONTROL was temporarily disbanded and replaced by PITS. Many of its technological resources were sold off or just tossed onto the scrap heap, probably to help "Whip Inflation Now". Within the reality of Toobworld, the malfunctioning Cone of Silence probably became a symbol of governmental waste, in much the same way as $5,000 screwdrivers came to be viewed.

But at least in the case of the screwdriver and the $400 ashtray, there was a reason behind them being so expensive, as Commander Jack Reed demonstrated on 'The West Wing' when he smashed one of those $400 ashtrays....

A $400 ashtray. It's off the U.S.S. Greenville, a nuclear attack submarine and a likely target for a torpedo. When you get hit with one, you've got enough problems without glass flying into the eyes of the navigator and the Officer of the Deck.

This one's built to break into three dull pieces. We lead a slightly different life out there and it costs a little more money.

I can't believe you broke a $400 ashtray.

Yeah, I wish I hadn't done that. It's... 'cause you're blonde.

[from the episode "Process Stories"]

The Cone of Silence never worked, and this became public knowledge, more than likely due to those who collect spy paraphernalia. But the basic concept of what the device was supposed to accomplish was readily accepted by the general public as well.

Frank Barone once told his wife Marie that he needed a Cone of Silence surrounding him, per the orders of his psychiatrist. ('Everybody Loves Raymond')

John Smith wondered why he had yet to see a Cone of Silence when he was brought to a secret NSA facility and forced to help track down Bin Laden by use of his psychic powers. ('The Dead Zone')

And now both 'The Tonight Show' of the Real World and of Toobworld has mentioned it as a punchline.

The Cone of Silence has become an easily recognized pop culture reference for everything stupid done by the government.

And on this, the day of the State of the Union address, I'm guessing that within Toobworld, it's been cited quite often in the last six years.....


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