The 12 Best ‘Arrested Development’ Jokes You Never Got


Most of you readers of the site will know by now that my love for Arrested Development knows no bounds. I have the curse of constantly comparing every new show to it, and realize that nothing will ever be as good.

When it was on the air, it was practically comedy perfection, and I’ve written previously on some of the show’s best recurring jokes, but now I want to do something a bit different.

I’ve compiled a list of jokes that are so stealthy and sneaky, many of them I still didn’t get after multiple viewings of each season. Some are homages to other projects, some are just clever lines foreshadowing events to come, but all are equally awesome. I have twelve of my favorites below, but know that there are many, many others I could have posted, and a few I’m sure I’ll finally discover upon my next viewing. The show really is that deep.

If you spotted some of them already, congrats, you’re smarter than me, but if you claim to have gotten all of them on your first time through, sorry, but I just don’t think I believe you. And also, I know I’m breaking the rule of “if you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny,” but I don’t think that applies in this case.


1. Jumping the Shark (ep. Motherboy XXX)

The first of two great Fonz jokes on the list, this one features Henry Winkler literally jumping over the shark that bit Buster’s seal’s fin off. This is a reference to Winkler’s role in Happy Days, where he famously waterskied over a shark in a moment that would eventually symbolize any show’s transition from good to past its prime.

2. D’oh! (ep. Sword of Destiny)


I didn’t even realize this was Dan Castellaneta playing Michael’s doctor, so therefore I didn’t get this line:

Once I got in there, the appendix wasn’t so inflamed. D’oh.

Castellaneta of course voices Homer Simpson, hence the very sutble “d’oh” dropped in the scene.

3. High School (ep. The Immaculate Election)


This is one you probably caught the second time through, but I still love it. When Gob sees Steve Holt for the first time, he refers to him as looking like “some chick I banged in high school.” Of course, Gob ends up being Steve Holt’s father which is revealed later.

4. The F-bomb (ep. Afternoon Delight)

It was the first F-bomb on network TV that actually got away with it. The only thing was, it was split in half due to some clever editing, as the “fu” and the “king” were place with scenes in between them. This video shows them mashed together.

5. Arm Off (ep. Out on a Limb)


There are a million arm and hand jokes to choose from here, but this one, right before Buster goes into the ocean to lose his limb, is the one I could represent the best with a still image. ARM OFF.

6. Snoopy (ep. Good Grief!)

I didn’t notice this one once in my first five viewings of this episode. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment, where a beagle lays on top of a red dog house as George Michael walks home hanging his head set to music from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. The episode is also called “Good Grief!”

7. Hermano (ep. Beef Consomme)


Another “don’t blink” joke, you literally have to pause the scene like I did to catch this. When Ron Howard, the narrator, is defining “hermano” using the Spanish dictionary, we get to see the (mustachioed) Bluth brothers pictured as the word, brunette Lindsay as “beautiful” and best of all Tobias as “hermaphrodite.”

8. Drug Dog (ep. Meet the Veals)


This is another one you might not get to a few times through. At the very end of Meet the Veals, a drug dog tackles Buster because of his hook. Why? Uncle Oscar had been smoking weed with it at the very beginning of the episode.

9. Mr. Roboto (ep. The Ocean Walker)

The scene of Buster sinking his hook in the dashboard of the stair-car is hilarious enough in it’s own right, but what you may have missed is the reference to this 1999 VW commercial, which featured Tony Hale doing the robot without a hook.

10. Give Me Your Hair (ep. Visiting Ours)


I have a hard time believing this was a set up to a joke this early, but I don’t see any other way to read it. George Sr. asks George Michael for his hair, referencing the season finale where he wears a wig and pretends to be his twin brother Oscar. Later Oscar is imprisoned after George Sr. again dons the wig and shaves his brother bald. George Michael later says, “Yeah, I still don’t really get the hair joke.”

11. Surely Funke (ep. Justice is Blind)


This is one I didn’t get until I saw it spelled out above, Maeby’s crippled alter ego is not only “Shirley” but it’s “Surely.” Get it?

12. Heyyyy! (ep. Altar Egos)


Another great reference to Winkler as the Fonz, he does his classic mirror pose near the end of Altar Egos. There are a few Opie references to Ron Howard as well, but those are too hard to take screenshots of. “Now she had gone too far, and she had best watch her mouth.”

Want more? This is the thread that inspired this list, and ArrestedWiki has an EXHAUSTIVE list of little jokes contained within each episode.

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  1. Looks like a chick I did in high school….GET A HAIRCUT!!

    I can’t believe how young Tony Hale looks in that VW commercial. I loved that back in the day.

    Nerd alert on my part, but I watched the episodes with cast commentary and a lot of the jokes on here, Mitch Hurwitz pointed them out. My favorite has to be the flier with the spanish words though.

  2. i LOVE this show! thanks for pointing out the one with Dan Castellaneta. i’ve seen pictures of him before, i can clearly remember this episode & exactly when he says it and, despite having seen this show like a thousand times i’ve never caught that one before.
    one that i would add to the list (my friends and i had a watch party & i just noticed it when someone pointed it out to me) when GOB is giving advice to George Michael on dealing with women George Michael asks him if he’s ever had problems with this before. GOB says something like, “You mean if there were two of them and I didn’t know where to start? No I think I handled that pretty good. No complaints there, at least not from the girl.” Yes, GOB had a three way with another guy.

  3. Seriously? Not wanting to sound like a superior fanboy but it’s people like you that don’t get the subtler humour that devalues it for the rest of us. It’s not even that subtle. Idiots.

  4. I caught all of these but the “Roboto” one on my many viewings of the show. That’s part of what makes the DVDs infinitely re-watchable. I’m constantly impressed by the amount of planning that they had to be doing from the very start of the show. There are several references early on to things that happen in the 2nd and 2rd season.

    I think one of my favorite jokes of this type from the show is a caption under Ann Veal’s yearbook picture that shows her nickname as Egg. Another is when Michael tells George Senior he’s a “regular Brad Garrett” which actually references an Emmy that went to Brad Garrett over Jeffrey Tambor.

  5. I was always amazed at the Lucille/loose seal reference, and wondered, gee did they actually name the mom Lucille so they could use that gag, or was it serendipitous? And along those same lines, Hale’s character name ‘Buster’ — “can’t you just come over and dustbuster or something?” the maid responds, “no, I no dust buster any more”. planned from the start or thought of later?

  6. There’s also the shot of Rita passed out on the Wee Britain bus bench (after GOB gives her a roofie), and the letters are blocked so as to spell out “Wee Brain”. Kind of along the same lines as the Arm Off joke.

    And I do love the succession of Steve Holt yearbook quotes.

    Speaking of Steve Holt, I’m pretty sure the statue (the son giving his dad a severed hand) in the episode where he and GOB meet at the Father-Son Reunion is yet another reference to Buster losing a hand, as well as the J. Walter Weatherman incidents.

  7. My favorite joke few people got was in one of the episodes with Ben Stiller as a magician. He was talking to GOB about releasing his Best Of Magic DVD. Stiller said “I was going to call it ‘Use Your Illusion’, but apparently that is already taken. So I’m going to call it ‘Use Your Illusion Too’.”

    He doesn’t know that Guns ‘N Roses released 2 albums in 1991 called Use Your Illusion 1 & 2.

  8. Your #8 (Drug Dog) was actually from the episode “Meat the Veals” — “Meat”, not “Meet”, a play on words since “veal” is a type of meat 🙂

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