Boss Stag looked down at his subjects with disdain. He deserved better membership. But maybe that was how it was meant to be. After all, he was their leader, and leaders were supposed to be better than their subjects in every way. Looking at the three imbeciles in front of him, Boss Stag knew none of the were worthy of his helmet.
He stroked the helmet adorned on his head. True to his name, it looked like the head of a stag. The stag’s features were more cartoonish than he would have liked. Its eyes bugged out and its pupils were pointed in different directions. Boss Stag wasn’t going to complain, however. His benefactor was generous in providing the league these helmets. Also his benefactor kind of scared him, so he wasn’t going openly make an issue about it.
The helmet covered his entire face, except for a narrow slit where his eyes were visible, so the entire world could see his contempt for those around him. With this contemptuous look firmly in place, Boss Stag struck his gavel against the podium in front of him. It was time to get started.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages,” he announced. “I hereby declare this meeting of the Iron League of Reference Humor has come to order.”
“Gooble gobble, gooble gobble,” his subjects chanted back.
Boss Stag was relieved they finally got the chant right. He looked down at the itinerary in front of him.
“First order of business is attendance,” he said. “Raise your hand when I call your name.”
He looked at the list.
“Boss Lion,” he said.
A tall woman with a lion-head helmet similar to Boss Stag’s raised her hand. Like Boss Stag, helmet also covered her face, leaving only a space for her eyes.
“I’m ready for a rumble in the jungle,” she said.
Boss Stag continued.
A diminutive woman in a wolf-head helmet jumped into the air with her arm outstretched. “I’m all revved up with no place to go!” she shouted.
Boss Stag ignored her and continued reading.
“Why do I have to be the squid?” said a skinny man with a helmet shaped like a bug-eyes squid.
Boss Squid groaned. “Look, we all agreed to this. You agreed to be the squid.”
“More like you agreed to make me the squid,” Boss Squid grumbled. “You always make this about you. Just like that poster behind you.”
Boss Stag scowled at his podium in front of a giant poster depicting a close-up of Boss Stag making a scowling face. The word ‘STAG’ was printed on the top of the poster in block capital letters.
Boss Stag stretched out his right arm backwards towards the poster without breaking his gaze in Boss Squid. “This?” he said. “This is totally necessary. And do you really want to do this now?” Boss Stag leered at Boss Squid. “Do you really want to make this a thing? Again?”
Boss Squid sighed. “No,” he whined.
“Good,” Boss Stag said. He looked through the smoke at the three people sitting at the table in front of him. “Now you understand why we are all here today. For too long the world has failed to recognize the power of reference humor. ‘It’s lazy’ says the man in Washington. ‘It’s cheap’ says the man in Moscow. ‘It isn’t even really humor, all it does it elicit recognition from the audience based on the simple mutual awareness that this referenced work is a thing that exists’ says the man in the Vatican.”
Boss Stag gripped the podium tightly. “But today we will begin our crusade to silence these naysayers. And we will succeed. Because we have someone at our back that no naysayer has.”
“A giant crustacean from the Paleolithic Era?” shouted Boss Lion.
“The sensational character find of 1991?” shouted Boss Squid.
“Some big, fat hermaphrodite with a Flock of Seagulls haircut and only one nostril?” shouted Boss Wolf.
“No, no, and no,” Boss Stag answered. “But for real, those were all totally on point. You’re all wrong, but you were all so on point just now.”
Boss Stag cleared his throat before continuing. “No, I am talking about our benefactor. He may be an alligator, but he sure knows how to party! And with his help, we will make sure that the world comes to appreciate the use of reference humor.”
“So say we all,” the other three chanted.
“They will come to love how worldly and hilarious we are when we connect current circumstances to some other film, book, or television program, most likely through the recitation of a line or catchphrase from that other work,” Boss Stag continued with growing intensity.
“So say we all.”
“Especially when we don’t do anything to expand upon it! We will leave the reference to hang alone, and it in itself will actually qualify as a punchline able to stand on its own!”
“So say we all.”
“With our benefactor’s help, we will take over this city! This cesspit called Sangre Dios!” Boss Stag raised his fists in the air.
Boss Stag wildly played an air guitar. Inexplicably, a shredding guitar sound came out of nowhere.
Boss Stag looked down at his subjects, a fire in his eyes. “Now, my friends. Romans. Countrymen. Any comments?”
Boss Wolf jumped into the air. “Let’s make this city an offer they can’t refuse!” she yelped ecstatically.
“Cool beans,” Boss Stag cackled. “Okay people, go get your Tommy-guns and old-fashioned gangster attire,” he continued.
He struck the podium with his gavel as the meeting drew to a close.
“The Iron League of Reference Humor is going to rob a bank.”