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Friday, April 5th, 2013

Last Night's 'Parks and Rec' Was Full of References to 'Infinite Jest'

Parks and Recreation co-creator / showrunner Mike Schur is a noted fan of David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest, and prior to last night's new episode, he tweeted that it would contain several references to the novel. As Schur discussed with The New York Times a couple years ago, he's completely obsessed with the novel, so much that he wrote his undergraduate thesis on Infinite Jest at Harvard and met Wallace after inviting him to campus to receive an award from The Harvard Lampoon. Schur even owns the film rights to the book, although he doesn't have plans to turn it into a movie anytime soon. He also directed a music video for The Decemberists' "Calamity Song" (embedded below) that was based on Infinite Jest.

So, here's every reference to Infinite Jest from yesterday's Parks and Rec, which were mostly spotted by Michael Moats at Fiction Advocate:

  • Ben Wyatt's hometown is Partridge, Minnesota, a reference to Infinite Jest character Ortho Stice's hometown of Partridge, Kansas.
  • The online quiz Ann and Chris take is called "The Incandenza-Pemulis Parenting Compatibility Quiz," a reference to characters Michael Pemulis and the Incandenza family.
  • The law firm Councilman Jamm hires is called "Gately, Wayne, Kittenplan and Troelstch," the last names of four characters from the book.
  • The phrase "Gaudeamus Igitur" (Latin for "Let us rejoice") appears on their wall in the lawyers' office and is used frequently in Jest.
  • The hospital Ben goes to is "Facklemann Memorial Hospital," named after the Infinite Jest character Gene Fackelmann. The hospital name seems to be misspelled.
  • Ben's doctor is named "Dr. Clipperton," after Infinite Jest's Eric Clipperton.
  • The mayor (played by J.K. Simmons) of Ben's hometown, Partridge, is named "Mayor Stice."
  • Chris and Ann visit the "C.T. Tavis Medical Building," a reference to the character Charles Tavis.
  • The doctor Chris and Ann visit at the fertility clinic is named "Doctor Van Dyne," after Joelle Van Dyne.
  • The end credits list Jamm's lawyers as being named "Paul Shaw" and "Eric," after Tall Paul Shaw and Eric Clipperton. The two Partridge townspeople during the "key to the city" scene's character names are listed as "Katie Gompert" and "Kenerdedy," the same as the drug addict characters from the book.


The music video Mike Schur directed based on Infinite Jest.

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  • Michael Moats

    That Michael Motts guy sounds familiar. He must be very cool and handsome.

  • Dr. Spell

    They spelled 'incompatibility' incorrectly on the show.

    • Dr. Spell's spellchecker

      Oops, I mean 'compatibility'.