By The Metric Maven
This post is intended for mature audiences. Reader discretion is advised.
I have always had a taste for adult animation, but I never thought it would have anything to do with the metric system. I had watched Frisky Dingo, but was unaware of Archer until a little over a year ago. What I was not prepared to face, was well crafted jokes based on the metric system.
Archer is a secret agent working for his mother’s spy organization, called ISIS. (The name of the organization will change in the next season for obvious reasons) Archer is not prone to philosophical musing when approaching a problem. He cuts the Gordian knot.
When I learned of this series I binge-watched it from the beginning. I was surprised to hear my first metric related dialog, ever in an animated series, in the episode Killing Utne. The plot involves Mallory (Archer’s mother) throwing a dinner party to lobby for a lucrative ISIS contract. An attractive blonde haired woman unexpectedly shows up and generates this dialog:
Krieger: “Like to get a physical from her.”
Cyril: “Or with her.”
[Cyril’s girlfriend Lana approaches from behind and puts her hand on Cyrill’s shoulder and begins to squeeze.]
Lana: “I wonder if Dr. Pantyround(?) knows how many pounds it takes to snap a human collar bone.”
Cyril: “She probably uses the metric system.”
Pam: “Yeah, what to they use?—kilowatts?”
Krieger: “No, in this case it would be pascals.”
In season 2 episode 1 Swiss Miss, Archer has taken an interest in the underage daughter of a European Baron. Archer finds he is unable to correctly estimate her age which draws some ire from his colleagues:
Archer: “Lana, she doesn’t look like she’s just turning seventeen.”
Lana: “No, she looks like she’s just turning eighteen.”
Archer: “Exactly, plus Europeans use the metric system which—-.”
His mother Mallory cuts him off at that point. Clearly Archer has a very limited understanding of the applications of the metric system.
Blood Test has Archer involuntarily providing a sample of blood for a paternity test:
Barry: “We take a blood sample from Archer.”
Mallory: “Blood! My god what year is this?”
Archer: “I know right.”
Mallory: “Why can’t you just take a DNA swab?”
Barry: “A blood sample is enough to determine paternity, and after we take a liter.”
Archer: “A LITER! how much is a—“
Barry: “Archer will be left in a weakened state, which should prevent his attempting to compromise the test.”
Archer: (Delusional) “Turtlenecks I invented the turtleneck…”
Mallory: “But look! You’re bleeding him dry!”
Archer: “Seriously Barry, how much is a liter?”
Barry: “About eight gills.”
Archer: “What’s a gill?”
Barry: “Does that help?”
Archer: “You’re just talking in circles buddy.”
Barry: “Thanks Dr. Vansig.”
Archer: “What’s a gill?”
Barry: “Next, under ODIN guard the sample is taken to the vault of First Savings bank. I don’t know why I told you where, but it doesn’t matter.”
Archer: “What’s a gill?”
Barry: “As the bank and vault will be surrounded by ODIN agents. Merely an added precaution–“
Archer: “Is that metric?”
Barry: “–as the vault is basically one big shit-storm of anti-intrusion devices. Tomorrow, in full view of both parties, we will test the sample, here, along with the blood sample from the wee baby Shamus. Thus insuring complete accuracy of the paternity test. Any questions?”
Archer: “Yeah Barry, I’m still unclear on the liter-thing,– “
Barry: (Sighing) Ohhhh.
Archer “–visa-vee a unit of volume.”
The volumetric humor continues in the next segment, sans metric.
Archer is the only program I’ve ever seen which has metric-Ye Olde English jokes, and they are not uncommon.
In season 5, ISIS has been forced into bankruptcy and inadvertently enters into drug dealing. Their accountant, Cyril tries to explain how much cocaine they have left in their vault. The episode is entitled House Call:
Cyril: “And so if I could direct your attention to these visual aides, You will see that from our initial supply of 1000 kilos of cocaine we–“
Archer: “Hang on Dummy, we had a ton of cocaine.”
Cyril: “No–we, well we had a tonne t-o-n-n-e also known as a metric ton but—“
Mallory: [stated with incredulity] “Metric!—Who uses metric!”
Lana: “Every single country on the planet except for us, Liberia and Burma.”
Archer: “Wow really?”
Archer: “Cause you never really think of those other two as having their shit together.”
Cyril: “So as you can see, we are already down to 125 kilos of cocaine, which was worth about six million dollars. So–“
Archer: “Hey–wait, how much is that in pounds?”
Cyril: “Forget pounds!—we’re doing kilos!”
Archer: “No I meant pounds–“
Mallory: “Sterling!” (Sterling is Archer’s first name)
Archer: “Exactly, as in Dr. Who money.”
Mallory: “How do you stand here and crack wise when this is all your fault.”
Archer: “My fault! I only lost 44.092 pounds of it mother, it’s Pam’s fault we had to give the Yakuza 100 kilos, and this other five—spoiler alert—she ate.”
Lana: “Yeah, and would now be a good time to talk about Pam’s cocaine addition–“
Pam: “Or the inspiring story of her heroic struggle to finally triumph over it!”
Lana: “What are you eating?”
[Pam becomes uncontrollable and has to be restrained.]
Lana: “So what do you suggest we do?”
Mallory: “We throw her a party!—with an enormous cake! Cyril, can we spare another five pounds of cocaine!?”
Mallory: (exasperated) “2.27 kilograms then, who are you?—Thomas Corwin Medenhall!?”
There you have it readers, the only joke I’ve ever encountered which has Thomas Corwin Mendenhall (1841-1924) in it.
There are many other metric jokes in the Archer animated television series. I will document no more, and leave it to you–if interested–to watch for the others. They are dispersed, and for a person predisposed to measurements, hilarious. But strangely instructive.
If you liked this essay and wish to support the work of The Metric Maven, please visit his Patreon Page and contribute. Also purchase his books about the metric system:
The first book is titled: Our Crumbling Invisible Infrastructure. It is a succinct set of essays that explain why the absence of the metric system in the US is detrimental to our personal heath and our economy. These essays are separately available for free on my website, but the book has them all in one place in print. The book may be purchased from Amazon here.
The second book is titled The Dimensions of the Cosmos. It takes the metric prefixes from yotta to Yocto and uses each metric prefix to describe a metric world. The book has a considerable number of color images to compliment the prose. It has been receiving good reviews. I think would be a great reference for US science teachers. It has a considerable number of scientific factoids and anecdotes that I believe would be of considerable educational use. It is available from Amazon here.
The third book is called Death By A Thousand Cuts, A Secret History of the Metric System in The United States. This monograph explains how we have been unable to legally deal with weights and measures in the United States from George Washington, to our current day. This book is also available on Amazon here.