With a writers room containing three PhDs, seven master's degrees, and over 50 cumulative years at Harvard, it's no surprise that there are some smart jokes on Futurama. In fact, some are smarter than we are! Thankfully, over the show's 14-year run, it never failed to remain accessible.
One of the great things about Futurama is that it works on so many levels. Whether you're a fan of complex mathematical theorems and references, or you just want to watch Bender drink and steal things, there's always something to enjoy.
But for the really esoteric stuff, it definitely helps if you have a doctorate in physics or mathematics. Not to mention a lightning fast pause button! This list will help explain those jokes, and save you some serious student loan debt, so keep reading to see some of Futurama's smartest jokes.
It Really Stays There
The opening title card of "Prisoner of Benda" reads, “What happens in Cygnus X-1 stays in Cygnus X-1." An obvious reference to “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," the joke here is that Cygnus X-1 is a black hole. So even light that gets to close will, in fact, never leave. And presumably any and all gambling.
Futurama Invents A Mathematical Theorem
Ken Keeler invented a real mathematical theorem in order to explain the body switching featured in "The Prisoner of Benda." Keeler, in addition to writing for Futurama, holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics. Apparently, he included the joke to help popularize mathematics among young fans of the show.
The Quantum Finish
Officials use an electron microscope to determine the winner of a horse race in "The Luck of the Fryrish." The officials declare the race a "quantum finish," and Professor Farnsworth complains, “No fair! You changed the outcome by measuring it!” This refers to the observer effect, a phenomenon in physics that observing quantum particles can change their position. Which means all Futurama episodes might be different if they were played in an empty room. Food for thought.
Colleen's T-Shirt Equation
Colleen’s shirt features a math equation that parodies the famous "I Love NY" campaign. It basically translates to “for all X, I love X”. Or “I love everything/everyone."
Very appropriate given the plot line featured what amounts to a planet-spanning orgy in "The Beast with a Billion Backs," and Colleen is a polyamorous character who loves everyone.