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Columbo is a larger-than-life character, eccentric and unique.

He has a number of visual and verbal hooks, instantly identifiable, that capture our memory and imagination -- his mannerisms, his voice, his appearance, his verbal style.  And he has been entertaining the world for over three decades.  

So it's not too surprising that Columbo has become an icon, a  familiar touchstone in popular culture. He has passed into the language, and is part of our lexicon.

Columbo presents himself, outwardly, as a somewhat clownish figure, so we often find Columbo used as a reference point for laughs.

Here, we present a modest collection of "Columbo" in comedic references from popular culture. Some are full-blown parodies, others are casual comical references.  We hope you enjoy them.

Many thanks to “Mac Cat” and Roy Kassinger, who made this section possible by sharing their awesome recollections of  “Columbo” humor. 

NOTE, we have provided illustrations where available, but if anyone can help to provide additional videotapes or pictures of these "Columbo" comedy moments, they would be greatly appreciated.




"Clodumbo" is a classic "Mad" Magazine TV parody,  written by Lou Silverstone and illustrated by Angelo Torres. Appearing in the January, 1973 issue,  "Clodumbo" is more than a generic cartoon farce. It is a deft and insightful satire of Columbo's working style – solving crimes by constant pestering.

When a woman is found dead in her home, Columbo immediately suspects the husband, "Dr Robert Culpable", because his fingerprints are all over the murder house -- his own home.   

Clodumbo constantly hounds Dr Culpable. He plays golf in Culpable's living room, takes a bath in his tub, reads Culpable's mail, cooks eggs in his kitchen, and walks into his closet (as Columbo actually did, in Death Lends A Hand), all while constantly talking in streams of inane chatter. Culpable gets increasingly agitated.

Later, Clodumbo shows up in Dr Culpable's operating room, takes over the brain surgery, drops the patient's brain on the floor, and uses the patient's skull as an ashtray to put out his cigar.

Dr Culpable is finally driven mad by Clodumbo's incessant pestering, until he cracks and confesses to murder. Then it turns out Culpable is totally innocent, and only confessed because he would do anything to get Clodumbo out of his life. 

We find out that there were 27 other innocent people who confessed to Clodumbo for the same reason. Sixteen of them are still in jail, and 11 of them were executed.

("Mad" Magazine is copyrighted by EC Publications, Inc.)

“The ABC Misery Movie”

When Columbo returned to television in 1989, ABC made him part of a mystery wheel called “The ABC Mystery Movie”, appearing in rotation with other two cops shows called “B.L.Stryker” (starring Burt Reynolds) and “Gideon Oliver” (Louis Gossett, Jr).

“MAD” Magazine satirized all three shows in October, 1989, issue# 290, with “The ABC Misery Movie”, written by Dick DeBartolo.

Jessica, called “the old broad from Murder She Wrote,” is discovered prostrate as her apparent death is investigated by three detectives: Clodumbo, B. S. Strikeout, and  Giddyup Olive. 

Artist Angelo Torres, revisiting Clodumbo nearly 17 years after he drew the original “Mad” parody, shows no mercy for the ravages of time on Peter Falk’s mug. There’s reference to this in the dialogue, when B.S. says “Speaking of archaeology, that’s gotta be the oldest, most crumpled face I ever saw!”

Clodumbo reveals his crime-fighting technique: “I badger the witness! I use a lot of cunning ploys! And I badger the witness! I’m rather sneaky in my ways! And did I mention that I like to badger the witness?”

When Clodumbo works his patented badgering methods on his suspect, a bulldozer operator, the suspect offers to press Clodumbo’s raincoat -- with his bulldozer. “You don’t even have to bother to take it off!”

Later, the suspect swims into shark-infested waters, just to escape Clodumbo’s pestering. When Clodumbo follows him in a rowboat, and warns him that a huge shark is coming, the man says “Thank God!” It’ll be a much less painful death than dealing with you!”.

Finally, it is discovered that Jessica wasn’t dead at all -- she had merely passed out from boredom, listening to Clodumbo and his colleagues.

“Star Trek: Voyager” Parody

(contributed by Roy Kassinger)

When “MAD” did its parody of “Star Trek: Voyager”, starring Kate Mulgrew as “Captain Plainway”, the artist paid a sly tribute to Kate’s past career in the short-lived “Mrs Columbo” series.

Lieutenant Columbo appears in the background, on a monitor screen, saying “Take my wife, please!”




Columbo made his first “Cracked” magazine appearance in August, 1973, gracing the cover of issue number 110 in a color painting by John Severin. He stumbles along, with a vacant stare, leaving a trail of debris (including his badge) to be swept up by Sylvester P. Smythe.

“Columbore” opens with the bludgeoning of an old billionaire by his greedy children, then the narration: “”Right off you know who the murderer is, so there’s no suspense. What there is however, is the sheer boredom of watching a clumsy, sloppy detective hamming it up.”


Lieutenant Columbore blunders through the victim’s mansion, knocking over fancy vases, missing all the clues, making idiotic remarks, and eventually blowing up the eyewitness’s house.

When one of the killers tells him that his raincoat looks like he slept in it all night, Columbore explains: “Well, I ain’t got no blankets in my house, except for an electric one…but my wife and I use it in the morning to make toast.”

Drawn in a fairly realistic style, “Columbore” features guest appearances with other crimefighters, including Dirty Harry, Sgt Friday, Officer Reed (“Adam 12”), Toody and Muldoon (“Car 54”), Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife, and finally Superman



“Columbum” was created after Columbo made his return on ABC. Written by Tony Frank, it appears in the September, 1989 issue of “Cracked” Magazine, which is a slightly more brain-damaged imitation of  “Mad” Magazine.

This parody is most notable for its funny artwork and authentic imitation of the show’s structure and dialogue. Drawn in broad caricature by Walter Brogan,  Columbum resembles a demented hobo. These are some of the wildest drawings of  Columbo ever to be found.

“Columbum” is based on the Iran-Contra scandal. Like  the actual show, “Columbum” begins as we see the crime committed. “Colonel Oliver South” is shot by his superior officer, “General Potted”, in order to cover up the General’s role in Iran-Contra. The murderer uses a gun loaded with ice bullets, which melt after killing the Colonel, leaving only puddles of water as evidence.

Columbum enters and begins dancing on his raincoat. He tells his boss (a Barney Miller look-alike), “You see, sir, this is a new raincoat, and I’m breaking it in. Mrs Columbum, that’s my wife, gave it to me for my birthday. My wife has got this fantastic memory. She never forgets my birthday!”

Throughout his investigation, trailed by his even more cartoonish looking dog, Columbum continues his distracted commentaries about everything from Mrs Columbum’s Nintendo skills to his dog’s television watching habits, punctuated with Columbo-isms like “Isn’t that an amazing coincidence?”.  At the same time, Columbum makes improbable but apt observations that show us he has figured out who did the killing. But as usual, there’s a lack of hard evidence.

At one point, Columbum blunders into the War Room at the Pentagon, and begins pushing buttons -- “Boy! This is some terrific game room!”  He accidentally launches a missile, and nearly starts WW III before he is thrown out.

Later, Columbum interviews ex-president Reagan. “Sir, my wife is a big fan of yours! Would you mind signing an autograph for her? She’ll be thrilled.” Then Columbum adds, “You wouldn’t happen to have Bonzo’s autograph, would you? He was my all-time favorite actor… He should have won an Oscar!”

Eventually, Columbum arrests General Potted with no more evidence than the melted ice bullets, which Columbum carefully collected using paper towels. “I’ll use Bounty, the quicker picker-upper, and you use the other brand!”

In an unprecedented move, “Columbum” shows us what actually happens in Court when arrests are made on Columbo-style intuitions and elusive evidence – the case gets thrown out by the Judge. The Court Clerk complains that he can’t even mark the exhibits, because they’re nothing but little puddles of water. After the dismissal, the prosecutor complains to Columbum, “I never win! How can I, with the idiotic evidence you bring me?”

“Columbum” ends with the sudden appearance of two other detectives from the 1989 “ABC Mystery Movie” series, “B.S. Strikeouter” and Gideon “Oliverlips”. Their careers are “in the toilet,” and they hope to imitate the lasting success of Columbum. Both are wearing beat-up raincoats and smoking cigars. They claim that their wives had this “terrific” idea, that they could be big stars again if they smoke cigars, wear old raincoats, squint, mumble, and dress like bums. Columbum thinks that his wife, Mrs Columbum, a typical TV viewer, would never go for it.


In the early 1970s, "Columbo" pioneered a whole genre of "character" cops on television. We began seeing detectives and policemen with gimmicks ranging from shaved head and lollipop fetish, to hillbilly upbringing, morbid obesity, total blindness, paraplegia, and assorted personality disorders. It was inevitable that filmmakers would see the opportunity for comedy.

There were at least three comedy  movies produced on the same basic premise, a gang of famous detectives -- including Columbo -- brought together for wacky, zany humor.

Murder Can Hurt You (1980)  (contributed by Mac Cat)

A real cheezy  TV Movie,  "Murder Can Hurt You"  was essentially a parody of all 70's crime drama personalities, including Ironsides, Starsky and Hutch, McCloud, Baretta, and of course, Columbo.   


“Lieutenant Palumbo” is played by Burt Young (Adrian’s brother, Paulie,  in the “Rocky” movies), years before he appeared in a real “Columbo” episode (“Columbo Undercover”).

One by one, detectives are disappearing, presumably dead, so a team of investigators try to find the conspiracy behind it. As they investigate, more of the team continue to disappear.  Columbo meets his presumed end when he falls down a drainage pipe.

The remaining others on the investigative team go to tell Mrs. Columbo the bad news about her husband. When they go to tell her (she's portrayed by Liz Torres  as the sterotypical Italian matriarch), Mrs Columbo doesn't take it very well...she starts sobbing and tearing the place apart. Then, when she dumps a box of papers on the floor as a part of her rampage, she sees one paper, picks it up, and starts laughing. Turns out she wasn't distressed at all about her husbands untimely death...she was just upset that she couldn't find Columbo's life insurance paperwork right away.

It gets better (and corny-er).  

Suddenly, all of the missing/presumed dead detectives show up, including Columbo...turns out that none of them were killed, but rather were either imprisoned (and had escaped), or were hiding for various reasons. However, there was still a villain at large that had seemed to *want* to inconvenience the investigators.   

After some brilliant deductions, it is revealed that the mastermind was none other than...Mrs. Columbo! 

She explains that she was always helping Mr. Columbo out, and never got any credit for it. So she wanted to teach him a lesson, and she demanded that she be allowed to officially work in homicide with Columbo. Since she didn't really kill anyone, she couldn't be arrested, and Mr. Columbo reluctantly agrees to let her on the force. There is much rejoicing.

"Murder Can Hurt You" features many familiar television faces, including Gavin Macleod (Lt. Nojack) & Marty Allen (Detective Starkos), Jamie Farr & John Byner (Studsky & Hatch), Victor Buono (Chief Ironbottom),  Tony Danza (Pony Lambretta), Connie Stevens (Sgt. Salty Sanderson), Don Adams, Richard Deacon,  and Jimmie Walker, as well as the voice of Mel Blanc.

Palumbo bits from "Murder Can Hurt You":

We first meet Palumbo in his usual working environment -- a palatial mansion where a murder has occurred, talking with snooty servants. Palumbo deduces that the killer was a bent-over old woman, and to prove that she's faking her infirmity, Palumbo kicks her canes away. The old crone falls face-first into an aquarium, and nearly drowns before Palumbo admits, "Maybe I was off a little."

There's a similar routine later, when Palumbo claims that Chief Ironbottom is really the killer in disguise, and to prove it, Palumbo locks the Chief in a bathroom and sets it on fire. Palumbo is sure that the "Chief" is able-bodied enough to rise from his wheelchair and bust out of the flaming bathroom, but as Ironbottom's horrific screams fill the house, Palumbo finally shrugs and admits, "Maybe I was wrong."

When the detectives get locked in a room with a bomb ticking outside, they need to pick the stupidest person in the room to go out through the transom and disarm it. Everyone immediately grabs Palumbo, who gets shoved out the transom. While hanging upside down, Palumbo tries to use his teeth to disarm the device, which blows up in his face. Palumbo survives, but his face is blackened and his raincoat is blown to smoking smithereens. Later, they all use Palumbo for a battering ram, smashing through a concrete wall with his head.

There's a running gag where Palumbo sets the room on fire, everywhere he goes, by careless smoking. He has a lighter that shoots flames 3 feet high.

The movie's concept of Columbo's marriage is especially memorable. Palumbo brings the other cops to his home (strapping Ironbottom, in his wheelchair, to the top of his car), which turns out to be a filthy hovel run by his hostile and ugly wife, Serafina. Mrs Palumbo has one bushy eyebrow across her face, and a distinct mustache. Palumbo calls his wife pet names like sweetie-poo and angel-nose, while she calls him  "idiot" or "pig".  She constantly insults everyone, threatening to give the cops a shot in the labonza. Palumbo brags about her cooking, which is horrible slop made from lizards, that makes everyone else sick. "I hope you choke to death on every bite," says Mrs Palumbo.

Palumbo has a hound dog that he claims is "a killer".  He handles the beast with a big protective glove around his arm, warning everyone to steer clear of the jaws of death -- but the dog is totally inert, a look-alike for Jed Clampett's tired old bloodhound on "The Beverly Hillbillies".


Palumbo's car is a great parody of the dilapidated but ultra-rare Peugeot. Palumbo drives an old Studebaker, yellow and covered with mud, dents and scratches.

Ricochet (contributed by Anthony Rigo)

In the movie "Ricochet" (1991), there's a scene where Kevin Pollak is talking to Denzel Washington about the Columbo rerun he saw the previous night. Pollak then breaks into his Columbo impression and says something like "Now Mr. Schmendrick, I know you killed your wife and fed her to the goldfish, but did you have to stab her so many times?" I'm not sure about the last few words of that quote. It's been a few years since I saw the movie.

The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation As We Know It  (1975)

Civilization has been given just five days to live by the mysterious Moriarty, the only living descendant of the infamous Professor Moriarty who plagued London in the days of Sherlock Holmes. The Police of the Five Continents call upon the one man who might be able to stop Moriarty -- Arthur Sherlock Holmes (John Cleese), grandson of Sherlock.  

Most of the movie's humor derives from the slapstick talents of John Cleese, and from the interplay between the dim-witted Holmes and the even more dim-witted Watson. Connie Booth plays Mrs. Hudson, and other featured players include Denholm Elliott and Ron Moody.

In order to flush Moriarty out of hiding, Holmes proposes a convention of all the world's most distinguished detectives, because "it would be a dreadful temptation to kill them all in one fell swoop".

The distinguished guests include Hercule Poirot (played by an obese dwarf); Steve "Hawaii Five-O"  McGarrett; Sam Spade; James Bond's associates, M and "Miss Moneypacker"; and McCloud, who rides into the hotel lobby on a horse.  Holmes himself, sucking a lollipop and wearing an awful "bald wig", impersonates Kojack. 

Holmes was right: Moriarty shows up (disguised as Watson), and can't resist bumping off the famous detectives as they arrive at the hotel.

Columbo (Luie Caballero) makes a grand entrance, pulling up to the hotel in a convertible that's belching steam, which envelopes the whole scene like a fog. He introduces himself to the hotel doorman. "I see ya got a typical London pea-souper here, yer grace," says Columbo, waving away the smoke that's billowing from his car.   

Columbo tells the doorman, "Have it fixed and get my wife to pick it up, will ya?" Just then, the car's engine explodes into flames. "Terrific!" says Columbo, chuckling as he walks away. He ends up being the only detective who is not killed by the end of the movie.

Clue?? (1988)

Note the question marks --  not to be confused with “Clue”, the rather dull 1985 Hollywood film.

This is a direct-to-video production by a group of  independents called “The Federation”, who created a series of satirical romps in the 1980s.  “Clue??” is their version of gathering together famous detectives for comedy fun.

Characters include Lieutenant Columbo (Chris Brainerd),  Mike Hammer, Ironside, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and James Bond.

We are trying to get this tape, and hope to give you a review in the near future.


Johnny Carson's Columbo Sketch  (contributed by Mac Cat)

Johnny Carson did a sketch with himself as Columbo. The scene...a rich couple are scrambling about their condo getting ready to flee the country. They mention how they successfully murdered someone, and how they're certain they outsmarted the homicide detective Columbo.

Columbo (Johnny Carson) enters and tries to ask the couple "One more thing..." (His impersonation is a stretch, but it's funny!) They tell him that they have nothing more to say, and they shove Columbo out the door. He comes back. They rush him out again, and they lock the door. So Columbo appears at the window to ask "One more thing." They close the window on him. So Columbo slides down their chimney, and appears upside down in the fireplace. The couple shove him back up it.

This goes on with Columbo popping up everywhere in the house, trying to ask questions, oblivious that they don't want to talk to him. At one point when the couple are almost certain that they've gotten rid of him, one of them points suspiciously at their large cabinet stereo. They open it, expecting to find him there, then breathe a sigh of relief when they see just a turntable. But then, Columbo pops up from the cabinet, wearing the turntable like a hat. "Just one more thing..."

Finally, the couple grab the Lieutenant, and tie him to a chair. Things are looking grim for Columbo, but then… Baretta barges in, and saves the day. The End.

Singing Dog Contest (contributed by Mac Cat)

On the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, they used to have the annual singing dog contest. One entry was a basset hound named Columbo. Turned out he was the only dog that would not sing, but he also got the greatest applause when it came time for the audience to vote for the best performance.



Sanford and Son (contributed by Mac Cat)

Fred Sanford wants to spy on his son's new girlfriend, so he goes over to her apartment dressed in a black shaggy wig and rumpled raincoat, tries to pass himself off as Columbo, and questions the girlfriend.  

Aunt Esther goes with him, posing as a census worker. She tells Lamont’s girlfriend, “This is my associate – The Falkon”.   

“That’s Peter Falkon!” says Fred.

With that, Fred makes his entrance, to huge laughs from the audience,  wearing a perfect Peter Falk wig and rumpled raincoat. He holds a cigar in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other.

“They call him ‘Old Dumbo’,” says Aunt Esther. “That’s Columbo!!!” says Fred.

Green Acres (contributed by Mac Cat)  

On the show Green Acres, the town is having a play and the star of the show is supposed to be a basset hound named Columbo. However, Columbo gets sick and his part has to be played by Arnold, the pig.

Bosom Buddies  (contributed by Roy Kassinger)

I don't remember much about the Bosom Buddies episode. I know TV Land airs it, but I remember it only from the original airing over a decade ago. As I remember it, someone wrongs one of the girls in the show, and they cook up a plan to catch him in a trap of some sort, and Peter Scolari impersonates an investigator using the raincoat, cigar, Columbo voice mannerisms and “Just one more thing” type of investigation.

The Odd Couple (contributed by Jaclyn Mussehl and Roy Kassinger)

In episode #90, "The Insomniacs,"  Felix has insomnia, and thinks
that it might be psychosomatic, because he got jealous after seeing his
ex-wife Gloria with another man a few days before.  So he "hires" Murray
to be a sort-of private eye, to find out who the guy is (Felix pays him
with cookies).  

Murray gets dressed up in a raincoat and asks Oscar if he looks like "Columbo", to which Oscar says, "You look more like Dumbo."  

(Special thanks to Jaclyn Mussehl for pictures and dialogue! Visit her great “Odd Couple Homepage” at )

Mad About You  (contributed by Roy Kassinger)

I thought of another time Columbo was mentioned in a sitcom ... in an episode of "Mad About You" (I'm not sure which one), there's a funny three-to- five minute bit where Ira tries his best to convince Paul (Reiser), whose character is a filmmaker, that Steven Spielberg directed an episode of  “Columbo” during his early years.

It was one of those things they kept coming back to... It may have been one of the episodes where Paul was “forced' to do something for commercial TV and Ira said something to the effect of  "Hey, even Speilberg directed "Columbo"s when he started out."  They'd go back to what they were originally talking about, and later, two or three times, Paul would say, "Are you SURE Spielberg directed Columbos?"


Denis Leary (contributed by Mac Cat) 

In Denis Leary's comedy CD called "Lock n' Load," Columbo is brought into Leary's ranting about how nowadays you can order just about any type of coffee in any flavor, except for just plain coffee, or as he calls it, "coffee-flavored coffee". Cappucino, mochacino, rappacino, Al Pacino...but no coffee-flavored coffee!

Then Leary gripes that no one is allowed to smoke in any of these coffee places either. Leary says, "Coffee was invented by smokers so they could stay awake at night and smoke some more! At least, that's my theory. Just ask me ...or Columbo...he'll back me up on this one." 

Then he says like he's reading a headline: "Peter Falk and Denis Leary today walked into a Starbucks and shot twenty-seven people, completely unannounced." 

While it's doubtful that Peter Falk would go to the extremes Leary would about the coffee/smoking problem, Mr. Leary is well-versed enough on Columbo to know that besides smoking a cigar, Columbo really does like his black "coffee-flavored coffee".  

That 70s Show (contributed Anthony Rigo and Josh from New Zealand)

I remember an episode of That 70s Show, called “Streaking”.  When President Ford comes to town, the kids are warned to be on their best behavior. This gives the guys an idea -- streaking. There’s a scene where all the teenagers are dressed only in raincoats, because they are planning to streak. When Eric's mom sees them on the way out she says something like, "Oh you crazy kids and Columbo!”.

Skitz (contributed by Josh from New Zealand)

I saw a parody on NZ TV a couple of years ago (like about '93), and I think it was on this ozzie show called “Skitz”. It started with a couple fighting in a posh mansion, and then in the next scene the police are walking in … and here’s the body of the man with knives and axes and stuff poking out of his back, and the woman’s on the couch, pretending to cry. The policeman and policewoman both say “Suicide” straight away. Then, Columbo walks in and isn't so sure… And he kind of falls all over the floor, and finds a new toothbrush the man has purchased, and asks why he would purchase a new toothbrush if he was committing suicide? And he finds knitting or something he was doing! and asks again. Anyway, in the end the policeman and woman get really annoyed and whip machineguns out, and that’s the end of Columbo!!!

Remington Steele (contributed by Roy Kassinger)

In an episode called "Stronger Than Steele," there’s a direct reference to a specific “Columbo” episode, cited for its similarity to the murder plot.

 A producer announces that he intends to make "Atomic Man - The Movie",
a big screen adaptation of a 50s/60s cheezy black and white adventure
show, with a new actor in the lead. The assistant producer kills the producer, and tries to frame the original “Atomic Man” star (Conrad Janis), who was angered by the re-make.  The killer sets up her alibi with the cleaning woman by adjusting the time on her office clock, and putting on a studio tape of an "Atomic Man" episode, pretending it to be the one that would be broadcast later.

One of the running gimmicks of the show is that Remington was a big movie fan, and would often compare their current cases to film plots by saying something like "'King Kong', Fay Wray, RKO, 1933". Well in this episode they flipped it and had Laura citing TV references, and when they broke into the office and found the complete collection of "Atomic Man" on tape she said:
"'Columbo', Peter Falk, episode ‘Playback’, Universal, 1975. Oskar
Werner plays an electronics genius who uses a video tape to alter the
time that a murder seems to take place."

Personally I think the videotape alibi with William Shatner, in “Fade In To Murder,” was more a more accurate comparison -- odd that they went with the lesser known of the two actors.

"Celebrity Glass Eye Theatre" (Late Night with Conan O’Brien)

A tasteless but funny television parody, purportedly starring Sammy Davis Jr, Sandy Duncan, and Peter Falk.

Sammy Davis Jr (an eyeball) sings a song, then in comes Sandy Duncan (an eyeball wearing a Peter Pan hat), swinging from a wire and singing "I'm Flying."

A shot rings out, and Sandy is dead.

There's a knock on the door, and in comes...

Aww, you guessed! ....Right, an eyeball in a raincoat. He has just a few questions...


The Match Game

(contributed by Roy Kassinger)

I saw a "Match Game PM" episode on GameShow Network from around 1975, which had the following question: "I have a TV Guide listing here, Sunday night NBC - 'Columbo' - Everyone is shocked when Lt. Columbo removes his raincoat and has [BLANK] underneath."  

Two celebrities played that round. One matched the contestant with the answer "nothing on"...the other celebrity responded "Kojak!"



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