Parks and Recreation's 7 Best Recurring Gags: From Calzones to 'Treat Yo' Self'
Parks had LITERALLY the best callbacks on television
After seven brilliant seasons, Parks and Recreation airs its final episode on Tuesday night.
Though often overlooked despite its longevity and critical acclaim, the writers – with showrunner Mike Schur at the helm – created a rich universe filled with well-rounded characters whose quirks were celebrated often in the form of joke callbacks that were as hilarious on the second, third and 10th time they were told as they were the first.
In advance of the series finale, we thought we’d revisit seven of the best recurring jokes on Parks.
Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) was LIH-truh-lee the most enthusiastic person in Pawnee. Ever since he left, the town has been just a little darker for it.
Treat Yo’ Self
“Treat Yo’ Self” is not just one day out of the year for Donna (Retta) and Tom (Aziz Ansari) – it’s a lifestyle. Watching the dynamic duo go back and forth on how they treat themselves (“fine leather goods,” says Donna with the best inflection ever) is freshly hilarious each time.
Ben’s Love of Calzones
Ben (Adam Scott) is the only person on the planet who loves calzones, and he loves them deeply. Though they betrayed him once after giving him a bout of food poisoning, he created a calzone pie in season 7 that was as much a culinary achievement as it was a true horror. His pitch for fast-casual dining restaurant The Low-Cal Calzone Zone is easily the best Benzone moment of the series.
Leslie’s Longstanding Crush on Joe Biden
Of all people, Vice President Joe Biden is Leslie’s (Amy Poehler) ultimate crush. In season 5, she actually got to meet him and promptly lost her mind, unleashing the most hysterical of hysterical Poehler cackles.
We first knew Jim O’Heir’s character as Jerry until we learned that his real name was actually Garry. April (Aubrey Plaza) eventually made “Larry” catch on, however, and when we met Leslie and Co. in 2017 in Parks‘ final season, we learned that he had actually been going by “Terry” because somebody in the department was already named Larry.
(At Donna and Joe’s wedding, they decided to start calling him Garry once again.)
Pawnee’s Hatred of the Library
In a town where salads are abhorred and soda cups are large enough to hold liquefied toddlers, the citizens of Pawnee – those working in the Parks Department, especially – are no fans of the library or its staff. After the above episode aired, librarians around the world longed for the days of yore, when they were not also well known as “punk-ass book jockeys.”
“No, Orin. I don’t know how I’m going to die. Wait – are you asking me or telling me?” Orin (Eric Isenhower) is April’s creepy friend who likes to appear out of thin air, can control animals with his mind and probably has the forces of Hades under his ultimate control. Also, he’s really good at pretending to be April’s mom.
BONUS: Harris Wittels as Harris, the Worst Animal Controller Ever and Nude-Park Enthusiast
Harris Wittels played Harris, incompetent co-director of Pawnee’s Animal Control Department. His role, while not as well known as other recurring Parks gags, was a low-key hilarious joke throughout seasons 2-5. Wittels, also a co-executive producer on the series, died Thursday of an apparent overdose. The above 5-minute supercut of all of his Parks appearances shows why he was such a comedic talent.
Parks and Recreation‘s hour-long series finale airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.