Omnibus! With Ken Jennings and John R...
An encyclopedic reference of strange-but-true stories compiled as a time capsule for future generations.
History
Society & Culture
1
Backgammon (Entry 090.EX2816)
In which an ancient Mesopotamian board game briefly becomes a 1970s signifier for glamour and sophistication, and Ken's life is changed by an intense childhood game of Clue. Certificate #31179.
65 min
2
Masquerade (Entry 763.PS10424)
In which an outsider artist hides a rabbit by a statue and thereby gets a million people to start digging up the English countryside, and John "man-solves" a Satanic temple. Certificate #14162.
68 min
3
The Tech Model Railroad Club (Entry 1282.1C1220)
In which a room full of MIT train nerds becomes ground zero for modern American hacker culture and computer architecture, and Ken blames Star Wars for ruining children's toys. Certificate #33564.
61 min
4
Byzantine Rhinokopia (Entry 170.JB4102)
In which the Byzantine throne is contested by various Machiavellian schemes willing to mutilate the noses of their political rivals, and John reveals which Marx brother he is most sexually attracted to. Certificate #34954.
48 min
5
Fort Knox (Entry 493.2CH0913)
In which a World War I army camp in northern Kentucky is chosen to house over $200 billion in gold bullion, and Ken proposes nationalizing America's safety deposit boxes. Certificate #2504.
65 min
6
Induced Demand (Entry 637.EZ1704)
In which we learn why new highway lanes, no matter how spacious, tend to fill to capacity within weeks of opening, and John takes on a hypothetical megacorporation called Goober. Certificate #38938.
65 min
7
The Leafblower (Entry 707.DA0414)
In which ecologically problematic outdoor power tools accidentally become an official part of the Omnibus, all because John's neighbor refuses to call "Leafbusters." Certificate #25458.
51 min
8
The Christmas Pickle (Entry 220.IS0108)
In which a Spokane antique store creates a fake Bavarian holiday tradition from scratch, and John's beard makes him look bigger. Certificate #31503.
64 min
9
The Max Headroom Intrusion (Entry 767.JB2415)
In which we examine the broadcast-jamming fad of the 1980s, including a puzzling incident involving a masked Chicago prankster, and Ken wants to be a font cop. Certificate #29692.
78 min
10
Interferon (Entry 652.PS10303)
In which a strange, sticky new protein is declared—on the basis of very little evidence—to be a cure-all in the war against cancer, and Ken refuses to make the necessary sacrifices to become a skateboarding star. Certificate #40478.
52 min
11
Ada Lovelace (Entry 737.PR3118)
In which a 19th-century countess overcomes her father's scandalous celebrity and her mother's love of parallelograms to become the world's first computer programmer, and John comes to regret renaming Alexa. Certificate #46507.
79 min
12
Square Dancing (Entry 1211.JB2111)
In which we learn that America's love affair with do-si-dos is a relatively recent and artificial form of nostalgia jump-started by Henry Ford's hatred for jazz, and Ken misremembers "krumping." Certificate #42537.
53 min
13
The Toyota Hilux (Entry 1323.JG0119)
In which an oddly named model of Toyota pickup becomes the truck of choice for Marty McFly, Top Gear fans, polar explorers, and ISIS. Certificate #16197.
59 min
14
The Duchess of Bedford (Entry 383.PR2301)
In which one of Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting atones for her gossip scandals at court by inventing a brand new meal, and John blames museum docents for all his schedule problems. Certificate #48479.
58 min
15
Mother Jones (Entry 675.MK0333)
In which an Irish immigrant pretending to be an old lady becomes a star of the American labor movement, and Ken ponders the death of middle initials. Certificate #12952.
67 min
16
The Rite of Spring Riot (Entry 1076.EZ2613)
In which Ken blames the weirdest ballet premiere of all time on class warfare, bad hair and costuming choices, and anti-Russian xenophobia, and John renames the sport of gymnastics. Certificate #31616.
67 min
17
The Ambassador Bridge (Entry 039.EZ4705)
In which one canny Detroit billionaire manages to gain sole control of the linchpin of American foreign trade, and John repeatedly insists he is not giving advice to terrorists. Certificate #36634.
67 min
18
Grass (Entry 546.MK0639)
In which lawns are revealed to be covering three times as much of America as any other crop, and Ken explains why the tallgrass prairies of the 19th century produced no great tennis players. Certificate #31632.
43 min
19
Fern Fever (Entry 462.JB0816)
In which Victorian England becomes obsessed with the beautiful fronds and sexy lifestyle of ferns, and John brings the Arts and Crafts movement to the grunge era. Certificate #31358.
55 min
20
Porfirio Rubirosa (Entry 1087.1K1210)
In which a Dominican diplomat cozies up to one of history's worst dictators, marries the two richest women in the world, and creates our modern image of the macho "Latin lover," and Ken tries to revive some slang from 1980s sex comedies. Certificate #41003.
55 min
21
No-Fault Divorce (Entry 840.MK1009)
In which Ronald Reagan, of all people, introduces a new legal philosophy of marriage and divorce to America in 1970, though it takes New York forty years to catch up. Certificate #27256.
59 min
22
Earth-Two (Entry 391.RV2101)
In which a single 1961 comic book births a multiverse and reshapes our modern understanding of parallel dimensions in art as well as life, and John wistfully fantasizes about an honest Hitler. Certificate #46819.
75 min
23
Faces of Death (Entry 447.JB1616)
In which the "mondo" shock movie craze of the 1960s inspires a morbid megahit that turns out to be more hoax than documentary, and monkey brains make their big-screen debut. Certificate #41907.
58 min
24
Haitian Zombies (Entry 561.ZC1412)
In which the origins of America's favorite 21st-century horror trope are traced back to the miseries of Caribbean plantation slavery, which is a huge bummer, and John ponders the role of squash in the afterlife. Certificate #49964.
55 min
25
Government Cheese (Entry 541.1S1718)
In which an American dairy surplus and some dubious policy decisions creates a processed welfare staple of the Reagan era, and Ken reveals his favorite lunchmeat. Certificate #24553.
58 min
26
Johnny Appleseed (Entry 060.SS0203)
In which one of America's great folk heroes is revealed as a Swedenborgian mystic, a land baron, and⁠—to John's mind⁠—a 19th-century weed dealer. Certificate #36692.
47 min
27
The Gossamer Albatross (Entry 540.PS5506)
In which humankind's dream of flying with the birds leads through all manner of weird ornithopters and flying bikes to a very low-altitude crossing of the English Channel, and John aces the Pepsi Challenge on a boat. Certificate #20913.
71 min
28
The Texas Zombies (Entry 1292.MT2424)
In which an unscrupulous Michigan music promoter dispatches fake versions of one of the great bands of rock's British Invasion, and John wages his own copyright battle against a legendary pioneer woman. Certificate #51274.
59 min
29
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Entry 1000...
In which the chaos of Europe around 1900 produces a literary hoax that powers a century of anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories, and Ken shares his distrust of sports stadiums. Certificate #42869.
76 min
30
How Many Angels Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?...
In which scholasticism gets roasted for its obsession with thorny, possibly pointless theological questions, and John explains the difference between escalator angels and hobo angels. Certificate #39095.
54 min
31
Oblique Strategies (Entry 856.RO1202)
In which music legend Brian Eno and an artist friend develop a tarot deck for beating writer's block, and Ken uses lateral thinking to determine that John and Mary were goldfish. Certificate #26638.
53 min
32
Fritz Stammberger (Entry 1215.NU1317)
In which a mountaineering legend disappears in Pakistan, his game show icon widow becomes convinced he's secretly a spy, and John dresses like the worst kind of CIA agent. Certificate #31997.
57 min
33
Ticker Tape Parades (Entry 1306.ES0609)
In which America's love for French celebrity guests and her abundance of corporate litter combine to create an iconic New York tradition, and Ken ponders what to do with a giant Styrofoam version of his head. Certificate #9509.
61 min
34
Icelandic Incest (Entry 615.DE2722)
In which a helpful new phone app is developed to prevent Icelanders from dating their cousins, which may tragically keep them outside of the "Goldilocks Zone" of inbreeding. Certificate #20625.
46 min
35
Sliced Bread (Entry 1172.MK0652)
In which the canonical greatest innovation of modern life turns out to be a result of uneven toaster technology, and John builds the worst soapbox racer of all time. Certificate #50925.
57 min
36
As Slow as Possible (Entry 075.2P0308)
In which a German church organ perform a John Cage composition so slowly that the concert will last 639 years, and Ken has an opinion on who the horniest characters are in Middle-earth. Certificate #24524.
60 min
37
Juggalos (Entry 677.IS6015)
In which a horrorcore rap-rock duo from Detroit accidentally creates a global army of misfits and outcasts, and Pearl Jam gets John thrown in jail five times. Certificate #32373.
70 min
38
MSG (Entry 813.LK1434)
In which a combination of Cold War paranoia and good old-fashioned racism convince America that deliciously "umami" Asian food is actually killing them, and Ken eats kelp in a kayak. Certificate #21879.
53 min
39
The Battle of Palmdale (Entry 104.EZ2047)
In which two overeager fighter pilots chase down a runaway drone over Southern California, accidentally lighting much of the state on fire, and John wants to be a marshal of some kind. Certificate #31303.
66 min
40
Alexander von Humboldt (Entry 605.CO0203)
In which an adventurous Prussian polymath single-handedly revolutionizes modern science, and even helps kick-start the liberation of South America and the environmental movement, and John and Ken ponder their own inevitable disappearance down the memory hole. Certificate #41705.
58 min
41
Florence Lawrence (Entry 705.MT0210)
In which a vaudeville baby whistler becomes the world's first movie star and goes on to invent the electric windshield wiper, and Ken's knowledge of Ogden Nash insults finally comes in handy. Certificate #52050.
70 min
42
Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins (Entry 795.PS1912)
In which many of the most commonly taught grammar and usage rules in English are revealed to be arbitrary, made-up, out-of-date, or all three, and John explains why Miss Manners should be in charge of the Internet. Certificate #41607.
70 min
43
Biosphere 2 (Entry 124.IS6517)
In which an eccentric metallurgist with a theater troupe begins one of the strangest science experiments in history and learns that humankind might not be ready for Mars yet, and Ken watches Jeff Bezos injure a fig tree. Certificate #34308.
74 min
44
Lottery Winners (Entry 736.HE1305)
In which we follow the history of government games of chance from ancient China to today's bankrupt Powerball millionaires, and John grifts his elementary school out of a side of beef. Certificate #32943.
79 min
45
Fotomats (Entry 494.LV2342)
In which a bygone errand, developing vacation snapshots, becomes so widespread that it gets its own chain of drive-thru kiosks, and Ken's mom looks great in a red knit jumper and gold polyester turtleneck. Certificate #38597.
53 min
46
Gold Hats (Entry 537.PS2103)
In which four mysterious cones are unearthed from proto-Celtic Europe, perhaps holding untold secrets of the calendar and cosmos, and John is surrounded by the happy nudists of the Danube. Certificate #23490
46 min
47
ARkStorm (Entry 067.PS9303)
In which a periodic "atmospheric river" from the Pacific Ocean threatens to put a quarter of Californians underwater in the very near future, which scares Ken so much that he decides to drill holes in his couch. Certificate #23973.
53 min
48
The Monkey Selfie (Entry 803.MT2220)
In which the legal and creative rights of a crested macaque are debated on the world stage, and we learn Ken wants to look like Popeye. Certificate #2720.
66 min
49
The Onion Futures Act (Entry 867.NU1105)
In which two savvy farmers try to corner the market on onions by buying up the whole Midwestern supply, and John compares Gerald Ford to a Jesuit. Certificate #25671.
64 min
50
Bob Dylan's Christian Period (Entry 138.AC1631)
In which rock's most cryptic genius shocks the world by being "born again," releasing three uneven gospel albums and annoying a lot of concertgoers. Certificate #39323.
57 min
51
Canning (Entry 180.LK1219)
In which doomed Arctic explorers and a spiritualist's vacuum sealer help revolutionize the science of food storage, and John reveals that his "dueling scars" are actually from drinking cold canned pasta. Certificate #42072.
54 min
52
The Four-Color Map Problem (Entry 495.NU2653)
In which over a century of mathematicians are unable to solve a geometry problem straight out of a coloring book, computers provide their first ever math "proof," and Ken challenges John to map a donut. Certificate #28876.
48 min
53
The Church of the SubGenius (Entry 222.AC1605)
In which a fictional pipe-smoking salesman invents a new quasi-religion for ironists, Discordians, and weirdos, and Ken believes he could have prevented the Trojan War. Certificate #31147.
54 min
54
The Rural Purge (Entry 1091.PS6503)
In which CBS cancels a full slate of country-fried programming, reinventing TV and marginalizing rural America, and John somehow watches an awful lot of Hee Haw. Certificate #36841.
48 min
55
Peak Phosphorus (Entry 911.PS9703)
In which one of the key nutrients for all life on Earth washes inexorably into the ocean all day every day, which really stresses Ken out. Certificate #52178
53 min
56
John Dee (Entry 325.DA0202)
In which Queen Elizabeth's top astrologer dreams up the British Empire, solar power, and possibly even James Bond, and then loses his whole reputation to a charlatan with no earlobes, leading John to create a list of scientists who should have stayed in their lane. Certificate #44269
54 min
57
Quonset Huts (Entry 1023.PS6103)
In which the U.S. military builds hundreds of thousands of weird half-cylindrical shelters out of corrugated steel, and Ken reports on what they would look like with stained-glass windows. Certificate #35704
52 min
58
Droodles (Entry 382.AC0212)
In which we remember Frank Zappa's favorite 1950s fad, brought to you by the inventor of Mad Libs, and John remembers why people actually thought a Sasquatch lived on top of the Space Needle back in foggier times. Certificate #48261.
65 min
59
Furries (Entry 508.GN2716)
In which hundreds of thousands of people dress in big plush animal suits as a hobby, identity, or fetish, and Ken explains the secret Family Feud notebooks of his childhood. Certificate #26505
56 min
60
Town Line, New York (Entry 1323.2C0617)
In which a tiny village secedes from the United States to join the Confederacy and forgets to rejoin for almost a century--even though it's in upstate New York just miles from the Canadian border. Certificate #42052.
51 min
61
Cold Fusion (Entry 242.PR2004)
In which two of the world's smartest electrochemists get fooled by a botched experiment and the promise of fame, and John reveals that GPS mysticism is his pseudoscience. Certificate #19668.
61 min
62
The Kamehameha Colonists (Entry 681.IS4204)
In which over a hundred of Honolulu's elite private school students are shipped off to some of the world's most remote islands on a top-secret government mission, and Ken wonders if sea turtles can feel dread. Certificate #22194.
50 min
63
Maraschino Cherries (Entry 758.PR0819)
In which we learn how a historical delicacy of Croatia got bastardized into a staple of American cocktails and sundaes, and John is upset when his third grade teacher pays him in ice cream instead of cash. Certificate #28197.
53 min
64
Cursive (Entry 307.DA0508)
In which we trace script handwriting from ancient Egypt all the way up to the modern culture wars, and John and Ken argue over the ugliest cursive capital letter: is it J or Q? Certificate #32892.
56 min
65
Lilly Pulitzer (Entry 1007.LK1227)
In which the messy orange-eating of a runaway heiress creates a colorful new summer look for American women, and Ken goes way too far with his Kennedy assassination theories. Certificate #12306.
42 min
66
Bone Wars (Entry 141.PS14107)
In which America's two greatest dinosaur hunters ruin their lives in an unhinged battle of spite and revenge, which John finds extremely romantic. Certificate #24269.
48 min
67
Pattie Boyd (Entry 148.DE2402)
In which two of the greatest rock guitarists of all time pine after the same woman, each marry her in turn, and somehow stay friends. Certificate #42401.
52 min
68
The Reindeer Wizards (Entry 1049.DE1811)
In which we remember the 1950s charity drive to raise reindeer funds for a tribe of Scandinavian telepaths--a problem they really should have seen coming. Certificate #37239.
46 min
69
Trapper Keepers (Entry 1331.IS0816)
In which a re-designed school binder becomes a mandatory school accessory and one of the great marketing successes of the 1980s, and Ken spends hours looking at erasers shaped like sushi. Certificate #31310.
51 min
70
Winifred Sackville Stoner Jr. (Entry 1229.MT1125)
In which an Esperanto-loving stage mom raises America's first celebrity child prodigy, who writes one of history's most famous poems before vanishing into a cloud of bigamy and scandal. Certificate #35551.
53 min
71
Plymouth Rock (Entry 955.EX3321)
In which John visits one of the most underwhelming (and breakable) landmarks in American history, and explains why its entire history is almost certainly made up. Certificate #33004.
47 min
72
Tortilla Chips (Entry 1320.GN4226)
In which America discovers Tex-Mex food at Disneyland, leading to the invention of Doritos and "extreme" snack foods, and Ken has clam chowder in his car. Certificate #42729.
51 min
73
Private Wojtek the Bear (Entry 988.HO1308)
In which we follow an army of exiled Polish soldiers from Siberia to Iran to Scotland, and learn why they taught a Syrian brown bear to carry ammo and eat cigarettes. Certificate #41871.
37 min
74
Hotel Detectives (Entry 601.GN4321)
In which we learn about palming doorknobs, spotting bunco artists and fornicators, and other old tricks of the "hotel dick" trade, and John steals some room service pizza. Certificate #51720.
40 min
75
The Charge of the Light Brigade (Entry 208.GN5009)
In which a series of underqualified officers and vague, sweeping gestures lead to a terrible military debacle, a good sweater, and a catchy poem, and Ken expresses some skepticism about Captain von Trapp. Certificate #38694.
60 min
76
The French Revolutionary Calendar (Entry 500.EX...
In which the freethinkers of the Enlightenment take a stab at designing a 100% secular timekeeping system from the ground up, and John wants to be called "Goldenrod." Certificate #44270.
59 min
77
Killer Rabbit (Entry 686.LV1106)
In which we go through the weird list of things glimpsed by noted paranormal researcher Jimmy Carter, including a hissing marsh rabbit and a UFO that the Air Force wants you to think is barium. Certificate #21432.
51 min
78
Ted Danson in Blackface (Entry 1283.JB2317)
In which one of the most beloved sitcom stars in America tries out the worst comedy idea of all time, and John has a theory about anti-Semitism in the Aliens movies. Certificate #22400.
63 min
79
Breastaurants (Entry 152.IS1321)
In which we explain the squeaky-clean tawdriness of casual dining chains that put all the servers in tank tops, and Ken wonders if you can eat hot wings ironically. Certificate #37739.
60 min
80
Mussolini's Nose (Entry 819.PR3033)
In which a chronically ill British woman decides that God wants her to kill a fascist dictator, and Ken and John argue over whether or not an assassination plot needs a chalkboard. Certificate #16114.
54 min
81
Wide Skis (Entry 1431.LK0429)
In which, after centuries of stagnation, the sport of skiing is revolutionized in a matter of three years, and John is forced to sign a hand-written waiver. Certificate #34056.
65 min
82
Cocaine Hippos (Entry 238.JB4021)
In which the rivers of Colombia teem with African hippos due to the excesses of a long-dead drug lord, and Ken suggests introducing Welsh corgis to the Amazon rainforest. Certificate #37768.
45 min
83
The Smoot (Entry 1178.1K0626)
In which an MIT fraternity prank creates a new unit of measurement and annoys Boston police, and John wins a million dollars on an imaginary quiz show about Maine. Certificate #50326.
46 min
84
The Garden of Earthly Delights (Entry 515.SS0611)
In which a Dutch painter creates surreal hellscapes so mysterious and full of butts that no one knows what he was even thinking, and Ken explains why bagpipes are very, very erotic. Certificate #17086.
54 min
85
Breezewood, Pennsylvania (Entry 153.JG0506)
In which a funding impasse and clever fast food franchises put a one-of-a-kind stoplight right in the middle of a Pennsylvania interstate, and Ken misremembers who built the Lincoln Highway. Certificate #31424.
66 min
86
Indigo (Entry 634.GE0913)
In which Sir Isaac Newton adds an extra color to the rainbow to make his mystical, musical math come out right, and John has strong feelings about Satan's marital status. Certificate #26015.
68 min
87
Egg-Cracking Machines (Entry 398.JE1711)
In which John goes to the Caribbean, learns how cruise ships crack 20,000 eggs in a week, and begins to comparison-shop the amazing Rube Goldberg inventions involved. Certificate #27021.
55 min
88
Jeanne Calment (Entry 176.2C0416)
In which an indomitable woman from Provence defies actuaries by living to be 122 years old, shadowy Russian forces try to discredit her, and Ken predicts which Saturday Night Live cast members will be centenarians. Certificate #43762.
71 min
89
Anything Into Oil (Entry 056.EX3729)
In which one tech company's fondest dream—to turn Butterball turkey offal into light crude oil—remains tantalizingly out of reach, and John and Ken worry about whether they're recycling waxed paper correctly. Certificate #26207.
67 min
90
Tippi Hedren's Fingernails (Entry 1311.DE2112)
In which a Hollywood ingenue survives her encounters with birds, angry lions, and creepy directors, and survives to become the godmother of one of America's great immigrant business empires. Certificate #28046.
70 min
91
The Cheesesteak War (Entry 211.PR2306)
In which a hot dog vendor and an anonymous cabbie invent one of the all-time great American foods, giving Philadelphians classic choices like "Whiz or provolone," "wit' onions or wit'out," and "xenophobia or not." Certificate #6594.
69 min
92
Geomagnetic Reversal (Entry 524.JB3709)
In which the Earth's magnetic field turns the North Pole into the South Pole every few hundred thousand years, and John and Ken discuss what effect this might have on the aurora borealis, ski-bum turtles, and North Dakota tourism. Certificate #41220.
52 min
93
Mike the Headless Chicken (Entry 787.MK0616)
In which one seemingly doomed Colorado rooster lucks into a kind of zombie Charlotte's Web scenario, and Ken and John disagree over whether a "meat puppet" is a kind of food. Certificate #21086.
64 min
94
Honest Dick (Entry 596.EX2208)
In which the most trusted man in the state of Kentucky disappears with tobacco sacks full of the state treasury, and John and Ken discover which prominent U.S. government official is almost always a Latina. Certificate #23421.
68 min
95
Freighthopping (Entry 500.AM0812)
In which the American railroad provides a semi-legal travel network for millions of migrant laborers, and John explains how a sufficiently blond mustache on a young hobo can ward off evil. Certificate #14946.
63 min
96
The Foreign Legion (Entry 490.2S1519)
In which the French army accepts thousands of rogues and ne'er-do-wells from all over the world, giving them white helmets and a whole lot of wine, and Ken suggests a new method for reheating Hot Pockets. Certificate #36749.
64 min
97
Jacqueline Cochran (Entry 238.RV1214)
In which one driven girl from the backwoods of Georgia changes the face of aviation, Ken roasts astronaut Scott Carpenter, and John skips class to judge an essay contest. Certificate #39584.
68 min
98
The Bodies of Mount Everest (Entry 138.JE1316)
In which travelers to one of the most dangerous places on earth leave so many casualties behind in the "Death Zone" that they literally become part of the map. Certificate #7505.
56 min
99
(LIVE) Yngwie Malmsteen (Entry 753.JE1022)
In which a skilled but self-absorbed Swedish musician leaves his homeland to become a guitar god, and John explains his theory about how neoclassicism ruined rock. Certificate #26394.
32 min
100
(LIVE) Extremely Overdue Library Books (Entry 4...
In which countless scofflaws, including George Washington, rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in library fines, and Ken takes home a "spite book." Certificate #29342.
40 min