CATS Parodies and References in Pop Culture

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

CATS opened this week in cinemas worldwide and, honestly, we have no idea what to expect from this movie musical. (We haven't seen it yet.) Its Broadway counterpart broke box office records – but with stage makeup and a 1980s aesthetic instead of CGI faces and a strange new plot. Rather than speculate about just how weird this movie might be, we’re looking back at our favorite CATS references and parodies in pop culture. There are so many!



Angels in America

In one of the first scenes of Tony Kushner’s epic play Angels in America, Roy Cohn (yes, that Roy Cohn) juggles a full switchboard of phone calls. One of those calls is from the wife of a fictional Supreme Court justice, who is in New York hoping to see a Broadway show. She suggests La Cage Aux Folles, which Cohn, as an aside, calls “the best thing on Broadway, maybe ever.” When he returns to the phone call, he’s procured seven tickets to see CATS – because it’s difficult to get tickets to.



Bojack Horseman

When Bojack calls Princess Carolyn, he’s met with a call waiting tone: “Jellicle Cats” from, you guessed it, CATS. It’s an incredible gag, considering Princess Carolyn is a cat herself. But it’s also a beautiful nod to the Broadway fans in the audience. It says “We see you. And we’re rolling our eyes and laughing right along with you.”



Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

In the final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (we’re not crying, you’re crying) there’s an entire CATS parody episode. “I Need Some Balance” personifies Rebecca Bunch’s deepest insecurities as discarded characters from the 1980s musical, furry spandex costumes and all. It’s also, quite possibly, the episode with the most cameos. Todrick Hall, Rebekka Johnson, Fred Armisen, Megan Amram, and Riki Lindhome all make special CATS-inspired appearances, as Funky Cat, Elated Cat, Itchy Cat, Nostalgia Cat, and Hungry Cat, respectively. It’s a musical theatre lover’s greatest dream and biggest nightmare all happening at the same time.



The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

In the most recent season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, we finally learn how CATS is cast. It’s an irreverent take, to be sure, but we can’t help but laugh when the Broadway cast – performing in a very small venue – reveals that no one ever truly auditions for CATS. They’re just recruited from the audience. They also reveal that no one truly ever wrote this musical. Instead, the performers improv the show each night. What an experience that would be, if true!



Hey Arnold!

In our very favorite childhood show Hey Arnold!, Helga and her dad Big Bob Pataki are finally able to hate something together: the musical RATS! When Big Bob finds a magazine ad for the musical that he thinks his daughter cut out, he’s determined to surprise her with a father-daughter outing to what promises to be a three-hour musical about rats. What Big Bob doesn’t know is that Helga really wants to go to Slam Jam V, a wrestling match advertised on the other side of the RATS ad. At least they have a big inside joke to share!