What is a Way Homer?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

It's not always possible for an audience member to catch every single detail in a movie or understand every reference in a comedian's monologue. Some jokes or clues or other obscure details might only begin to make sense on the way home from the theater or after a second viewing. This kind of epiphany after the fact is often called a way homer, since that is the precise moment many audience members have it, on the way home.

Teenagers in a movie theater.
Teenagers in a movie theater.

A way homer can be a background detail or a cryptic bit of dialogue which doesn't appear to make sense during the first viewing. A movie about a raging alcoholic, for example, might include a scene where the main character watches a classic film on television. The scene may not make much sense at the time, but on the way home the viewer might realize the clip was from a classic alcohol-themed movie such as The Days of Wine and Roses. The reference would be considered a way homer.

Movie box office.
Movie box office.

A comedian may also deliver a more sophisticated or cerebral joke during his stand-up routine that may appear to bomb with the audience at the time. In actuality, the comedian would most like call the joke a "way homer" because he knows some audience members will get the real gist of the joke on their way home from the show. While it might not be a good idea for a comedian to fill his or her act with cerebral or obscure jokes, the occasional "way homer" can be very effective. Comedians such as Sara Silverman and the late Mitch Hedberg are well-known for their use of obscure references or intellectual humor.

Some movie makers such as the Coen and Zucker brothers are famous for including a number of way homer moments in their films. It may take several viewings in order to notice all of the in-jokes, movie spoofs and pop culture references in movies such as Fargo and Airplane. In the Alan Parker film The Commitments, all of the posters displayed in the video store promote actual Alan Parker films, a detail many viewers may miss the first time. Almost every episode of the sitcom Seinfeld contains at least one reference to Superman, which would be another way homer detail for those who view syndicated reruns of the show.

A way homer moment can often be a satisfying intellectual or pop cultural "snack" after enjoying the broad strokes of a well-crafted movie for the first time.

Movie tickets.
Movie tickets.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


@matthewc23 - I find Robin Williams to be the most talented when delivering these so-called way homer punch lines.

I graduated with a degree in English Literature, and sometimes when he does his comic impressions, he delivers lines that you would only understand if you had read some books or been around the humanities for awhile.

I’m not saying that all of his humor is like that, but I’ve picked up on a few of his witticisms. There’s a certain satisfaction in finding a comedian who has an appreciation for the arts (I understand Williams had some exposure to Julliard’s so he’s been around that neck of the woods for quite some time).

In my opinion, we need to elevate the public discourse a little more (I can’t stand dirty jokes), educate the public and raise up comedians who can deliver true wit, instead of groveling to base appetites.


@kentuckycat - I agree with most comedians having to play to the lowest common denominator when they are really more talented.

I think just being a comedian means that you have to have a very good grasp on the language and how jokes can work together. If you have ever seen Larry the Cable Guy on TV interviews, he is very intelligent. Unfortunately, his schtick doesn't give him much room for exploring more creative jokes.


I have found that a lot of Quentin Tarantino's movies have way homers. Since most of his movies are not linear, I always find that I have to watch them two or three times before I pick up on all the subtleties. Even them, I'm not sure that I've caught all of them.

I really enjoy music that is able to incorporate obscure references that you start to pick up on after listening to the song a few times.


I have never heard this phrase before, but it has happened to me several times.

For anyone who watched the series Arrested Development, there were tons of way homer jokes. It's a shame that there aren't more shows like this today that really make you think about the meaning of the joke. I think too many movies and comedians rely on making people laugh with crude humor when there are still people around who are able to appreciate subtle jokes and puns. That is just my two cents worth, though.

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