In a scene set in a comedy club, a terrible comedian performs a roast-style comedy act. This comedian asks Daniel (writer/director lead Albert Brooks) how Daniel died. Daniel says "on stage, like you." Daniel later jokes that he can't leave before the end of the act because the guy on stage is his father. "No, I'm kidding. That would be so sad for me." This entire interaction is a dark and elaborate in-joke. Albert Brooks' father, Harry Parke, actually was a comedian who died on stage at the Friar's Club, just after he finished his roast style comedy routine.
The CDs Daniel receives for his birthday are: "The End of the Innocence" by Don Henley, "Greatest Hits" by James Taylor, "1999" by Prince, "The Broadway Album" by Barbra Streisand, and "Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars" by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians.
Defending Your Life was released around six months after Postcards from the Edge, a film-a-clef loosely based on the real-life experiences of mother and daughter Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Both stars had been close to Albert Brooks since his high school days, and remained so through the production of Postcards. Fisher scripted that movie, and it co-starred Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. Brooks himself then tapped Streep and MacLaine for Defending Your Life, his next project. Reynolds teamed up with Brooks five years later; she had a critically-acclaimed starring role in his comedy Mother (1996).