Quick, everyone sign the 60th birthday card we bought for Matt Groening.
Thanks. Anyway, back in the long-ago dark days of 2000, Groening was asked by Entertainment Weekly to name his favorite episodes of The Simpsons. To put that into perspective: the day the article was published, December 14, 2000, was two days before Bart believed he had the power to heal in season 11’s “Faith Off.” One would hope Groening’s list now would look a lot like his list then, unless he’s a HUGE Gaga fan.
10. THERE’S NO DISGRACE LIKE HOME (1990) The animation is pretty crude, but it does have one of the funniest sequences of the series: At Dr. Marvin Monroe’s Family Therapy Center, the Simpsons end up giving each other simultaneous shock therapy. Editing this sequence was difficult, because we were laughing so much at the Simpsons’ screaming.
9. KRUSTY GETS BUSTED (1990) I have a peculiar love of TV clownery. We had to do multiple vocal takes of Krusty’s heart attack during a commercial for Krusty Brand pork products because Dan Castellaneta as Krusty kept making us bust out laughing. A lip-smacking clown leering at frying bacon, muttering, “Sizzling! Glistening!” before collapsing in agony? That just tickles my funny bone.
8. NATURAL BORN KISSERS (1998) The network censors couldn’t believe it, and neither could I: the cow at the peephole while Homer and Marge make love in a hayloft; neighbors groping Homer when he and Marge are caught nude inside the windmill at the Sir Putts-A-Lot mini golf course; Homer dangling naked from a hot-air balloon, his ass dragging against the glass of a Crystal Cathedral-like church.
7. TREEHOUSE OF HORROR VII (1996) This Halloween episode features my favorite Kang and Kodos story, in which our slobbering one-eyed aliens morph into Bob Dole and Bill Clinton. Golden moment: “I suppose you want to probe me,” says Homer, on board the flying saucer. “Well, you might as well get it over with.” Kang, raising a tentacle: “Stop! We have reached the limit of what rectal probing can teach us!”
6. HOMER’S ENEMY (1997) We explore what it would be like to actually work alongside Homer Simpson. Hank Azaria is great as Frank Grimes, Homer’s stressed-out new coworker. We’ve had many funny funerals on this show, but Grimes’ send-off (which Homer sleeps through) is perhaps the most touching and hilarious.
5. IN MARGE WE TRUST (1997) Even by Simpsons standards, this is a peculiar episode: Homer freaks out when he finds a Japanese Mr. Sparkle soap box that bears his likeness. (“For lucky best wash, use Mr. Sparkle!”) I can’t remember how we get there, but the show ends with Reverend Lovejoy saving Ned Flanders from several crazed zoo baboons.
4. A STREETCAR NAMED MARGE (1992) Our first major musical episode. Marge is featured in Oh! Streetcar!, a version of A Streetcar Named Desire directed by the oily Llewellyn Sinclair (played with relish by Jon Lovitz). There’s also Maggie’s finest moment, in which she plots a Great Escape-style caper from the Ayn Rand School for Tots.
3. MUCH APU ABOUT NOTHING (1996) This episode, satirizing the American anti-immigrant frenzy of the mid-’90s, has some of Apu the Kwik-E-Mart clerk’s and Police Chief Wiggum’s wittiest lines. Sample: “All right, men,” says Wiggum, “here’s the order of deportations. First we’ll be rounding up your tired, then your poor, then your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
2. LIFE ON THE FAST LANE (1990) Marge has a near affair with Jacques, her debonair French bowling instructor, played by the brilliant Albert Brooks. The instructor was Swedish in the original (titled “Bjorn to Be Wild”), but Brooks wisely changed him to French, and improvised much of the hilariously seductive dialogue with Julie Kavner (as Marge), most of which was cut for time.
1. BART THE DAREDEVIL (1990) The scene in which Homer accidentally attempts to skateboard across Springfield Gorge and doesn’t make it is pretty funny, but even funnier—for me, the funniest moment in the series—is when he’s loaded into an ambulance, which then hits a tree, sending Homer back over the cliff while strapped to a gurney. Truly inspired mayhem.
It’s a bit odd that the creator of The Simpsons has bad taste when it comes to picking the best Simpsons episodes. OK, maybe “bad” is too strong a word, but would anyone else put “Bart the Daredevil” and “Life on the Fast Lane” in their top-20, let alone numbers one and two? (It might have something to do with the fact that Groening was most emotionally invested in his creation, and had the most say, in the early days.) I’d put every episode from seasons four and five above either of them. “Natural Born Kissers,” too.
No “Last Exit to Springfield,” no care.