It turns out Lisa didn’t get sung ‘Happy Birthday’ by Michel Jackson on that episode of The Simpsons. But everything else really was the King of Pop.
According to Matt Groening, the iconic Michael Jackson ‘Stark Raving Dad’ episode of The Simpsons‘s third season really did include a cameo from the legendary singer in 1991. In the episode a bricklayer, Leon Kompowsky, thinks that he’s Michael Jackson and shares a room with Homer when he is accidentally sent to a mental institution. The voice actor who played Kompowsky was credited at the end of the episode as John Jay Smith, but it was long thought that Jackson himself actually provided the voice for the character.
The story was that Jackson actually called Simpsons creator Matt Groening and offered to appear on the show, but some issues meant that he couldn’t do any singing on the show. And Groening recently told the story of the episode and it turns out that’s exactly what happened. The Weekly asked about the Jackson cameo, adding finger quotes around it, and Groening said that the rumors about the episode were true.
“I was sitting in the office late at night, the phone rings and I pick it up,” Groening said. “He said that he loved Bart and wanted to be on the show.”
Groening said he actually hung up on Jackson at first because he said “Hi, this is Michael Jackson.” He also joked that Jackson had “a voice that sounds like somebody doing a Michael Jackson bit.” But Jackson called him back, said he “loved Bart” and wanted to be on the show. The rest is history.
The song was even referenced in a later episode of The Simpsons from 2015, but Groening was clear that it wasn’t Jackson’s voice who did the singing. He was, however, there when the Michael Jackson impersonator laid down the original track in 1991.
“He didn’t want credit for, or there was some kind of deal with his record company or whatever, so when it came time to sing the songs, he had a sound-a-like singer,” Groening said. “He stood there and watched the guy, who was so nervous, who had to sound like Michael Jackson, and then he giggled.”
It must have been wild to impersonate Jackson while he’s standing right there, but the guy did a good enough job that the cameo’s specifics were unclear for all those years. Seems like everything’s cleared up now.