Are you ready for FXX’s The Simpsons marathon? Hope so, because it begins tomorrow morning. We already gave you an hour-by-hour episode guide, but what do you do when you’re not quoting every line from “Last Exit to Springfield” out loud? You impress your friends/wife/husband/closest living relative with these 25 facts, all from seasons 1-13, that they probably don’t know.
Every episode in season one is written by now-familiar names to comedy fans — Sam Simon, John Swartzwelder, George Meyer, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, etc. — except one: the pilot, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” It was penned by illustrator Mimi Pond, who never worked with the show again.
James Earl Jones’ unmistakable voice has been heard on The Simpsons many times (“Oh, let’s say…Moe”), but it was nearly a lot more: the original script for “Krusty Gets Busted” had Sideshow Bob being voiced by The Lion King star. Kelsey Grammer is grateful that didn’t work out.
In “Bart’s Dog Gets an F” (and many episodes to come), the noises for the titular pup, Santa’s Little Helper, were provided by Frank Welker, who’s also the voice of Megatron, Fred Jones (from Scooby Doo), Futurama‘s Nibbler, Jabberjaw, and Inspector Gadget‘s Doctor Claw.
Tony Bennett was the first Simpsons guest star to appear as himself.
Super Bowl XXVI was played between the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills. The Simpsons not only had to get the teams right in “Lisa the Greek,” which aired a few days before the big game, but the outcome. The next year, when Dallas pummeled Buffalo, the Redskins were replaced with the Cowboys.
To make “Black Widower” (a.k.a. the episode where Sideshow Bob tries to kill Selma) more exciting and mysterious, the writers reached out to Thomas Chastain, the head of the Mystery Writers of America, to help them drop clues throughout the episode.
Weirdly, residents of New Orleans didn’t appreciate their city being reduced to a “home of pirates, drunks, and whores.” Where’s the GUMBO GUMBO GUMBO? A TV critic for the Times-Picayune got his hands on “A Streetcar Named Marge” before it aired, and published the out-of-context lyrics to “New Orleans.” The local Fox affiliate received dozens of complaints and things got so out of control that the then-president of the network had to release a statement, telling viewers that if they watch the episode, they’d “realize that the song is in fact a parody of the opening numbers of countless Broadway musicals.”
“The Front” was based on something that happened on Tiny Toon Adventures, of all places. That show’s executive producer Steven Spielberg was so impressed by a script that some random kids wrote, he asked the actual Tiny Toon staff to develop it into an episode. Inspired by the story, Adam I. Lapidus sent a script to The Simpsons, and it was turned into “The Front.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Sylvester Stallone were supposed to appear as themselves in “$pringfield (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling),” to mock their overpriced salt factory Planet Hollywood, but the plan fell through at the last second.
After a young Mr. Burns loses his cherished stuffed bear in “Rosebud,” Bobo is handled by Charles Lindbergh, Hitler, and a team of Antarctic explorers. But a part of Bobo’s history was cut at the last second: the time he was in Dallas to witness the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Mere hours before Springfield is going to by crushed by “Bart’s Comet,” Kent Brockman announces, “Over the years, a news reporter learns things that for one reason or another, he simply cannot report. It doesn’t seem to matter now, so the following people are gay…” The names listed belong to Simpsons staffers, who had to sign a release that they wouldn’t sue the show for fake “outing” them.
Jon Vitti wasn’t happy that he had to write a clip show episode, so for the aptly-titled “Another Simpsons Clip Show,” he left his name off. “Penny Wise” is credited on the script.
Meanwhile, 11 different people helped write “22 Short Films About Springfield”: Richard Appel, David S. Cohen, Jonathan Collier, Jennifer Crittenden, Greg Daniels, Brent Forrester, Rachel Pulido, Steve Tompkins, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, and Matt Groening (who didn’t do that much). How did such a large group choose who would write for which character? Everyone picked their three favorite Springfield residents, wrote their names on a piece of paper, and placed them in a hat. Assignments were made based on who they grabbed. (Unfortunately, a Lionel Hutz subplot was dropped.)
David Mirkin was afraid that the real ending to “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” would leak, so he wrote several fake resolutions. They would later be used in “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular.”
“The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase” includes three intentionally terrible Simpsons spin-offs, but in the early 1990s, Matt Groening pitched a live-action Krusty series that sounds unintentionally horrible. Via Splitsider: “Groening wanted [it to star] Dan Castellaneta, who voices Krusty, Homer, and a solid 1/3 of Springfield’s male residents, as Krusty the Clown. Matt Groening, with King of Queens creator Michael Weithorn, wrote a pilot script about Krusty moving to L.A. to host a talk show.” The idea fizzled out.
Just in case you’re someone who isn’t aware that Albert Brooks is a comedic genius, know that he ad-libbed the entire hammock district speech in “You Only Move Twice.”
Together with his sister Gwen, Eric Stefani helped form No Doubt. He played keyboards for the ska-pop band, but left after recording Tragic Kingdom to concentrate on his other love, being an animator. He worked on and off for The Simpsons between 1990-1998 — his final gig was animating Homer and (Pray for) Mojo’s scenes in “Girly Edition.”
Armin Tamzarian is a dirty, dirty name to Simpsons fans, but it’s also the name of a real-life claims adjuster who helped writer Ken Keeler after he got into a car accident. It stuck with Keeler, and he used it in his “The Principal and the Pauper” script. Thing is, he never told Armin, who wrote Keeler a letter wondering why an angry mob tied him to a chair on a train (half of that is true).
“Bart the Mother” was the last Simpsons episode for writer David X. Cohen, who left to create Futurama with Matt Groening, and, in a much more tragic turn of events, Phil Hartman, who was murdered by his wife four months prior. His characters have since been retired.
In “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday,” Homer and Moe both cover their mouths with a beer glass while saying “Atlanta Falcons.” This wasn’t to prevent a lawsuit or anything like that — the writing staff wanted the joke to be current (the Falcons were in the Super Bowl that year), but the animators ran out of time to re-do the scene.
Maude Flanders was killed in “Alone Again, Natura-diddily” because the actress who provided her voice, Maggie Roswell, wanted a pay increase, from $2,000 per episode to $6,000. When Fox only offered her $150 more, she quit.
If you look close enough in “Behind the Laughter,” you can see a toy Iron Giant behind Comic Book Guy, a reference to the film of the same name, which was directed by former Simpsons staffer Bad Bird.
The Who were a big get for The Simpsons, but they didn’t actually get all of them: Paul Townshend filled in for his brother, Pete. The guitarist had no ill will against The Simpsons — he thought they were going to hire someone to do an impression of him, a la the Beatles in Yellow Submarine.
While *NSYNC was recording their lines for “New Kids on the Blecch,” Tom Hanks, who was filming a movie nearby, dropped by because he wanted to meet Joey Fatone (and JT, maybe).
Doctor Who star David Tennant watched a segment of “Tales from the Public Domain” with his Hamlet castmates to prepare for the theatrical role. That segment: a parody of…Hamlet.