Homer Simpson getting a new job has been one of the most common recurring plotlines on The Simpsons over the years. Hey, he’s not a very good power plant worker, so why shouldn’t he try a few dozen or so other occupations? Since it’s Labor Day, and FXX’s epic Simpsons marathon will come to a close at midnight tonight, let’s pay tribute to ten of the best Simpsons episodes in which Homer finds himself in a new gig.
“Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire” – Original Air Date: December 17, 1989
Yes, it took only the first episode for Homer to end up in a new job. Although, unlike the wackier later episodes, this was a strictly down-to-earth affair, in which Homer takes on a part-time job as a Mall Santa to make some extra cash when he doesn’t get his Christmas bonus, and Marge spends all the family’s extra money having Bart’s tattoo removed. Homer’s miserable labor earns him a mere $13, but chance is in his favor. While his attempts to win big at the dog track fall through, he lucks out when Santa’s Little Helper — the last place dog that Homer bet on — jumps into Bart’s lap, and the family ends up having a merry Christmas after all.
“Lisa’s Pony” – Original Air Date: November 7, 1991
Another episode in which Homer has to take on a second job. This time, he suffers through an exhausting gig at the Kwik-E-Mart to help pay the expenses of the pony he bought for Lisa after he couldn’t deliver a saxophone reed to her recital on time. Lisa loves her pony, but when she sees all the work Homer is going through (he sleeps about five minute a night), she does the only sensible thing and gives it up. This episode brings Homer and Lisa much closer together and plus, and we get the brilliant sequence of Homer falling into “Slumberland” while driving home from work.
“Deep Space Homer” – Original Air Date: February 24, 1994
A favorite episode of many, and for good reason. This is one of the most ambitious ideas the Simpsons writers ever attempted, and the fact that they managed to make an episode where Homer Simpson is blasted into outer space seem fairly realistic is a testament to how great this show was in its prime. Homer is selected for the space program because of his appeal as an “average man,” and little consideration is given to the fact that sending him into space is incredibly dangerous (those NASA folks are just after the TV ratings). Luckily, he makes it out alive thanks to that glorious Inanimate Carbon Rod. In Rod We Trust!
“Homie The Clown” – Original Air Date: February 12, 1995
It’s the first day of the month, new billboard day! So, if you’re driving around today and see a billboard advertising a brand new clown college, you can hardly be blamed if you’re just as powerless against it as Homer is in this episode. Homer is a natural choice to be an imitation Krusty The Klown, because as you may have noticed, Krusty is basically Homer with makeup, which this episode makes quite clear. Homer is goofy enough to handle some of Krusty’s duties, but he’s too tired to handle Milhouse’s birthday, and his treatment of the Krusty Burglar is downright disturbing (“Stop! Stop! He’s already dead!”). Thankfully, Homer makes the right decision, and decides to leave the clowning business to all the other clowns in the clowning business.
“Homer Vs. Patty and Selma” Original Air Date: February 26, 1995
Patty and Selma’s hatred of Homer has been a part of The Simpsons from the very beginning (no, seriously, it comes up in the first scene of the first episode), so when they get a chance to lord something over Homer, they seize the opportunity. When Homer squanders the family’s money by not selling his pumpkin stocks before Halloween, Patty and Selma offer him a loan, but they annoy him about it at every step, and even spill the beans to Marge. Homer’s means of making extra money is taking a second job as a limo driver. Unfortunately, he gets busted for not having a Chauffeur’s License, and the only way to get one is from… Patty and Selma. Luckily, they get caught smoking on the job, and when Homer takes the blame for them, they have no choice but to forgive the debt. So, Patty and Selma realize that Homer is actually a decent guy, and Homer got to meet Mel Brooks. Everybody wins!
“Homer The Smithers” – Original Air Date: February 25, 1996
When Smithers takes a vacation, he needs to hire a replacement assistant who won’t outshine him. Naturally, he makes the most obvious choice: Homer Simpson. There’s just one problem: Homer is too incompetent. He can’t do anything right, and Mr. Burns chews him out every step of the way (in Homer’s defense, it looked like he worked pretty hard on that tax return). Tired of getting yelled at, Homer snaps, and knocks Mr. Burns out with one punch. Burns then becomes deathly afraid of Homer, and decides his only recourse is to learn to take care of himself. He makes his own coffee, and drives himself home (“That’s some nice reckless drivin’, Mr. B!”). He then decides he doesn’t need Smithers anymore, and fires him. The only way to set things to normal (apparently) is for Mr. Burns to fall out of a two-story window, and become severely injured, thus needing Smithers to care for him again. All’s well that ends well.
“The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” – Original Air Date: February 9, 1997
Homer Simpson has a hilarious voice, so it’s natural that he’d be cut out for a career as a cartoon voice actor. Unfortunately for him, even his best efforts can’t save the woefully unfunny Poochie, who was cooked up by the Itchy & Scratchy writers in a cynical attempt to boost low ratings. While the episode is primarily a commentary on the struggle to keep a show fresh after so many years, and the harmful effects of network executive meddling, it also functions quite well as a Homer episode. He feels terrible after his performance falls flat (“Now look sad and say ‘d’oh.’ D’oh.”), and we feel even worse for him because it wasn’t really his fault. This was a brilliant take down of the cynicism of television, and sadly, Homer wound up getting caught in the crossfire.
“Trash Of The Titans” – Original Air Date: April 26, 1998
How you feel about this episode likely depends on how much tolerance you have for what would come to be known as “Jerk*ss Homer.” To be sure, he can be a bit irritating here, but the episode is funny enough that it’s forgivable. When Homer becomes fed up with the local garbage men, he decides to run for sanitation commissioner. He wins by promising the unrealistic notion of round the clock trash pickup (“Can’t Someone Else Do It?”), and as you might guess, he does a terrible job. When he spends his entire budget, and runs out of money to pay the workers, he makes up for it by having others cities pay him to dump their trash in Springfield. This leads to a giant trash explosion, and Homer is quickly out of a job. Rather than try to clean up the giant mess in Springfield, Mayor Quimby simply decides to move the town five miles down the road, and no one would ever speak of this again.
“Mom & Pop Art” – Original Air Date: April 11, 1999
When an attempt to build a barbecue pit goes horribly awry (“Le Grille? What the hell is that!”), Homer is desperate to rid himself of his latest failure. Luckily for him, the discarded wreckage lands on the car of an art dealer who decides it could be a valuable piece of Outsider Art (something that could be made by a hillbilly, mental patient, or chimpanzee). She sells the painting to Mr. Burns, and Homer is now a professional artist. Unfortunately, his attempts to sell similar failed attempts at masonry fall on deaf ears as it appears that all of Homer’s work is the same. Homer’s art career looks finished, but then he comes up with the most brilliant/crazy idea ever: flood the entire town, and call it art! He makes The Canals Of Springfield by letting the water out of every fire hydrant. The oatmeal factory is destroyed in the process. Somehow, despite millions of dollars worth of damage likely being done, everyone is somehow fine with this, and Homer’s art career ends with a bang.
“Guess Who’s Coming To Criticize Dinner” – Original Air Date: October 24, 1999
Homer loves food, so the idea of him becoming a food critic actually make a little bit of sense. There are just two problems: 1. He has no idea how to write. 2. He loves everything he eats, so he’ll never give a bad review. The first problem is solved by having Lisa ghost write all of his reviews, while the second becomes a bone of contention for his fellow critics, who chide him for never saying anything negative. Homer then decides to go in the other direction and give everything a bad review. He loses Lisa’s support after this, but more pressingly, a group of restaurateurs hurt by Homer’s bad reviews are now planning to kill him. They make a deadly eclair and attempt to serve it to Homer. It looks so delicious that even after Lisa warns him that it’s fatal, he still wants to take a bite. Thankfully, Lisa saves Homer’s life by telling him that it’s low-fat. Homer’s food reviewing days are over, and we can only hope that the angry mob chasing him as the credits rolled decided to go easy on him.