In the late ’80s, producer James L. Brooks was working on The Tracey Ullman Show when he happened upon a strange comic strip about rabbits. He contacted the strip’s creator, a cartoonist named Matt Groening, about creating short, animated sketches for his show. Groening didn’t want to lose the publication rights for his strip, so he pitched Brooks on a dysfunctional cartoon family instead, and The Simpsons was born. After a couple of years with The Tracey Ullman Show, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie got their own show in 1989, and the rest is history. They’ve been on the air for 30 years, and in that time they’ve completely changed the landscape of television. Never has there been a show so interwoven with pop culture, while at the same time influencing it so heavily. Hundreds of famous guest stars visited the town, Apu had octuplets long before Nadya Suleman made it fashionable, and Lisa went through four Snowballs before settling on Snowball V (who still goes by Snowball II, to save money on a new bowl).
A show that has been on the air for so long has a long and rich history. Let’s see if you know these facts about the one of the greatest shows in TV history!
50. You Just Saved My Network!
The Fox Broadcasting Company owns the rights to the show until 2082. That being said, it doesn’t hold the writers back from poking fun at the network (it is stated in the show’s contract with Fox that they may do so) on many occasions. At one point, the Simpson family even recommended viewers to switch channels to competing networks.
49. They Call Me Mellow Yellow
Show creator Matt Groening admitted that he and his team chose yellow as the Simpsons’ skin color to distinguish themselves from an oversaturated market and to attract the attention of channel hoppers.
48. The Shape of Things to Come
While designing the characters, Matt Groening purposely gave each of them a different shape so that they could be recognized by their silhouette. He had the basic designs for the main cast ready in a few minutes while waiting outside Producer James L. Brooks’ office.
47. So much Do’h!
The main voice actors made $30,000 per episode until 1998, when they got a raise and earned $125,000 per show. Since 2004, they started earning $400,000 per episode until FOX demanded that the show lower its production costs. The voice actors took a severe 45% reduction in pay and Harry Shearer was not set to return as he didn’t agree with the deal. Shearer wanted to take a 70% pay cut, but with a small percentage of the back-end profits. After holding out for months, Shearer agreed to return for the same deal as the other main cast.
46. Where’s My Elephant?
The episode where Bart wins an elephant is based on a real-life incident where a Price Is Right contestant was offered $4,000 or a gag prize of an elephant. The contestant—like Bart—chose the elephant.
45. Goodnight Springton. There Will Be No Encore.
It is not unusual for the show to feature a band as guest stars, but the visit of the band Spinal Tap to Springfield is worth remembering. The band has its origins as a fictional heavy metal trio from an ABC sketch show called The TV Show, starring Rob Reiner. Later, the band would gain fame through the movie/mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, but has since occasionally performed real concerts.
The Simpsons and Spinal Tap are connected through voice actor Harry Shearer, who plays a lot of characters in The Simpsons (Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, and many others), but also plays Derek Smalls, the bass player from Spinal Tap.
44. Yeah, Hi Roy
In 1997, The Simpsons surpassed The Flintstones as the longest-running prime-time animated series when it aired its 167th episode, “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochy Show.” This episode dealt—not so coincidentally—with the problems of a show getting stale in its long run and trying to keep it “fresh” by introducing a new character.
43. The Jet-soooooons
When Matt Groening asked Danny Elfman to compose the theme song for The Simpsons, he gave him a cassette tape with a few songs to inspire Elfman to write something similar. The tape featured The Jetsons theme, songs from Nino Rota’s Juliet Of The Spirits, and a jingle that Frank Zappa had written for an electric shaver company. Not sure how you take those ingredients and make a gumbo, but Elfman certainly hit the mark!
42. Beep, Beep
According to Elfman himself, he got the idea for The Simpsons theme while driving home from a meeting with Groening. He had to rush to his house to commit it to tape (we just wonder if he happened to have a plutonium rod caught in his collar at the time). The whole process from idea to finished theme only took him three days, and he’s since called it “the easiest thing [he’s] ever done.” Not bad for a song so catchy that it’s probably playing in your head right now. No? How about now?
The telephone number at Moe’s Tavern is 764-8437, or SMITHERS, as was revealed in the episode “Homer the Smithers.” Mr. Burns tries to call Smithers, but has no clue as to what’s the correct phone number, so he simply dials SMITHERS. He ends up getting the classic watering hole, and Moe, who’s understandably a little gun-shy about prank phone calls, does not give him a warm reception.
40. Are They Finally Going To Adapt “Honk If You’re Horny”??
You know the old saying: 30 seasons and three movies. The primary cast has a clause in their contract to provide their vocal talents for three movies based on the show—though that was originally announced over a decade ago, so who can say for sure what the future holds.
39. Where The Schoolyard’s Up And The Shopping Mall’s Down
The location of Springfield is never revealed. Whenever they locate the town on a map, the audience never gets to see the map. Whenever someone says it out loud, the sound is muffled or masked by noise. In The Simpsons Movie, Ned Flanders says that the city is bordered by Ohio, Nevada, Maine, and Kentucky. But, as Lisa said, “it’s a bit of a mystery, yes. But if you look at the clues, you can figure it out.”
38. Works on Contingency? No, Money Down!
Lawyer Lionel Hutz claims to have a law degree from Princeton, but unlike many other Ivy League schools, Princeton does not offer a law degree.
37. Show Me The Money
When the sixth season ended with “Who Shot Mr. Burns Part One,” the network had a competition to have the fans guess who the shooter was. Viewers could call a phone number and the winner would be animated in one of the future episodes or could choose a cash prize that was to be divided between all the winners.
However, when season seven premiered with “Who Shot Mr. Burns Part Two,” no one had guessed the right answer. The network picked out one (wrong) answer and contacted the viewer to share the good news. The viewer did not watch the show and asked for the cash prize instead of being animated. I wonder how many people guessed Smithers?
If you edit all the scenes from the McBain movies that were shown throughout the early seasons, they add up to a coherent mini movie!
35. Tossed Salad And Scrambled Bob
The Simpsons has a huge Frasier connection. Frasier star Kelsey Grammer performs the voice of Sideshow Bob Terwilliger. In later episodes, Sideshow Bob’s brother Cecil gets introduced, who’s voice is performed by David Hyde Pierce, who played Frasier’s brother Niles. Season 19 would introduce the patriarch of the Terwilliger family, Dr. Robert Terwilliger, played by John Mahoney, who also played the father of the brothers in Frasier.
34. Thank You, Come Again!
When The Simpsons Movie premiered, 20th Century Fox made a deal with convenience store chain 7-Eleven to transform twelve of their shops into Kwik-E-Marts. The real Kwik-E-Marts sold products that were sold in the fictional Kwik-E-Mart, such as Squishees, Buzz Cola and Krusty-O’s.
33. I Thought I Was The Only One!
Milhouse’s name has a presidential origin. When creator Matt Groening had to come up with a name for the character, he thought it had to be most unfortunate name for a kid, so he chose the middle name of former president Richard Nixon. Groening would refer to the name later on in his comic strip Life In Hell as a “no longer recommended” baby name.
32. Don’t Cry For Me, I’m Already Dead
Barney Gumble, Homer’s best friend and fellow barfly, was inspired by The Flintstones’ Barney Rubble. Just like in the Flintstones, Barney was intended to be the neighbor of the Simpsons, but that idea changed when Ned Flanders became part of the neighborhood.
31. Worst… Name… ever!
Comic Book Guy’s real name is Jeff Albertson. The writers of the show made it a running gag to keep a few of the supporting characters nameless, so they waited until season 16 to reveal the name. Showrunner Al Jean remarked: “That was specifically done to make people really mad. We just tried to pick a generic name.” Creator Matt Groening stated that he had originally intended him to be called Louis Lane, but Groening was not present when the writers chose the name.
30. Entrance Denied
People banned for life from the Android’s Dungeon comic book store are: Bart Simpson, Milhouse Van Houten, Sideshow Bob Terwilliger, Nelson Muntz, George Lucas, and Matt Groening.
29. Loneliness and Cheeseburgers are a Dangerous Mix
Matt Groening based Comic Book Guy on himself: He stated: “He’s the way I think I look to other people.”
28. I’ve Been Calling Her Crandle!
Although most cast members perform multiple voices for the show, Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson) and Marcia Wallace (Edna Krabappel) only regularly performed one voice. Smith does very occasionally voice other characters, but Wallace only was only ever Mrs. Krabappel.
27. Loop de Loop
With no end of the show in sight, showrunner Al Jean wants to end the final episode with the Simpson family arriving at the Christmas Pageant where the series premiere began. This would make all the seasons of The Simpsons one continuous loop. Woah.
26. I Didn’t Even Give You My Coat!
Before the Supreme Commander of the EPA Armed Forces and the Head of the Dome operation Russ Cargill became the main antagonist in The Simpsons Movie, the writers were thinking of bringing back Hank Scorpio as a villain. Regardless, they brought back the same voice actor, Albert Brooks, who is generally regarded as the greatest guest star in the show’s history. On top of Cargill and Scorpio, Brooks also voiced classic characters such as Brad Goodman, Cowboy Bob and Jacques.
25. Shake Your Body, Turn It Out, If You Can, Man!
In 1990, “Do The Bartman” topped the UK and Australian Singles Chart, but it was never released as a single in the US. The song was written and produced by Michael Jackson and Bryan Loren, while the music video was directed by Brad Bird, a Simpsons alumni who would later direct The Iron Giant for Warner Bros. and The Incredibles for Pixar.
24. Ceci N’est Pas Une Couch Gag
The Simpsons’ couch gags are not only a classic icon of the show, but they also allow the writers a little extra flexibility. Ever notice how some couch gags are way longer than others? Well, if the writers have produced a show that runs a little long or short, they can simply make the couch gag ensure that everything ends up running the proper amount of time.
23. Everything’s Coming Up Milhouse!
Bart’s best friend Milhouse was created for a line of Butterfinger commercials that were being aired during The Tracey Ullman Show. Although he was present in the premiere episode, it would take until the third season for this poor unnamed friend to get his name.
22. I Got News For Ya Kid: This Ain’t Makeup!
The resemblance between Homer and Krusty does play a part in the psychology of the show, or as Matt Groening would put it: “The satirical conceit that I was going for at the time was that The Simpsons was about a kid who had no respect for his father, but worshiped a clown who looked exactly like his father.”
21. This Is Not The Way To Get Healthy!
Psychotherapist Dr. Marvin Monroe was killed off in the show’s seventh season, although he reappeared eight seasons later, stating he had just “been very sick.” The character was “dead” for a while because of the strain the character’s voice had on actor Harry Shearers’ throat.
20. Scarred For Life
On the DVD commentary of the fifth season episode “Some Enchanted Evening,” Matt Groening states that the original idea behind the character of Marvin Monroe was that he was born with the name Marilyn Monroe and was “very caught up over that,” which is the reason why he became a therapist.
19. That Monkey Is Going To Pay
Professor Frink borrows his name from Simpsons writer John Frink, who’s been writing for the show for more than 17 years.
18. Not So Smrt After All
While recording Homer’s “I Am So Smart” song, Dan Castellaneta spelled S-M-R-T wrong by accident, but the producers thought it was so funny that they kept it in the show.
17. Average Maggie
In the opening credits, the cash register shows $847.63 when Maggie is “scanned,” a figure that was taken from a survey that said that this was the average monthly cost of caring for a newborn baby. However, during the episode “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase,” the credit sequence is spoofed and paused while the machine reads “NRA 4EVER.”
16. “Annoyed Grunt”
The writers never write Homer’s trademark expression, the frustrated “D’oh!”, in their scripts, but always refer to it as “annoyed grunt.” When Matt Groening asked Dan Castellaneta to create an annoyed grunt for Homer, the only thing Dan could think of was “D’ooohh…”, but Groening thought it was it would fit the show’s animation better if it didn’t take as long to say, so Castellaneta shortened it drastically.
15. Maybe It’s the Beer Talking Marge but You got a Butt That Won’t Quit
Marge Simpson was featured as a centerfold Playboy in 2009. Because that’s what the world definitely wanted.
14. Stuffing in Cameos
The cartoon rabbit Binky from Groening’s comic strip Life in Hell has made many appearances in The Simpsons throughout the years, including as Maggie’s stuffed bunny.
13. Hey Baby, Wanna Kill All Humans?
Futurama’s Bender appears in eleven episodes of The Simpsons, with his biggest role in “Simpsorama” (2014), which was a crossover of The Simpsons and Futurama to celebrate The Simpsons 25th anniversary. Bender and the rest of the Planet Express crew travel back from the future to dispose of Homer in a spoof of the movie Terminator.
12. Did He Know a Bort?
Many of the characters’ names are family and relatives of show creator Matt Groening, including Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie, which are the real names of his parents and younger sisters. The family name Wiggum comes from Groening’s mother’s maiden name.
11. A Noble Spirit Embiggens The Smallest Man
Over the years, The Simpsons has entered pop culture on many levels, but it has also invaded the scholarly field through the words “cromulent” and “embiggen.” In the episode “Lisa The Iconoclast,” Ms. Hoover tells Ms. Krabappel that embiggen is “a perfectly cromulent word.” Since then, the word cromulent has been used in academic articles and Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary of English says that it is an adjective meaning “fine” or “acceptable.”
10. Who Likes Short Shorts?
The Simpsons started out as shorts on The Tracy Ullman Show, where it grew from thirty-second segments that aired between comedy sketches. Actors Julie Kavner and Dan Castellaneta were regulars on the show, while Nancy Cartwright and Yeardley Smith were brought in to provide voices specifically for the shorts. Tracey Ullman sued Fox to earn a share of the show’s merchandise-related profits, but failed in her attempt to do so. That’s the sweetest plum!
9. Dear John
John Swartzwelder is perhaps the show’s most iconic and prolific writer, and also its most bizarre. He has written nearly 60 episodes for the show, including classics like “Bart the General,” “Homer at the Bat,” “Whacking Day,” “Krusty Gets Kancelled,” and “Homer the Great,” among many, many others. On top of his writing accomplishments, Swartzwelder is known for being reclusive and strange, refusing to make any appearances to promote the show. He’s so reclusive, in fact, that for years fans speculated that he wasn’t even real, and the writers simply stamped his name on an episode when no single writer wanted to take credit for it.
8. Whatever Works For You
Matt Groening has said that Swartzwelder would write his episodes of The Simpsons in a specific booth at a diner, while “drinking copious amounts of coffee and smoking endless cigarettes.” Eventually, it became illegal to smoke indoors in public places in California, so rather than give up his spot, Swartzwelder bought the booth from the diner and had it installed in his house.
7. Lisa, It’s Your Birthday
Michael Jackson was a big fan of The Simpsons, and he lent his voice for the episode “Stark Raving Dad.” However, in an odd twist, though he wrote the song “Happy Birthday, Lisa” for the show, he didn’t actually sing it. As a joke on his brothers, he actually had a Michael Jackson impersonator sing in his stead. In another odd twist, Jackson wasn’t credited as himself either, and instead went by John Jay Smith in the credits.
6. The Sooner They Talk, The Sooner They Talk Back
Despite the fact that she’s technically in her 30s, little baby Maggie has remained almost entirely silent throughout the show’s run. One notable exception was in the fourth season episode “Lisa’s First Word.” In one of the show’s heartwarming moments (which were far more common during the early seasons), Homer puts Maggie to bed as Bart and Lisa argue with each other. Once Homer tucks her in and leaves, Maggie takes out her trademark pacifier and says a single word: “Daddy.” This moment was a landmark for the show, but most people don’t realize that they actually got Elizabeth Taylor to voice that single word.
5. Two Bad Neighbors
Though they may seem tame by today’s standards, the dysfunctional Simpsons were once seen as quite controversial. George and Barbara Bush got into a famous public spat with the show, with the president once famously saying he wanted to make American families “a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons.” Barbara also said that she thought the show was “the dumbest thing [she’d] ever seen,” which led to the show’s writers penning an impassioned letter to the first lady as Marge Simpson. Bush was apparently moved by the appeal, and she responded with an apology letter.
4. They Call Them Fingers, But I’ve Never Seen Them Fing
It’s an often referenced fact that people in the world of The Simpsons only have four fingers, but there’s one character that the animators saw fit to give the regular five: God himself. If you look closely during Homer’s vision of God in the episode “Homer the Heretic,” you’ll notice that God, while being a large, bearded man with “Perfect teeth. A nice smell. A class act all the way,” he also has the usual five fingers on his hand, a feature he kept in subsequent appearances.
3. We’ll Really Miss You Mrs. K.
After Marcia Wallace (Edna Krabappel) passed away in 2013, they didn’t recast her part, and instead retired the character. Soon after, the show paid tribute to Wallace in the opening credits for the episode “Four Regrettings and a Funeral,” where the chalkboard gag features only a single line: “We’ll really miss you Mrs. K.”
2. You Might Remember Me From Such Movies As…
Wallace’s death was not the first time that the producers would not recast an actor. When actor Phil Hartman was murdered in 1998, the producers did not recast for Hartman’s recurring characters of actor Troy McClure and lawyer Lionel Hutz.
1. Homie The Clown
An early idea for the show, long before the writers had any idea that it would run for so long, was to have Krusty the Clown actually be Homer in disguise. That would have made for quite the reveal, but eventually, the writers realized that this would be extremely hard to pull off in the continuity of the show, and so it was easier just to keep Krusty as a separate character.