Archive for the 'Spews Truth from Every Orifice' Category

07
Mar
13

The Telltale Head Spews Truth

telltalehead

Today’s post is another installment in our long-running “series” of DVD commentary posts; the lucky victim this time is Season 1’s classic “The Telltale Head.” Featured speakers on the commentary are the episode’s director Rich Moore and writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss. I’ll keep it short and simple (read: descriptive and lacking in any meaningful/substantive analysis), but here are the highlights from their conversation for me:

(Times are approximate)

  • 00:17 – Supposedly there were a lot of Elvis sightings when this episode was written, hence the chalkboard gag
  • 00:31 – Early intro didn’t have Burns or Smithers in the Homer/SNPP shot
  • 01:21 – Directors, well at least Rich Moore in this case, don’t get residual checks when this episode airs. Wah wah.
  • 02:08 – During table readings, the episode got big laughs up front and petered out, which explains the reverse structure of the episode as it we know
  • 02:34 – This is one of the few episodes that actually has the title after the credits
  • 02:52 – This is also Rich Moore’s Simpsons directorial debut
  • 03:14 – Episode is full of first appearances – Rev. Lovejoy, Jimbo, Dolph, Kearney, Quimby, Apu
  • 03:40 – Homer standing on the couch is where the episode originally started before the structural changes
  • 03:51 – This is the first time the family goes to church
  • 04:15 – The Simpsons staff is full of football fans, so references work their way into many episodes
  • 05:45 – Apparently the Sunday school teacher doesn’t have a name
  • 07:15 – “Twister mouths” were phased out in Season 1, but made an accidental appearance in Season 3 thanks to Wes Archer
  • 07:37 – Repeat backgrounds are a godsend
  • 08:11 – “Space Mutants” was a regular thing that just sort of dropped out of later episodes
  • 09:25 – Jimbo is named after Jim Brooks
  • 10:50 – Apu wasn’t originally intended to be an ethnic character, but Hank Azaria added the accent during the table read and the rest is history
  • 11:17 – It’s still a five-fingered discount even though the characters only have four fingers
  • 14:07 – Rich’s father called after this show aired to ask if Homer was based on him
  • 14:27 – Bart’s first ninja costume
  • 15:30 – Intent of the episode was always to be played as “live action” with interesting composition and shots rather than the flatness associated with many early episodes
  • 16:50 – At the table read, the fact that the Jebidiah’s head was cut off didn’t resonate with the group as much as the denizens of Springfield
  • 17:50 – This is where shit gets weird: the head starts talking. This didn’t get many laughs initially
  • 18:22 – You rarely see Moe and Burns share a scene together
  • 18:31 – First episode where Smither’s affection for Burns is notable
  • 18:40 – Around the middle of the first season, Sam Simon declared that Smithers should be gay, but not to make a big deal about it. The audience caught on quickly though
  • 18:57 – First Sideshow Bob, who is both silent and looks nothing like his later incarnation
  • 20:40 – First mob made up of supporting characters and not generic people
  • 22:04 – The early internet was a cruel mistress in pointing out animation inconsistencies and other flaws (sound familiar?)
  • That’s a wrap!
17
Jan
13

DVD Commentary: Bart the Genius

bartthegenius

Be gentle, it’s my first one of these.

Four guys on this commentary, David Silverman, Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Jon Vitti.

David Silverman talks about the popularity of the show after the Christmas Special

Matt Groening talks about the development of the now classic “Simpsons” main titles music

Blackboard and main titles were originally a way to pad the show length, but as the show got more sophisticated the writers didn’t want to cut anything

This episode was Jon Vitti’s first 30-minute script, and David Silverman’s first full-length directorial debut

Koreans don’t have bananas, hence the miscoloring

KWYJIBO was also later used as a name for a computer virus

Milhouse’s hair is inconsistently colored in this episode, occasionally black, occasionally blue

Jon wrote a  list of 100 bad things that Bart could do, and cheating on a test was the only thing that stuck

Series was not going to do fantasy sequences initially, but that stipulation was relaxed after the directors started using them very creatively (dream sequence with numbers)

Matt wanted a full orchestra to play the emotion that the show otherwise could not have depicted using animation

It was very controversial how stupid Homer’s handwriting was on the check

Loren Pyror sounds a lot like Mr. Burns in this episode

Matt considers this episode, like the other 12 in Season 1, to be experiments in the visual language of the show. Things like giant plants which featured somewhat prominently in the background were later removed

It used to be Skinner’s persistent goal to get Bart out of Springfield Elementary

There’s a discussion/mea culpa about Bart’s many, likely unoriginal, catch phrases, from “eat my shorts” to “cowabunga” etc.

The school that Bart goes to is a product of co-creation from the writers, not necessarily based on any actual school that the writers went to

The first draft of this episode was over 71 pages long!

Matt initially could not wrap his head around the fact that the sketches were moving, owing to his background in print media, but loved what he was seeing all the same

It was easier to merchandise villains than friends, so that’s why the show’s writers kept adding more

One can’t help but notice the crudeness of the animation in the opera scene

They’re all chuckling at the leisurely pacing of this episode, a result of the show’s creators learning on the fly

Kids playing with marbles is a cute anachronism

Shadows were used sparingly in early episodes out of concerns that they couldn’t afford them

The hamster gets to escape after Bart’s chemistry mishap, otherwise the joke earlier about the hamster being dissected would’ve been too cruel

Bart’s confession was animated in the US, not Korea

David enjoys having a yellow character talk to a green character

16
Oct
12

Lisa the Beauty Queen Spews Truth

Lisa the Beauty Queen8

“What a feeling!  I’m as happy as a smoker taking that first puff in the morning.” – Pageant Girl
“That could be Lisa!” – Homer Simpson

As usual with these early season commentaries, there are a small enough number of people that they can have an actual conversation, the topic never strays far from the episode, there’s lots of genuine laughter, and Jean sounds like he’s actually having fun instead of watching the clock and trying to fill time while everyone else sits silently as some horrible Zombie Simpsons crap parades across the screen.  Plus this one has a Bob Hope story.

Just four guys here, Groening, Mark Kirkland, Jean, and Jeff Martin.

0:20 – Groening asks Jean about the origin of this episode.  Apparently, Jean and Reiss were among the few people still under contract when this was getting going, and they came up with it hoping guys like Jeff Martin would come back, which they did

1:30 – Noting that they were ahead of the curve on making fun of little girl beauty pageants, but that they didn’t realize the seedier side of it at the time.

1:45 – Disney never complained, so they just kept making Disney jokes.

2:15 – Jean jokes that the lawyer is based on Roy Cohn, “which the kids always find hilarious”.

2:20 – Nelson spraying Martin was based off of something that a National Lampoon writer once did to Jean.

3:40 – Martin used to draw caricatures when he was a teenager at Astro-World, the amusement park next to the Astrodome in Houston.  He drew the Lisa one, and the regular artists were nice enough to use it.

5:00 – The big raffle prize at Martin’s school really was a ride on the blimp.

5:30 – Lots of praise here for Yeardley Smith as always putting a lot of emotion into Lisa.

6:00 – Groening notes that Lisa is a character who isn’t completely ruled by her impulses, which causes Martin to joke, “Yes, and as a result she’s in pain a lot of the time.”

6:45 – Krusty’s “heartily endorse” came from the old board game Life which had a picture of Art Linkletter on the front saying he “heartily endorsed” it.  Reiss knew exactly where it was from the first time he read the script.

7:45 – Lona Williams, who did the voice of Amber Dempsey, was an assistant on the show at the time.  She actually had been in beauty pageants and gave Martin a tape of one of them if he promised not to show it to anyone else.

8:50 – Everyone cracks up as Homer cries while singing the blimp song and holding a pickle.

9:30 – They just made up the Jack Nicklaus thing, none of them are sure whether or not he was actually considered handsome.

11:00 – Jean’s not sure if Homer’s fantasy of Marge mowing the lawn while he lies in a hammock is based off of it, but there did used to be a Flintstones cigarette commercial where Fred and Barney were lying in hammocks smoking while Wilma and Betty mowed the lawn.  (Though Jean accidentally called Fred “Homer”.  Groening cracks on him for it.)

11:30 – Grau plays the ice cream parlor lady, which leads to everyone talking about how great she was to have around.  Groening then confirms my suspicion that losing her wasn’t just losing Lunchlady Doris:  “Also, she was a little bit of a voice of reason because she would actually comment on things.  That was good, that was no good.”  I can think of many places where a voice of reason definitely could’ve come in handy post Season 7.

12:40 – As the pageant starts, Kirkland comes on to note that this is the part where the director starts to feel faint at all the crowd shots and action.

13:15 – Krusty’s seldom seen assistant Miss Pennycandy helps him with his jacket before he goes on here.  That causes Jean to note that her first appearance was the one where Krusty reconciles with his father, but he couldn’t remember the title right away.  He just remembered that Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky called it “Krusty the Jew”.

14:10 – Speaking of Wolodarsky, he pitched the line where Lisa calls loving your country “real Melvin”.

16:20 – According to Groening, Brockman switching instantly from “Oh, the humanity!” to “Anyway” got a big laugh.

17:25 – Martin went to a hall of Presidents wax museum in Boulder, Colorado that had obviously mismatched bodies, and that’s where Lisa getting Dr. Ruth’s body came from.

18:00 – Conan O’Brien and Martin went over to Bob Hope’s house to record his lines.  Groening then mentions that O’Brien wrote about Hope for The New York Times.  Thanks to the miracle of the internet, you can read that here.

19:50 – Everyone laughs at Azaria’s Santa wanting to know what the hold up is.  He’s got a real flair for those cranky old guy parts.

21:15 – It took them a long time to figure out the ending, but Jean thinks it was Frank Mula who came up with the thing about Homer writing “OK” on the application.  I did that for years on standardized tests.

21:30 – Everybody cracks up again when Lisa says “Possibly” after Homer asks her if he was drunk.

29
Aug
12

’Round Springfield Spews Truth

'Round Springfield10

“Two hundred and fifty dollars?  But I need that album to honor the memory of Bleeding Gums Murphy.” – Lisa Simpson
“He’s dead?  Well, why didn’t you say so?” – Comic Book Guy

It doesn’t come up in individual statements, but when you listen to the commentary for this episode right after you listen to the commentary for “Alone Again Natura-Diddily”, the most striking thing is the absence of feeling the need to explain things. Instead of anyone getting defensive or saying something about, “no really, this was a good idea”, it’s all just trivia about the episode, the occasional short tangent, and backstory on this or that. The Season 11 commentary is just this side of an apology. The Season 6 commentary is a regular DVD commentary track.

Five guys on this one: Jean and Reiss, Steven Dean Moore (who directed), and Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia, who wrote the script.

0:20 – Jean starts out by noting that this is the non-“A Star Is Burns” episode that was done with a lot of the staff from The Critic, and they figured that at this point in the show’s run a major character hadn’t been killed, so why not? Importantly, he notes that the episode is actually about “Lisa’s grief”, which is much better than “Flanders’ dating”, but he doesn’t say that last part.

1:00 – Reiss originally wanted to kill Marge’s mother.

1:30 – The first episode Steven Dean Moore worked on was “Moaning Lisa” and this was the first one he directed, so it was a nice bookend for him.

1:50 – Jean notes that Ron Taylor, Steve Allen, Phil Hartman and Doris Grau all did voices on this episode and all of them have since died. That causes Reiss to crack, “It’s a real blood bath, folks, so sit back and enjoy”.

2:25 – Reiss and Jean took credit on the story, but Sternin and Ventimilia got the “teleplay” credit. Reiss notes that show runners don’t usually take story credits like that, but they thought it was going to win a bunch of awards “it’s death and a black guy and jazz” . . . and then it didn’t. But they did get paid.

3:30 – Jean says that they don’t remember for sure who came up with “cheese eating surrender monkeys”, but that it might have been Ken Keeler. Then they joke around about how people took it awfully seriously when it was just a throwaway joke for them.

5:15 – There’s a backlighting effect on the operating table lights to make it look more like old hospital shows.

6:00 – The little glints on the jagged metal-Os are done post production.

6:15 – Reiss’ father is a doctor, and no matter how many times they asked him, he wouldn’t tell them that you could get appendicitis from eating a piece of metal. Jean then jokes that more people saw this than know him, so they won.

6:45 – Writers and directors love flashbacks because they don’t have to do anything.

8:00 – Jean makes the obligatory note that Steve Allen had done a voice before and later harshly criticized the show.

8:30 – Laughing at the Faberge egg habit. Reiss says that Joan Rivers was collecting them and that’s where he got the idea.

9:00 – It’s Castellaneta doing the great Cosby impression here, but they’d gone back to Sunday by now and Cosby was off the air, so Reiss calls it “residual malice”, which would be an awesome band name.

10:15 – Josh Sternin really did have appendicitis once.

10:20 – It took awhile to get Lisa’s un-brushed teeth “gross but clear”.

10:40 – One of the reasons they wanted to pitch this was to let Lisa sing “Jazzman”.

10:50 – Jean then notes that this was when the show was longer so they could take their time and do things like show the song.

11:40 – Jean can’t tell the difference between a tenor and a baritone saxophone. Moore comes on to say that she’s normally supposed to play tenor, but for this they downsized the sax a little. Jean’s brother plays the saxophone, but that doesn’t help, which leads Reiss to crack, “We ignore our families, that’s why we’re comedy writers”.

12:50 – The scene where Lisa wins over the crowd prompts Jean to compare it to the movie Ray where the same thing happens.

13:00 – Reiss comes on to note that Lisa finding out Bleeding Gums is dead should’ve been the act break. I probably haven’t seen this episode with commercials in the better part of a decade, so I really have no idea where the act breaks are.

13:45 – This was only the second script Sternin and Ventimilia had done. The only other one they’d done was an episode of The Critic. They talk about how cool it was to be a fan of the show and then be able to put words in the mouths of the characters. Jean, feeling wistful, says he felt the same way when the cast of Gilligan’s Island came on Alf while he was writing there.

14:50 – Interesting directing note here, David Silverman told Moore that when Grampa is pointing and yelling at various things being “Death!”, they shouldn’t pull the frame out too quickly. They originally had the camera pulling very fast, but the joke is that Grampa is overreacting, so the camera should under-react to show how senile he’s being.

15:15 – Jean jokes that the Starland Vocal Band tattoo would’ve been a great act break which prompts Reiss to say, “Don’t tell that to FOX, they’ll be giving us eight act breaks now”. Just an observation, but Jean always seems to be having way more fun on commentaries where Reiss is around as opposed to when he isn’t.

16:05 – Everyone laughs at the hot dog cart at the funeral.

16:55 – It is indeed a white Bronco in which Hutz and OJ’s attorney’s speed away.

17:10 – That causes Jean to recall that they were working on The Critic right by the freeway during the OJ chase (Wikipedia and YouTube for those of you too young to remember 1994) when they saw all the helicopters. He jokes that they should’ve run to an overpass with a sign reading “Watch The Critic” among all the signs that said Go, OJ Go.

18:00 – Moore was told that the laid back DJ was based on David Mirkin, but nobody seems to know if that’s true or not.

18:30 – Jean and Reiss explain how odd and puzzling Pogs were, even at the time.

19:45 – Just in case you were wondering, this episode gets its title from a 1986 movie called ’Round Midnight.

20:00 – Wes Archer’s brother Martin did most of the animation on the scene where the clouds come together.

20:20 – Everyone laughs at Wiggum getting poisoned.

20:45 – The “Kimba, I mean Simba” joke is a reference to a 1960s cartoon about a lion named Kimba whose father died. There was even a baboon.

21:30 – Reiss asks Sternin and Ventimilia how it was to write this. Predictably they say it was a lot of fun, then one of them jokes, “It was back when we were young and full of hope”. Heh.

21:50 – Moore jokes that after he worked a long time to get a directing slot on the show, he wasn’t sure how many he’d get because, really, how long could it go on after six seasons already?

14
Jun
12

“A Star Is Burns” Spews Truth

A Star is Burns12

“The film is just me in front of a brick wall for an hour and a half.  It cost eighty million dollars.” – Rainier Wolfcastle
“How do you sleep at night?” – Jay Sherman
“On top of a pile of money, with many beautiful ladies.” – Rainier Wolfcastle

If these meta-commentary posts are ever enlightening, this one promises to be minimally so.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard one that is just this straight up funny.  It’s basically twenty minutes of Lovitz, Jean, Castellaneta and company ragging on each other personally and professionally in sometimes really mean ways while they all laugh their assess off.  It doesn’t translate well to text on the internet, but it’s hilarious.

Seven people here, an all-star lineup of Al Jean, Jim Brooks, Mike Reiss, Jon Lovitz, Dan Castellaneta, Susie Dietter (director), and Ken Keeler (writer).

0:40 – Jean explains the backstory of how they got cancelled on ABC and Brooks came up with the idea of having them do a film festival to launch The Critic on FOX.  I maintain that the fact that The Critic got cancelled twice is one of the great unacknowledged cultural losses of the 1990s. 

1:20 – Talking about how they knew they’d “made cult” when The Critic went to Comedy Central.  Allow me to simply say that I was one of the members.  As I recall, when it first came to Comedy Central it was on at some ungodly timeslot, like 11:30pm on Sunday.  I nearly died the first time I ever saw “Hee Haw: The Next Generation” (I laughed uncontrollably through the entire commercial break), and it was everything I remembered it was the first time I got to see it on syndication. 

1:45 – Lovitz talking about how nice it was of them to write the script for him, which causes someone to crack on him for having his career go downhill.  Lovitz, of course, can give as good as he gets.  This is funny.

2:30 – They’re cracking up about A League of Their Own now and how Lovitz’s part was too small.  Sample of banter: “The masturbation scene never would’ve worked, man, I saw that rough cut.” 

3:00 – Lovitz just said “Al and Jean” trying to say “Al and Mike”.  Apparently this has been a tic of his for a long time.  They’re still just cracking up making fun of each other.  I can’t really make it work as text, but it’s really funny. 

3:40 – See above.  They really seem like a) they like each other, and b) they’re having a good time.  Note to Zombie Simpsons: this is much more fun to listen to than awkward silences and people politely complimenting each other. 

4:15 – Tip from Keeler, Bart introducing “The Eternal Struggle” is a riff on Plan 9 From Outer Space.

4:40 – Noting the similarity of Homer struggling into his pants with Mr. Incredible doing the same thing before he gets back in shape in The Incredibles

5:00 – Laughing about the fact that Shearer does God, the Devil, Hitler and Jesus.  Shearer is amazing.

5:45 – Reiss has a friend with the Salvation Army, and apparently they love Flanders.  He then relates a cop telling him how he thought they must have a cop on staff because Wiggum is so “true to life”.

6:30 – Talking about how they tried to draw Sherman more sympathetically (shorter, bigger eyes) for this and the second season. 

6:45 – Again, I can’t do this justice in print, so I’ll merely say that Lovitz just made a great dick joke.

7:30 – Castellaneta improvised Wolfcastle’s “On closer inspection, these are loafers.” 

9:00 – Jebus, Lovitz is really funny.  As Senor Spielbergo comes on screen for the first time, he (with just the right hint of sarcasm) jokes that this was the inspiration for Spanglish, “coming out on DVD! . . . Thanks for the check, Jim”. 

9:45 – And they’re back to just cracking on Lovitz and each other. 

10:20 – Huh, the giant belch is Maurice LaMarche.  I didn’t know that.  Chalk one up for LaMarche.  Apparently he also does a perfectly dead-on Lovitz impression.  He once called Jean, as Lovitz, and demanded that he (LaMarche) be fired.  Jean says it took him a minute to figure it out.

11:50 – Lovitz: “But I worked very hard on The Critic.”  Someone else (maybe Reiss) who’s already laughing from the previous joke: “I don’t know about that.”  They’re all just losing it.  This is one of the stand out funniest commentaries I’ve ever heard.

12:15 – A long story here about how The Critic got cancelled by turnover among FOX executives.

14:00 – And they’re back to ragging on each other.  Apparently Lovitz insinuating that Jean and Reiss are gay is a joke that’s been going on for over a decade. 

14:40 – As we see Barney’s movie, Jean throws it to Dietter who says it was one of her favorite things she ever did on The Simpsons.

15:00 – Jean points out that it’s a bit like both a Calvin Klein commercial and Koyaanisqatsi, which puts it well ahead of that time killing Itchy & Scratchy from a couple of years ago.

15:20 – Dietter talking about the transparency effect on the curtains makes the customary animation note that this would be very different on a computer.  Meanwhile, Reiss (I think) cracks up in the background as Barney attends the Girl Scout meeting.

16:30 – Lovitz gets into it with Dietter, which leads, once again, to everyone cracking on him.  Again, these people are both very funny and seem to genuinely like each other enough not to pull any punches.

17:15 – Castellaneta and Lovitz are joking about Hartman now.  In the background, Jean sounds like he’s struggling to breathe he’s laughing so hard.

18:35 – After a pause as they just laugh at the episode, the show cuts to the two monkeys grooming each other inside Homer’s head.  Lovitz deadpans: “There’s Al and Mike”.  And we’re off again.

20:30 – Castellaneta recalling Lovitz telling him to screw around while they were recording and then denying his involvement when it died in the room.

21:45 – As soon as the “Al Jean & Mike Reiss” credit appears, Lovitz is on them again, “Who’s that?”.

22:00 – “Brad Bird?  Never met him.”

22:25 – And we end with Lovitz talking about how Swartzwelder, Vitti and Meyer were all writers at Saturday Night Live while he was there, which prompts Jean to try to compliment him by calling that his favorite era of SNL, Lovitz getting in one more dig by telling him “check’s in the mail” right as the Gracie logo rolls, and the last sound being Jean cracking up once more. 

10
Apr
12

“Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” Spews Truth

Itchy and Scratchy and Marge8

“I’ve started a crusade against cartoon violence.  I can protect my own children, but there are many others whose minds are being warped every afternoon at four.” – Marge Simpson
“That reminds me, I gotta get over to Milhouse’s and . . . play sports.” – Bart Simpson
“Alright.” – Marge Simpson
“And I’m going over to Janie’s again.  We’re going to be, um, making the most of our childhood years.” – Lisa Simpson
Have Fun!” – Marge Simpson
We will.” – Bart and Lisa Simpson

They talk quite a bit about this idea near the end, but “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” has always been one of the premier examples of the way the show could be funny about every aspect of something.  They are a violent cartoon show, but they’re still able to make violent cartoon shows look bad. 

Four guys on this one, Groening, Jean, Reiss, and Jim Reardon. 

0:35 – Reiss notes that Swartzwelder loves Itchy & Scratchy.

1:00 – Groening recounts how when he was a kid he and his friends would fantasize about what an ultraviolent version of Tom & Jerry would look like.  This leads to him introducing Reardon by pointing out that one of the reasons Reardon was hired was because of a short film he made.

1:15 – Reardon picks up the tale of a student film he made called “Bring me the Head of Charlie Brown”, which is funny and ends with, “I got a reputation for doing violent cartoons, which served me well in this episode.”

2:25 – Reiss briefly mentions Herman & Katnip as a truly terrible Tom & Jerry knockoff.

2:40 – Jean points out that they had a running theme in the early years of Homer being an incredibly bad workman, nothing he produces is any good (he cites the soapbox derby racer and the BBQ pit).  Too bad these days he’s instantly good at everything.

3:00 – As Maggie goes Psycho on Homer, Reiss mentions how great it was that VCRs existed then, because they could go back and get the scenes right.

3:05 – They all crack up as Maggie hops away.

3:35 – Groening laughs and declares it his favorite moment as Marge wonders where Maggie got the idea as she puts her down right in front of the television.

4:15 – Irony alert.  Groening was talking about how they get fan mail asking for Itchy & Scratchy to get their own series, and he had a demo reel of nothing but their cartoons that he’d show to people, but that they’d get numb after about a minute and a half.  This prompts Jean to joke that through ten years there probably wasn’t twenty minutes of actual footage because they’re “incredibly quick”.  Of course, the last two or three seasons, when they do have Itchy & Scratchy, it’s always some forty-five second long movie remake.

5:10 – Since this was Reardon’s first episode, he remembers that they were at the Christmas party when the FOX satellite went on the fritz and the whole west coast missed the first act, so nobody saw his name on the credits.  Aww.

5:40 – They’re laughing at Swartzwelder having Scratchy’s “bombs for eyes” actually work as eyes, and then Groening cracks up at “Dogs Tricked” on Marge’s list of violent acts.

6:15 – When the nerdy looking animator throws Marge’s letter over his shoulder and into the wastebasket, Reiss asks if that’s Reardon.  Apparently it’s a guy named Eddie who used to work with Sam Simon.

6:30 – As Alex Rocco appears to dictate the letter, Reardon jokes that they tried to find a way to get his eye shot out, but they couldn’t “fit it in”.  They would’ve found one these days, methinks.

6:50 – Joking around about the fact that there’s an Itchy & Scratchy on Ice poster in Meyers’ office, and then they actually did do a Simpsons on Ice.  Groening wrote the script and got paid in pinball machines.

7:30 – Reardon notes that all the picket signs are a pain because you’ve got to keep the lettering from bouncing up and down.

8:20 – Laughing at Moe’s sign to “Bring Back ‘Wagon Train’”.

9:20 – They’re just sort of quietly giggling at the episode, with compliments here for Castellaneta’s Krusty.

10:15 – When another animator appears on screen, Jean guesses that it’s supposed to be Rich Moore, but they all kinda look the same and nobody even responds.

11:00 – Reiss laughs that if anyone should understand who the squirrel is supposed to be, it would be Homer, and yet it “goes right by him”.

11:20 – Reiss asks Jean if they were going to get O.J. Simpson for the Smartline panel, but that was going to be for “Last Exit to Springfield” where they got Dr. Joyce Brothers instead.

12:00 – Again, they’re just quietly watching and laughing.  Maybe I’m projecting, but it sure seems like they enjoy watching these episodes a lot more than the Zombie Simpsons ones.

13:00 – Minor animation goof pointed out by Rich Moore when “Live From Vienna” pops up under Dr. Marvin Monroe from one shot to the next.  It must be at least kinda frustrating to have gone through every frame of this a decade earlier, then have to see it all again when you’re far enough removed from it to spot all the little mistakes.

13:20 – As Monroe makes an ass of himself, Jean laughs about how they never had much use for psychiatry.

14:20 – Reiss asks about the shot with all the mail trucks backed up, if it was sort of from Field of Dreams.  Jean deadpans, “Yeah, why not?”.  As usual, I can’t do his delivery justice.

14:35 – Reardon says that this scene where the cartoon gets edited was near to his heart because he always hated it when the Saturday morning cartoons would get half their punchlines edited out.

15:15 – Groening compliments the way the animators look here because they’re not overly elaborate.  In other words, they don’t look like any more time was taken on them than on anyone else.

16:40 – Again, I may be projecting, but you almost can’t count the number of times someone says “I always liked this” or “We love this” on these old commentaries.  Similarly, none of the silences are broken by someone talking for the sake of talking, it’s always about the episode.

17:15 – Groening loves the montage because it’s a satirical point that’s the opposite of what they believe.  They don’t actually think everything would be Norman Rockwell if cartoons were banned, but they did it anyway because it’s funny and the cartoons here are getting made fun of just as much as the censorship.  Things like this really are what made the show so damn good.

17:30 – They’re complimenting the pastoral montage, and Reiss cracks up recalling that Brooks had wanted it to end with everyone happy like this and Itchy & Scratchy banned.

18:00 – The Beethoven was in Swartzwelder’s script, it wasn’t a later addition.

18:45 – Jean notes that Bart’s line about building a soapbox racer was the genesis for next season’s episode where that happened, and how they often combed over old episodes to find new ideas.  Reiss mentions that Skinner’s line about seeing some awful things in ’Nam was kind of the same way.  Afterwards, they just kept coming up with more.

19:30 – Reardon’s favorite joke is the newspaper headline that reads “Michelangelo’s David in 1958”.  That is a great joke.

20:20 – Jean recalls having seen a picture of a David statue in Florida that really did have marble pants on it.

20:35 – Reiss jokes that “Scratchy’s the cat, by the way”.  They could only remember because “Scratchy” has the word “cat” in it.

22:10 – And we end with Jean joking that at least they didn’t have to pay old Ludwig any royalties.

05
Apr
12

“New Kid On the Block” Spews Truth

New Kid on the Block10

“She’s beautiful.  Say something clever.” – Bart’s Brain
“I fell on my bottom.” – Bart Simpson
“D’oh!” – Bart’s Brain

This commentary is mildly annoying in that it’s basically a bunch of guys congratulating each other on being awesome.  On the other hand, all of them are fantastically funny, so not only is it fun to hear, but they’re self aware enough to keep it entertaining.  They only occasionally talk about the episode, but unlike when that happens on Zombie Simpsons commentaries, here it’s not them avoiding what’s happening so much as it is them clowning around about things they actually want to laugh about. 

Just five guys here, and it’s a murderer’s row: Jean, Reiss, Groening, Silverman and Conan O’Brien.

0:45 – Joking about how they brought O’Brien in as a replacement, they mention that the two guys they wanted before him went on to create Martin and NewsRadio.  The guy they settled on turned out to be a fantastically accomplished late night host.  The talent density of this show cannot be overstated. 

1:15 – They’re joking that for O’Brien’s first three weeks at the show, they made him do nothing but rewrites and never let him out of the office.  O’Brien, who’s usually talk-show peppy on these kind of things just says, “Yeah”, in a genuinely defeated voice. 

2:30 – Jean: “For some reason, we had a Sylvester Stallone hand puppet.”  Of course they did. 

3:30 – The previous comment got O’Brien started about what a comedy weirdo he is.  It’s still happening.

4:15 – The B-plot was originally going to be Homer in court for hitting Don Rickles after being insulted at a show.  It died when Rickles passed on doing the voice.  Bullet?  Dodged. 

4:40 – Groening was at a FOX event where Rickles was introduced to him by Rupert fucking Murdoch, and Rickles was apparently seriously pissed about the script.  He thought they were stealing his act.

5:45 – Reiss points out that they’ve always kinda had trouble with “older people” as guest voices.

7:00 – Third hand performance advice: O’Brien had Jerry Lewis tell him something that Stan Laurel had told him: “Tell the audience what you’re going to do, then do it, but then tell them it has been done.” 

7:20 – Jean follows up by joking that he got the same advice from Johnny Carson, but his conclusion was, “Tell them what you did.” 

8:05 – Amid further discussion of late night comedy tips, someone (might be Reiss) asks, “Why does this Afghani have horns?”:

New Kid on the Block9

Heh.  I never noticed that before.

9:30 – They’re discussing the origin of this B-plot, and a failed story they ditched (O’Brien says “threw it out.”).  What did they throw out?  A story about Homer being a talented hair dresser.  Simon apparently killed it.  Fuck you, Zombie Simpsons

10:30 – O’Brien starts telling a story about a script he had to rewrite, but stops when he doesn’t want to out the writers, so he saves it by saying that it was something that “Mike and Al” wrote and it was crap.  Jean, always on his game, retorts “You’ll have to be more specific”.  I hate Zombie Simpsons, but I love Al Jean.

11:00 – Changing the subject, they try to get O’Brien talking about Wes Archer’s direction or Sara Gilbert’s guest voice.  Then they all crack up when Lionel Hutz calls Homer the greatest hero in American history. 

11:25 – This needs to be quoted in full (from when Bart gets to the old folks home and the old Jewish guy acts out because he’s desperate for attention): “Derogatory reference to old person, that’s Conan O’Brien.  Look at him, he’s got no mind.  He’s wasting a young person’s time.  He’s serving no function, and he’s led away."

11:45 – Jean and O’Brien joking about how they used to give shitty assignments to O’Brien.

13:00 – Mild giggling at Homer’s quote about a woman being a lot like a refrigerator.

13:20 – Jean jokes about Oakley and Weinstein having to read “The Plague” by Albert Camus for an episode, which leads O’Brien to joke that there are a bunch of “skulls and femurs” at his feet.  I’ve never been this entertained by a commentary that ignores the episode.

14:45 – They’re cracking about how bad television is, and I really can’t do it justice.  And while I’m certainly not an unbiased observer, the tone of this is much more relaxed (and funny) than when they wander off the reservation when some Season 13 episode falls apart.  Here it sounds like they’re just having a good time rather than trying to fill space.

15:15 – Apparently the idea of Bart telling Moe that he was Jimbo to get Moe to come over came from James L. Brooks.

16:30 – O’Brien goes off on a long and somewhat meandering speech about how people get fewer and fewer references as time goes on.  It all ends it Al Jean saying, “Lisa loves Roy Cohn!”.  Again, words fail to convey how funny it actually is.

18:00 – “Jub Jub”, a vocal history.

19:00 – They’re just cutting up now.  O’Brien just joked, “I had a lot of bad ideas.” 

19:15 – Laughing at Barney drinking beer out of the ashtray.

19:45 – In yet another thing that doesn’t translate well to type, O’Brien cracks everyone up by describing how unfair it is that Jimbo gets branded a coward because a knife wielding maniac interrupts his innocent teenage makeout session. 

20:30 – Now they’re just laughing at the way people ask who wrote what line.  Jean jokes that he only writes for Ralph and they all crack up.  This is a much more relaxed Al Jean than you find on later season commentaries where he has to carry the whole load.  Here he gets to just be one of the guys, and he sounds like he’s having a much better time.  

21:30 – And we end with more banter and O’Brien being generally charming. 




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