“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. 

6 Responses to ““A Star Is Burns” Spews Truth”

  1. 14 June 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Yep, it was on Comedy Central at 10:30pm, I believe, because Dr.Katz (my favorite show) was always on right before it on Sundays.

    Thanks for the writeup. Groening is such a baby for his actions here.

  2. 15 June 2012 at 12:08 am

    Jon Lovitz is hysterical on the commentaries he’s on. It’s a damn shame they weren’t able to get him for any commentaries on The Critic DVD.

  3. 4 Orangutanagram
    15 June 2012 at 12:11 am

    They never mention the elephant in the room: the controversy that resulted in Groening’s name not being in this episode.

    And Lovitz joking about Reiss and Jean being gay is about as funny as the Lenny and Carl gay jokes on Zombie Simpsons.

    • 15 June 2012 at 12:13 pm

      I’m almost 100% certain that somebody deliberately told the entire group not to mention the Groening controversy before they started recording, likely with a comment along the lines of “keep it positive”. Note how completely over-the-top happy Mike Reiss and James L. Brooks are when they introduce themselves (“I’m DELIGHTED to be here!”) – there’s no way they’re not being sarcastic about something. Lovitz even says at one point “And in keeping with the positive theme here…”

  4. 16 June 2012 at 9:11 am

    The controversy was mentioned in an earlier commentary, probably A Streetcar named Marge, when Lovitz thanks Groening for supporting the Critic by having him appear on the Simpsons.

    Also, you didn’t know that was Maurice’s trademark belch? Check this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91TqRT4jseo

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