Weird Simpsons Facts You Never Knew

Denny Watkins
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That an animated family sitcom could become the longest running primetime series ever isn’t really that unexpected. Cartoons, after all, don’t age out of their roles like living actors, and a solid sitcom premise can generate endless stories. What’s surprising is how The Simpsons (Watch now at Disney+) managed to win our hearts with such an absurdist take on humor. With its massive cultural footprint, the weirdness of The Simpsons was bound to reflect back on our world. Some of these strange, funny, and head-scratching real-life moments even feel like their own classic episode of The Simpsons.

Homer Simpson came pretty close to finding the Higgs Boson

homer simpson higgs boson

On the Season 10 episode “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” Homer decides to become a prolific inventor like Thomas Edison. In one shot, he’s seen writing an elaborate equation on a chalkboard. The result of one of those formulae is 777 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), somewhat close to the actual 125 GeV mass of the Higgs boson — an elementary particle that wasn’t discovered until 2012, 14 years after “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace” aired. A couple smart fixes to Homer’s equation produce an even closer prediction. Substitute in the reduced Planck’s constant (divide h by two times π), then remove π as the first term on the right hand side of the equation, and the result is the even closer value of 99 GeV.

Nancy Cartwright Is the Honorary Mayor of Her Los Angeles Neighborhood

nancy cartwright simpsons
Nancy Cartwright

In 2005, the North Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce named local resident Nancy Cartwright, who provides the voices for Bart Simpson and Nelson Muntz (among others), as the honorary mayor of Northridge, California. A few international news outlets misunderstood this news, however, and reported that the actress had actually been elected mayor. Northridge is part of the city of Los Angeles, and does not have its own mayor. (Beverly Hills, on the other hand, is bordered on all sides by Los Angeles but is incorporated as a separate city, with its own mayor and city council.) Cartwright is still active in her honorary role. Here she is giving a recent interview with the North Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce president about local issues.

Bart Simpson Went Gold with ‘Do the Bartman’

bart simpson
Do the Bartman

In 1990, just one year after “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” premiered, the original cast (along with a few celebrity guests including Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh and DJ Jazzy Jeff) performed on an album of covers and original songs called The Simpsons Sing the Blues. The opening track, written and produced by Michael Jackson with Nancy Cartwright rapping Bart’s vocals, was a funky pop jam called “Do the Bartman.”

The song exploded in popularity around the world, reaching Number 1 in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom. It was also a Top 10 hit in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden. The track was never released as a single in the United States, but The Simpsons Sing the Blues peaked at Number 3 in overall sales on January 26, 1991, and stayed on the charts for 39 weeks.

The Simpsons Predicted That One of Siegfried and Roy’s Tigers Would Eventually Attack

simpsons gunter tiger casino
Gunter and Ernst

In the Season 5 episode “$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling),” a magician duo with German accents performing at the Monty Burns casino — a clear parody of Las Vegas act Siegfried and Roy — are attacked on stage by their white tiger. Ten years later, a white tiger attacked Roy Horn during a real performance of their long-running show at The Mirage hotel, biting into his neck and dragging him off stage. His injuries were so severe that the Siegfried and Roy show closed and the duo never performed again.

Dear Abby Published a Fake Letter Based on a ‘Simpsons’ Episode

marge simpson bowling ball
Marge Simpson

In 2004, the syndicated advice column Dear Abby responded to a 34-year-old mother of three who wrote in complaining that for her birthday, her husband bought her a bowling ball — sized to his fingers and with his name on it. To spite him, the wife took up bowling anyway, then fell in love with a man she met at the lanes. Sound familiar? The letter is describing the exact plot of the Season 1 episode “Life on the Fast Lane.” Dear Abby didn’t recognize the Simpsons reference, however, and penned a response that included, in part, “Before you get in any deeper, put your house in order and tell your husband why you strayed. He may not realize how selfish, greedy, inconsiderate and rude you think he is.”

One alert newspaper editor managed to recognize that the letter was fake and alerted the wire service that put out Dear Abby, which retracted it. A few newspapers, however, published the column anyway.

One of Bart’s Prank Calls Was Pulled from Syndication

bart simpson prank call moe
Moe

Many TV shows are edited in one way or another when they are rebroadcast in syndication — usually simply to cut down runtime and squeeze in more advertising. But the only time one of Bart’s prank phone calls landed on the syndication cutting room floor was in the Season 2 episode “Blood Feud.” Bart asks for Mike Rotch, and Moe calls out, “Hey, has anybody seen Mike Rotch?” When Moe realizes the prank, he says, “One of these days I’m going to catch you, and I’m going to carve my name on your back with an icepick.”

Maybe the editors just felt the prank was 23 seconds that could be cut without affecting the story, but other lines cut from the episode include innocuous lines like Lisa showing Maggie flash cards and saying, “Ooh, look, Maggie! What is that? Dodecahedron!”

Even more unusual is that out of all Bart’s prank calls, Weird Al Yankovic chose to sample the cut Mike Rotch bit on his 1996 parody of TLC’s “Waterfalls” called “Phony Calls.

‘Lisa the Vegetarian’ Secretly Included Paul McCartney’s Lentil Soup Recipe

lisa simpson apu paul mccartney
Apu and Lisa with Paul and Linda McCartney

Beatle and longtime vegetarian Paul McCartney, along with his then-wife Linda McCartney, voiced themselves in the Season 7 episode “Lisa the Vegetarian.” At one point, Paul says, “Linda and I both feel strongly about animal rights. In fact, if you play ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ backwards, you’ll hear a recipe for a really ripping lentil soup.”

At the end of the episode the Wings hit “Maybe I’m Amazed” plays over the closing credits. If you listen closely, you can hear some mumbling over the track. When the recording is reversed, it turns out Paul really is reciting a recipe for vegetarian lentil soup. After that, he quickly adds, “By the way, I’m alive” — referencing the conspiracy theory that Paul was killed in 1966 and replaced with a lookalike.

If you want to try Paul and Linda’s lentil soup recipe yourself, it’s written out here .

A ‘Simpsons’ Writer (Maybe) Works at His Favorite Diner Booth — in His House

simpsons john swartzwelder

Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder, who wrote 59 episodes of The Simpsons from 1990 to 2003, is famously reclusive (except for his infrequently updated Twitter account). From time to time, such as the quick cameo above, he’s drawn into The Simpsons in a non-speaking role. But he’s never given an interview or barely a quote to any media outlet, despite his prolific amount of work on the show.

In the commentary for one episode of The Simpsons, Matt Groening reveals that Swartzwelder liked to write his scripts while sitting in a diner booth, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. After California banned smoking in restaurants in 1995, Groening claims, Swartzwelder bought a diner booth to set up in his own home so he could write in comfort.

The Real-Life Simpsons House Is Now Blurry

simpsons house henderson nevada
There's something familiar about that house.

In 1997, producers of The Simpsons, along with sponsors FOX and Pepsi, built a real-life version of the iconic orange 742 Evergreen Terrace home at 712 Red Bark Lane in Henderson, Nevada. The 2,200-square foot house was designed, painted, and furnished to be as accurate to the show as possible (while still structurally sound), even including the treehouse in the backyard. After it opened, more than 300,000 visitors got to walk through Bart’s bedroom and the Simpsons’ family room.

Packages of Mug Root Beer and Slice bought in the summer of 1997 included a numbered game piece for one lucky Simpsons fan to win the entire hose. But when the winning number was flashed on screen during the original broadcast of “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson,” no one claimed the prize. So producers had to award the house in a drawing of mail-in entries.

The eventual winner, a Kentucky grandmother, opted to take the $75,000 cash alternative instead of moving in. The neighborhood homeowner’s association later insisted that the exterior be repainted to match the stucco Spanish Colonial homes in the rest of the subdivision. If you want to see how it looks today, however, you’ll need to head out to Henderson, Nevada yourself. The current owners seem to have requested that Google Maps blur the street view image of their house.

‘The Simpsons’ Theme Was Partially Based on a Commercial Jingle by Frank Zappa

simpsons couch
The Simpsons

When The Simpsons was first getting off the ground, series creator Matt Groening had composer Danny Elfman listen to a cassette tape (this was the late 1980s, after all) containing an eclectic mix of music Groening wanted the theme song to sound like. The tape reportedly included the orchestral score to a 1965 Frederico Fellini movie called Juliet of the Spirits, some Mad Men-era space age pop by Juan García Esquivel, and — oddest of all — this bizarre ad for Remington electric shavers featuring Frank Zappa and Linda Ronstadt.

It’s tough to hear the similarities, but there are a few. The high choral intonation of “The Simpsons” that opens the theme could be compared to Ronstadt’s harmonized vocals, both songs have a similar tempo and beat, and every now and then you can pick up a hint of similar instrumentation. Compare it to the original version of Danny Elfman’s theme, before it was rearranged by series composer Alf Clausen in Season 3.


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Denny Watkins
Denny Watkins has written for Vice, Scientific American, Syfy Wire, Health, Details, Maxim, Men's Health, Women's Health, Wine Enthusiast, and Chicago Athlete. He is a nerd.