Welcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences, and to ponder how our diverse lives all led us to convene here together. Got a question you’d like us and the readers to answer? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s question is one we just had to do, given this week’s theme:
What’s your favorite Simpsons quote?
This question is like choosing your favorite child, isn’t it? But I’m going with a personal favorite that I don’t think gets bandied about too often, probably because it relies so heavily on the delivery. It’s in the classic episode “The City Of New York Vs. Homer Simpson,” when Barney reveals to Duffman—who’s there to deliver him a bottomless mug of Duff—that he can’t drink because he’s the designate driver. Duffman (voiced brilliantly by Hank Azaria) quietly says, “That’s swell. Duff Beer wholeheartedly supports the designated driver program.” Then, shouting, “NOW! Who wants to party?!” It gets me every time.
While the singular descriptor “favorite” feels necessarily conditional, there is a particular Simpsons quote I think of at least once a day, and it still never fails to make me laugh. It’s a Lisa line, and as with many of her best lines, Yeardley Smith’s delivery is what sells it. In season 10’s “The Wizard Of Evergreen Terrace” (one of only a handful of episodes to receive a TV-PG rating), Homer’s midlife crisis leads him to invent a series of products in an effort to be like his new idol, Thomas Edison. One of those inventions turns out to be a gun that shoots a full application of makeup directly onto women’s faces. Cue Lisa, full of genuine concern (and slightly appalled), warning her father: “Dad, women won’t like being shot in the face.”
I have to go with something more touching than a reference to Scorpio’s coat or the fact that Itchy & Scratchy Land only has two parking lots—as much as I love those quotes. My pick comes from “I Married Marge,” the episode where Homer tells the story of Bart’s birth, and it happens when Marge finds out that Homer has been secretly working at the Gulp ’N’ Blow to be able to afford a wedding ring for her. Marge tells him that any ring is fine as long as it’s from him, so Homer places an onion ring around her finger and says, “Marge, pour vous.” The reason this line is so good is because it’s the same thing he says to her when he fixes her ripped prom dress in “The Way We Was,” and it’s a nod to Homer lying about needing a French tutor so he could spend time with Marge in high school. It’s a truly sweet moment, and it shows off how much heart The Simpsons has with only a few words.
The Simpsons quote I can’t stop using comes from Homer’s visit to the old folks’ home in “The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons.” Spying one of the patients, he asks, “Hey, what’s Lucky hooked up to?” When told it’s a respirator, Homer replies, “And here I am using my own lungs like a sucker!” I frequently use versions of this quote to highlight possible ways I could be making my life easier, Homer-style, like if I spy a Segway tour (“And here I am using my legs like a sucker”), read a novel (“An audio book! And here I am using my eyes like a sucker”), or even visit a convenience store (“A debit card! And here I am using cash like a sucker”). Like so many Simpsons quotes, it’s universally useful.
“Lisa On Ice” is pretty well known for gracing the world with Ralph Wiggum’s iconic “Me fail English? That’s unpossible!” but I have to tip my hat to another student at Springfield Elementary: Üter Zörker. The rotund German is used sparingly, so any appearance by the Augustus Gloop-esque foreign exchange student is a treat. In the season six episode, Homer attempts to teach the kids’ hockey team a lesson about teasing but is derailed by the site of Üter’s “bosom.” Homer chases the boy around the locker room, snapping a wet towel at him, to which an exasperated Üter wails, “Don’t make me run, I’m full of chocolate!” Watching Üter’s round, yellow body scamper across the room is funny enough, but his plea for respite is hysterical in its desperation. As someone who has deemed ice cream a “meal,” I feel a kinship to Üter and know exactly how he feels in this moment. Just give us our sweets and leave us be!
I’m just an imaginary character who lives on the Internet, so naturally I have a special regard for “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show,” the episode where The Simpsons writers skewered the audience of fans who obsessed over every detail on the burgeoning Internet, and what an annoying nightmare that had already become. As a snotty 18-year-old “reviewer” on alt.tv.simpsons, I was among those geniuses at work calling out (snort) magic xylophones and the like. And while I’ve definitely gotten plenty of use out of the ol’ “Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder” over the years, my favorite and most oft-referenced quote remains Comic Book Guy’s “Rest assured, I was on the Internet within minutes registering my disgust throughout the world.” It perfectly captured that relentless critiquing of things I ostensibly enjoy, which I somehow managed to turn into a career. And in a great karmic comeuppance, it’s also pretty handy when discussing the commenting on my critiquing, which that career now brings me on a daily basis.
“I was saying Boo-urns.” In fact, I’m almost always saying Boo-urns. It’s not so much that Hans Moleman’s line in “A Star Is Burns” is the best in the series, but it’s the one that I’ve found most applicable in my regular life. If there’s a miscommunication among a group of friends I’ll chime in with, “I was saying Boo-urns.” If I’m the dissenting opinion after a consensus has been reached, I’ll mutter dejectedly, “I was saying Boo-urns.” In the rare moment I’m in a room of people actually booing something, you best believe I’m the one saying Boo-urns. I may not have much in common with Moleman—a character who exists only to be punished in unusual ways—but I’m more than happy to share quiet solidarity with him every time I say Boo-urns.
I share Homer Simpson’s aversion to bureaucracy and his profound stubbornness, so the Simpsons quote I most identify with comes from “Trash Of The Titans,” in which Homer wages a principled war against Springfield’s tyrannical trash collectors. The trash mafia clearly has the upper hand, as it halts service and a mountain of garbage accumulates on the Simpsons’ lawn. But Homer refuses to give in, even as Marge makes perfectly reasonable counterarguments. “Homer, that crazy lady who lives in our trash pile attacked me today,” she says. “That’s not the way she tells it,” says Homer. In the struggle to get the Trash Man’s foot off your neck, there are no wives and trash-pile-dwelling vagabonds, only allies and enemies.
Seymour Skinner has always been my favorite Springfieldian, for reasons too numerous to disclose at this time (including a secret, nagging fear that maybe I, too, am out of touch—but no, it’s clearly the children who are wrong). So, naturally, my favorite Simpsons line is going to come from the mouth of that lovably square authority figure. There are plenty of worthy candidates, but I’m going to go with another quote from the episode referenced above, season five’s peerless “The Boy Who Knew Too Much.” It’s the final exchange between Skinner and Bart, the latter of whom has testified as an eyewitness in court, knowing full well that doing so will reveal that he was cutting class. Expressing his admiration for the boy’s honesty and copping to his own pettiness in one breath, Skinner slaps Bart with three months detention. He then pauses, seems to thoughtfully reconsider his harsh verdict, and says, “Make that… four months.” It’s a perfect encapsulation of the show’s ability to flip a cliché on its ear, not to mention a good summation of the character—a hopeless stickler whose self-awareness never eclipses his stubborn adherence to protocol.
Outside of the Simpson family, my favorite relationship on The Simpsons is the one between Principal Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers. It’s such a classic high-status/low-status arrangement, a Mr. Spacely-George Jetson relationship taken to extremes: Chalmers is professionalism personified, while Skinner barely holds on to his job and still lives with his mother. The incredulity Chalmers expresses toward Skinner’s every move is perfected in the duo’s “22 Short Films About Springfield” segment, a series of lies, fabrications, and steamed hams that ends in one big fib about the northern lights. There’s sitcom precedent here once more, in all of TV’s past variations on the old “my boss is coming to dinner at the last minute” plot, none of which built to a symphony of disbelief like this: “Aurora borealis? At this time of year? In this part of the country? Localized entirely within your kitchen?” The whole Skinner-Chalmers relationship is wrapped in this line of interrogation, and it kills me every time I hear it.
I agree with Josh—this is like picking my favorite child, considering I have a friend with whom I can speak to exclusively in Simpsons quotes and he always gets my drift. So it’s odd that I immediately thought of something that no one actually says but has a special place in my cold, cold heart. In “Summer Of 4 Ft. 2,” Lisa affirms how uncool she is by flipping through her yearbook. It’s Milhouse’s closing signature that really gets to her: “See you in the car!” My childhood best friend and I happened to spend a weekend down the shore every year with our families sharing the same rental. So when I wrote “See you in the car!” in her yearbook, I actually meant it.
While picking an all-time favorite Simpsons episode is nearly as hard as picking a quote, my go-to answer has always been “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song,” in which Springfield Elementary’s straitlaced principal is given the axe. The episode winds up being a poignant character study of Skinner, who had previously been a fairly one-note character. But it’s also packed with classic jokes like Billy And The Cloneasaurus, Bart treating replacement Principal Flanders’ office as his private clubhouse, Ralph seeing Snagglepuss out the classroom window (“He was going to the bathroom”), and the friendly Italian waiter calling Bart “the ug-a-ly kid” before ordering him up “a big plate of red crap”—not to mention the first instance of Groundskeeper Willie ripping his shirt off. But the best of the bunch is the actual moment of Skinner’s firing. It’s a perfectly constructed joke, elevated by Harry Shearer’s expert deadpan, that still makes me laugh after 20 years: “Seymour, you’re fired!” “Did you just call me a liar?” “No, I said ‘you’re fired!’” “Oh. That’s… much worse.”
When someone drops something my instinct is to reassure them by saying, “It’s just a little dirty. It’s still good! It’s still good!” Given that almost none of my friends are Simpsons fans, that usually leads to me offering a lengthy description of the gag from “Lisa The Vegetarian” in which Bart and Homer chase a stolen roasted pig through increasingly absurd scenarios. And although their chase ultimately ends in defeat (and an airborne pig), the repeated “It’s still good! It’s still good!” phrase has found its way into my lexicon as an expression of optimism even in the face of disaster.
I don’t know if I would’ve selected it as my favorite quote if I hadn’t just watched the episode again the other night, but I’m going to run with it as my answer for one simple reason: It always makes me laugh just as hard as it did the first time I saw “The Springfield Files,” i.e., the one where Mulder and Scully come to Springfield to investigate Homer’s claim that he’s seen an alien. I think the reason for that consistent laugh is that I’m always so busy waiting for the guest appearances by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson—who arrive immediately after this moment—that I forget it’s coming, so it still surprises me when I hear Chief Wiggum’s response to Homer’s alien sighting: “Well, your story is very compelling, Mr. Jackass, I mean Simpson. So I’ll just type it up on my invisible typewriter.” Of course, it’s not quite as funny if you can’t see Wiggum miming the act of typing, but, then, that’s not actually part of the quote, now, is it?
I’m going to court controversy—and possibly incite a whacking stick-wielding mob—but my choice comes from an episode that aired within the last 10 years. “Papa Don’t Leech,” from the 19th season, is not, by any conceivable measure of quality, a good episode of The Simpsons. Its sins are various—the opening dream sequence of Homer gleefully murdering Abe is bad, but that’s nothing compared to the way the episode craps on the show’s past by unnecessarily revisiting country music seductress Lurleen Lumpkin, from the classic “Colonel Homer.” Still, Lurleen’s daddy issues do set up the greatest delivery Nancy Cartwright has ever given as Bart Simpson. Having accidentally dumped an entire box of Rice Krispies onto the floor—Lurleen has removed the word “pop” from all of the family’s food, you see—Bart takes a moment to stare off into the middle distance, before remarking, in a tone of the bitterest weariness, “You’d think a house full of crazy people would be fun. It’s actually really depressing.” Then, with a sigh, he climbs out of his chair and eats the cereal from the floor, like a dog. I’ve been there, buddy. I’ve been there.
Perpetually put-upon, humiliated, and latching desperately to the tiniest tree branch of hope that, somehow, things will come up for us, we’ve all got a little Milhouse in us, especially when we finally decide we’ve just had enough. When the Milhouse turns, it’s oddly liberating to me, even if—as is always the case—his moments of triumph are brief and illusory. I am Milhouse. I could go with his frighteningly potent tantrum at the controls of an air show model jet (“Take that mom! Take that dad! Send me to a psychiatrist will you? Take that Dr. Sally Waxler!”) or his quivering “I think I’m gonna explode here!” when he finds that some Shelbyville brat has stolen his supposed catchphrase. But the one Milhouse-ism that really sticks with me is from the season eight episode “The Canine Mutiny,” where Milhouse segues from praising Bart’s ill-gotten new dog, Laddie, to the memory of the time Bart’s discarded dog, the untrainable Santa’s Little Helper, ate Milhouse’s goldfish. In one of the great line readings in Simpsons history, Pamela Hayden lets Milhouse’s rage gradually reveal itself, culminating with his viciously sardonic, “Then why did I have the bowl, Bart? Why did I have the bowl!?” I hear it in my head when, like Milhouse, my accumulated resentment at the world’s indignities cannot be borne for one more second.
My choice comes from “Last Exit To Springfield,” my favorite episode of anything ever. As Burns and Smithers listen with decreasing patience, Abe Simpson explains his strike-breaking skills: “We can’t bust heads like we used to. But we have our ways. One trick is to tell stories that don’t go anywhere. Like the time I caught the ferry to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for m’shoe. So I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ’em. ‘Gimme five bees for a quarter,’ you’d say. Now where was I? Oh, yeah. The important thing was that I had an onion tied to my belt, which was the style at the time. You couldn’t get white onions, because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones…” This may not strike some as a “quote,” per se, because it’s actually more of a long passage. But believe me, there was a time in my life where I had this memorized. It was back in the mid- to late-’90s, and in those days, we taped Simpsons episodes off of TV, on a VCR. You could pause out the commercials, or you could fast-forward ’em later. This wasn’t always easy, because our VCR remote was broken. Now, where was I? The important thing was, we taped Simpsons episodes off of TV…
The Simpsons has produced any number of all-time classic TV episodes, but the one that I find myself quoting most often is “Mr. Plow.” The catchy jingle for Homer’s new snowplow company (which frequently pops into my head on snowy days in Chicago) is great, but the quote that I pull out more frequently comes after Homer’s commercial has aired in the wee hours of the morning. Homer stands excitedly next to the phone, ready to answer the deluge of calls that are surely coming any moment. “Now we play the waiting game. [long pause] Ah, the waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!” Anyone who’s waited for a phone to ring, water to boil, or a line to move knows the feeling of disappearing patience or quickly distracted attention, and the desire to be doing anything else. If only Hungry Hungry Hippos were the answer, Homer. If only.
My favorite Simpsons episode is “Lisa The Iconoclast,” in which Lisa and Homer team up to expose the scurrilous truth behind local hero Jebediah Springfield. While that episode has made some pretty major single-word contributions to the lexicon—truly, the episode has embiggened our language with its cromulent verbiage—my favorite lines are those that illustrate just how ridiculously serious the people of Springfield are about their bicentennial celebrations, and nobody lends more hilarious unearned gravitas to the proceedings than Donald Sutherland as local antiquarian Hollis Hurlbut. I’ll admit this line doesn’t come up that often in social situations, but I love every detail of Hurlbut’s indignant response when Homer demands to see the allegedly incriminating fife: “I have nothing but respect for the office of town crier, but this is well outside your jurisdiction!”