Those of you that know me probably know that I have spent an inordinate amount of time watching The Simpsons. There was a stretch from the show's premier in 1989 until about 2003 where I did not miss a single episode on the night that it premiered. Suffice to say I didn't have much of a social life on Thursday, and later Sunday nights.
Like most of the early fans of the show, I have more or less gave up on it after about the 10th season or so. I have made the analogy that the watching for the show is like growing apart from an old friend because they found religion or took up some radical political view. You share a multitude of cherished memories, you think back on them often, but spending time with them today just isn't the same somehow. You may catch an episode now and again, the way you grab lunch with your old friend but you are constantly reminded of the way things were and they way they now aren't.
I bring this up now because I was checking in all weekend with the 600 episode Simpsons marathon on FXX. It started on Thanksgiving morning morning and is running through Wednesday, December 7th. In reality, you've already missed all the good stuff. What I would consider the last "good" episode aired at 4:30a this morning. It's pretty all down hill, sometimes way down, from here. I don't begrudge the show its success, but the show has now been "bad" for twice as long as it was "good".
Watching the marathon this weekend with fresh eyes has shown me how much I learned from the show when I was younger. Everything from movie and art references, to vocabulary, to my views on life, death, marriage, and family. So with this in mind I am going to turn to the crutch used by internet bloggers everywhere, the list.
But let's make it a special list, not just a list of the best episodes (notice how the list is very sparse after about 1997?) or of the best Troy McClure films. No, this list is going to be a list of Simpson's references that have brought me some happiness during some of the various hard times in my life. These are essentially inside jokes that have brought some light to the darkness. I'm not sure if this will translate to everyone, so bear with me and we will get back to the usual soon enough.
I have to give a plug for what has been one of my favorite websites. www.frinkiac.com has managed to take what I believe to be every Simpsons script and married it to actual episode screen shots. This allows them to generate memes by simply entering in a line of dialogue in to their search engine. What an age we live in. I am currently involved in an epic four-person Frinciac text chain. It has gone on for about 10 months now, and is several hundred memes long at this point. It's stupid, but it makes me laugh, and that ain't not bad. So, with that in mind on to the list:
Maybe Single People Eat Crackers...
From A Milhouse Divided; Season 8, Episode 6
Context: Milhouse's Dad, Kirk, is a "big wheel at the cracker factory". When Milhouse's parents get divorced Kirk loses his job because "crackers are family food".
Why it made me laugh: I haven't been single in 15 years. I still don't consider myself single. I still use "we" in all my conversations, sometimes just to mess with people, sometimes out of habit. There is so much to this new life that I don't know, that I don't want to know. Can I still eat crackers?
I Sleep In A Race Car
From A Milhouse Divided; Season 8, Episode 6
Context: See above, same episode. Kirk is newly divorced and trying to find the upside to this new single life. Homer does his best to squash this.
Why it made me laugh: I can feel people tiptoeing around certain subjects. Inevitably, in any conversation about beds, race cars, race car beds, this one comes up. My friends will say it and then instantly regret saying it. I am here to tell you - it is fine. I like to laugh more than I like to cry. You can't laugh and cry at the same time.
If I Could Say A Few Words...
From: Much Apu About Nothing, Season 7 Episode 23
Context: Homer has to give a toast at a backyard bbq (bbbq?)
Why it made me laugh: Believe it or not, I used this as the opening line of my best man toast at my friend Matt's wedding. As expected and desired, just like the episode, the joke bombed with everyone but Matt and his brother Mike. The lesson: Don't be afraid to make that one terrible joke if you know it will make someone's day.
It's A Two Party System
From: Treehouse of Horror VII, Season 8, Episode 1
Context: The two recurring space invaders, Kang and Kodos, have taken over the election. They have both guaranteed to enslave the human race. On the plus side, Kang's stance on abortion is refreshing: "Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others".
Why it made me laugh: Too soon? Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos.
Needs More Dog...
From: The Springfield Files, Season 8, Episode 10
Context: It's Friday night, Homer wants something special besides Duff. He orders a Red Tick Beer. There is a certain flavor he can't quite nail down.
Why it made me laugh: Come on, I have three dogs that drive me crazy every single night.
Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines
From: Deep Space Homer, Season 5, Episode 15
Context: Homer has become and astronaut and is currently orbiting the Earth. There is a problem on the spaceship that threatens their safe trip home. James Taylor is brought in to serenade the crew, to help calm the situation. The only problem is that he signs Fire and Rain, a song about the death of a close friend and a very direct reference to a plane, or perhaps spaceship, crash.
Why it made me laugh: I have to admit, the first time I caught this joke was on Saturday afternoon. I was at my sister's house, feeling down about the holiday, and feeling a bit like I was surrounded by eggshells (for the record, I wasn't). This episode was on, and this sequence made me laugh out loud at it's subtlety surrounding death and not wanting to offend or panic anyone.
From: Lisa's First Word, Season 4, Episode 10
Context: This episode explores Lisa being born and Bart feeling marginalized because he no longer the only child. Homer tries to make Bart feel special by building him a bed shaped like a clown. It doesn't work, it instead terrifies Bart.
Why it made me laugh: I am still nowhere near my old sleep habits. There are so many things that keep me up, that terrify me, that hold me in grief and depression. Those demons seem to come out each night around 11:00 and stalk me until about 6:30a. It's getting better, but only by looking that clown in the eye and telling it that it can't eat me. That it can't beat me.
Starland Vocal Band
From: Round Springfield, Season 6, Episode 22
Context: Lisa's hero, Bleeding Gums Murphy, has died. Lisa is trying to find a way to tribute him. Homer suggests getting a tattoo.
Why it made me laugh: I'm going back and forth about getting some sort of tattoo to remember Melly and Matthew. My thought is to get her name in her handwriting on the inside of my elbow. But, every time I think about it I remember this scene. The last thing I want her memory to become is a regret of a snap decision.
So You're Going to Die
From: One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish, Season 2, Episode 10
Context: Homer tries sushi for the first time and eats a piece of poisoned blowfish. He is given 24 hours to live, actually 22 because the doctor kept him waiting. After giving some unhelpful advice about the five stages of grief, Dr. Hibbert leaves him with a poorly titled pamphlet.
Why it made me laugh: When I was a kid I was extremely lucky in that no one close to me ever died. I didn't experience grief until I was 14 when my Uncle George passed. It would be another 11 years before I lost anyone else, at that point my Grandpa, then Grandma a few years later. That was it. The only crib notes I had on the subject were this episode and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Until this summer. To say I had no experience with grief would be an understatement. In the time since, I have worn the experience like a heavy, wet blanket.
That first night without Melly was the worst decade of my life. The night was so incredibly dark and terrifying. I never want to get anywhere close to that ever again. The one laugh, that night, possibly that entire week, what when I opened the information packet that the Phoenix Fire Department gave to me. On the very top of the stack of document was an AARP pamphlet titled "On Being Alone". My mind immediately went to this scene. I remarked to my friend Alberto "So You're Going to Die". His reaction - shock, and then a laugh at the reference. It made that night a little less impossible.
What About Erika?
From Maximum Homerdrive, Season 10, Episode 7
Context: Bart and Homer go see a stupid horror movie.
Why it made me laugh: Melissa didn't make a lot of Simpsons references. She tolerated mine, but stayed above the fray. She did, however, come back to this one a lot. Whenever I would ask a series of stupid questions she would let me know by saying "It ate everyone. Stupid." It never stops making me smile.
She would say the same thing whenever she met someone whose name ended in "-ica". Didn't matter if you were Erika, Veronica, Danica, Annica... - you were eaten too. Stupid.