"The Simpsons" broke the record long held by "Gunsmoke" in the fall of 2016 when the animated series aired its 600th episode—and it just keeps on running. Here, to mark the anniversary of the show's 1989 premiere, are 20 of of its most brilliantly funny bits.
Lisa's Braces ("Last Exit to Springfield")
Enacting every kid's worst nightmare, Lisa is outfitted with the most monstrous set of bargain-basement braces known to dentistry. The moment she first looks at herself in the mirror is a scream, parodying Jack Napier's transformation into The Joker in the 1989 film "Batman."
The Ramones Sing "Happy Birthday" ("Rosebud")
The entire town of Springfield has gathered to honor Mr. Burns on his birthday. Even the Ramones are recruited as entertainment, turning in one of the show's great rock-star cameos. Mr. Burns is not entertained, though. "Have the Rolling Stones killed," he orders Smithers.
Careful of the Rakes! ("Cape Feare")
When the writers found they needed to pad out the episode to fit its standard running time, they turned to Sideshow Bob and a rake. Or make that nine rakes, each consecutively stepped on so that it springboards up to hit Sideshow Bob in the face. The bit was good for 35 seconds of repetitive hilarity.
The Be Sharps ("Homer's Barbershop Quartet")
Homer explains to his family that he, Principal Skinner, Barney Gumble and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon once fronted a world-famous barbershop quartet. In flashback, Homer tells the story of the group's origins, including how they came up with their name:
Skinner: We need a name that's witty at first but that seems less funny each time you hear it.
Apu: How about "The Be Sharps"?
Anyone who's ever tried starting a band will bust a gut-string.
Beloved Catchphrases ("Bart Gets Famous")
In loving tribute to the various characters' catchphrases, this episode ends with Homer breaking a lamp, followed by:
Bart: Ay, caramba!
Maggie: (sucks pacifier)
Ned Flanders: Hi-diddly-ho!
Barney Gumble: (burps loudly)
Nelson Muntz: Ha Ha!
Mr. Burns: Excellent!
As all look to Lisa, she says, "If anyone wants me I'll be in my room." And Homer sensibly asks, "What kind of catchphrase is that?"
The Enigma That Is Ralph Wiggum ("'Round Springfield")
"And, with a flute up his nose ... Ralph Wiggum."
Homer's Jump ("Bart the Daredevil")
In the ultimate Simpsons "D'oh!" moment, Homer accidentally jumps the Springfield gorge on Bart's skateboard, only to fail to reach its other side. At least 15 variations on "D'oh!" can be counted among Homer's other exclamations before he finally reaches a hospital.
Homer Converts ('The Father, The Son, and the Holy Guest Star')
Converting from the "one true faith" of the Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism to Catholicism, Homer gives his first Confession to Liam Neeson's Father Sean: "I wiped a booger on your shirt, I made a dog and a cat kiss, I swiped a bolted-down TV from a Holiday Inn, I coveted the wife in 'Jaws 2,' I lied to a waiter, I masturbated 8 billion times and have no plans to stop masturbating in the future. Woo hoo! I'm clean! In your face, Lord!"
Homer vs. Stephen Hawking ("They Saved Lisa's Brain")
They meet at Moe's Tavern for a drink, and when it's time to pay up, Homer tries to trick Moe into thinking Stephen Hawking has volunteered to pay the tab by imitating the disabled scientist's robotic voice. Hawking then releases a boxing glove attached to a spring hidden in his wheelchair, punching Homer in the head.
The Mr. Plow Jingle ("Mr. Plow")
"Call Mr. Plow / That's my name / That name again / Is Mr. Plow"
Homer's TV commercial jingle for his Springfield snow plow business is the earworm that burrows into your consciousness and never, ever leaves. Ever.
"Oh, Streetcar!" (A Streetcar Name Marge)
Seeking outside interests, Marge wins the role of Blanche DuBois in a Springfield community theatre musical adaptation of "A Streetcar Named Desire." Her leading man? Ned Flanders as Stanley Kowalski. With ripped T-shirt showing off his hi-diddly pecs, Flanders shout/sings:
"Stella!!! Stella!!! / Can't you hear me yella / You put me through Hella / Stella! / STELLA!!!"
I'm Checkin' In ("The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson")
This 179th episode offers a Laugh-Meter toss-up between Homer driving his booted car around Manhattan and Marge, Bart and Lisa attending a Broadway musical titled "Kickin' It: A Musical Journey Through the Betty Ford Center," highlighted by the show-stopping number, "You're Checkin' In." Awarded an Emmy for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music and Lyrics," the song tips the laughter scale in favor of the Great White Way. Says Bart, "When I grow up, I want to be in the Betty Ford Center."
Bart's D-Minus ("Bart Gets an F")
One of the series' more heartwarming laughs. Bart, fearing he'll be left back in school, for the first time actually studies for a test. Though the final result is a close call, we get to watch Bart skipping joyously through a snowy Springfield, shouting, "I passed! I passed! I got a D-minus! I got a D-minus!" Oh, and he kisses his teacher. Blech!
Groundskeeper Willie Takes Up the Chalk ("'Round Springfield")
Due to budget cuts at Springfield Elementary School, Groundskeeper Willie is enlisted to teach French.
"Bonjourrrr, ya cheese-eating surrender monkeys!"
The Homer Evolution ("Homerazzi")
In one of the show's longest "couch gags," Homer transforms from protozoa to fish to monkey to caveman to, well, Homer in an elaborate evolution sequence (while passing Moe the Bartender evolving in the opposite direction). "What took you so long?" asks Marge when Homer finally plops himself down on the couch in front of the TV.
Grandpa Abe's Lecture ("Homerpalooza")
In flashback, hipped-out teenagers Homer and Barney boogie down in front of a mirror to "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing."
Grandpa: What the hell are you two doing?
Barney: It's called rockin' out!
Homer: You wouldn't understand, Dad. You're not "with it."
Grandpa: I used to be with it, but then they changed what "it" was. Now what I'm with isn't "it," and what's "it" seems weird and scary to me. It'll happen to you.
A true and very scary caution for all the Gen-Xers who grew up watching "The Simpsons."
Maggie vs. Einstein ("Bart the Genius")
Though it's Bart who is declared a genius in this episode, it's baby Maggie who spells EMCSQU with her blocks—a reference to Einstein's equation e=mc²—establishing once and for all that she's the Simpson with the smarts.
Gonna Paint Your Wagon ("All Singing, All Dancing")
Bart and Homer plop in front of the TV to watch Clint Eastwood in 1969's "Paint Your Wagon." Expecting blood and gore, they instead get Eastwood and veteran movie bad guy Lee Van Cleef square dancing and singing:
"Gonna paint our wagon / Gonna paint it good / We ain't braggin' / We're gonna coat that wood"
To Homer and Bart's relief, Lee Marvin enters the scene. "Wait, wait, wait! Here comes Lee Marvin!" exclaims Homer. "Thank God! He's always drunk and violent!"
Satan Flanders ("Treehouse of Horror IV")
After Homer says he'd sell his soul for a donut, Satan, in the form of a cloven-hoofed Ned Flanders, shows up to close the deal. Mr. Burns, watching on a closed-circuit monitor, asks, "Who's that goat-legged fellow? I like the cut of his jib." Responds Smithers: "Prince of Darkness, sir. He's your 11 o'clock."
Lisasplaining ("Bart Sells His Soul")
Lisa: Pablo Neruda said laughter is the language of the soul.
Bart: I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda.
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