YouTube HOF: Best. Simpsons. Moments. Ever.
[Ed. Note: These “moments” were chosen individually, not collectively. If your favorite moment isn’t represented, we are not trying to assassinate your sense of humor. Writers were warned to not all pick “Monorail” or “Homer at the Bat”; as a result, no one picked them. We all love those two episodes; they’re probably everyone’s favorites. Our choices are both too obvious and too obscure. Like, where’s Poochy? Go outside and take a deep breath of fresh air before attempting to murder us. If this disclaimer feels suspiciously like the one the writers presented after the 500th episode this Sunday — our inspiration for celebrating the show in this week’s HOF — you might be on to something.]
“See My Vest”
Alex Pappademas: Season 6, shading into madness under the stewardship of David “Get a Life” Mirkin: Charles Montgomery Plantagenet Schicklgruber Burns shows off a walk-in closet containing only resplendent finery made from exotic animals while preparing to kill a litter of puppies to make a tuxedo. Your basic “Beauty and the Beast”-inspired musical number positing extreme sadism as the logical endpoint of capitalism. Word to the 1 percent of the 1 percent: “See my loafers, former gophers / It was that or skin my chauffeurs.” (From “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds,” which also features Santa’s Little Helper’s only sex scene.)
Dan Fierman: There is a time-honored rule in comedy: Three times is funny. More than three times is not funny. But if you keep doing the gag — you know seven, eight, nine times — well, it magically becomes funny again.
There is no single better example of this phenomenon in human history than the Sideshow Bob rake gag. Tremble in awe of comedy genius, straight from the heart of the golden era of the greatest show in television history.
“Meat and You: Partners in Freedom”
Andy Greenwald: For me, the best of The Simpsons simply had to involve Troy McClure. And since YouTube seems to have been scrubbed of all clips from The President’s Neck Is Missing (damn you, Fictional Studios!), the next best choice was this insane, insanely prescient faux-educational film about the natural splendor of feedlot-slaughtered beef. Whether you maintain your own burger blog or worship seitan, there’s plenty to laugh at here. Just know that there is no laugh bigger or more pure than what will erupt from your gullet when you see what happens to the hungry gorilla at 1:36.
Sarah Larimer: I was not allowed to watch The Simpsons when I was a kid, which, yes, was totally rough. But I caught up in college, and this snippet, from the episode “A Star Is Burns,” remains one of my favorite bits. (I’m gonna pass on judging the rest of the episode. Apparently Matt Groening did not love it.) Anyway, I can’t tell you how many times I have muttered “Boo-urns.” My friends and I have Boo-urns’d cavities. We have Boo-urns’d lower-than-expected grades. We have Boo-urns’d missed holiday parties. (Probably wrong there.) It’s funny in every situation, though! And I’m sure I’ll still be saying it years from now. Even when I’m as old as Hans Moleman.
Hell Labs: Ironic Punishment Division
Mark Lisanti: I could go obscure here and prove my bona fides. (Which I don’t really have — I’m terrible at the “Simpsons quote for every occasion” game.) But: a James Coco gag? That’s so staggeringly Carson-monologue-in-1978 brilliant it defies description. Try Googling “James Coco,” and the second auto-complete suggestion is “James Coco donuts.” This joke was so good Google’s going to cough it up forever.
Up Late with McBain
Rafe Bartholomew: An arbitrary but worthy choice. If I don’t stop now, I may spend the next week watching these.
Amos Barshad: I used to have a Simpsons soundtrack. I would blast “Dr. Zaius.” Such a jam. But also I was trying to find a more obscure clip, from when Bart sells his soul to Milhouse. I couldn’t find it online (someone upload pleeeeeassee?!!!), but here’s the quotes from the script:
Bart pounds his fist on Milhouse’s door.
Bart: Milhouse … Milhouse! You win. I want this nightmare to end!
[a space-suited figure answers the door]
Robot: Leave this place. You are in great danger.
Bart: [fearful] Where’s Milhouse?
Robot: The one you call Milhouse is gone.
[takes helmet off]
Man: He went to his grandma’s place while we’re spraying for potato bugs.
[camera pulls back to show house covered by a tent]
Bart: Oh. When Milhouse left, did you notice if he was carrying a piece of paper?
Man: Oh, yeah. You don’t forget a thing like that.
Tess Lynch: “Cape Feare” was one of my favorite Simpsons episodes: I was 10 and very interested in the Witness Relocation Program and the sinister notes of the ice cream truck, both of which are featured. The rake-stepping scene is great, too, but DIE BART, DIE stuck with me, and has apparently inspired at least one tattoo — though I think that, for this particular joke, Gothic calligraphy was an odd and funny-robbing choice. Also, Sideshow Bob has inspired some pretty good fan art. I wonder how Camille feels about Sideshow Bob?
Stupid, Sexy Flanders!
Mike Philbrick: I’ve always thought the best way to measure the quality of a Simpsons clip was by how often you can quote it combined with the number of situations in which it can be used — sort of an E=MC² for idiots. While I first considered Ralph’s iconic “Hi, Super Nintendo Chalmers!” I realized the only thing that would do in this space is make me look old, with most people asking “What is a Super Nintendo? Is that the new Wii or something?” This is why I had no choice but to go with Homer’s failed attempt at skiing. Well, failed because while trying to recall what his instructor told him to do he couldn’t get the image of über-neighbor Ned Flanders and his “fits like a glove” ski suit out of his head. Go ahead and use “stupid, sexy Flanders” next time you hear anyone get a compliment about their appearance. Also, whenever you are burdened with the gift of clothing, make sure to add “fits like a glove!” when you try it on. If anyone around you gets the reference, they should be your friend for life; if they don’t, they should be dead to you.
Land of Chocolate
Jonah Keri: As Grantland’s token baseball guy, I know it’s my duty to nominate “Homer at the Bat,” then pick one of the many, many, many outstanding moments from that episode, blending in some witty remark about Steve Sax and unsolved murders. But my favorite episode of all time is, was, and always will be “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk.” I challenge you to find an episode with more killer one-liners, goofier characters, and more preposterous cutaways than this Season 3 classic.
The seminal moment from the episode comes when Homer tries to explain to his new German bosses exactly what he does at the plant. This leads to an elaborate Homer digression about candy, followed by the Germans reassuring Homer that they get what he’s saying since they’re from the Land of Chocolate, followed by Homer daydreaming about what the Land of Chocolate might look like. In his mind’s eye, it’s a place where the streets are lined with candy, biting chocolate lampposts and chocolate Terriers is de rigueur, and magnificent sales abound where chocolate is sold at half-price. Whichever genius Simpsons writer concocted the look of the Land of Chocolate deserves 80 EGOTs.
Bonus points for the scene where the Germans contemplate Mr. Burns’ asking price for the nuclear plant, check their briefcase full of cash, then conclude they’ll still have enough leftover to buy the Cleveland Browns.
Jonathan Abrams: My mom was and is a shielder. I love her for her valiant efforts to protect me from the underbelly of life. One of our childhood tug-of-wars involved The Simpsons. I love/d them. She didn’t. She had been informed by President George H.W. Bush, as was the rest of America, that the show would deteriorate my brain into one of those fried eggs — the popular commercial message back in the late 1980s and 1990s. I’m not going to lie. “Homer at the Bat” is my favorite episode and will always be so. That episode was brilliant in every way possible. But the good thing about The Simpsons is that it’s hard to present one absolute favorite. I spent way too much time on this. I researched the Frank Grimes episodes, the episode on the Monorail, the Mr. Plow episode, and many more.
How I could I not choose Homer going up against H.W. in the end? He was my opposition and the man who became a hurdle to me being able to watch the show. I took comfort in knowing Homer also had to do battle against him. Homer, like myself, ultimately won the confrontation.
Jumping the Gorge
Michael Weinreb: I don’t want to step on the surprise in case you’ve somehow never seen this (in which case, why are you reading Grantland?), but I can pinpoint the very moment when The Simpsons elevated itself from a “great” television program to a “transcendent” television program, and it comes at the 46-second mark of this clip. This is empirical fact.