Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How Funny are Bit Characters on The Simpsons?

Skip to the middle of the article if you don't want to read my writing and want to watch funny Simpsons clips. I won't be mad.


I'm a middle school teacher in the Bronx and I had a particularly rough lesson the other day. I won't get into details because that happens from time to time and I don't like to dwell on the negative. In last week's Sports Illustrated feature about baseball star Bryce Harper, Tom Verducci writes, "He studies himself on video--but never his outs...Outs are negative reinforcement." Of course I learn from my mistakes, but some days just need to be forgotten.
Anyways, as the students happily left after about an hour of tormenting me, I sarcastically thought to myself, "I'm just glad I could be part of their fun." Now, where had I heard that before? It took me a little while to figure it out, but then it came back to me: Hans Moleman!*

*To recap: My desire to forget my horribly-behaving students led me to recall a Sports Illustrated article and a supporting character on The Simpsons. Ah, how the mind wanders...

For those of you who don't know Hans Moleman, first of all, you either lack a sense of humor or simply missed out on countless laughs in the past 20 years. Second of all, here's what Wikipedia says:
Hans Moleman is a recurring character in the animated television series The Simpsons...He normally appears in a running gag, where he usually suffers unfortunate, seemingly fatal events.

Thinking of Moleman cheered me up immediately and got me thinking about other bit characters on The Simpsons. Homer and the other members of the family are absolutely hysterical, but there's no way the show would have lasted as long as it has without the seemingly endless list of stereotypical, kooky, satirical, and/or otherwise ridiculous characters. Snake the Criminal, Duffman, Principal Skinner, Krusty the Klown, and the list goes on.

I know there are are probably tons of Websites devoted entirely to The Simspsons, so I would never embark on any type of Top 10 list for fear of missing tons of great material. Still, I was able to compile 10 hilarious moments involving the show's bit players. I embedded videos of the moments along with my commentary. Hope you enjoy this as much as I did putting it together!

Dr. Nick
"Hi, Dr. Nick!"
The quack doctor, a classic character. In this episode, Homer is trying to put on a bunch of weight to get off work on a disability. I'm sorry about the poor quality of some of these videos but this one is terrific. My friends always used to joke that I never neglected my whipped group or my congealed group. I would add, though, that Dr. Nick messed up a little here: he forgot about the liquid cheese group, a staple of my diet.
It's just too bad that they killed Dr. Nick off in The Simpsons Movie. Speaking of the movie, here's one of the best parts, featuring another of our favorite second-string characters.

Fat Tony


Ah, tasteful racism. Nobody does it better than Matt Groening and Co. Think about all the stereotypical characters: Bumblebee Man, Groundskeeper Willy, Johnny Tightlips, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Speaking of which...

Apu

This one's from a more recent episode, I think, but it's got two of the most consistent bit characters, Apu and Mr. Burns. The Simpsons has always shown that people can handle a little racism if it's funny and not too one-sided. If you make fun of everyone, it cancels out.

Groundskeeper Willie


Another classic Simpsons stereotype: the hard-to-understand, uneducated, angry Scotsman. Might as well have Willie go hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. Oh, wait, they did that, too (Season 10, Episode 21).
And it's not just racial sterotypes, either...

Moe Szyslak


Ah, Moe, the down-on-his-luck bartender of the failing local tavern. This one's from the episode where the locals vote on a proposition to ban immigrants to Springfield. It was actually a pretty good look at bandwagon behavior. Oh, and it had Moe's classic line.

Rainier Wolfcastle


Technically, this scene is Wolcastle playing the character McBain. This one holds a special place in my heart because I went to Notre Dame and the business school was called the Mendoza College of Business. Whenever any of my friends had a class there, we'd scream "Mendoza!" at the top of our lungs before heading out.*
*Like I said, watch the videos but feel free to skip my commentary.

Jasper Beardley


This one comes from the episode when the Springfield Elementary teachers strike and they're forced to fill in with some underqualified teachers. You gotta admire Jasper here. Straight old school. To the students I mentioned in the beginning of the article: "Making me feel like Moleman...That's a paddlin."

Ralph Wiggum

This one's not just a single moment because Ralph had so many priceless ones. All I know is that if they can make The Cleveland Show as a spin-off of Family Guy, then there can be a Ralph Wiggum Show.

Don Mattingly

Mattingly wasn't a recurring character, but I had to include him. He was my favorite baseball player growing up and is still No. 2 on that list behind only Derek Sanderson Jeter. Besides, this was one of the best episodes ever, with all the baseball players dropping like flies so Homer could get back in the game.

And last but not least, the character that started this long-winded post...

Hans Moleman


Is this scene offensive? A little bit. But here's the thing: that's exactly what kids would say to each other. Of course Moleman was a little hurt. But hey, I'm sure he was just glad to be part of their fun.

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