If cartoons were meant for adults, they’d put them on in prime time

I think my favorite TV comedy of all time has to be The Simpsons. I judge the effectiveness of any piece of art by how deeply it affects my life, and The Simpsons has affected my life to the extent that I find an extreme emotional pleasure in quoting it at every available opportunity. This practice can draw confused stares from non-Simpsons fans, but it can also elicit appreciative chuckles from fellow Simpsonians. These are just a few ways I work The Simpsons into everyday conversation:

Note: The information that follows is not meticulously researched. It is from my imperfect memory, so actual quotes may differ from what you see here. Furthermore, please be aware that this post was almost certainly more fun to write than it is to read, and I won’t be offended if everyone skips it altogether. Also, I got the idea for this post from an article in The Onion.

The setup: Lisa meets a boy her age whose interests and intellect are a direct parallel to hers. He introduces himself as Thelonious. Awe-inspired, she asks, “As in Monk?” He responds…
The line: “The esoteric value is worth the beatings.”
When I use is: This one’s hard to pin down. I just use it whenever someone admires something I have, and that something is more fartsy than artsy.

The setup: Homer is on the grounds of Mr. Burns’ mansion, threatening him. Mr. Burns tells him to leave immediately. Homer responds…
The line: “Or what? You’ll let out the dogs? Or the bees? Or the dogs that have bees in their mouths so when they bark they shoot bees at you?”
When I use it: Whenever someone gives me some sort of cease-and-desist imperative.

The setup: Mr. Burns has hired some old-school strike breakers to end the labor walk-out at his power plant. The guys he hires are the ones who used to break up strikes before labor laws were passed and enforced, so they’re all really old. Grampa Simpson, one of the strikebreakers, explains that one of the techniques they use is to tell stories that go nowhere. For instance, the time he went over to Shelbyville in aught-six. It was during the war, and…
The line: “…I was wearing an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time…”
When I use it: I like to explain complex ideas with metaphors that approach a given topic from a completely different direction than the discussion at hand but reach a conclusion that satisfies the original problem and illustrates the process of…um…sometimes I go so far afield that I forget the point I was trying to make. Also useful in this situation is a dialog between Homer and Bart, when Bart wants something his parents won’t give him:
Homer: Son, when I was your age, I wanted a dog worse than anything in the world, but my parents wouldn’t give it to me. So I held my breath until I passed out and hit my head on the coffee table. The doctors said there might be brain damage.
Bart: What’s the point of this story?
Homer: I like stories.

The setup: Bart perpetrates an elaborate hoax on his teacher, making her believe she has a pen pal who is a handsome fighter pilot that has fallen in love with her. Through the letters they exchange, Bart sets up a date for her and her “boyfriend.” She shows up at the appointed time and place only to wait two hours for the dream man who never arrives. She drops her head and sobs into a dying candle as Bart watches from afar and says, “Aw, she’s heartbroken….
The line: “I can’t help but feel partly responsible.”
When I use it: Any time I do something ridiculously stupid that I can’t even tangentially blame on someone else.

The setup: Comic Book Guy wins a Batman-style utility belt at a Star Trek convention, then tries to return it to a novelty shop because it is a medium size and will not fit around him. He berates the proprietor in his trademark fashion, but the shop owner is unimpressed, saying…
The line: “Ooh, a fat sarcastic Star Trek fan. You must be a devil with the ladies.”
When I use it: I use this only when either MCF or Jerry ticks me off with a snide quip.

The setup: This line is actually a combination of two unrelated lines. I can’t remember in which episode the first line occurred; I just know Homer says it, I think to Bart. The second line came from an episode in which Homer brags to Lenny and Karl about how smart Lisa is, telling them that some sort of scientific institution hooked a computer up to her brain to make the computer smarter, but she was so smart the computer exploded. Lenny asks him if that’s really true, and Homer says yes, yes it is…
The line(s): “Your ideas are intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. On a completely unrelated matter, I have to go.”
When I use it: When someone I like blathers on about something so trivial and unimportant that it tests the limits of my considerable tolerance.

The setup: Homer and Moe try to go bowling one night only to find that the entire alley is occupied by a bowling league. They sit at a table and complain, when Moe speaks a beautiful and farcical bit of self-pity…
The line: “They’re treatin’ me like dirt. Well, I’m better than dirt! Except for that fancy store-bought dirt. It’s full of nutrients. I…I can’t compete with that stuff.”
When I use it: When I feel the need for a bit of beautiful and farcical self-pity.

The setup: Homer gets a job taking cannon shots to the gut in some sort of Lollapalooza-type traveling music show. When he appears on stage, a teenager in the audience deadpans, “Here comes that guy who gets shot with a cannon. He’s cool.” When his friend asks him if he’s being sarcastic, he sighs and says…
The line: “I don’t even know anymore.”
When I use it: My sense of humor tends to be pretty dry—so dry that people often don’t know when I’m joking. Every once in a while someone will question whether I’m being serious.

The setup: Bart is developing emotional problems due to difficulties in school and draws a picture of a monster called Satan Clause. Marge asks Homer to look at it, but Homer is watching TV, so he simply raves about the picture’s beauty and insists they should hang it on the fridge. Marge forces him to actually look at the drawing, and when he does…
The line: “Eek! Send it to hell! Send it straight to hell!!”
When I use it: This line, and my delivery of it, never fails to make my wife laugh hysterically. Therefore, I say it any time I see any piece of mildly disturbing art.

The setup: Bart is in some sort of academic competition at school. His project finds favor with the judges, and Principal Skinner gives him the big award, but repeats his words as he hands Bart the trophy. Bart wakes from what turns out to be a dream, only to find Lisa bending over him and saying…
The line: “First prize! First prize! First prize!”
When I use it: The brilliance of this line is that Lisa says it for the sole purpose of messing with Bart’s dreams. I sometimes use it when I wake up Mrs. Happy.

There are other lines that occur to me when the moment is right, but I’ve already gone on too long. I’ll just end with a few that I love but hardly ever get to use:

  • “You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society.”
  • “Can’t we have at least one meeting that doesn’t end with someone digging up a corpse?”
  • “Beer—the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
  • “I’ll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missour-a!”

8 thoughts on “If cartoons were meant for adults, they’d put them on in prime time

  1. Aught-6 must be a Yankee thing. My grandmother would have said naught-6, probably without the hyphen.

  2. Also useful:

    ‘There’s no justice like mob justice.’
    ‘You’ve graffito-tagged public property!’
    ‘It’s apt. Apt!’
    ‘Nourish my inner-child. Nourish!’ (You must shake your fist, threateningly.)
    ‘There’s a doin’s transpirin’!’

  3. Well, crying isn’t gonna bring your dog back . . . unless your tears smell like dog food. So you can either sit there crying and eating can after can of dog food until your tears smell enough like dog food to make your dog come back or you can go out there and find your dog.

    - Homer J. Simpson

  4. What the–?! I am neither fat nor a Star Trek fan! Look at you standing there on your hind legs, like a little Rory Calhoun. Hello? Hello? You have my pills! I’m cold and there are wolves after me…

  5. I can’t say that I’m a huge Simpsons fan. But one line has stayed with me for many years (why I don’t know). It was when Bill Cosby’s show was going off the air:

    Bart: Why did they take The Cosby Show off the air?

    Homer: Well son, they wanted to go out on top before the quality of their show suffered and they faced the inevitable ratings decline.

    Bart: Hmmm. If I had my own show I’d run it into the ground.

    For some reason I’ve always thought that was funny.

  6. “I don’t even know anymore.” I have *got* to use that! It will awe and amaze the missus!

    Also, Steve: That’s a great one!

  7. Ralphie, what IS your fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery? (I use with with our daughter all the time, when she is overwhelmed with curiousity about something she can’t have :)