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The Simpsons character
Barney Gumble.png
Barney Gumble
Gender Male
Job None
Relatives Father: Arnie Gumble
Mother: Unnamed
(apparently deceased)
Uncle: Al
Voice actor Dan Castellaneta
First appearance
The Simpsons "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"

Barnard "Barney" Gumble[1] is a fictional character on the American animated sitcom The Simpsons. The character is voiced by Dan Castellaneta and first appeared in the series premiere episode "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire". He is the town drunk and Homer Simpson's best friend. His capacity for alcohol is a frequent butt of jokes on the show. Barney sobered up in the episode "Days of Wine and D'oh'ses", which was co-written by Castellaneta, and stayed sober for several episodes. Barney was inspired by the cartoon character Barney Rubble from the The Flintstones and by several barflies from other television programs. In 2004, Castellaneta won an Emmy Award for voicing various characters, including Barney.


Role in The Simpsons

Barney's father Arnie Gumble was a World War II veteran who died in 1979 in a parade float accident.[2] Little is known about his mother, except that she is from Norway.[3] Barney himself was born on April 20 of an indeterminate year. As a teenager, Barney was considered to have potential. He had his mind set on going to Harvard University until his best friend Homer Simpson introduced him to beer the day before they were to take the SATs.[4] Barney took to drinking when his high school love interest Chloe Talbot left Springfield to pursue a journalism career.[5]

In "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", Barney formed a barbershop quartet with Homer, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, and Seymour Skinner called the Be Sharps. Barney was asked to join when the other members heard him singing in a beautiful tenor voice in the restroom of Moe's Tavern, replacing the group's original fourth member Clancy Wiggum, who was kicked out. Homer wrote a song inspired by the "Baby on Board" signs. The song, "Baby on Board", appeared on the group's first album, Meet the Be Sharps, and became a hit. In 1986, the Be Sharps won a Grammy Award for Outstanding Soul, Spoken Word, or Barbershop Album of the Year. Soon, creative disputes arose, and Barney left the group in all but name when he began dating a Japanese conceptual artist. The group realized that they were no longer popular and split up.[6]

Barney started a snowplowing business rivaling Homer's in "Mr. Plow". Barney's commercial defamed Homer, causing Homer to lose his customers. As revenge, Homer fooled Barney into plowing a driveway on Widow's Peak, a treacherous mountain outside of Springfield. When Homer saw a news report showing that Barney had been trapped in an avalanche, Homer immediately drove to the mountain and rescued Barney. The friends resolved their differences and agreed to work together. However, a heat wave hit Springfield, driving them both out of business.[4]

A gag in "Selma's Choice" suggests that Barney is the father of many local babies born through (presumably, paid) donation of semen and the resulting artificial insemination.

Barney made a documentary film about his life as an alcoholic, titled Pukahontas. It won the top prize at the Springfield Film Festival.[7] In "Deep Space Homer", Barney trained to become an astronaut for NASA. Under their alcohol-ban, he quickly developed superior skills and was selected to fly with Buzz Aldrin. However, he reverted to his old ways when he was presented with a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne.[8] Barney served in the United States Navy Reserve as a submariner on the USS Jebediah, alongside his mother, in "Simpson Tide".[9]

In "Days of Wine and D'oh'ses", after watching a video of his drunken antics at his birthday party, Barney resolves to get sober. He attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, cleans up his appearance, and attends helicopter-flying lessons.[10]



Barney was inspired by Barney Rubble, Fred Flintstone's best friend and next-door neighbor from the animated series The Flintstones.[11] The writers originally wanted the character to be Homer Simpson's sidekick and next-door neighbor, but instead, they decided to make him a drunkard.[11] "Barney was taking the standard sitcom sidekick and just making him as pathetic as possible," said Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons.[12] The writers drew further inspiration from Crazy Guggenheim, a character played by comedian Frank Fontaine on The Jackie Gleason Show.[12] Part of the reason the writers went in that direction, according to Groening, was because of "a sort of unspoken rule about not having drinking on television as a source of comedy. So, of course, we went right for it."[12] The writers also patterned the character after Norm Peterson (George Wendt), a character from the sitcom Cheers.[13]

In some early first season episodes, Barney had yellow hair. Later in the production of that season, the producers had it changed to brown, because they thought that his hair looked like his skin;[14] as well, during an artistic convention of the show, Groening stated that he wanted only the Simpsons to have yellow hair.[11] Animation director Rich Moore modeled Barney's apartment on one he and several other animators who worked on the show shared, particularly the Farrah Fawcett poster and the cable spool table.[15] The writers originally intended for the character to be the owner of Barney's Bowl-A-Rama.[16] However, after making him "pathetic", they could not regard him as a business owner any longer, and it was explained seasons later in "And Maggie Makes Three" that his Uncle Al owns the alley and named it after him.[16][17]


Barney Gumble is voiced by Dan Castellaneta.[18] Early on the show, Castellaneta discovered that it was not easy for him to do Barney's trademark belch every time a script called for it, so he identified his best belch and told the producers to make that the standard.[19] Castellaneta has voiced Barney every time he has appeared in the series, with the exception of the episode "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", in which some of Barney's singing is provided by a member of The Dapper Dans, who recorded lines for all four members of the Be Sharps.[20] Their recordings were intermixed with the cast's, often with a cast member singing the melody and the Dapper Dans providing back up.[20]

Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Barney.


Dan Castellaneta thought of the idea of Barney sobering up early in the series. He wrote a script together with his wife Deb Lacusta. They offered their script to show runner Al Jean. Jean liked the story, but felt that it was too similar to a script the writers were already working on, "Duffless", so he turned it down. Castellaneta and Lacusta waited several years and offered their script, which they updated, to then-show runner Mike Scully, who liked it and had them make a few changes.[21] Their script became the eleventh season episode "Days of Wine and D'oh'ses", which first aired April 9, 2000.[22] The episode was directed by Neil Affleck, who said that he had "a vested interest in getting Barney sober."[21] However, some of the writing staff was opposed to the episode as they felt Barney sober would not be funny.[12] Castellaneta commented, "He's still a goofy man-child…he's still got 15 years of booze left in his veins."[12]

After a long discussion about how the episode should end, the writers decided that they did not want Barney to return to being drunk at the end of the episode. They felt that that would be sad. Barney stayed sober for several seasons. It was revealed in the fourteenth season episode "I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can" that he had relapsed. The animators modified the appearance of the character, straightening his hair, among other things, to indicate his sobriety. Castellaneta altered his voice for the character by no longer slurring.[21] Barney was still seen at Moe's Tavern, but only drinking lattes.[23] The character's new addiction to coffee was suggested by writer-producer David Mirkin, who has friends who stopped drinking alcohol and became addicted to coffee.[21]

Reception ranked Barney 18th on their 2008 list of "The 21 Best Movie Alcoholics of All Time". Recognizing the character for his appearance in The Simpsons Movie, Filmcritic called him "the most awesomely funny town drunk in pop culture".[24] IGN ranked Barney fifth on their list of the "Top 25 Simpsons Peripheral Characters" in 2006, stating that, "he's been a dependable source of humor through his many drunken asides, burps included…Occasionally he's sobered up…But let's face it, for comedy's sake, The Simpsons is better off with a drunken Barney mouthing off at Moe's."[25] Author Chris Turner (Planet Simpson) said, "Making [Barney] sober falls into the trap of all the stuff The Simpsons satirizes, all those simple sitcom narratives where everything is wrapped up in half an hour and everyone learns a lesson in the end."[26] A Daily Texan Online columnist called Barney's ascent into sobriety one of the "hallmarks" of the show's decline in quality.[27] Britain's The Guardian said that Barney "should be hailed for making compulsive drinking a source of comedy on US TV, a hitherto impossible dream."[28] Entertainment Weekly placed "Mr. Plow" sixth on their list of the best 25 Simpsons episodes in 2003.[29]

In 2004, Dan Castellaneta won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for voicing several characters, including Barney, in the episode "Today I Am a Clown".[30] "Days of Wine and D'oh'ses" was nominated for a PRISM Award in 2001.[31]


Playmates Toys created three Barney Gumble action figures as part of the World of Springfield toy line.[32] The first one, released in August 2000, depicts Barney in his usual appearance. The second, Barney in his Plow King jacket from "Mr. Plow", was released in January 2003.[33] The third, a Toys "R" Us retail exclusive, was released in July 2003 as part of a Be Sharps play set.[34] The song "A Boozehound named Barney" from the episode "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious" was included on the Go Simpsonic with The Simpsons album.[35] Barney plays a role in The Simpsons Ride, launched in 2008 at Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood.[36]


  1. ^ "A Star Is Burns". Keeler, Ken; Dietter, Susie. The Simpsons. Fox. 1995-03-05.
  2. ^ "Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The Curse of the Flying Hellfish'". Collier, Jonathan; Lynch, Jeffrey. The Simpsons. Fox. 1996-04-28.
  3. ^ "Lisa the Greek". Kogen, Jay; Wolodarsky, Wallace. The Simpsons. Fox. 1992-01-23.
  4. ^ a b "Mr. Plow". Vitti, Jon; Reardon, Jim. The Simpsons. Fox. 1992-11-19.
  5. ^ "She Used to Be My Girl". Long, Tim; Nastuk, Matthew. The Simpsons. Fox. 2004-12-05.
  6. ^ "Homer's Barbershop Quartet". Martin, Jeff; Kirkland, Mark. The Simpsons. Fox. 1993-09-30.
  7. ^ "A Star Is Burns". Keeler, Ken; Dietter, Susie. The Simpsons. Fox. 1995-03-05.
  8. ^ "Deep Space Homer". Mirkin, David; Baeza, Carlos. The Simpsons. Fox. 1994-02-12.
  9. ^ "Simpson Tide". Sternin, Joshua and Jeffrey Ventimilia; Gray, Milton. The Simpsons. Fox. 1998-03-29.
  10. ^ "Days of Wine and D'oh'ses". Lacusta, Deb and Dan Castellaneta; Affleck, Neil. The Simpsons. Fox. 2000-04-09.
  11. ^ a b c Groening, Matt (2001). Commentary for "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", in The Simpsons: The Complete First Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  12. ^ a b c d e Rhodes, Joe (2000-10-21). "Flash! 24 Simpsons Stars Reveal Themselves". TV Guide. 
  13. ^ Castellaneta, Dan; Groening, Matt; Jean, Al; Moore, Rich; Reiss, Mike; Silverman, David (2003). Commentary for "Flaming Moe's", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  14. ^ Jean, Al (2001). Commentary for "Some Enchanted Evening", in The Simpsons: The Complete First Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  15. ^ Moore, Rich (2001). Commentary for "Homer's Night Out", in The Simpsons: The Complete First Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  16. ^ a b Groening, Matt; Jean, Al; Silverman, David (2001). Commentary for "Life on the Fast Lane", in The Simpsons: The Complete First Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  17. ^ Groening, Matt; Silverman, David (2005). Commentary for "And Maggie Makes Three", in The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  18. ^ Richmond, Ray; Antonia Coffman (1997). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. Harper Collins Publishers. p. 178. ISBN 0-06-095252-0. 
  19. ^ Jean, Al (2002). Commentary for "Blood Feud", in The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  20. ^ a b Martin, Jeff; Reiss, Mike (2004). Commentary for "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season DVD. 20th Century Fox.
  21. ^ a b c d Affleck, Neil; Castellaneta, Dan; Lacusta, Deb; Maxtone-Graham, Ian; Meyer, George; Scully, Mike (2008). Commentary for "Days of Wine and D'oh'ses", in The Simpsons: The Complete Eleventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  22. ^ McCann, Jesse L. (2002). The Simpsons Beyond Forever! A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family...Still Continued. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-050592-3. 
  23. ^ Loerzel, Robert. "D'oh! Now He's Van Gogh". Retrieved 2008-12-17. 
  24. ^ Antani, Jay; Brenner, Jules; Brenner, Paul; Cabin, Chris; Croatto, Pete; French, Blake; Meyerson, Eric; Null, Christopher, and Don Willmott (2008). "The 21 Best Movie Alcoholics of All Time". Retrieved 2008-12-29. 
  25. ^ Goldman, Eric; Iverson, Dan and Brian Zoromski (2006-10-06). "Top 25 Simpsons Peripheral Characters". IGN. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  26. ^ Ortved, John (2009). The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History. New York: Faber and Faber. p. 176. ISBN 9780865479883. 
  27. ^ Kumar, Abhinav (2006-09-13). "The decline of Simpsons, civilization". The Daily Texan. Retrieved 2009-11-06. 
  28. ^ Horgan, Sharon; Dennis Kelly (2008-03-22). "Under the influence". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-11-06. 
  29. ^ "The Family Dynamic". Entertainment Weekly. 2003-01-29.,,417748~3~0~25bestand1,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  30. ^ Schneider, Michael (2004-08-10). "Emmy speaks for Homer". Variety. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  31. ^ "Winners & Nominees". PRISM Awards. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  32. ^ "Series 2". The Simpsons Action Figure Information Station. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  33. ^ "Series 11". The Simpsons Action Figure Information Station. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  34. ^ "Toysrus exclusives". The Simpsons Action Figure Information Station. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  35. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Go Simpsonic with the Simpsons". Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  36. ^ MacDonald, Brady (2008-04-09). "Simpsons ride features 29 characters, original voices". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-11-06. 

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