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"Behind the Laughter"
The Simpsons episode
Behind the Laughter.jpg
The Simpsons' popularity makes Bart's ego go through the roof.
Episode no. 248
Prod. code BABF19
Orig. airdate May 21, 2000[1]
Show runner(s) Mike Scully
Written by Tim Long, George Meyer, Mike Scully & Matt Selman
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Chalkboard "I will not obey the voices in my head".
Guest star(s) Willie Nelson as himself
Jim Forbes as the narrator
Mike Scully
George Meyer
Ian Maxtone-Graham
Matt Selman
Tim Long
Mark Kirkland

"Behind the Laughter" is the 22nd episode of The Simpsons' eleventh season that was originally broadcast in the United States on May 21, 2000. It is presented in a narrative format, with Jim Forbes as narrator. The episode portrays the Simpson family as actors playing themselves on a sitcom, and tells a fictional story of how The Simpsons began. This episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming less than One Hour).



This non-canon[2] episode is a parody of Behind the Music, the VH1 biography show, even sharing the same narrator, Jim Forbes. It begins with the Simpson family history and how they got into show business. The first part of the fake documentary follows the family from their weak beginnings to their exceptional prosperity. A television show, a recording contract, a lot of awards, and countless wealth follow Homer's inadequate video "pilot".

However, problems begin to arise as the Simpsons' fame continues. After a funny stunt causes him injury (the cliff plummet from "Bart the Daredevil", after a montage of Homer injury clips), Homer becomes addicted to prescription painkillers, Marge makes some senseless business investments, and Bart goes to rehab after attacking female flight attendants, being replaced on the show by Richie Rich. The IRS examines soon after and takes away their house (called "Homertime", since it belonged to rapper MC Hammer before he went bankrupt and was called "Hammertime", which Homer pounded the first m off of and the "A" into an "O" so that it read "HO MERTIME"). Then, the family gets into a big dispute and splits up at the Iowa State Fair.

Fox is forced to put the show on hiatus, since none of the Simpsons will talk to each other. The members go their independent ways: Homer follows a career in the legitimate theater; Bart replaces Lorenzo Lamas as the star of the syndicated action show Renegade; Marge makes a nightclub act performing Bob Marley's song I Shot the Sheriff; and Lisa writes a tell-all book about her experiences and how Homer would slip anti-growth hormones into her cereal, entitled "Where Are My Residuals?". Bringing the family back together seems hopeless until country singer Willie Nelson puts on a phony awards show in order to reconcile the family. They hug and forget past wrongs in a sensitive reunion. Again, they look with hope to the many years of episodes of the Simpsons to come...or not.

The episode ends with an epilogue, in which the narrator states, "...the future looks brighter than ever for this northern Kentucky family." Following the epilogue, we see the Simpson family in a video editing room, viewing a scene from an upcoming episode, which Homer claims will be in the last season. The scene shows the family talking about winning a trip to Delaware, and was later used as an actual scene in the episode, "Simpsons Tall Tales". The final scene shows a mock teaser for an "upcoming episode" of Behind the Laughter about Huckleberry Hound, in which he reveals that he is gay.

"Northern Kentucky"

The episode does not resolve the question of Springfield's unknown and unidentifiable location. Although the original airing of the episode states that the Simpsons live in northern Kentucky,[2][3] narrator Jim Forbes did multiple takes (available in the season's boxed set) using various locations for this episode, which were to be used regionally for syndicated reruns,[4] and in at least one network rerun, the state was changed to southern Missouri. The original Kentucky line is also used in the DVD set, although the southern Missouri line can be heard during the DVD commentary and is in the closed captions.

Cultural references

  • For their show at the Iowa State Fair, the Simpsons wear costumes that are very similar to the Partridge Family's performing outfits.
  • The cover of the Krustophenia record is a parody of The Who's Quadrophenia.
  • The Simpsons are featured on several magazines, including TV Guide, Rolling Stone, Coin Laundry News, and Short Hair Ideas.
  • Like his alleged dove-and-bat-biting incidents, Ozzy Osbourne bites the top off of a Grammy and the trophy starts spurting blood.
  • During the montage of guest stars who have appeared during The Simpsons, Gary Coleman was listed as a British knight.
  • Another motive of the phony awards show was to reunite Sammy Hagar with Van Halen, who are shown in the crowd scoffing at each other, following Hagar's departure from the band in 1996. They would reunite (although not permanently) in 2004.
  • The black-and-white scene in which a plastic bag floats into the air is a reference to a similar scene in American Beauty.
  • Lisa mentions that "Mr. Geffen" produced the Simpsons Boogie record. Geffen Records released two albums of original music featuring the show's characters, The Simpsons Sing the Blues and The Yellow Album.
  • The bass line to "Simpsons Christmas Boogie" is based on that of the 1970s disco song Boogie Oogie Oogie by A Taste of Honey.
  • New Jersey bands The Ergs and Kohuff have titled songs after references to this episode "Most Violent Rap Group" and "Woodpeckers of Mistrust" respectively. Most Violent Rap Group is the award the Simpsons were called out to present at the phony ceremony. Woodpeckers of Mistrust comes from a hilarious series of nonsensical metaphors spouted out by the narrator about Willie Nelson's plan to make the Simpsons reconcile. "Would Willie's fencemending eggs bear fruit? Or would his olive branch be torn apart by woodpeckers of mistrust? That night fate wore a cummerbund...of suspense"
  • When the Simpson's mansion is taken away, Homer cries that his pot-bellied pig is still inside. This is a reference to George Clooney's pet Max.

Celebrity references

  • Meryl Streep - She is seen spitting at The Simpsons' family photograph at the Academy Awards.
  • MC Hammer - The Simpsons buy his house "Hammertime" (renamed "Homertime" by Homer) to live as a house outside the show. Bart also says he found a room filled with MC's Hammer Pants which he (Bart) wore to school every day that year.
  • Ozzy Osbourne - He is seen as the presenter of the Grammy Awards in which he gets angry at the Simpsons for winning the "Best Hardcore Thrash Metal Act" Grammy then bites the head off one, just like he did with a bat in a live concert. This was a parody of the 1989 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental going to Jethro Tull, rather than the expected winners, thrash metal band Metallica.
  • Sir Gary Coleman - He is seen as one of the guest stars the Simpsons had to bring to their show to make it popular. Coleman was given the honorary prefix "Sir", however Coleman has never received a British honour.
  • Stephen Hawking - He is seen as one of the guest stars the Simpsons had to bring to their show to make it popular.
  • Tom Kite - He is seen as one of the guest stars the Simpsons had to bring to their show to make it popular.
  • Butch Patrick - He is seen as one of the guest stars the Simpsons had to bring to their show to make it popular.
  • Willie Nelson - Julius Hibbert asks him to bring the Simpsons by making a fake awards show, which he does.
  • Woody Allen - When Willie Nelson admits the "Awareness Awards" are a fake, Woody is shown in the audience and says "I knew it was to good to be true!" then drops several trophies to the floor and steps on them.
  • Van Halen - Willie Nelson admits that other reason to host the phony "Awareness Awards" was to bring Sammy Hagar back together with Van Halen.
  • Bob Marley - Marge forms a night club act which features singing Marley's song I Shot The Sheriff.
  • Lorenzo Lamas - Bart replaces him as the main character in the show Renegade.
  • Jimmy Carter - He has a break-dancing and banjo playing act which is the opening act for the Simpson's disastrous concert in Iowa. The rap went "Got a brother named Billy and my teeth look silly. break it down now" followed by a head spin and other difficult break dance moves.
  • Queen Elizabeth II - The Queen is seen eating a TV dinner while watching The Simpsons.
  • Gloria Allred - Is featured at the family's lawyer-ridden Thanksgiving, being described as a "Shrill feminist attorney".
  • Falco - Before the Simpsons enter the "Awareness Awards", Willie Nelson congratulates musician Taco for his great tribute to Falco.
  • Taco - Taco plays an interpretation of Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" before the "Awareness Awards".
  • La Toya Jackson - Lisa writes a tell-all book exposing the Simpson family which parodies what La Toya did to the Jacksons in her infamous book La Toya: Growing up in the Jackson Family.
  • Roger Daltrey - He is one of the musicians who criticizes the "Simpsons Christmas Boogie" album.


The episode was ranked as the fourth best The Simpsons episode by[5]


External links



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