It’s one of the the longest-running television shows of all time – but what do people remember about it? The cast of the post-apocalyptic madcap theatre show based on The Simpsons weighs in.
Look, I know what you’re thinking. Theatre is boring, and nobody should go to it, unless there are cats or British kings rapping. As a playwright and maker of theatre, I agree. But when something is cool, I think it’s worthy of notice.
A show based on The Simpsons sounds either terrible or like an act of mad, not entirely unhinged genius. Luckily for Silo Theatre, theatregoers, and fans of The Simpsons who might want to go see a theatre show, Mr Burns is the latter.
Written by American playwright and genuine idol of mine Anne Washburn, the show takes place in the aftermath of an untold apocalyptic event. A group of young strangers huddle around a makeshift campfire, attempting to take their minds off this new unthinkable reality by piecing together an episode of The Simpsons, one of the only memories they share.
If this was to take place in New Zealand, the show would be called Mr. Warner, and the moment everybody would be recreating would be Lionel falling into the ocean, Joey strangling a woman, or Rachel McKenna hitting someone fatally with her car and never really facing any consequences for it other than a brief relapse into alcoholism.
But I digress.
The Simpsons is an iconic show for some, and less so for others. If you grew up in the mid-nineties in this country, you saw it on primetime television pretty much constantly. Whether it was at 6, 6:30 or 7, it was a mainstay. Even repeats were played constantly, in primetime, because the nineties were a dark time for media in this country. I went to film school with people who talked entirely in quotes from The Simpsons, I can’t look at a rake without making an involuntary Sideshow Bob noise, and even today many of the worst and least funny meme accounts known to man are based on this show.
I asked the cast of Mr Burns to give me their favourite moments from The Simpsons – and for my own completionism, added in an essential one at the end.
I have to be honest. The first time I watched a Simpsons episode in its entirety was when I was researching for Mr Burns. I was never home when The Simpsons was on television – I think I was always at some form of dance class. Dad watched it most nights so I vaguely remember it being on in the background while I did homework.
The only Simpsons reference I remember vividly is The Bartman song. My brother had a tape of it – one of those ones where the same song is on it five times, just slightly different versions. He used to put it on and we’d dance around the lounge to it. He knew all the words in the rap and I’d just try to keep up. So that song holds a lot of nostalgia for me and it takes me right back to the house we grew up in.
By far my favourite Simpsons episode has to be ‘The Mysterious Vogage of Our Homer’. It’s the episode where Homer eats several hot chilli peppers and hallucinates, causing him to go on a mysterious voyage where he encounters a talking coyote, questions his relationship with Marge and tries to find his real soulmate. It’s extremely wacky and goes to some quite dark places. To me it felt like it broke from the form of a typical Simpsons episode.
Oliver Driver (director)
It’s that one where the cheesy sales guy rolls in to town and does a song and dance number that convinces everyone to build a solar powered monorail in Springfield with Homer as the conductor. It obviously falls apart and Homer stops it by making an anchor and catching it on that giant kid holding a doughnut and then Leonard Nimoy appears and says his work is done and teleports away and then the episode finishes with Marge saying that was the stupidest thing Springfield ever built apart from a sky-scraper made of popsicle sticks and an escalator to nowhere and the last thing you see is all these people falling off the top of this giant escalator and going waaah!
Oddly enough, as the only American in the show, I’m not an avid fan of The Simpsons. Ha! I’ve seen an episode here or there, in passing. But I’ve never actually sat and watched an episode from start to finish. However, I know many of the characters names and their tropes. That shows you just how iconic and memorable they are. You only need to meet them once and they’re in your brain forever. Hence, act 3 of the play…
I really like the Michael Jackson episode, ‘Stark Raving Dad’. Homer ends up in a psychiatric institution (he wears a pink shirt to work so everyone thinks he’s crazy, because this was the nineties) and shares a room with a guy who calls himself MJ. Homer brings him home after they’re released and Bart tells everyone in town that Michael Jackson is coming to stay. The whole town is at the Simpson house to see him and Bart is really excited but then it turns out that it’s not Michael Jackson, it’s actually a big, bald, white dude.
That’s the episode where they sing ‘Happy Birthday Lisa’ which is super cute, and Lisa has that poem, “I had a cat named Snowball, she died, she died. Mom said that she was sleeping, she lied, she lied!”, which always used to crack me up. It’s cool Michael Jackson was in an episode but didn’t actually play himself. If you were a kid in the early 90s, Michael Jackson and The Simpsons were two of the best things in the entire world so yeah, I like that one.
My brother and I grew up watching The Simpsons. Every now and then bits will randomly pop into my head (I am surprised how much I remember). Notable mentions go to the musical re-imaginings of A Streetcar Named Desire and Planet of the Apes. Instead, here are a few of my favourite quotes:
“Duff Man never dies…only the actors who play him.”
“Hi Super Nintendo Chalmers!”
“You don’t win friends with salad!”
I don’t think I can remember an entire episode of The Simpsons. I remember watching the show at after school care at Karori West Normal School (I wasn’t allowed to watch The Simpsons or South Park at home.) I love the part of the Halloween Special where Snake the Jailbird’s hair survives after he is executed and Homer has an operation where this hair is stuck onto his head, and then the spirit of Snake the Jailbird comes alive in Homer and kills Mo and the other witnesses who saw him being arrested. It’s a violent episode but it’s funny.
I love the characters and I love hearing the voices working, like Hank Azaria and the people who play all the different characters. The characters that they voice are to me, the real expertise of The Simpsons. Homer, Bart and my very favourite character, believe it or not: Barney, the drunk who belches every time he speaks. There are always so many great moments in The Simpsons, but it’s actually the performances that really get me.
Sam Brooks (me)
The entirety of ‘Cape Fear’ is one of the finest episodes of American comedy to exist, says the most boring person you went to university with, whom you avoided at parties because he’d show up with one large bottle of beer, slowly drink it and then proceed to move on to whatever alcohol the student flat had carefully rationed out for the night. You hate that guy, and you unfriended him on Facebook three months after graduating, knowing that he would be a student for the rest of his life, and thankfully his terribleness would be contained by that educational institution. I am not that person.
I’m the guy who thinks Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes is just really, really funny. But I also like Family Guy, so take all these grains of salt and cover your chips in ’em.
You can book tickets to Mr. Burns right here. It runs from September 13-29 at Q Theatre.