No apologies from me or the Rust for sharing with our readers today this piece on the website of The Daily Telegraph on somebody’s pick of the 40 best one-liner gags from the US cartoon series The Simpsons over the past quarter of a century, or whatever length of time it is since the characters first appeared as a novelty item on The Tracey Ullman Show.
Though some episodes ‘pass me by’ and over the years the series has had occasional periods of uneven form, the antics of Homer, Marg and the Simpson household have never failed to tickle my funny bone. There have been precious cartoons down the decades that have made me laugh out loud, but this one often has.
I suspect part of the success of The Simpsons is grounded in the approach of the American television and movie industries to its comedy shows, as compared to the British.
In effect, the Yanks regard the process of devising jokes and gags as one of the highest arts in entertainment. On their side of the Pond the consumer (the customer) is king, or indeed queen. When the average American sees something billed as a comedy, he or she expects it to make him laugh. That’s why US comedy shows are loaded with attitude, quips and gags. The idea of a slow burn – or indeed a wry, whimsical – comedy is something almost alien to American culture and that is why some British comedy shows either fail State-side or take years to lift off – and that’s if even they get the chance after a ‘dodgy’ first season in the ratings.
As I understand it, episodes of The Simpsons are traditionally first and basically written by one to three writers; then they go before a script editor; and finally they go to the equivalent of a ‘think tank’ of a dozen or more gag-writers locked in a room for the sole purpose of sharpening up or improving the gags – or even devising new ones.
From my viewpoint, whether it is the structure of the process, or the sheer quality and invention of the writers, it definitely works for the scripts of The Simpsons.
Enjoy here – via this link to the relevant page in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH