Gr8at: Memorable figures from the Wax Museum

I had planned on doing a wider description of Dublin’s Wax Museum, especially after I previously did an introductory style piece. But although the museum includes information about Irish history, its politics and its many famous writers, it will always be a very visual place and so my post will focus on that too. Below are a mix of musicians and very fictional entertaining characters, including the fifth James Bond, a boy wizard, the King of Pop and a very hairy Wolfman. How good do you think they are?

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Gr8at: Visual Jokes from The Simpsons

Who doesn’t love The Simpsons? In it’s first third of episodes, it featured countless wonderful episodes, memorable scenes and hilarious jokes. I recently did a post on eight memorable jokes from that era, but this time I thought I’d highlight how The Simpsons was funny even without dialogue. Which ones makes you laugh most? Do you recognise the episodes they came from? Most of the images are taken from The War of the Simspons.

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Gr8at: The Simpsons Jokes

TIME magazine named it the 20th century’s best television series. It has won 31 Primetime Emmy Awards and has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Despite intense competition, The Simpson has arguably influenced comedy more than any other show. Here are eight examples of just why it has achieved such iconic status. The stills are from babysimpson.co.uk.

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Happy One Year Blogaversary!!

1st blog anniversary

Yes, it has reached that time! It really was one year ago to the day when I decided, aided by my very helpful and supportive girlfriend Madeleine, to set up a blog showcasing my writing and my major passions. Since starting off with this first post 12 month ago, I have continued to showcase my writing, as well as expanding it to includephotographs I have taken, my own creative writing and reviewing places of interest. I really do thank you for your support. Discovering your great blogs, as well as hearing your insight on my posts, has just added to the experience. This blog wouldn’t be anything without you.

Later today I will reveal my favourite posts, but first I wanted to share some data information I think you might find interesting.

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Gr8 – Comedic Characters

They may not be the star of the show, and weren’t even in all of the episodes, but these comedic characters did more than deliver a punchline, shape a storyline or provide insights to the major players. A salute to the characters who were just too damn awesome to limit to just one episode.

Lionel Hutz – The Simpsons

Lionel Hutz pic

A lawyer as unethical as he is unsuccessful. Quite content to claim a phone booth as an office, offer shoe repair and use a doctor as immoral as him, only the resourceful Hutz would sue the casting producers for not giving clients a part whilst starring in the production itself. Hutz was the ultimate ambulance chaser with eternal optimism in search of a quick buck. Attempting to put Homer and Marge at ease he explains: “I’ve argued in front of every judge in this state…often as a lawyer!” He even decided to try his luck at real estate, as most of his clients ended up losing their homes anyway. Hutz was voiced with panache by the irreplaceable and multi-talented Phil Hartman, who also brought Troy McClure to life. Hartman’s tragic death may have robbed us of other classic lines, but it also meant his character is immortalised with just genuine quality and unlike the show itself, never fell away. Besides, his work with Hutz is just too good to be forgotten. When Bart tells him he wants to be a lawyer just like him, he replies with flawless sincerity: ‘Good for you son. If there’s one thing America needs, it’s more lawyers.”

Linda Freeman – Two and a Half Men

Linda Freeman

Though she hit the award-laden big time in the current campfest that is Glee, actress Jane Lynch already had an acting CV as long as a comedic wall of China. One that stands out even among her strong acting repertoire is as the acerbic shrink Linda Freeman in Two and a Half Men. Her role as a therapist for Alan’s son Jake, before extending to Charlie and Alan, and later to Charlie’s replacement Walden, Freeman represents a cynical outlook that refuses to pull any punches. When Alan falls asleep for 40 minutes in her session, she charges him for the full hour by reasoning that she was still awake even if he wasn’t. When Charlie tells her that he has become constipated around the same time he has feelings for two different women who want to marry him, she explains he is emotionally and therefore physically blocked: “If you pick one, you can go two”. Her lack of empathy is best summed up when Charlie complains that is it cheaper for him to get a prostitute than pay her fees. She retorts: “Hookers don’t have to listen to you.”

Franklin – Arrested Development

Franklin

With all the phenomenal characters in Arrested Development, it may seem sneaky to go for a puppet but then again Arrested Development was that kind of show. Introduced in series 2, Franklin Delano Bluth was a foul-mouthed, streetwise black puppet who had the ability to make anyone using him adopt his outrageous personality. The racially vocal Franklin was even treated like a member of the family either when being arrested by cops, acknowledged by security guards or being attacked by George Bluth Senior (forcing GOB who is controlling him to say ‘That’s my hand, dad!). Despite only appearing in seven episodes, Franklin was crucial to storylines (once even taking the stand in court!), having a singing career with GOB and making political statements, such as wearing a ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black puppets’ t-shirt) When a laundry accident leaves him bleached, Michael quips: “At least he’ll be allowed in the country club now”.

Bulldog – Frasier

Bulldog

A brash prankster, Bob ‘Bulldog’ Briscoe certainly had the ability to jump off the page and steal any scene. Host of the Gonzo Sports Show, which runs straight after Frasier’s phone-in programme, the amoral Bulldog consistently acts like a pin to Frasier’s pompous balloon. What makes it so much worse for Frasier is that the popularity of Bulldog’s show (even including Frasier’s dad) means he can get away with all kinds of crudely inappropriate comments that would get the rest of us fired. Despite his lack of height and sporting physique, Bulldog acts machismo, but as shown by his fear of lizards and use of his colleague Roz as a shield from a gunman, it’s shown to be all bluster. Believing the three magical words to say to a woman are “Stay for breakfast”, he also refuses to blame himself for anything: “Doctors. You pick up the same disease three or four times, they start lecturing you like it’s your fault.” When called up on his tactless behaviour, his excuse is that of the ultimate showman: “Screw you. I’m an artist. We live by different rules.”

Newman – Seinfeld

newman

Jerry’s “sworn enemy” and Kramer’s occasional partner in crime, the indelible Newman is a cartoon style villain who fits perfectly into the madcap world of Seinfeld. Living down the hall from Jerry and continually able to get under his skin (once quite literally when he introduces fleas into his apartment), Newman is always scheming ways for obtaining financial success and that dream transfer to Hawaii. A postman who hilariously represents the worst of the stereotype, and refuses to deliver the mail when it rains, Newman delights in his mischief. Originally meant to be the son of a landlord and only supposed to be in one episode, Wayne Knight’s stocky build and superb portrayal inevitably meant he was given more, eventually making 48 appearances (out of 180 episodes). Knight’s pitch perfect delivery (which has since led to plenty of voiceover work) fully realised Newman’s vocabulary, which could quote poems, describe broccoli as a “vile weed” and Jerry’s audience as a “half-soused nightclub rabble”.

Trigger – Only Fools and Horses

Trigger

With competition that includes Homer, Coach/Woody, Dougal and Baldrick, Trigger truly is three cards short of a full deck and one of comedies iconic idiots. A friend of Del Boy since school and nicknamed after his resemblance to the horse who partnered with actor Roy Rogers in the 50s and 60s, Trigger is 24 carat road sweeper gold. Even in a show with working class characters, Trigger’s lack of intelligence is astounding and hilarious, capable of stealing even the funniest scene, or livening up an otherwise ordinary one. When Del Boy, surprised to see the wasteland dump closed, says that Trigger had told him it was open 24 hours a day, Trigger replies: “It is, but not at night”. Aware of Rodney’s growing interest in saving the environment, Trigger decides to cheer him up by changing from the fossil fuels of gas and oil to coal. When a girl approaches him and tells him that she is not wearing a bra, he says back “I’m not wearing a vest but you don’t hear me bragging about it”. Trigger’s inability to realise that Del Boy’s brother is called Rodney, and not Dave, is one of comedy’s greatest running gags. But amidst his inadvertent one liners, even his stare was enough to get a laugh, as best seen in the legendary scene where Del Boy falls through the bar and Trigger fails to notice. Though actor Roger Lloyd Pack has had a decorated acting career, Trigger will always be his finest hour.

Mrs Wolowitz – The Big Bang Theory

Mrs Wolowitz

When it comes to great recurring characters in The Big Bang Theory, we really are spoilt for choice. There is the self-deprecating comic shop owner Stuart who openly admits his professional failures and dating shortcomings that always puts the group’s problems into comical perspective. Not to mention the experimental physicist Leslie Winkle who is un-intimidated by the “dumbass” Sheldon and has her own take on romantic social conventions. But arguably, the star is Mrs Wolowitz, Howard’s mother. Jewish mothers are ripe for comedic interpretation, and her role as an overprotective, overbearing and opinionated single mother is a joy. She joins Maris Crane, Vera Petersen, Carlton the Doorman and Bob Sacamento in a list of characters who are mentioned but never seen, though unlike them we actually hear her voice. And boy do we hear it! Shouting everything, Mrs Wolowitz continues to treat Howard as though he was still a child, a relationship she disturbingly (and hilariously) seems to pass on to Howard’s wife Bernadette. Though co-creator Chuck Lorre has promised never to show her face (the odd blurred image aside), the fact she is described as being obese, having facial hair and painted on eyebrows means we could probably pick her out of a line up anyhow.

Larry Duff – Father Ted

Larry Duff

There are running gags of course, and then there are running gags. In the crazy world of Craggy Ireland, a continuous visual joke about a man being called on his mobile at the worst possible time makes perfect sense. A long time friend of Father Ted, (though the two are never in the same room together), Ted himself buys Duff the phone and calls him after Duff is “always complaining nobody ever rings him on it”. This includes getting called while skiing down a steep slope, when just about to turn driving by a steep cliff edge, when trying to control rottweilers he has just bought, being accused of weapons smuggling by armed guards, when about to be trampled by donkeys, and when getting skewered by a blindfolded knife thrower. Arguably, the two most memorable ones are when he is just about to win £10,000 on a gameshow after almost completing the main challenge and when he is just about to finish a card pyramid but knocks it over after mistakenly grabbing the stapler. Regularly described as “tremendous fun” by Ted, Duff certainly leads an adventurous and charmed life, rewarded by always recovering for his next appearance.

The Simpsons – Iconic TV Shows

The Simpsons

For a show so groundbreaking, iconic and influential, and the ultimate in social, cultural and political satire, it can be easy to forget just how humble the beginnings of Springfield’s finest dysfunctional family were.

This was no long and thought out process or a culmination of a life’s dream. What was to become America’s longest ever scripted tv show came about from a hurried idea of Matt Groening while waiting for a meeting with The Tracy Ulman Show’s producer James L. Brooks. Suddenly realising his original idea would require the rescinding of publication rights for his ‘Life is Hell’ Comic series, Groening instead came up with the idea of Homer and Marge, and their three children, Bart, Lisa and Maggie.

And the rest, after three series making up 48 short animated sketches, was history.

Homer getting stuck

‘The Simpsons’ fully launched on 17 December 1989 with its first episode, ‘Simpsons roasting on an open fire’. Its ugly, crude animation could not betray a touching storyline about Homer struggling to afford to buy presents for the family after his work bonus is taken away. As Hunter Phillips pointed out in his shortly lived bloghttp://500daysofhomer.wordpress.com/, it was pretty rare for a sitcom at that time to focus on the financial struggles of a regular family. This was a cartoon that even at the very beginning was always going to be different and would reinvent the cartoon wheel.

This was no simple one dimensional comedy. The writers fully exploited the possibilities a cartoon could develop, with its visual gags, outdoor settings and wide supporting cast. And in turn, reminded everyone that there are no age restrictions with cartoons. There were jokes about everything. About Homer’s laziness at work, his glutinous love of food and his general stupidity, Bart’s pranks and rebellious attitude and Lisa being the know it all, precocious child who struggles to fit in at school and even in her own family. Not to mention all the film references, government and religious hypocrisy and social comment on mob mentality and petty neighbourhood squabbles.

Setting itself in Springfield, a name represented in 22 different US states, was no coincidence. With such a common name, it wasn’t about creating a magical world where viewers had their own entry into Narnia, Wonderland or Neverland. This was about being in a place where we could all relate to, with characters we could all recognise. Jaded teachers, deceitful politicians, unmotivated cops and unfulfilling and underfunded environments.  It was all there.

Homer falling down

And boy, when the jokes started, it was always worth watching more than once to pick up on all the film references, social questioning and character gags.

It’s hard to watch Patten with a straight face after Abe Simpson parodies the famous scene of America’s legendary war general smacking a soldier suffering from nerve damage. “You can push them out of a plane, you can march them off a cliff, you can send them off to side one some godforsaken rock, but for some reason you can’t slap them.”

It’s spoof of Indecent Proposal is up there too. When Marge’s old boyfriend Artie Schiff tries to rub his wealth in Marge’s face, Homer replies: “I’ll bet you’d trade it all for one night with my wife.” When Artie admits he probably would, Homer starts to consider the deal.

And its use of celebrities, long before it became tedious and forced in later episodes, was amazing.

Homer and Marge

In the earlier series were countless notable examples. Dustin Hoffman playing Lisa’s ideal teacher and father figure Mr Bergstrom, Harvey Fierstein starring as the wonderful Karl alongside a hair-filled Homer (in the wonderfully titled Simpson and Delilah), Danny Devito playing millionaire and Homer’s half brother Herb Powell are just some of the more obvious ones. Not to mention the legendary Michael Jackson one. And there were examples of celebrities voicing more than just one, or like with Herb Powell, being brought back for another episode. The much missed Phil Hartman provided the voice for host Troy McClure, and the legendary ambulance chasing lawyer Lionel Hutz, who later becomes an estate agent as most of his clients “end up losing their house anyway”. Frasier legend Kelsey Grammer uses his sumptuous voice to star as the erudite but undervalued Sideshow Bob who aims to take down Krusty the Clown. Joe Mantegna stars as mob boss fat Tony, revealing the shadier side of Springfield, and the even more inept side of the local police.

And with the gags continuing, and the character development expanding, it wasn’t long before lazy careless idiot Homer, his sympathetic homemaker wife Marge, mischievous 10 year old Bart, precocious eight year old Lisa and baby Maggie took over the world.

Its blend of imagination, cynicism, realism and most of all humour, soon meant that we the viewer were brought into their world. Homer’s continuous struggle to motivate himself at the power plant, Marge having to worry, Lisa’s constant issues in being smarter than everyone else and Bart’s skills in being the class clown and trying to avoid getting beaten up by the school bully. Not to mention all their problems as a family and within the wider society.

Homer and hot dogs

Not that everyone saw that as a good thing. In a world where Ren and Stimpy, Beavis and Butthead and South Park were to follow, it’s amazing to think there were teachers and parents who fiercely campaigned against Bart’s influence.  Bart’s catchphrases like “Eat my shorts”, “Get bent”, and “Don’t have a cow man”, as well as his lack of respect for authority was seen to glamorise the rebellious lifestyle. And it wasn’t just sensitive parents.

In early 1992, then President George Bush (senior), made his famous comment of “We are going to keep on trying to strengthen the American family, to make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons”. The show’s creators got their own back with a changed intro to their next shown episode before getting their full revenge in “Two Bad neighbours”, where George Bush Senior incurs the full ire of Homer and Bart.

Of course, it could never stay as its peak. The wheels had faltered slightly in series 8, with episodes started to fall off and run out slightly of energy and ideas, but it noticeably went off track with its first real nadir, “The Principal and the Pauper”. The second episode from the ninth season brought headteacher Seymour Skinner to the fore, revealing that Skinner was not who we were lead to believe, but in fact was an imposter called Armin Tamzarian. Believing the actual Skinner to be dead, he assumed his identity and had happily got away with it for 20 years. By the end, it is all supposed to go back to normal as the town prefers to the fake Skinner and the genuine one who spent five years in a prison of war camp, and then in a Chinese Sweatshop, goes away. There’s supposed to be message in that probably.

Homer and family

While that may have been when the “show got stupid”, as Guardian critic Ian Jones noted, episodes would continue to falter, before season 11 when it all got consistently poor and with few to any saving graces. As the quality has dropped, so the number of celebrity voices has grown and animation become more computerised. The less said about later storylines about Marge’s boob job, Homer as a Kurt Cobain style grunge rocker, Ricky Gervais’ attempt to write a wife-swapping episode and a device that means lorries can drive themselves, the better. Joking about how bad an episode is (“Worst show ever” t-shirt”) was neither cute or clever and just insulting to a far too loyal audience.

Rather than focus on the celebrities desperate to get on a backwards moving carousel and how there are now more bad series than good ones, sometimes it is just about acknowledging the greatest don’t always know when to stop raging against the dying of the light.

And what a success it has been. Beyond its 27 primetime Emmy Awards, the Hollywood walk of fame star, the merchandising, D’oh and all the other catchphrases it spawned and its financial film success, and countless fan forums,  it can never be forgotten just how many great moments they have provided us with, and how it has inspired so many adult-oriented animated sitcoms.

For making Homer miss the canyon, getting both his arms stuck in vending machines, destroying a polygraph machine by his inept lying, and all the other incredible moments from Homer and co, thanks. Walt Disney may have said “A man should never exploit your family for business”, but when there is so much to exploit, it makes one heck of a show.

Memorable Quotes

Mr Burns: If you’re not going to come in on Friday, don’t bother coming in on Monday
Homer: Woo hoo! Four day weekend

Homer: Lord help me, I’m just not that bright

Homer: Marge? Since I’m not talking to Lisa, would you please ask her to pass me the syrup?
Marge: Dear, please pass your father the syrup, Lisa.
Lisa:  Bart, tell Dad I will only pass the syrup if it won’t be used on any meat product.
Bart:  You dunkin’ your sausages in that syrup homeboy?
Homer: Marge, tell Bart I just want to drink a nice glass of syrup like I do every morning.
Marge:  Tell him yourself, you’re ignoring Lisa, not Bart.
Homer:  Bart, thank your mother for pointing that out.
Marge:: Homer, you’re not not-talking to me and secondly I heard what you said.
Homer: Lisa, tell your mother to get off my case.
Bart:  Uhhh, dad, Lisa’s the one you’re not talking to.
Homer: Bart, go to your room.

Homer: I think I got promoted because of my motivational skills.  People are always saying they have to work harder when I’m around.

Bart: Aren’t we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know, the birth of Santa.

Marge: Homer, is this how you pictured married life?
Homer: Yeah, pretty much, except we drove around in a van solving mysteries.

Homer: So I said, “Look buddy, your car was upside-down when I got here. And as for your grandmother, she shouldn’t have mouthed off like that.”

Bart: Mr Hutz, when I grow up I want to be a lawyer just like you
Lionel: (sincerely) Good for you son, if there’s one thing America needs, it’s more lawyers

Homer: Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.

Bart: What’s really amazing is this is exactly what Dad said would happen!
Lisa: Yeah, Dad was right!
Homer: I know, kids, I’m scared too!

Ned: It’s times like this I used to turn to the bible, but even the good book can’t help me now.
Homer: Why not?
Ned: I sold it to you for 7 cents

Homer: It was one of the worst days of my life when I realised I could do most things better than my father. Bart had that feeling when he was 4.

Homer: Where do you want to go?
Lisa: Anywhere that isn’t hamburgers, pizza or fried chicken.
Homer: Fine! We’ll go to Mars!”

Marge: You will find her [Selma] a man!
Homer: All right.
Marge: And not just any man.
Homer: Okay!
Marge: He should be honest, and, and caring.  And well-off.  And handsome.
Homer: Hey! Why should she have a better husband than you do!?

Cast and Awards

Dan Castellaneta as (among others) Homer Simpson, Abe Simpson, Barney Gumble, Krusty
Julie Cavner as Marge Simpson, Patty and Selma
Nancy Cartwright as (among others) Bart Simpson, Nelson Muntz, Ralph Wiggum
Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson
Hank Azaria as (among others) Moe Syzlak, Chief Wiggum, Apu, Carl
Harry Shearer as (among others) Mr Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders, Lenny

Years: 1989 –
Created by: Matt Groening
Number of Series: 24 (ongoing)
Number of Episodes: 522 (ongoing)
Emmys: 27 out of 74