The Most Meta Moments on ‘The Simpsons’
As much as we’re delighted by The Simpsons whenever the writers sneak nods to the audience into episode scripts, I can’t help but wonder how horrified the characters would be if they knew their lives were being observed à la The Truman Show by an army of horrible freaks with pink skin, no overbites and five fingers on each hand.
Within the last couple of weeks, The Simpsons has been in the news for a meta joke that was misinterpreted as a canonical turning point as “clickbaiters” claimed that the longest running sitcom in history had retired one of its original gags. As it turned out, Homer isn’t finished strangling Bart despite the borderline fourth-wall-breaking quip he made in the recent episode “McMansion & Wife” – it was just an awkwardly self-referential joke that didn’t quite stick the landing. Perhaps, in Season 36, we’ll get an entire ill-conceived navel-gazing plotline about the whole non-controversy.
It’s unclear if the recent meta-drama revolving around The Simpsons inspired a recent post in the subreddit about fans’ favorite self-aware jokes in Simpsons history, but a proper palate-cleanser is definitely welcome as a reminder that, at one point, The Simpsons could pull off self-referential humor without inspiring clickbait or simply being cringe. Here are the best meta moments in Simpsons history as decided by fans, starting with…
“Networks Like Animation Because They Don’t Have To Pay The Actors Squat”
“Plus They Can Replace Them And No One Can Tell The Diddly-ifference!”
Ironically, The Simpsons only replaces voice actors on rare occasions, choosing instead to retire characters whose voices have left the show or, sadly, passed on entirely. That’s probably for the best, because Flanders’ uncanny utterance in “Homer to the Max” is chilling to the bone.
“Oh, Bart, Cartoons Don’t Have To Be 100% Realistic”
This is the kind of background joke that has been sadly phased out by the age of watching-TV-while-actually-scrolling-on-your-smartphone, but, back when “Fear of Flying” first aired, this was the best universe-bending meta joke to ever occupy a windowframe.
Bart Simpson Meets Jay Sherman The Critic
In all fairness, The Simpsons’ handling of “cheap cartoon crossovers” is significantly more palatable than the usual fair of cross-promotional cash-grabbing. The Critic aired its final episode barely two months after Jay Sherman appeared in the Simpsons episode “A Star Is Burns,” so Bart’s pained shilling was sadly in vain.
“It May Be On A Lousy Channel, But The Simpsons Are On TV!”
Of all the countless jabs that Simpsons writers threw at their patrons on Fox over the years, Homer’s excited exclamation in the iconic episode “Mr. Plow” might be the most likely to sail clear over the heads of younger viewers. That name, again, is “Mr. Plow.”
“I’d Be Mortified If Someone Ever Made A Lousy Product With The Simpson Name On It!”
Obviously, The Simpsons has indulged in the money-printing branded merchandise racket as much as any other massively beloved property – looking at you, Simpsons official Pogs – but, as years go by, the sad fact is that Lisa’s line in “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” could very well be about later Simpsons episodes as well.
Lisa: “Adding A New Character Is Often A Desperate Attempt to Boost Low Ratings”
Roy: “Yo, yo! How’s It Hangin’ Everybody?”
Most of the jokes in the Season 8 banger “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” deserves a spot at the top of the list for how sarcastically they addressed pressure to punch up the Simpsons formula after so many years on the air, but the unexplained addition of the hip young Roy to the dynamic is arguably the best of the bunch.