The new season of The Simpsons continues, and this Sunday, May 15th, 2016, Fox aired “Simprovised”, the 21st episode of Season 27, and the 595th episode to date. This Episode Fact File will recap the episode with pictures, video clips and more. Get the scoop right after the jump!
After butchering a speech in front of all of his friends at work, Homer turns to improv comedy to gain back his confidence in his public speaking skills. Meanwhile, Marge decides to rebuild Bart‘s lackluster treehouse, but tensions rise when Bart questions her building skills. Also, in the episode’s last three minutes, Homer appears LIVE for the first time on television (both for East and West Coast broadcasts) to answer fan questions.
Episode Details: ‘Simprovised’ is the 21st episode of Season 27 as well as the 595th episode of The Simpsons. The episode aired on FOX on May 15th, 2016 and was written by John Frink and directed by Matthew Nastuk.
Homer is preparing his annual speech to do in front of all Nuclear Plant workers, his plan being to repeat the speech he did every year, however his lines were repetitive or offensive to the sick Lenny‘s grandmother. Mr. Burns used his only speechline he prepared and that made him nervous, and he passed out from the pressure, getting a trauma of public speaking.
To calm down Homer, Marge took him to a stand-up comedy show, where Homer is amazed by the talents of the actors to improv, and decides to join an improv class, where he learns he has a talent for improvising scenes.
Homer gets an invitation to the perform at the Springfield Fringe Festival, but he was still insecure. He seeks advice from Moe, and Moe suggests he cheats by letting him pick the scenarios. However, Lisa finds out and convinces Homer not to.
On a secondary plot, Bart and Marge go to Ralph‘s birthday party, and Bart realizes that Ralph‘s treehouse, built by his father with the money he got from the evidence locker, is better then his decading treehouse. When they return home, Bart starts destroying the treehouse and when Marge finds out what’s happening, she starts building a treehouse, however Marge overhears Bart being unthankful while talking to Milhouse, saying there’s no need to thank her, and that she was only doing her job.
At the end, Homer is introduced by Lisa, Bart, Marge and Maggie, for the live segment, inside the Fox Studios Secret Bunker. Homer answers calls from the TV audience, while several characters appear on screen, either performing some actions, showing cards, or in Bart‘s case, pantsing Homer. The secret bunker is later revealed to just be a fake set made out of cardboard inside the Simpson House.
Entertainment Weekly Interview:
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Al Jean, executive producer of the show, talks about the realization of the live segment and how hard it’s going to be. “Well, it’s certainly us making it a lot harder on ourselves than we have to, but the interest in it has been so enormous, it’s definitely worth it. When you have a show like this that has so many things going for it, you gotta use that capital and do interesting things because you can.”
Al Jean continues saying that the live segment animation will be different than what we normally see in Springfield. “There is less of a variety of motion, and after awhile, it might start to look a little repetitive. “That’s why we’re not doing any more than three minutes. You have a limited number of lip assignments and motions that Homer can make, and you see him run through those in the course of the three minutes. The reason I don’t think they’re going to be doing half-hour motion capture shows in the near future is because although it is much cheaper and you can just film it live, you can’t do the complicated set pieces that people want from animation. We do everything we can in the three minutes that’s possible.”
In the follow up of the previous interview, EW asks Al Jean how long has he been working on the live idea for this episode. Al Jean answered: “It’s funny. We talked about doing a Homer-going-live thing on The Tonight Show for a promotion for The Simpsons Movie with motion capture. We discussed it as long ago as that [in 2007], but it didn’t seem like the technology was up to what we wanted. And then John Frink, who wrote the episode, said, “Hey why don’t we try to have Homer improv for real at the end of the show?” So we looked back at the motion capture [technology], which had advanced. Fox Sports had worked out a program from Adobe, and I thought it was much more convincing — at least for about three minutes, which is what we’re using it for at the end of the episode. The other thing that’s terrific is Dan Castellaneta does improv all the time. He’s one of the best improvers there is. We couldn’t have somebody better to be doing it.”
Wondering why the segment is so short, EW asked if they thought of a longer segment or an entire episode revolving live. Al answered “[Motion capture technology] used to have electrodes wired into the person. Now they don’t. The actor just speaks into a mic, and the camera records his motions, and transfers it to the character onscreen. However, you can only do that with one or at most two characters. The backgrounds don’t change and the character can’t really interact with somebody in the background. We have background jokes that are pre-set. For three minutes, that’s fine. For 30 minutes, I think people would get pretty tired of it. (Laughs) Anything’s possible in the future, but at the moment, three seemed like the perfect amount.”
About the idea of using two characters, EW asks why Al Jean didn’t use that idea, to which Al Jean answered “We thought about it, but then it was like, “Who would the other person be? Would we get a celebrity?” And we thought the better thing would be for Homer to interact with the fans.” About the possibility for Homer to answer the questions with the rest of the family, Al Jean answered “Theoretically. Maybe we would do that someday. But for this, when you see the story of the episode, it’s all about Homer improvising, so the thematic part of the show is Homer conquering his fear of public speaking.”
EW asked whatever other characters will make cameos during the episode to which Al Jean answered “They appear in the background doing some stuff, but they don’t speak.” To EW wondering if the crew had any problems or glitches with this live segment, Al Jean said “We haven’t had any glitches yet. I always feel — and this is the whole SNL philosophy: If there’s a little glitch, that’s fun, too. That’s the excitement of live television. And to my knowledge, no animated show has done this before… I think this is going to be really incredible — or incredibly terrible.”
EW next wonders what questions will Homer answer, expecially with the fact that Al Jean is quite reticent about breaking the fourth wall, and he commented “A question like, “What actor does what?”, that won’t get by. It would have to be a question to Homer, not a question breaking the fourth wall. I assume everyone is going to want to make it into this episode, so they’re going to try to think of questions that we would use, rather than get rejected. There’s still a wide variety of questions you can ask him.”
EW asked where Homer will be and he answered “He’ll be in a Fox secret bunker in an undisclosed location. That’s the background we’ve drawn.” The location was revealed in the last interview. EW asks if that breaks the fourth wall and he answeres “No, because we’ve always said that there is a connection with Fox and The Simpsons, but he doesn’t think he is an actor or a character.” Next question is about how they got Homer in the bunker. “The family is on the couch and Lisa says, “Now we’re going to do something that was first done on TV 50 years ago, and we’ve finally gotten around to it, and our dad will answer questions.” And Bart says, “Take it, Homer.”” How will Homer react to random people asking questions to him in the bunker is the next question. “Yeah… He just thinks: He’s been an astronaut. He’s done a lot of things. Why won’t people want to ask him questions?”
Next is Dan Castellaneta‘s reaction to the idea: “He’s game for everything. He’s a very brave man and very funny and didn’t blink. He’s up for the challenge.” And how will the writers will help Dan out to answer the questions. “We’ll be there to screen questions and maybe think about [jokes] if there’s a big event that day. But the truth is, you want to have somebody funny who doesn’t feel like he’s got eight things to try to decide between, where he’s just going with his gut. So it really will be him. God only knows, if Donald Trump says something stupid, we might make a joke to lead off. But in general, it’s just going to be Dan. That’s what makes it live. That’s what makes it exciting.”
Of course, a question would be how to make it feel live, and not recorded. “We’ll do the equivalent of holding up today’s newspaper, where we talk about something that’s going on right then. It will be live, I guarantee it, and the way we set it up, it’s to make it very clear that this is really happening. It’s not a trick.” What appealed to Al and if it’s the unknown of what’s going to happen is next. “Yeah — and I wanted to do it before any other animated shows did it. (Laughs)”
The difficulty of having to animate it in motion capture and how it will appear to the viewers is an interesting question, due to it being the first time it has ever been done in the show, to which Al answers “It shouldn’t look any different. The difference is, there is less of a variety of motion, and after awhile, it might start to look a little repetitive. That’s why we’re not doing any more than three minutes. You have a limited number of lip assignments and motions that Homer can make, and you see him run through those in the course of the three minutes. The reason I don’t think they’re going to be doing half-hour motion capture shows in the near future is because although it is much cheaper and you can just film it live, you can’t do the complicated set pieces that people want from animation. We do everything we can in the three minutes that’s possible. But there would be no way we would be doing a full show like this anytime in the near future.” Problems may arise with trying something new. “There could be a snafu where we don’t get the question to Homer, that there’s a little bit of a glitch. But as I say, that proves it’s live. We’ll have a seven-second delay, so it’s not going to be any Janet Jackson sort of thing. Homer’s not going to take off his clothes.” EW wonders if this would be more difficult than Grease Live and Al Jean promptly answers “A lot less danger to the performers.”
Something new and interesting is asked by EW next: how will the viewers interact, expecially how will the phone system work, a new tidbit of information revealed just now, and how will Homer interact with Facebook and Twitter. “The phone number will be released to the public in plenty of time. My guess is because you’re going to get on an episode of The Simpsons, we’ll fill up quickly and then we’ll just have people waiting… We’re going to have one tweet that he’ll answer and also a couple of writers will be tweeting and answer questions as Homer, one on Facebook and one on Twitter simultaneously. We’re trying to answer as many questions as we can.”
EW concludes asking Al what he would ask Homer. “Hmm, that’s a good question… “What does Marge possibly see in him?”” and advices for the viewers that are calling, to make their questions go through. “Just ask an interesting question about Homer, and his life and if it’s funny, we’ll try to get it in. We’re not looking for people to ask trivia questions about season 23.”
The Wall Street Journal Interview:
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, showrunner Al Jean says “In terms of the anxiousness, I think this one’s very high. Admittedly, we always have a million safety nets. Now, we have far fewer.” Al Jean and his team revealed that they’ll be using a software by Adobe called Adobe Character Animator that will capture the voice of Dan Castellaneta and create Homer‘s mouth movement syncing it. Using the software, the team of animators will be able to control Homer‘s movements.
David Silverman, producer and animator, adds “It’s not a computer drawing; it’s animation we’ve put in there that will be activated by these buttons, these triggers.” Al Jean confirms that “It’s not something you’d want to watch for the whole show.” and will last only three minutes. Tests on how it’ll go on both east coast and west coast airing has been done by the crew of the show and Al Jean, and also talked about future possibilities to expand on this “It’s an incredibly fluid medium”.
Al Jean also remembers that the number to call on Sunday night is 1-888-726-6660 and remembers the viewers to bring something sharp in the conversation with Homer “Homer’s popularity is in no small way [related] to how funny Dan [Castellaneta] is. He improvised ‘D’oh’ — it had just said ‘annoyed grunt’ in the script.”
In another interview, this time with YourTVLink, Al Jean remembers again about The Tonight Show “Early on, when we were doing ‘The Simpsons Movie,’ we had talked about Dan appearing live as Homer on things like ‘The Tonight Show,’ but the technology that existed then seemed too rudimentary, and you really couldn’t get very much range with the animation. So, John Frink — one of our writers — was doing an episode about improvisation and he said, ‘Why don’t we try having Homer live at the end?’
And some more details about the program used to make Homer go live: “We checked into (the technical aspect), and it’s greatly improved. Some guys at Fox Sports, working in tandem with Adobe, have come up with a (computer) program that I think is pretty convincing. It’s going to be Homer taking questions on the phone and talking live … and we’re doing it because we can.”
Then he talks about how Dan Castellaneta‘s movements will work live. “We don’t know what he’s going to say, but there’s no one better to be doing this. Motion capture (with the character mirroring the actor’s movements) is really the key to it, and the improvements in it have made this possible.”
And at the end he talked about how the process will be permanent in the show’s history, “There’ll be baseball games that Homer could talk about, and developments on the political scene also would seem likely that day. We won’t really know what’s going to happen until it happens, but there will be only three minutes for it. It’s a new process, so I didn’t think you could do a full show with it, I think people would get tired of it, so three minutes is an optimal length.” Al Jean remembers to the callers that will go live that “You’ll be in the show forever, because it’s going into syndication that way. We’re not going to change it.”
ET Canada Interview:
In an interview with ET Canada, Al Jean reports “Dan Castellaneta [who voices Homer] will be in a booth where he speaks into a mic, and obviously what he says goes out live. And he’s not hooked up by electrodes or anything, his motions are captured and translated into Homer’s moves, which will then appear in the animation. For viewers watching, it will look like the normal show. We have background animation that has been pre-animated with several jokes, but everything Homer does, the centre of it, is live.” As for why Homer was selected for this, Al Jean concludes “[Castellaneta] does improv all the time. He’s terrific at improv and it was just a natural fit.”
Other Production Information:
Music editor Chris Ledesma put together the on-hold music for people calling in to Homer Live.
Proof We’re Live Alternate Jokes:
Some alternates for the “Proof we’re live” speech were written but never used.
- The Washington Post announced Donald Trump has pretended to be his own P.R. man. Trump spokesman Ronald Rump furiously denies this huge allegation.
- In sports, Canada crushed Slovakia five to nothing in Group B of the World Hockey Championships. Look it up!
- To prove we’re live, the Toronto Raptors just beat the Heat. So did I, by pouring beer down my pants.
- To prove we’re live, on Friday, Fox canceled all the shows. From now on, everything on the network will be live, so it can be instantly canceled.
- Today’s New York Times front page investigates Donald Trump‘s unwelcome contacts with over 50 woman. Those are just his ex-wives.
- Serena Williams won the Italian Open. That’s one of the most important warm-up tournaments for “who cares?”
TITLE SCREEN: Has the text “Homer Live! Call 1-888-726-6660 now. For additional information go to www.thesimpsons.com/homerlive” superimposed.
TIE-IN!: A tie-in for The Simpsons: Tapped Out has been released, but with only some dialogue and a system message.
- The episode title is a play on the word “improvised.”
- “22nd City” is a reference to famous improvisational group The Second City, which refers to Chicago but here shows how far down Springfield is on the improv list.
- When the leader of the improv class answers Homer’s questions with “Yes! Annnd?” he is demonstrating the two primary rules of improv: always agree with the premise; then extend it.
- Homer references Webster’s Dictionary.
- Homer dreams of ALF.
- Homer and Marge reference Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein.
- Homer holds a copy of Truth in Comedy: The Manual for Improvisation by Charna Halpern, Del Close and Kim “Howard” Johnson.
- Lisa and Moe mention Barbra Streisand.
- Homer wants Meryl Streep to play him in a movie.
- Springfield Fringe Festival is a reference to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
- Comic Book Guy is dressed as Henry VIII.
- He is holding a turkey drumstick in his left hand, a reference to the urban legend that there exists a portrait of Henry VIII holding a turkey drumstick.
- His companion is dressed as Elizabeth I.
- The stand “Luigi’s Medical Marinara” is a reference to medical marijuana.
- The stand for “Blue Bronco Energy Drink” is a reference to Red Bull.
- Comic Book Guy is dressed as Henry VIII.
- The person seated next to label “Philosophy: Objectivism” is Ayn Rand.
- On the cover of “Treehouse Beautiful” magazine (a reference to “House Beautiful” magazine), Ralph is dressed as Tom Wolfe, in white suit.
- The music heard as Bart looks through the spyglass at the neighbors is the Flower Duet from the opera Lakme by Leo Delibes.
- The treehouses shown as part of the Historical Treehouse Preservation District:
- The music heard over the historical treehouses is “The Great Gate of Kiev” from Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Moussorgsky.
- When Homer finds the cookies Marge has discarded next to the tree and he says “The Keebler elves are real” he is referring to cookies made by the Keebler Company, whose advertising claimed they were made by elves living in a hollow tree.
- “Down-N-Out Burger” is a parody of In-N-Out Burger.
- During the segment, Homer answered questions from fans asked by three ways:
- The tweets were answered before and after the live segments directly on Homer‘s Twitter @HomerJSimpson.
- The questions on Facebook were answered before and after the live segments directly on the Facebook page.
- The Latin American airing of the segment, in some region, went with no audio, with only subtitles.
- The on-hold music for callers is the opening cutscene music from Treehouse of Horror XXIV, put together by Chris Ledesma.
- Homer mentions that this is the last episode of the show, only to say it was a lie and that that the show will never end right after.
- Homer says that the cast of Empire will answer the next questions Wednesday night and that somebody should be on the phone or will let them know.
- Homer says that after the show fades someone call Uber.
Both airings’ Pre-animated Gags:
- Lisa holds a sign saying “We parked on Bill O’Reilly‘s spot”.
- Nelson holds Martin by his underwear in a yo-yo wedgie.
- Maggie spells “All Now” with cubes, and then corrects it to “Call Now”.
- Mr. Burns catches a blue butterfly with a net, but it flies away carrying him.
- Apu holds a basket with his Octuplets and a sign saying “Free to good home”.
- Bart enters behind the desk and steal Homer‘s pants.
- Kang holds a sign saying “Don’t blame me I voted for Kodos“. (“Treehouse of Horror VII“)
- Bender holds a sign reading “Bring back Futurama (again)”.
- Bart knocks down the Fox Studios Secret Bunker walls, revealing it’s on the Simpson House‘s living room.
East Coast / Central Airing:
- Homer mentions Drake being terrible on Saturday Night Live from the day before the airing.
- Homer says that Joel’s call was a planted call with a planted question, this is confirmed by Al Jean on Twitter saying that it was Joel H. Cohen calling.
- Homer references having been an astronaut. (“Deep Space Homer“)
East Coast / Central Airing Questions:
- Hannah: Hi there, Homer, my quest… my question for you is: Who do you like more? Lenny or Carl? And why?
Homer: Let’s see. I like Lenny, because he’s the black guy, and… wait a minute, no. Carl‘s the… Wait. Let me get back to you when I figure out who’s who.
- Amanda: I was wondering if you give me any tips or tricks for making it look like i’m hard at work but really I’m relaxing and taking a nap?
Homer: Always wear glasses with eyes glued to them.
- George: Hello Homer, so my question is pizza related. You prefer Chicago deep-dish or New York-style?
Homer: Pizza? Let’s see, I prefer… Chicago deep-dish cause I like Italian better than Chinese.
- Joel: Homer, how are you doing?
Homer: I’m doing all right. Is that your question?
Joel: I was wondering what kind of car do you drive?
Homer: A Sa- oh, uh, I drive a hybrid, which is a combination of old and terrible.
- Chris: My question is, what’s your favorite job? What was your favorite job?
Homer: My favorite job would have been being an astronaut, because everything was done for me. And also I could give away from the boy.
West Coast Airing:
- Homer mentions the Texas Rangers beating the Toronto Blue Jays by a technical knockout.
- Homer says that Zachary’s was a planted call with a prepared question.
- The first caller’s name, Steven, was changed to William in the youtube video.
- Due probably to editing the video to change the name, the youtube video, and probably streaming and reruns version, doesn’t have the credits for the episode.
- Homer still says that they’re flashing on screen, as that’s how it aired on TV.
- Due probably to editing the video to change the name, the youtube video, and probably streaming and reruns version, doesn’t have the credits for the episode.
West Coast Airing Questions:
- Steven: How are you Homer?
Homer: I’m good, is that your question?
Steven: No, no, my second question is, if Donald Trump becomes the president, are you going to move out of Springfield and possibly move to Canada?
Homer: Well, there are a lot of people that want me to move out of Springfield already. So– but I don’t think Canada will want me to, will welcome me. But you know what? That’s why I’m for Bernie Sanders. I love his chicken but out of respect we should refer to him as the Colonel.
- Michelle: Hey Homer, I was wondering, after all this years, how would you finally get rid of Patty and Selma?
Homer: The best way is not to bathe. And I’ve been doing that for a month. But they smoke so much it seems to cover up the odor. But I’ve to say, I’m getting a lot of time to myself.
- Kathy: Hi Homer, I drunk too much this weekend.
Homer: You drunk too much this weekend?
Kathy: Yes, I drunk too much this weekend. What’s your best hangover cure?
Homer: The best hangover cure is to sleep on the lawn and stay there, till Marge stops being angry.
- Zachary: What’s your favorite song?
Homer: What’s my favorite thong? My favorite thong is that Brazilian one that– that doesn’t pinch too tight around the waist.
International / Streaming Version:
The live segment was replaced with a pre-recorded sequence for non-live international and streaming viewers (except for sites that made available both airings like FOXNOW or Hulu), though only temporary till they get clearance from the callers required by legal. After Homer makes a joke about this being the last episode of the Simpsons, he then says, “If you’re seeing this, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. Or, you’re watching the international version!” He then goes on to fill 2 minutes and 10 seconds by announcing his candidacy for president, making several outrageous campaign promises, then withdrawing his candidacy and making a joke about where Springfield is located.
The Family Introduces Homer
East / Central
International / Streaming
Latin America apology
- Treehouse of Horror series is referenced in Ralph‘s Treehouse (Treehouse of Horrors The Complete Collection is shown in a shelf).
- Marge‘s carpentry skills are also put to use, and subsequently undervalued. (“Please Homer, Don’t Hammer ‘Em“)
- Bart’s treehouse gets a makeover. (“Old Yeller-Belly“)
- In the last three minutes of the episode, Homer was “Live-voiced” (by Dan Castellaneta) and answered questions fans already asked him on the phone. During the show, Homer answered live on Twitter and Facebook to fans posts too.
- The UK airing of the episode, scheduled to air at the same time as US’ was pulled at the last minute.
- This is the 2nd consecutive episode in which the house from Up appears, having appeared in the previous episode a week before.
- At the Springfield Fringe Festival, Lisa‘s tie changes from gray to blue, and later back to gray.
- At the dining room, when Homer ask Maggie to pass the gravy, and pour on his food, his neck is animated behind his shirt collar and his left arm behind the sleeve.
- There are two Luanns in the crowd at the Springfield Fringe Festival.
Previous Episode: To Courier with Love
Next Episode: Orange Is the New Yellow (Season Finale)
That is all from this week’s Episode Fact File and I would like to thank WikiSimpsons for the information for this post and Nathan for the base design of it.
Till next time, Happy Tapping everyone!