This week marks the 25th Anniversary of “Last Exit to Springfield,” considered the best episode of “The Simpsons” ever. We spoke with director Mark Kirkland, writers Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky and Season 4 showrunners Al Jean and Mike Reiss about the making of the show for an epic oral history of the episode. But there was so much great stuff we just couldn’t fit in. Here are some perfectly cromulent pieces of trivia about the show’s finest half hour.
OJ Simpson Was Almost On “The Simpsons”
For a scene when Homer Simpson appears on the news talk show “Smartline,” the showrunners originally asked O.J. Simpson as a guest star, Jean told TheWrap. But when he passed, they turned to a frequent panel guest in ‘90s, Dr. Joyce Brothers, to deliver just one hilarious line. We're pretty sure things worked out for the best.
The Writers Waited Years To Do That Mr. Burns-Homer Gag
One of the longest running gags in early “Simpsons” history is Mr. Burns' inability to remember who Homer is. “Last Exit to Springfield” takes the next step and shows just how often he’s forgotten. Writer Wallace Wolodarsky said he had been dying to do the joke, but Sam Simon always wanted to put it off.
A Francis Ford Coppola Movie Inspired the Montage
“Why, you and I can run this plant ourselves!” Director Mark Kirkland explained that during the episode’s delightful musical montage, storyboard artist Kevin O’Brien initially suggested using music from Francis Ford Coppola’s “Tucker: The Man and His Dreams” as a temp-track. The final theme from Alf Clausen ended up being very similar to a sequence where Homer visits “The Land of Chocolate,” a sequence Kirkland also directed.
This Episode’s “McBain” Was Especially Violent
“Last Exit to Springfield” opens with the fifth appearance of a scene from a “McBain” film, the show's parody of ‘80s Schwarzenegger and Stallone movies. This one is notable for being especially violent, but director Mark Kirkland explained that they could take more liberties here or in “Itchy & Scratchy” cartoons than the rest of the show. “In our cartoons we're not going to show a head getting shot to pieces, but we might with a plaster bust,” Kirkland explained.
The Director Snuck-In One Of The Episode's Best Jokes
In the days before the Internet, the writers and directors of the show would request VHS tapes of all their favorite movies such that they could copy staging frame by frame. They even hired Warner Research Group to go through film and TV libraries and provide color Xerox copies when tapes weren’t available. Kirkland recalls popping in a VHS of “The Godfather Part II” to get Homer’s Little Italy dream sequence just right.
It's Not The Episode's Writers' Favorite Episode
When writer Jay Kogen, who cowrote “Last Exit to Springfield” with Wallace Wolodarsky, learned it was named the best episode of all time, he said, “It wasn’t even the best one we wrote that month!” His favorite episode is another he wrote with Wolodarsky: Season 2’s “Bart the Daredevil,” which features one of she show's all time best gags.
The Funniest Part Of Homer's Union Sign Was A Last-Minute Addition
A “Simpsons” script is far longer than the average sitcom script because of absurd jokes on signs written into the script, including this episode’s “International Brotherhood of Jazz Dancers, Pastry Chefs and Nuclear Technicians.” “It made me so happy,” Wolodarsky said. “When Jay and I were writing the script, that was a joke I pitched to Jay and said, that's too crazy and stupid, and Jay, to his credit said, no that's exactly what it should be. Let's do it. And Mark Kirkland did the joke of the guy dancing by! I thought that's a funny director's flourish that I don't remember writing, so I'll give him credit for it.”
The Inspiration For Droopy Voice Guy Is Exactly What You Think
Among “Last Exit to Springfield’s” notable one-off characters is “Droopy Voice Guy.” Twice in the episode Karl takes a role call of “All in favor” and “All opposed,” with only one lone dissenter giving a feeble “nay” each time. The character’s voice was modeled off the vintage cartoon character Droopy Dog and was even written into the script as “Droopy Voice Guy.”