For years, fans of the renowned comedy The Simpsons have embraced the legendary television show in every way possible. In 2012, legendary show creator Matt Groening started revealing details behind the show’s inspiration that left fans wanting more! He shared background stories of characters, revealed the real Springfield represented in the cartoon, and even hinted at more to come.
Groening has delved into the true-life events that inspired so many of the most memorable moments in his show, The Simpsons. From hijinks in the classroom to the real Homer, who inspired Groening to work in a field that would help him gain creative fulfillment. The Emmy-winning TV show has hidden secrets, we’re excited to reveal them to you!
Springfield: Which One Is It?
In a 2012 article published by the Smithsonian Institute, the show’s creator released a little-known piece of trivia. Fans of the show might understand that Springfield is a common American city name, but while we may think every single state has one, there are actually only 34 populated places with the name across 25 states in the U.S.A. There are at least 36 Springfield townships, with 11 in Ohio alone.
Groening released the secret that The Simpsons takes place in the city of Springfield, Oregon, on the West Coast of the United States. Springfield is part of the greater Eugene area, home to the University of Oregon and tons of landmarks from the show itself. While there may not be a ton going on there (beyond dispensaries!), the town loves to claim the show as their claim to fame.
The Legendary Moe’s Tavern
Did you know that there is a bar in the Springfield/Eugene area that is a registered landmark because of this legendary show? Known to fans as Moe’s Tavern, the bar that inspired this epic watering hole is actually a bar just off of the University of Oregon’s campus. This famed campus hotspot is called Max’s.
Max’s is known for peanuts and popcorn (on alternating nights), not being able to get a booth, and until just a few years ago, it was known for singing Sweet Caroline at closing time. Both Moe’s and real-life Max’s are known for a jar of pickled eggs that sits behind the counter. The tavern from the TV show is far more spacious, which anyone who hates a crowded bar might appreciate.
The statue known for sitting in the fictional town square is actually another piece from the University of Oregon campus. The statue, known to many as “Pioneer Father,” was located in a courtyard in the center of the campus, on display for all to see. The statue faces another one like it called “Mother Pioneer” a few hundred feet across the property.
The statue was a gift from artist Alexander Phimister Proctor in 1919 and is constructed of bronze. Though both statues were torn down during racial justice protests in the summer of 2020, it’s still a part of the community. Both statues sport the traditional garb of the time. The statue on the show held just a whip in real life, however the show depicts the statue standing over a deceased bear. Just like the state of Oregon, these statues are keeping it weird!
Family Members as Characters
Creator Matt Groening was sweet enough to include his family in the show’s characters. In real life, his father’s name is Homer, his mother’s name is Margaret, and he has two younger sisters named Lisa and Maggie. Though there are two other siblings in the Groening clan, they were not depicted in the TV family.
His father Homer was his inspiration for a creative career. Homer was a cartoonist and filmmaker in real life, which could be the root of his obsession with comic books throughout the years. His father also inspired him to parody his own family through his work, when he created a movie based on a bizarre fictional animal encounter with Matt and Lisa at the center of the story.
The Show for Another Show
The legendary television show was actually created to help the producers of a show that was new who needed some help with content. The Tracey Ullman Show had enlisted Groening to make a series of animated cartoons to play between sketches. Groening realized that he would lose the rights to Life in Hell, a project that preceded The Simpsons, if the deal proceeded.
As a result, he threw together some characters based on the people closest to him: his family. He named the characters after his parents and siblings, but chose the name Bart instead of his own character. They were depicted as Neanderthals, and they set the stage for what was to come.
When The Tracey Ullman Show suffered in ratings, the head of the show, James L. Brooks, decided to do what he could to make The Simpsons a stand-alone series. Brooks tapped his longtime colleague, Sam Simon, to bring the show to fruition. Though he was not the initial creator, Simon is credited with a lot of characterization details.
The television show began on December 17th, 1989. The first episode aired, depicting a series of characters based on those from Groening’s hometown. The show inspired many to break the rules and march to your own beat.
Lincoln High Days
The show’s creator drew much of his show’s inspiration from interactions from his high school in Portland, Oregon. His academic home for years, he attended Lincoln High School from 1968 to 1972 before heading off to college in Washington. He was active in and out of the classroom in a number of ways.
Groening ran a comics appreciation club, wrote for his school’s paper both as a writer and a cartoonist, and began his own underground publication called Blige Rat. He was also one of many politically involved students at the time. Even a teacher is rumored to be the inspiration for a prominent character…
The Anti-Establishment Kid
Groening was politically involved in his younger life. He was involved in school politics and ran for class president of his Portland, Oregon high school. He was outspoken about issues he cared about from a young age, which was proven through his later work.
Groening had his views and was committed to creating work that reflected it. If something big was happening in society (hello, growing up in the 1970s!), he was outspoken on his opinions. Much of his personality and political views came to life through his characters, especially Bart Simpson.
Remember that prominent character we mentioned just a moment ago? David Bailey, a Lincoln High School educator, was rumored to be the inspiration behind the iconic and evil character, Mr. Charles Montgomery Plantagenet Schicklgruber “Monty” Burns. He taught Civics and had ran the journalism program at the school for more than 46 years.
Bailey said that Groening laughed off the question of the character’s identity when a parent asked him years back if there was correlation between Mr. Burns and Mr. Bailey. Bailey reflected on previous homework assignments this student had handed in years ago, in an interview with The Daily Emerald. Groening’s sense of humor was apparent, and Bailey knew his student would go far.
The Unofficial Simpsons Tour
The resemblance of the show to real life Springfield and Eugene is uncanny. In Springfield, Oregon, a giant Simpsons mural sits outside the Emerald Arts Center at 500 Main Street. Eugene Cascades & Coast, a tourism agency released a tour map just before the show’s 25th anniversary in 2019.
The region boasts so many great attractions, but they love to embrace the privilege of being the hometown of the show. In addition to Max’s Tavern and the Pioneer Father statue, the 7-stop tour swings by a statue covered in “Simpson’s Yellow”, and a yogurt shop. Sweety’s Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt now has a table on the sidewalk with life-sized figures of the original family. The gang’s all there – Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie.
Season One of the legendary television program was a wonderful start to a long show life. While in high school, Matt Groening created an original board game that would later become an episode during this season. The game mimicked the lives of students at his high school in the early 1970s.
The episode was basically monopoly but adjusted to represent high school shenanigans of the time. The Daily Emerald reported one of the original spaces which became a show plotline. “The head of the Lincoln statue is missing, and a chisel is found in your locker. Go to the vice principal’s office,” which eventually inspired episode entitled “The Telltale Head.”
From the Streets to the Screen
No, Matt Groening was not a man living on the streets. However, he did make living versions of the streets he knew well! Many characters throughout the series are known for their one-of-a-kind names – but did you know, those names are actually just names of neighborhoods and streets in Portland and Springfield/Eugene?
Timothy Lovejoy Jr. and Ned Flanders are streets in Portland. Principal Seymour Skinner is believed to be inspired by Skinner’s Butte, a lookout in Springfield. These characters are as eclectic as the neighborhoods that inspired their creation. While some are just theories (like Skinner’s origins), others are confirmed simply by the neighborhood Groening came from.
Trials and Tribulations
This household name television show is not known for being too sensitive to the mixed feelings and views of their viewers. Early on, they received criticism for their sometimes-disrespectful portrayal of both ethnic and sexual minorities. The show has abandoned their negative ways and moved onto more substantial content.
Through the years, the show has made history, but not always in the best way. They have taken on parodies of live events that have shaken many people. Namely, they created what NBC News referred to as “an episode long travesty” based on a news story of an American teenager who was caned by Singaporean officials to punish him for vandalism. This episode depicted Bart getting “the boot” out of Australia.
Incredible Guest Stars
It might be safe to say that the best of the best are those who have had an animated cameo in the show. The late Michael Jackson, Johnny Carson, and Hugh Hefner all made appearances, and still-pumping Lady Gaga and The Red Hot Chili Peppers have as well. Some have appeared as themselves, while others have made guest voice appearances.
The list of notable names present in the series could go on forever. Meryl Streep, Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, we could go on for ages and barely scratch the surface. This show has completely soared through the years, and maybe the variety of celebrity guests can be attributed to it!
NBC News reports that fans of The Simpsons made it clear from early on that they wanted to hold onto this show and really remember it all. Memorabilia was one part of the deal. While other studios weren’t archiving or tossing old episodes in the trash, fans of the show made it clear that this was a show that was meant to stay.
These old episodes that are seldom available for other long-running shows (from the 1980s, no less!) give us a view of some of society’s ugly biases that unfortunately still seem to be prevalent today. Today, the show helps diffuse that situation with their now open-minded plotlines.
Society, Depicted by The Simpsons
When the show began, this family of characters were depicted as just average people living their lives. Sure, he had a job and a house he owned and two cars and a housewife. As it goes, though, he’d grow into the ball of laziness he is known as today. The shift in characterization showed the world that was surrounding him.
By the end of Season Three, he’d become known as what NBC News referred to as “a shiftless boob comfortable in a dead-end job who married the girl he got pregnant in high school (from which he did not graduate) and never went to college.” People would look back at the early episodes and think, “yeah… he would never get all that with his life choices!”
Moving Forward, Moving Back
On the same note, the show made a name for taking steps toward social progress, but it occasionally takes a step back. However, the show always moves forward again and continues to make an effort to this day. The treatment of LGBTQ+ people on the show has been a rollercoaster in itself.
The LGBTQ+ Podcast “Gayest Episode Ever” compiled an astounding two-plus hour special of all the gay jokes made on the show. In “a very earnest episode,” as it was named by NBC News, Season Eight’s “Homer’s Phobia” featured John Waters as the family’s gay friend. As LGBTQ+ rights became more prominent and started getting more attention, the jokes got meaner continuously.
Homer Takes a Hit
Homer Simpson is the token doofus of television. It feels like every show has modeled their goofy main character around the shenanigans caused by Homer. Homer has made some very ignorant comments toward the LGBTQ+ community, like some toward his gay sister-in-law that are very uncool.
Fortunately, though, he was served with some form of poetic justice as Homer had to sit back as his arm was twisted behind his back. He then goes on to admit that he doesn’t vote – which kind of depicts him as a character known for making ignorant comments with no ground to stand on.
The Simpsons has brought so many people together in ways that you might not expect! True crime podcaster and former detective Dan Grice met his soon-to-be-wife Yeardley Smith at the unveiling of a mural erected in honor of The Simpsons in Springfield, Oregon. Does the name Yeardley Smith ring a bell to you? If not, we’ve got you.
Yeardley Smith is the voice of Lisa Simpson, one of the main characters who always has something to say. With her saxophone in hand, Lisa always makes us laugh. We wonder if Grice asked her to do her best Lisa lines… as his own pickup line? We’ll never know!
Life in Hell: An Inspiration
Graduating from college brought creator Matt Groening to pursue life as a writer. He relocated to Los Angeles, where he found some minor successes contributing witty slogans for movies when he had the opportunity to. He mostly got by on an assortment of jobs, like driving as a chauffeur and washing dishes.
His creation of the comic Life in Hell was largely inspired by his struggles in Los Angeles. Without the successes that came with publishing the comic, we might be living in a world without The Simpsons and what fun would that be? It wouldn’t be fun at all!
Inspired by Moe’s
Some Springfield locals and The Simpsons superfans decided that if there was not a real bar called Moe’s in the town, they would create one. Regardless of a historical landmark tavern nearby that served as the inspiration for the pub in their favorite show, these locals were determined to have a real Moe’s in the center of town.
This local watering hole is complete with pickled eggs, foosball, a pool table, darts, a juke box, and a big screen television. Meal service is available through the adjoining restaurant, in case the pickled eggs aren’t your taste. The tavern has a painting of “Duff Man” as well as an inflatable pink donut with sprinkles on display, as nods to the show. They even have Homer’s “yearbook photo” on display in the restroom!
Comic Book Guy
True fans of The Simpsons will know who “Comic Book Guy” is. It is rumored that he is based on an actual person in Springfield. He is also rumored to be inspired by legendary baseball player Sandy Koufax, based on the character’s interest in baseball and pitching ability. We’ll focus on the Springfield guy, instead.
Comic Book Guy, who reveals his name as Jeff Albertson later on, is rumored to be based on an actual person in Springfield, Oregon. He owned and sold his comic book shop in recent years. The real-life Comic Book Guy lost a ton of weight (unlike his character) and still runs a different hobby shop in the area!
Gift to Springfield
When Matt Groening was visiting the city behind the show, he left a gift for the city manager’s office. He left behind a signed plaque depicting the 2007 “Springfield Challenge” which shouted out to the real Springfield. He wanted the city to feel a sense of pride for the show, as if it wasn’t already there.
The plaque hangs directly behind the Springfield City Manager’s office, which is behind the Springfield Museum. The message written reads “Yo to Springfield, Oregon – the REAL Springfield! Your pal, Matt Groening, Proud Oregonian 2007.” This might clear up any doubt’s others may have about this truly being the OG Springfield!
Another Life-Sized Family
As previously mentioned, a yogurt shop in Springfield, Oregon set up a table with life-sized figures of the iconic television family. Turns out, those are not the only ones in town! The mural on the western wall of the city’s Emerald Art Center, was approved by the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation – as were the life-sized figures of the family inside.
The figures sit on a cardboard couch, all of which was constructed for the premiere of the movie in 2007. There is just enough room for visitors to have a seat next to their favorite characters for a photo opportunity.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that other television shows have come as a result of the humble beginnings of The Simpsons. Groening has fathered other television shows, and a perfect example of this is Futurama. Futurama is basically a workplace sitcom in cartoon form, taking place on a foreign planet. The characters have some overlap with The Simpsons.
Though the characters are not yellow like the Simpsons, they have similar features and physical shape. Much like the preceding program, the show is known for foreshadowing events both way in the future for the show, and, often, far in the future of real life!
Lady Gaga and Her Friend Lisa
There were so many notable celebrity appearances. Lady Gaga appeared on the show when the pop sensation ended up in Springfield! Naturally, Lady Gaga felt surprised by these new surroundings because everyone around her was depressed, so she took it upon herself to cheer them up!
Her appearance was not too far off from what many of us remember Lady Gaga for. At one point, she was depicted wearing an outfit made entirely of bacon. The end of the episode was marked with a duet performed by Lisa and Gaga as the town learned significant lessons about being themselves.
Treehouse of Horror XXIII
One of the many incredible episodes in the 32-season, 700-episode production is the Emmy-nominated episode entitled Treehouse of Horror XXIII. Naturally, by the show’s 23rd Halloween special, they needed to find some new ideas. For some reason, they chose to parody the least-scary movie ever, Back to the Future.
This episode doesn’t stop there. They also went as far as spoofing a scene from Paranormal Activity. Homer sets up a camera to see what kind of creature might be haunting the Simpson home was a Moe-the-bartender-esque demon who makes a deal with Marge. Not the best, but still nominated!
Trash of the Titans
Another Emmy-nominated episode is entitled Trash of the Titans. This notable episode featured a star known throughout the world for his humor and tenure in the world of comedy. This humble celebrity is Steve Martin! This episode showed how absolutely absurd the show could be.
This episode features Homer getting some more responsibility, as he becomes Springfield’s Sanitation Commissioner. If you’re a fan of the show, maybe you can guess how successful that was… not! The episode culminates with Mayor Quimby moving the whole town over five miles!
Lisa’s Voice in Crime Podcasting
Local Eugene/Springfield retired detective and current crime podcaster Dan Grice lucked out when he married Yeardley Smith, the voice behind Lisa. Now he had someone to narrate anything he might need! Or, you know… maybe he just loved her. Well, now he has enlisted his wife to host the podcast.
That’s not where the celebrity hosting stops! Yeardley Smith (aka Lisa Simpson) is joined on the podcast by her best friend, actress Zibby Allen. Allen has had roles in Grey’s Anatomy and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so she’s not a stranger to the world of performance. The Register Guard describes the show, Small Town Dicks as a thirteen-episode retelling of crimes that occurred in the Springfield-Eugene area.
The Simpsons vs. Seinfeld
These two absolutely epic shows have tons of overlap, and sometimes it seems intentional. Other times, it feels like a strange coincidence. Internet communities have tracked down photos to show how similar episodes are. Instagram accounts like @seinfeld_and_simpsons have been created to showcase this phenomenon.
The title this account uses is “worlds collide” because they want to actively search for anything that could be used to compare the two. Some comparisons make more sense than others, while some are created just to make people laugh. Either way, we are here for it!
One Actor, Many Voices
Dan Castellaneta voices Homer Simpson. However, it does not stop there when it comes to this show! He has certainly had a lengthy career outside of The Simpsons, he made off like a bandit with his numerous roles in the show. Can you guess which other characters Castellaneta voiced?
Get ready, as this is a long one. Castellaneta voiced a whopping 22 other characters on the show beyond Homer, include Grampa Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Barney Gumble, Groundskeeper Willie, Mayor Quimby, and Hans Moleman. Castellaneta first appeared as Homer with the rest of the family in the original short Good Night created for The Tracey Ullman Show.
How Many People Voice the Simpsons?
Good question – one you might not have had until you learned just a moment ago that the same guy who voiced Homer Simpson also voiced twenty-plus other characters! Here is a shocking fact: Only twelve actors voice over 100 characters in The Simpsons! Even crazier – Vox reported that three people voice most of the characters, together representing roughly 60% of the characters in the show.
Dan Castellaneta is joined by Hank Azaria and Harry Sherer in representing most of the show’s voices. Trailing behind are Tress MacNeille and Pamela Hayden, each voicing twelve roles from Milhouse to Agnes Skinner among others. These two are trailed closely by Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson along with eight others. The remaining cast members each represent six characters or less. Either way, impressive feat!
Two Tales From 1989
Returning to our Simpsons and Seinfeld overlap obsession, both shows premiered in 1989. Both were identified as situation comedies, and both became significant American icons, despite taking hits at American ways of life whenever they could. Both shows were often seen as having “lots to say about nothing in particular.” The Los Angeles Times describes the two shows as shows that are so general in subject matter that they can really do anything they please.
The publication said it best – “potentially about everything, from big cultural trends to dipping a chip in dip after having taken a bite from it, making pearls from a single grain of irritating sand. Both the Simpsons and the Seinfelds exist in a more or less permanent state of war, occasionally relieved by small triumphs or moments of self-satisfaction to be wiped away by the next compulsive obsession or obsessive compulsion, the next perceived slight, the next self-inflicted misfortune, the next scheme gone wrong.”
Playdate with Destiny
Disney+ released a short starring the youngest member of the clan, Maggie. This quiet little one is the center of the film. She is rescued by a fellow baby after a playground disaster. After her first playdate, she couldn’t wait to see him again, but it seems that fate might have had other plans.
This fortunately was not the only chance for Maggie to enjoy the spotlight. Playdate with Destiny is the second Simpsons short film, following The Longest Daycare in 2012, also starring Maggie. The Rolling Stone reported that the short originally aired before Ice Age: Continental Drift. The short also went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film!
So far, 30 episodes of Matt Groening’s new Netflix animated series has characters that look just like characters from The Simpsons. The show, Disenchantment, is Groening’s new baby. Abbi Jacobson from Comedy Central’s Broad City voices Princess Piabeanie, also known as Bean.
The series is about a magical kingdom called Dreamland, and it follows Bean and her two sidekicks, Elfo and Luci. Elfo was an elf, and Luci was her own destructive “personal demon.” You can imagine the shenanigans these three get up to together. Groening is credited with making some of the best cartoons for grown-ups of all time.
Predicting the Future
This long-running show has had a strange way of predicting events that would later occur. We’re not suggesting that Matt Groening and his staff are psychics… but we’re not saying they aren’t, either! This show has predicted so much, from the election of the 45th President to multiple super bowls.
Though these were all fictionalized scenes, so many of them have come to fruition in real life. This happened so often that The Hollywood Reporter compiled a list of thirty times the show predicted the future. They said it well – “in a world where truth can often be stranger than fiction, things that writers pitched as jokes were able… to elevate out of frame and make their way to a new dimension.”
Episodes Come to Life
Whether this was a prediction of the future or just another person getting idiotic ideas here and there, a chaotic and odd scheme from character Fat Tony, the crime boss, would raise the eyebrows of many. One scheme specifically came to life, and it might shock you like it shocked us!
In an episode in Season 13 of The Simpsons, Fat Tony glued cotton balls to ferrets to try and pass them off as toy poodles. This actually ended up happening when another criminal was inspired by something he saw on television. An Argentinean man was shocked when he thought he was buying toy poodles but had actually bought two ferrets that were groomed and juiced up on steroids. After buying them for $150 at South America’s largest illegal market, maybe he walked into that one!
Homer, Dad of the Year
Homer has done what he could to prove himself as a father his kids would want to have around. He’s had a few moments in the series when he goes above and beyond for his kids. Once, he was determined to get Lisa the pony that she wanted. In order to pay for the pony and all additional related costs, he took the night shift at the Kwik-E-Mart.
Some of his other moments might be questionable, but they don’t stop at purchasing livestock. This loving dad dressed up as a robot to put a smile on his son’s face and make Bart think he was smart. With limited ability as a dad, Homer proves his love for his kids in often odd ways, but he still does his best!
The Simpsons Across the World
The Simpsons has become a household name across the globe. This show is broadcast throughout the world and, yes, Springfield is also a city name you can find overseas. The entrance of the town of Springfield, New Zealand has a 12-foot-tall sculpture of a pink glazed doughnut. It doesn’t stop there, though!
According to The Los Angeles Times, the show has really left a mark on people other than everyday Americans. “Voters in a congressional election in Argentina cast ballots for a candidate named Homer Simpson from the Donuts and Beer Party. When Brits were asked in an online survey to name their most admired Americans, Homer outranked Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.” Why would true fans do anything else?