Best 'Simpsons' Moments: Castmembers Share Their Favorite Contributions to Celebrate the 500th Episode

Erika Isabel Vega began as a P.A. on The Simpsons Movie in June of 2006. She stayed on to work on The Simpsons Ride at Universal and joined the TV show crew in  season 20 as scene planner, which is her current role. She feels very lucky and blessed for the opportunity and experience.  Erika offered two favorite contributions, one from the Movie, one from the show:

On The Simpsons Movie, I was working on the camera move panning down from the shattered dome to Milhouse looking up at the sky as the shards fell. As I was showing the test to the director they thought the shards looked like snowflakes so we had an artist add a few quick poses of Milhouse sticking out his tongue to catch a piece. I thought it was cool that my work had inspired a new visual gag that made it into the movie.

The way we set up both the video game POV shot in the opening of NABF20,"The Food Wife," and the Ratatouille parody later was some of the most complicated stuff I've ever done. It really challenged me and I felt we were pushing the boundaries of how we technically handle these shots with our digital capabilities; I think it has allowed us to be more ambitious with shots in the future.

Ken Keeler is another of those notorious Harvard-educated writers. He holds a PhD in applied mathematics, so we assume many of the math jokes that I don't get on The Simpsons and Futurama come from him. He has written numerous episodes of The Simpsons, including "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer" and "Two Bad Neighbors." He is currently an executive producer of Futurama, where he has more than a dozen writing credits to his name.

Whether it's for its sheer funniness or its ubiquity (or both) I'm not sure, but Keeler names his phrase "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" from " 'Round Springfield" as his favorite contribution to The Simpsons. (Don't know how ubiquitous the line is? It's even got its own Wikipedia entry).

Nikki Isordia has worked on The Simpsons for six years, starting out as a P.A. in the design department, then coordinating audio. Last year she was promoted to Production Coordinator. She is also a freelance makeup artist. (Check out her blog that has some cool pics of her makeup work). She said that her first official episode (NABF21, "Replaceable You") as Production Coordinator has extra special significance for her:
As everyone I know and work with knows, I am a HUGE David Bowie Fan, and this episode ends with 'Golden Years' by David Bowie. When I saw this in the script for the first time I was so excited, and I hoped it wouldn't be cut! It made it in the episode and it was just icing on my cake!
And in another upcoming episode from season 23, 'Them Robot'-- I can't give away too much but there is a little reference to me; it has to do with one of the robots. (Keep your eyes open for robot N33).

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As a person who has loved the Simpson's since The Tracy Ullman Show, I feel the need to bring up that I was the person who came up with the word 'meh.'  It first came about when a group of friends and I were walking down the beach.  (around '91 or '92)  One of my friend's says to me "what the hell is that on your foot?!?"  I look down and it looks like either oil or feces, so I just replied "meh" and walked down to the ocean to rinse it off.   Anyway, I got enough of a laugh out of that that the word became part of my lexicon and has been ever since. 

So when the Simpson's episode aired with the word, I was giddy.  I went to all of my friend's to show them that the word had actually made it into an actual Simpson's episode.  At the time, they all just blew me off and said they probably got it from somewhere else.  It was only after searches came back saying "The Simpsons" episode made up the word that my friend's had to concede that I had been using it for roughly a decade prior to the airing.


Denise, what a fun insider look at the people who bring The Simpsons to life! It's stunning how much work is involved in creating and sustaining the show -- and how much heart and soul and personal quirkiness goes into it. I love reading about these personal-fave moments. More, please! 

It would also be fun to hear someday about the most misunderstood episodes (e.g., episodes that generated hate mail from groups they expected to love the episode, and fan mail from groups they expected to hate the ep), if that makes any sense. :-)

Denise Du Vernay
Denise Du Vernay

Thanks! It was a lot of fun to collect these stories. I especially like Dana Gould's episode inspired by the experience he and his wife had adopting their daughter from China and David X. Cohen's contribution to the season six episode "Lisa On Ice" (which he didn't "write") based on his childhood fights with his own sister. The second is a prime example of how, although one writer creates the original script, the revisions and the final product are usually very much a collaboration. I like the idea of collecting some more Simpson moments inspired by the writers' personal experiences.

As for the misunderstood/hate mail-generating episodes, there are a few famous examples ("Bart vs. Australia," "The Principal and the Pauper," "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday," etc.) but I'll bet there are more to be gleaned. Great idea!

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