6 Real-Life Incidents That Inspired Classic ‘Simpsons’ Episodes

From Bart’s elephant to Whacking Day…
6 Real-Life Incidents That Inspired Classic ‘Simpsons’ Episodes

Don’t let the yellow four-fingered people who oddly never age fool you — some classic episodes of The Simpsons were drawn straight from real-life incidents. While we’re pretty sure that Matt Groening never cut the head off a statue or that Conan O’Brien was never fleeced by a musical monorail salesman, it seems that several iconic storylines originated here in the dumpster fire known as reality, like how…

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‘Marge Be Not Proud’ Can be Traced Back to One Writer’s ‘Traumatic’ Childhood Event

The seventh season Christmas episode, which first introduced the now totally real video game Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge, “Marge Be Not Proud,” found Bart getting caught shoplifting from the local Try-N-Save. The idea for the show came from writer Mike Scully, who drew from a childhood experience in which he was busted for stealing from a local department store after being pressured by some “cool kids.” Though, in real life, Scully lifted an “awful” 45 record, not a sweet Bonestorm-esque game. While Scully’s mom never found out, the way Marge learns of Bart’s actions, he still calls the incident “one of the most traumatic moments of my life.”

‘The Front’ Was Inspired By the Time Two Kids Wrote an Episode of ‘Tiny Toon Adventures’

Remember the time Bart and Lisa penned an episode of Itchy & Scratchy using Grampa’s name as a pseudonym? That actually happened… sort of. In real life, it was Steven Spielberg who greenlit a script for Tiny Toon Adventures written by three 13-year-old girls (who apparently didn’t need to use the name of an elderly relative to fool the Oscar-winning director of Schindler’s List). According to writer Adam Lapidus, he saw a news story about the Tiny Toons deal and thought to himself, “Boy, that would be a good idea for Bart and Lisa.”

‘Bart Gets an Elephant’ Was an Apparent Nod to a Difficult ‘Price Is Right’ Contestant

“Bart Gets an Elephant” opens with Bart winning a radio contest and is given two options: receive $10,000 or take the “gag prize” of a “full-grown African elephant.” In case the episode’s title didn’t tip you off, he picks the elephant. While never officially confirmed, it seems more than a little likely that this plotline was based on a similar situation that cropped up during the production of The Price Is Right in its pre-Bob Barker era. 

As the story goes, a “Texas farmer” won a piano, along with a live elephant to “supply extra ivory.” While the elephant bit was clearly a joke (oh, how people in the 1950s used to chuckle at the notion of elephant murder), the contestant insisted on claiming his mammoth prize. The producers offered him $4,000 instead of the animal, but he turned it down, and the show ended up having to fly an elephant out of Kenya to hand over to this random weirdo.

‘Whacking Day’ Is Based on an Actual Festival in Texas

Whacking Day, the repugnant holiday in which Springfieldians gleefully slaughter snakes (to the horror of music legend Barry White), was apparently based on an actual annual event: Sweetwater, Texas’ “Rattlesnake Roundup.” And despite the fact that the town Newsweek magazine once called “America’s crud bucket” eventually managed to outlaw Whacking Day, the Rattlesnake Roundup is apparently still going strong for some terrible reason. 

‘Flaming Moe’s’ Was Supposedly Based on a Behind-the-Scenes Dispute

The classic episode “Flaming Moe’s” — in which Moe takes credit for Homer’s lucrative, cough syrup-infused cocktail — could just be a wacky story devoid of any significant takeaways beyond the revelation that Aerosmith will happily accept pickled eggs as a form of payment. But a lot of people have interpreted the story as an allegory for the creation of The Simpsons itself, with Moe representing Matt Groening and Homer serving as a stand-in for Sam Simon, who some have claimed didn’t get enough credit for being the “real creative force” behind the show. 

When asked about the rumor in an interview, Simon slyly admitted: “That may be true.” No confirmation on whether drinking cough syrup helped improve the script.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 

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