The Creator of Steamed Hams From The Simpsons Now Does Epic Restaurant Reviews
You steam a good ham, sir.
May 30, 2018 ● 4 min read
By Richie Nakano | The Simpsons/ChefsFeed
When I was in fifth grade, I got sent home from school for calling my P.E. teacher a butthead.
As punishment, my mom informed me that I was no longer permitted to watch The Simpsons, where she assumed my Bart Simpson-style vocabulary came from. (The truth is that my P.E. teacher actually was a butthead, and in recent years my mom has agreed with my assessment.) The attempted ban only made the show more enticing and was thus very short-lived.
The Simpsons informed what I would consider funny into my adult life, and I still go back and watch old episodes. During those repeated viewings, I’ve come to appreciate the breadth of food-related humor on the show. (It’s not uncommon to hear jokes about the Homer the Critic episode echoing through kitchens.) Recently, this lifetime of Simpsons devotion came full-circle.
Bill Oakley, showrunner of my two favorite seasons of The Simpsons (think The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show, Two Bad Neighbors, You Only Move Twice, Homer’s Enemy), started doing food reviews on Instagram.
I know, Instagram is full of foodies giving overenthusiastic reviews of brunch, of bubble tea, of street food, and generally, they’re extremely terrible. Oakley’s however, are what might pass for gold in this god-forsaken landscape. The formula is simple: a quick “hey,” an explanation of what he’s about to eat, a shot of the food, a bite, and a quick assessment. The payoff comes with a sly joke, or more dramatically, a musical overlay for added embellishment. They’re brilliant.
I spoke to Oakley about all things involving Simpsons & food, burger rankings, and the phenomenon of wadded beef. “As I'm talking to you, I'm literally parked outside of Wendy's,” he says. “As soon as this is over, I'm gonna try that new Southwestern Chicken Avocado Sandwich or whatever the hell it's called.”
The food reviews you're doing are really funny, there's just something really genuine about them, but they also have this searing humor at the end that I really like. What inspired you to do these?
Bill Oakley: When [McDonald's] launched those natural beef Quarter Pounder things I wanted to be there the first day to try it. It occurred to me that a text review was not going to be nearly as interesting as filming myself when I took the first bite of it, and people really liked that for some reason. Hundreds of people, including you, were like, keep them coming. So now I've got myself into this trap where I can't stop doing them.
So do you plan to keep them going for the foreseeable future?
I mean, ideally, I hope to do two or three a week for the next 25 years. If I'm able to keep that schedule up, depends on if I'm at work… I'm usually at work. It depends on where I have to go, if it's convenient. That one I did for the Asian microwave appetizers, that's easy to do at home, but if I gotta drive some remote place, like I did for Smashburger, it's time-consuming.
Yeah, how long was that drive up to that casino?
It was about 40 minutes.
Do you have any places planned in particular?
I do want to try kind of unusual things that are extra good, like HiHo Burger, which only has that one location in Santa Monica. I have to say, it's probably the best burger I can remember having in any recent year.
In the HiHo video, you mention In-N-Out and Shake Shack. If you had to pick one to eat for the rest of your life?
It would be In-N-Out. I've had a lot of Shake Shack over since it first came out and I'm not as in love with it as I used to be. I've never had an In-N-Out Burger that I didn't love, whereas I recently had a fair number of Shake Shack burgers that were like, 84 out of 100. I like Five Guys better than Shake Shack, for some reason. Shake Shack varies widely based on the location. I can get into the weeds on this, but I've been to six or seven different ones and each one was a different level of quality.
What draws you to humor involving food? Is there something about our attitudes towards it and the ways we relate to it that make it good for jokes?
If it was up to me, every script I write [has] at least ten food jokes in each one. It's a universal thing. It's one of the few things that all humans have in common. There is a lot of humor to be found in the topic because there's such a wide variety of food, and so much of it goes wrong in so many different ways.
Do you have a favorite food scene from your time on The Simpsons?
I really like the fake products that we made. The stuff that was being sold when the hurricane came, like the wadded beef and other crazy crap. The stuff that Homer bought when he tried to gain all that weight, like Tubbb! and Uncle Jim's Country Fillin’. I totally believe that Tubbb!, with three B's, could be real and just a plastic pail filled with like Oreo cookie filling, that you would eat with a spoon or your hand, and it would just be a gross mess.
How did you come up with the steamed hams scene?
Chalmers is my favorite character on The Simpsons, and the thing where Skinner tells a really obvious lie and Chalmers kind of questions him about it, but then gives up, is my favorite thing on The Simpsons. I [wanted] to come up with a circumstance where Skinner could just keep lying, it goes on forever, and Chalmers never really calls him on it and even at the end, still kind of believes him.
I don't think it was really even all that popular when we first did it, it's only taken on life of its own in the past couple years. If you had never seen the characters before or even really liked them, then you just have a question mark over your head, at least until the end.
Alright, I'm going to do a lightning round. Krusty Burger or Moe's Family Feedbag?
I think I would prefer to eat at Krusty Burger. I don't like that stuff about that bottom-feeding suction eel that Moe was feeding his clientele.
Marge's pretzels or Wiggum's chili?
I think I would like to try Wiggum's chili. I mean, I already really like chili and I think I could take that Guatemalan insanity pepper, at least for one spoon.
Very large Australian beer or Homer's bootleg alcohol?
I would rather have a very large Australian beer, for obvious reasons.
Yeah, Homer's bathtub gin, I don't know. Last one, Homer's flying roast pig or Flanders’ nachos?
I'd rather have the roast pig, man. Those nachos make me sad, just thinking even about the cucumber with cottage cheese on it…it's such a limp attempt at something delicious.
Catch Bill Oakley’s new show, Disenchantment, on Netflix this August.