Ah, the perils of fame. And being a one-note catchphrase machine, which is a pretty interesting little meta comment on the Simpsons themselves. See, this is why this show is so good, they’re not above poking fun at themselves.
The episode starts off with another bit of poking fun with Homer reading the horoscopes in the newspaper and finding that his just says that “today will be like every other day.” We then get another one of my favorite little meta-gags this show used to do a lot, where Bart walks into the kitchen whistling the theme to the Simpsons, which Marge tells him to stop doing, saying it’s an annoying song. But that doesn’t dampen Bart’s spirits, because today is the day his class gets to go on a field trip, and since he doesn’t have to go to class, he’s stoked. He even starts making fun of Lisa, since her class doesn’t get to go, unable to understand that Lisa actually likes going to school. And man do I love her little fantasy where she’s incredibly successful and famous in the future, having one pretty much every intellectual award there is, while Bart seems to live with her just polishing her trophies. She then kicks him in the back, and he gets impaled on her Nobel peace prize. Oh Lisa. Anyway, Bart heads off to school and Principal Skinner comes in to tel them where they’ll be going. And unfortunately he picked their old standby, the local box factory. Everyone is unhappy with that decision, even Mrs. Krabappel. Bart even tries to use his imagination to come up with a better field trip, but he finds that TV has ruined his imagination, and he just rolls with it.
So the fourth grade class heads out to the fun-filled box factory, and all get super jealous as they pass several other more exciting alternatives. They see a place called Toy Town, a fireworks testing range, and a slide factory. But Skinner doesn’t back down, and they get to the box factory, which is the most depressing place on Earth. And man is the tour guide dude the worst. He’s so boring, and doesn’t really seem to enjoy having kids in his factory. However, they finally find something interesting when it turns out that across the street from the box factory is the television studio that makes Bumblebee Man, the local news, and most importantly, the Krusty the Klown show. So Bart decides to sneak out of the tour, and after briefly jumping in a laundry hamper in the hopes that someone would wheel him out, he just leaves through an exit and heads over to the studio. The guard doesn’t ask for any credentials, and Bart just gets right into the studio. And almost right away the rest of the field trip freaks out, because Bart is apparently missing, and they start searching the whole factory before calling Marge and Homer. Marge misses the call by just a second as she runs to the phone in a towel having showered, but Homer catches it, even though he was also having a shower in the Plant and was also wearing a towel.
But while the rest of the class is freaking out, Bart is having a grand old time investigating the studio. He finds Bumblebee Man filming his show, and we find that he’s actually an erudite British actor who is having troubles with his motivation, which is a wonderful joke that I don’t think gets continued ever again. Bart also raids the Craft Service table and grabs a danish, which he then regrets when he finds that it was Krusty’s, and he’s pissed. So Bart sneaks through the studio until he finds a danish that was supposed to be Kent Brockman’s, and he steals it. And man do I love the joke of Kent Brockman practicing the news, and unable to pronounce Kuala Lumpur, so he just changes it to France. That’s some good journalism there Kent. Anyway, Bart brings Krusty the danish, and after confirming that Brockman didn’t touch it, Krusty is happy. Bart tries to get Krusty to remember who he is, with no luck, but Krusty feels grateful for the danish, so he makes Bart his assistant. While all of this is going on we see Homer has gotten to the box factory, and since one of the boxes has Bart’s lucky red hat on it, he assumes that Bart has been killed and turned into a box. We then get an amazing joke where Kent Brockman refuses to read the news, even though he’s on air, since he doesn’t have his danish, so Bumblebee Man pushes him out of the way and reads the report instead.
Back at the house, Homer is trying to figure out how to tell Marge that Bart is a box now, as Bart shows up and tells them that he has a new job as Krusty’s assistant. Marge and Homer are hesitant at first, and Homer goes into a weird memory of his first job, where he was a one-man band who got attacked by an organ grinder’s monkey. But they let him go through with it, so Bart starts working for Krusty. And it’s not that great. He has to clean Krusty’s toilet, sign all of Krusty’s autographs for him, and doesn’t get any respect from his peers since his name shows up in the credits to small to actually make out. But things reach an apex when he gives all of the cast some sandwiches, and accidentally gives one with cheese to Sideshow Mel, who gets incredibly sick, and starts yelling at Bart while throwing up. Bart gets fed up and starts to quit, but Krusty stops him and tells him he needs him for a skit. Bart is just supposed to stand there and get pelted with pies for ten minutes, which he thinks he can do. However, as soon as Bart goes out on the set, he trips and ends up knocking over all of the sets and props. But right as the audience is staring at him in horror, he looks at them and says “I didn’t do it,” which cracks them the hell up.
At first Krusty is kind of mad at Bart, and tells him he will never be on camera again, but it turns out people loved Bart and his little catchphrase, so Krusty ends up adding him to the show. So Bart becomes a minor celebrity, called the “I didn’t do it boy.” People around town start saying his catchphrase, he gets a record contract, and gets all kind of shitty merchandise with his face on it. He even gets a weird autobiography pumped out that’s mainly about Ross Perot and excerpts from the Oliver North trial. And really quickly Bart starts to hate his fame. His classmates expect him to be a parrot and just say his line over and over, and he’s just starting to feel dumb. He tries to actually learn something to come off as intelligent when he comes on Conan O’Brien’s talk show, but Conan only wants him to say the line, and doesn’t even let him dance. So Bart decides he wants to quit, and refuses to even leave his room when he’s supposed to be going to a big episode of the show. But Marge saves the day and explains that even though what he’s doing is dumb, it’s making people happy, and it may be worth sucking it up and just making people happy. However, when he gets to the studio with a new outlook on his fame, he finds that people don’t give a crap about him or his catchphrase anymore. His moment of fame has passed, and he’s just a regular kid again. So he heads home and we get a sweet scene where Marge has packed up a box of merchandise with him on it as a reminder of the time he was “the whole world’s special little guy.” The episode then ends on a wonderful note where they talk about how dumb catchphrases are before the whole family, and some other townsfolk who pop into the house, say their catchphrases before turning to Lisa expectantly, and she just responds with “if anyone wants me, I’ll be in my room.”
This was a really fun episode, and kind of felt like a companion to the “Bart’s Inner Child,” episode. They both look at the town briefly loving Bart for just being himself, which then starts to grate on him, before turning on him. I love that Bart just kind of lucks his way into fame, and then starts to feel bad about it. They could have easily had Bart turn into a jerk, taking advantage of his fame and being a turd to the family before having the rug yanked out from under him when the town stops caring. But instead we see Bart have a crisis of self, where he starts to feel like a sham because he’s famous for a simple sentence, and is worried that people only care about his catchphrase, and not himself. That’s a pretty deep fear, and one that I’m sure anyone who gets famous off a one-hit-wonder type of scenario feels.
Take Away: It’s easy to get famous…for a moment at least.
“Bart Gets Famous” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Susie Dietter, 1994.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons