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Recap / The Simpsons S3 E1 "Stark Raving Dad"

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Original air date: 9/19/1991

Production code: 7F24

The Season 3 premiere of The Simpsons. When Homer is declared insane after coming into work wearing a pink T-shirt (that turned pink after Bart put his lucky red cap in the wash) and having Bart fill out his psychiatric evaluation for him, Homer is committed to the New Bedlam Home for the Emotionally Interesting and meets a big, bald mental patient who claims he's pop singer Michael Jackson. Meanwhile, Lisa is depressed over her upcoming eighth birthday.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Homer is put off by Michael's saying that he's a vegetarian who doesn't drink alcohol. Homer's voice actor, Dan Castellaneta, is a vegetarian who doesn't drink alcohol. Jackson was vegetarian in real life, though it's possible the writers might not have known.
  • Awkward Poetry Reading: Lisa says she'll fill out Homer's psychiatric evaluation for him if he'll listen to her poem first. Homer agrees, but then pulls a Screw This, I'm Outta Here partway through the wangsty poem.
  • Batty Lip Burbling: Homer does this mockingly after Michael tells him that he wore one white glove covered in rhinestones.
  • Bedlam House: Not as extreme as other examples, but the asylum Homer is sent to is poorly run, best shown when they didn't even bother to check if Bart was a real person.
  • Berserk Button: It's already well-known by the audience that Bart's antics are this to Homer, but this episode plays it for extreme Black Comedy because the doctors deem Homer violently insane by how he reacts every time they mention Bart (and one doctor is horrified at finding out that Bart actually exists and isn't a paranoid delusion).
  • Birthday Episode:
    • The episode takes place around Lisa's 8th birthday, and nobody pays attention. In the end, "Michael Jackson" & Bart write a song for her.
      Lisa, it's your birthday.
      Happy birthday, Lisa!
    • Bart and Lisa also watch a birthday-themed episode of "Itchy & Scratchy" where Itchy kills Scratchy at his birthday party.
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: Apparently so in the America's Funniest Home Videos spoof that Homer watches: one of the three $5,000 finalists was of a dog on fire who then "remarks", "Roar. Anybody ordered a hot dog?" Homer gets a big kick out of this and wants that video to win.
  • But Now I Must Go: Leon Kompowsky at the end, after revealing he's not really Michael Jackson.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Homer promises the patient (who claims to be Michael Jackson) that he won't tell anyone he will be coming over, but then calls Bart and tells him not to tell anyone that "Michael Jackson" is coming to their house. Bart tries to stay quiet, but he impulsively calls Milhouse and asks him "Milhouse, can you keep a secret?". Milhouse responds with "no" and Bart brushes it off and says "Who cares?! Michael Jackson is coming over!"
  • Cassandra Truth: When Homer explains that the reason his shirt was pink was because Bart put his red cap in the white laundry, Mr. Burns angrily refuses to believe him by saying: "Spare me the tiresome antics of the Simpson family!" Even Dr. Monroe is convinced he's insane without giving him a psychiatric evaluation.
  • Cast as a Mask: Michael Jackson provided Leon's voice while he's pretending to be the real deal, while Hank Azaria provides Leon's real voice at the end.
  • Comically Missing the Point: During a therapy session, a man suffering from agoraphobia speaks about his experiences. As he talks about the first time being unable to leave the house, however, Homer keeps interrupting him to ask if it was because his door was locked, if it was raining, or if the car was out of gas. Then he calls him a "baby".
  • Couch Gag: The family sits on the couch and it tips backwards, crashing through the wall.
  • Died on Their Birthday: The "Itchy & Scratchy" cartoon that Bart and Lisa watch entails Itchy killing Scratchy at his birthday party.
  • Everyone Has Standards: One of the doctors of the insane asylum is actually horrified at finding out that Bart is real, and thus is not a symbol of some kind of paranoid psychosis Homer is suffering but is an actual son that pisses Homer off that much.
  • Evolving Credits: The theme music was re-arranged by Alf Clausen starting with this episode. This version of the theme song is still in use, and the animation (which debuted in Season 2) remained the same until the show went High Definition in Season 20.
  • Face of a Thug: Leon is a big, intimidating-looking guy that first shows up in a mental institution. He's also one of the kindest souls to ever show up in Springfield.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "Michael" readily establishes that he voluntarily submitted himself to the asylum; he's even allowed to leave with Homer with no strings attached. These details make a lot more sense after it's revealed he's well aware he isn't Michael Jackson.
    • When he first meets "Michael", Homer's hand has just been stamped with "INSANE". "Michael" doesn't have such a stamp.
  • Forgotten Birthday: Bart forgets Lisa's, which only compounds her loneliness because Marge is preoccupied with Homer's release from the asylum that day.
  • Gift of Song: "Michael" helps Bart write a song for Lisa to make up for forgetting her birthday. Bart reflexively starts out with insults when composing it, but "Michael" convinces him to make it a heartfelt birthday wish instead.
  • Go Among Mad People: Homer gets committed and the doctors refuse to believe he's sane (as they thought Bart was just a delusion). Homer laments being separated from his family, but his experience in the hospital is nicer than other examples of this trope: the other patients are quirky but friendly, the doctors are mostly competent, and the therapy is relaxed. Homer ends up happier here than at work. And when Marge comes by to straighten things up by revealing that Bart actually exists, the doctors are willing to release Homer with an mere apology for the misunderstanding.
  • HA HA HA—No:
    Homer: So did I pass?
    Mr. Burns: (laughs) No.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: Lisa sings the song to herself during her lonely birthday party, with "overlooked middle child" in place of her own name.
  • Inkblot Test: Homer undergoes one. When the last one looks just like Bart, he goes ballistic.
  • Insane No More: Once the misunderstanding is cleared up, Homer is given a certificate stating he is perfectly sane, though he has trouble washing off the red "INSANE" stamp the orderlies stamped on his hand.
  • Irrational Hatred: Homer's hatred of Bart is deemed as "persecution complex" and "extreme paranoia" by the doctors of the insane asylum. One doctor is horrified after finding out from Marge that Bart isn't some kind of hallucination Homer has.
  • I Warned You: After learning that Homer was commited to an asylum, Marge is quick to blame the kids, especially Bart, stating that she warned them that their antics would eventually land their dad in the crazy house, though Bart insists she had said it would've been the poor house instead.
    Marge: I said crazy house!
    Bart: Poor house.
    Marge: Crazy house!
    Bart: Poor House.
    Marge: CRAZY HOUSE! (Bart and Lisa look surprised and exchange some "yeesh" glances)
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After spending the entire episode being a terrible son, brother and never listening to people's orders, Bart is humiliated in front of the whole town after he spread the word that Michael Jackson is coming to his house (even when he wasn't supposed to).
  • Last-Second Word Swap: At the asylum, Homer calls his house and becomes livid when Bart answers; he, at first, vows threats of violence he'll act upon when he returns. But Homer quickly changes tactics when he notices the orderlies glaring at him.
    Homer: (angrily at the phone with Bart) Boy, when I get home, I'm gonna wrap my hands around your neck... (notices the orderlies glaring at him, and gets nervous) ...and... smother you with kisses.
    Bart: (annoyed) Homer, whatever they've got you on, cut the dose!
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • When Homer tries to explain to Burns that his shirt is pink because Bart washed it with his red hat, Burns responds, "Spare me the tiresome antics of the Simpson family!"
    • When Leon describes himself as "Michael Jackson from The Jacksons," Homer, who's never heard of the famous family, replies that he's "Homer Simpson from the Simpsons."
  • Mistaken for Insane: Homer goes to work with a pink shirt (due to Bart putting his red hat in the wash) instead of a white shirt like his coworkers. Mr. Burns believes he's not in his right mind, but takes the precaution of having Homer take a written test to prove his mental state. However, Homer is too lazy to fill it out and has Bart do it for him, and the "results" make the doctors think he's mad and take him to an asylum; not helped at all by Homer blaming it all on "the boy".
    Doctor: Mrs. Simpson, I'm sorry, but your husband suffers from a persecution complex, extreme paranoia, and bladder hostility.
    Marge: Doctor, if you just talk to him for five minutes without mentioning our son, Bart, you'd see how sane he is.
    Doctor: You mean there really is a Bart?! Good Lord!
  • Moonwalk Dance: "Jackson" (as the mental patient Leon Kompowski who thinks he is Jackson) demonstrates this dance because Homer has never heard of the famous singer. Homer is amazed at the moonwalk and asks Michael: "How do you do that thing with your feet?" Jackson shows him, Homer tries, but he slides forwards instead of backwards. Later in the episode, after Bart is informed by phone that Michael Jackson will pay a visit to his house, he tells Marge that Homer is in an asylum and performs the moonwalk while humming the melody of "Beat It" at the same time.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Bart pushes the blame for all his actions throughout the episode to someone else. The most egregious being that he blames "Michael" for him getting humiliated in front of the whole town despite Homer ordering Bart not to tell anyone Michael Jackson was coming over.
    • Homer blames Bart for having him committed because he made Bart fill out his psychiatric evaluation for him when he should have done it himself (even Bart earlier points this out himself). Of course, he was likely afraid he'd mess it up, so he asked his family to do it for him.
  • Nice Guy: Leon's a kind-hearted, gentle, friendly, nice, musical, and caring man. He explains in his backstory that he used to be cranky, but after he learned to talk in a nice way, he learned that he could make people happy, so he decided to be a nice person.
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: Bart filling out the mental health questionnaire for Homer. He starts by asking Homer if he ever hears voices, to which a frustrated Homer says, "Yes, I'm hearing one right now, while I'm trying to watch TV!" causing Bart to check "Yes." It's clearly true that Homer is "quick to anger," and it might be true that he's wet his pants at some point ("Well, even the best of us has an occasional accident.") From there, Bart just goes down the whole list checking "yes" for everything.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: The doctors at the asylum were under the belief that Bart was just a figment of Homer's imagination, until Marge sets the record straight.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: The man eventually reveals that he knows that he's not Michael Jackson.
  • One-Person Birthday Party: Lisa begs Bart not to forget her birthday, but of course he does. She sits with only Maggie for company, singing:
    Happy birthday to me,
    Happy birthday to me,
    Happy birthday, overlooked middle child,
    Happy birthday to me.
  • The Operators Must Be Crazy: The hold music for the asylum is actually the country music standard "Crazy", which makes Marge cry.
  • The Parody: Homer enjoys an America's Funniest Home Videos-type show where the finalists are the clips "Man Breaks Hip", "Dog on Fire", and "Baby with a Nail Gun". He's rooting for "Dog on Fire"!
  • Pen Name: The real Michael Jackson indeed provided his own speaking voice note  — and had previously written the song "Do the Bartman" for the infamous 1990 tie-in album The Simpsons Sing the Blues. But he was wary of appearing on a cartoon and in both cases went by the pseudonym John Jay Smith, with the producers legally barred from revealing it was really him. This was later relaxed and eventually, after many years of speculation, proven when the show reran the episode when news hit of Michael Jackson's death. They're also completely open about it on the episode's DVD Commentary, causing a funny bit where they start talking about the fiasco and note that apparently it's okay to say it was Jackson now.
    • This is lampshaded in "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie" when Lisa mentions that Dustin Hoffman and Michael Jackson had cameos but didn't use their own names. At the time of that episode's airing, the speculation regarding both on the show was likely a mystery.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Homer has no idea who Michael Jackson is and so he doesn't question his cellmate claiming to be him.
  • Properly Paranoid: After Bart gets all his shirts turned pink, Homer worries that he'll be treated like a weirdo, but Marge tells him he'll be fine. Turns out that Homer was right, but how could Marge know that Mr. Burns inspects the footage of every employee who comes in?
  • Pun-Based Title: The episode title is a play on the phrase "stark raving mad".
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Bart put his red hat in with the whites, making all of Homer's shirts pink. Homer didn't want to wear a pink shirt — not because he considers it unmanly, but because everyone else wears white shirts and he's "not popular enough to be different". His co-workers make fun of him, while Mr. Burns thinks he is being non-conformist on purpose, believing it to be a sign of political radicalism and even mental illness.
  • Recognition Failure: Homer apparently never heard of Michael Jackson, something that especially in 1991 during Michael's heyday was outrageously impossible. Even Jackson himself says to Homer: "I can't believe you've never heard of me? I'm a very popular entertainer" and names several things that made him famous ("Motown", Thriller, MTV, "Beat It"), even singing "Billie Jean" while performing his Moonwalk Dance, but none of these rings a bell with Homer. A twist on this is vital to the episode's plot — since Homer doesn't know who Michael Jackson is, he has no problem believing the story of an obese mental patient who claims to be him (and does have the moves and the voice). Everyone else in Springfield knows who Jackson is though, so when Bart is told over the phone that Michael Jackson is coming to his house for dinner, and he spreads the word, hilarity ensues.
  • Red Sock Ruins the Laundry: What kicks off the plot of the episode: Bart throws his lucky red hat into the white laundry, turning all of Homer's shirts (and underwear) pink.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder:
    • When Homer is declared insane:
      Homer: This isn't fair! How can you tell who's sane and who's insane?
      Orderly: Well, we have a very simple method. (stamps Homer's hand with "INSANE") Whoever has that stamp on his hand is insane.
    • When Leon confesses who he really is:
      Leon: To make a tired point, which one of us is truly crazy?
      Homer: Not me! I've got this! (shows off his "This certifies Homer Simpson not insane" certificate)
  • Sarcasm-Blind: "Michael" during his phone call with a skeptical Bart about being at the mental hospital with Homer.
    "Michael": This is Michael Jackson.
    Bart: The Michael Jackson? (scoffs) No way!
    "Michael": It's true, I'm with your father in a mental institution.
    Bart: Uh huh, and is Elvis with you?
    "Michael": Could be, it's a big hospital.
  • Shout-Out:
    • After Homer tells Michael he has no idea who he is, "Michael" names several things that made him famous like Thriller, MTV, Motown, and "Beat It". Since none of these things ring a bell with Homer, he then performs "Billie Jean", including his famous moonwalk dance. Yet Homer still doesn't recognize him.
    • When Homer is scared in the asylum, "Michael" sings "Ben" for him, which was Jackson's first solo hit. After Homer falls asleep, "Michael" says to his stuffed animal: "Bubbles, it's gonna be a long night." Bubbles was Jackson's chimpanzee.
    • When Bart says he's unable to write a song for Lisa, "Michael" says: "Hey, when I was your age, I had six golden records." A reference to Michael Jackson's early years with The Jackson 5.
    • The madhouse scenes provide shout outs to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
    • Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs is also seen in the background.
    • Homer watches a Black Comedy version of America's Funniest Home Videos where the three finalists include videos of a man breaking his hip while bowling, a dog on fire and a baby shooting a nail gun.
  • Skewed Priorities: Subverted. Homer, about to enjoy a stack of pancakes at the asylum, yells, "D'oh!" on being told he has a visitor. When he sees it's Marge, he jumps up and throws his arms around her.
  • Special Guest: Michael Jackson as "Michael Jackson"/Leon Kompowsky (speaking voice only; credited as "John Jay Smith"); Kipp Lennon as "Michael's"/Leon's singing voice.
  • Take That!: In the first repeat showing of this episode, there was a special prologue made to respond to then President George H. W. Bush's January 1992 speech where he intended to strengthen the American family, to make it "more like The Waltons and less like The Simpsons."
    Bart: Hey! We're like the Waltons! We're prayin' for an end to the Depression, too!
  • Title Drop: When Leon introduces himself as "Michael Jackson from The Jacksons" Homer replies "I'm Homer Simpson from The Simpsons."
  • To the Tune of...: Bart's joke song for Lisa is set to the Colonel Bogey March.
  • True Art Is Angsty: In-universe. Lisa's poem reeks of this.
    Meditations on Turning Eight by Lisa Simpson
    I had a cat named Snowball.
    She died, she died!
    Mom said she was sleeping.
    She lied, she lied!
    Why, oh, why is my cat dead?
    Couldn't that Chrysler hit me instead?
    I had a hamster named Snuffy, he died—
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Bart accidentally dyes Homer's shirts pink by throwing his hat in with the white laundry, and Burns takes the pink shirt as a sign of mental illness.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Homer is put in a mental hospital. His roommate, who claims to be Michael Jackson, is in fact a very large, intimidating man... with Michael Jackson's voice. Subverted when it turns out his real voice is actually deep and gravelly. (He's actually a white, Polish-American from New Jersey, but Homer fails to pick up on this important clue, not having ever seen Michael Jackson before.) In an interesting twist, the character actually was voiced by Michael Jackson (who was surprisingly gifted as a vocal mimic). However, due to a contract dispute, he was billed as "John Jay Smith" in the credits.
  • The Voiceless: Subverted. Homer meets a fellow patient — Chief — who's this. He immediately greets him and Chief responds in kind. As the doctors flock around him, he explains that nobody ever bothered to talk to him before, so he never spoke back.
  • Two Decades Behind: Although Jackson's skin color had already lightened in 1991, people in this episode still refer to Michael Jackson as being black. Bart even shows Leon a Thriller record jacket exclaiming "This is what Michael Jackson looks like!" despite the album being 9 years old and the real Jackson no longer looking like how he did in Thriller at the time.
  • When I Was Your Age...: Bart says he can't write a song for Lisa, because he's only ten years old. "Michael" then snaps back (in reference to his Jackson 5 years): "When I was your age, I had six gold records!"
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: When "Michael" tells the Simpsons he's actually Leon Kompowski, he says he's a bricklayer from Paterson, New Jersey, instead of simply saying "Paterson", which would suggest that Springfield isn't in NJ.
  • Who's on First?:
    Homer: Oh, of course I've heard of you! I mean, you'd have to be living under a rock not to know... What'd you say your name was?
    "Michael": Michael Jackson.
    Homer: Doesn't ring a bell.
    "Michael": Well, have you heard of MTV?
    Homer: No.
    "Michael": Motown?
    Homer: No.
    "Michael": "Beat It"?
    Homer: You beat it!
  • Wrongfully Committed: Homer makes Bart fill out his psychiatric quiz he brings home from work. This bites Homer hard when he brings it back and gets him committed to the mental hospital.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: The doctors at the mental hospital believe Homer is making up Bart. Marge finally sets them straight.
    Doctor: Mrs. Simpson, I'm sorry, but your husband suffers from a persecution complex, extreme paranoia and bladder hostility.
    Marge: Doctor, if you just talk to him for five minutes without mentioning our son, Bart, you'd see how sane he is.
    Doctor: You mean there really is a Bart?! Good Lord!


Happy Birthday, Scratchy!

Itchy kills Scratchy at his birthday party.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / DiedOnTheirBirthday

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