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Recap / The Simpsons S3 E1 "Stark Raving Dad"

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Episode - 7F24
First Aired - 9/19/1991

Stark Raving Dad is the first episode of The Simpsons third season.

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: Michael says he's a vegetarian who doesn't drink alcohol which Homer is put off by. Homer's voice actor, Dan Castellaneta, is a vegetarian who doesn't drink alcohol.
  • Alan Smithee: For legal reasons, as well as MJ not wanting to make a spectacle out of his guest appearance, Leon Kompowsky in his Michael Jackson voice is credited to someone named John Jay Smith (his normal voice is provided by Hank Azaria).
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  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: Apparently so in the America's Funniest Home Videos spoof that Homer watches: one of the three finalists was of a dog on fire who then "remarks", "Roar, anybody order 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!".
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  • Cassandra Truth: When Homer tried to explain that the reason his shirt was pink was because Bart put his red cap in the laundry, Mr. Burns didn't believe him. Even Mr. 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 called him a "baby".
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Burns questions Homer's sanity when Homer arrives to work in a pink shirt.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: 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.
  • 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: The fact that "Michael" was allowed to leave with Homer as well as his claim he was only there voluntarily make a lot more sense after it's revealed he's well aware he isn't Michael Jackson.
  • Forgotten Birthday: Bart forgets Lisa's, which only compounds her loneliness because Marge is preoccupied with Homer's release from the asylum that day.
  • 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's ends up happier here than at work.
  • 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 wrist.
  • 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: Homer does this when Bart answers the phone; angrily vowing threats of violence when he gets back to the house, Homer quickly changes tact when he notices the orderlies glaring at him.
  • 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.
    • Also 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. Of course, he was likely afraid he'll mess up and 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-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.
  • The Operators Must Be Crazy: The hold music for the asylum is actually the country music standard "Crazy", which makes Marge cry.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Homer is stamped on his hand while at the asylum. After he's discharged, he tries to scrub it off, crying "Come off! I'm sane now!"
  • 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's may be mentally ill.
  • Recognition Failure: Homer apparently never heard of Michael Jackson, something that especially in 1991 during Michael's heyday was outrageously impossible. Even Jackson self 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: We have a very simple method. (stamps Homer's hand with "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, he says to his stuffed animal: "It's going to be a long night, Bubbles." 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 Five.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • You Have to Believe Me!: The doctors at the mental hospital believe Homer is making up Bart. Marge finally sets them straight.
    Marge: If you would just talk to my husband 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!
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