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Recap / The Simpsons S5 E12 "Bart Gets Famous"

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Original air date: 2/3/1994 (produced in 1993)

Production code: 1F11

While on a boring field trip to the box factory, Bart makes a break for it to Channel 6 Studios, home of Bart's favorite show, Krusty the Clown, and gets a job as Krusty's assistant — then becomes an accidental star after screwing up during a live sketch and blurting, "I didn't do it!"

This episode contains examples of:

  • 15 Minutes of Fame: Bart's fame wears off after a couple of weeks.
  • Analogy Backfire: Bart is willing to listen to Homer's advice about not caring what others think until Homer says that's what made him what he currently is.
  • And This Is for...: Nelson when he thought Bart was lying about being Krusty's assistant.
  • Angry Collar Grab: A furious Homer does this to Principal Skinner when he learns that Skinner seemingly lost Bart at the box factory. Homer's anger turns into fear when he thinks that Bart fell into one of the factory's machines and got turned into a box.
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  • Artistic License – Awards: In Lisa's Imagine Spot, Bart gets impaled by an obelisk-like award which Lisa notes as ironically being her Nobel Peace Prize. Nobel Prizes are round flat medals.
  • Ascended Extra: In-universe. It takes Bart one clumsy entrance from being a Spear Carrier to become a main act in Krusty's show.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Bart becomes a stagehand on Krusty the Clown's show and, from there, a regular performer on the show itself when his flub-up during a minor role in a sketch memes hard enough to elevate him to Ascended Extra. Naturally, he's off the show altogether in the end when his fifteen minutes of fame end abruptly and his attempt to create a new Catchphrase goes so badly that the entire show is immediately put on hiatus for retooling.
  • As Himself: Conan O'Brien (the only Simpsons writer ever to come back and voice himself. Also, the only Saturday Night Live writer to voice himself)
  • Bait-and-Switch: Bart tries to use his imagination to fantasize about a better outcome like Lisa did after learning about a boring class trip to the Box Factory, but it gets him nowhere:
    Skinner: Instead of going to the box factory, we're going to factory!
    • Also done when Homer thinks that Bart was turned into a box after falling into one of the factory's machines. He brings the box home, and is about to tell Marge the horrible news, but Bart comes home right after Homer, who immediately drops the subject upon seeing his son is alright.
  • Big Fancy House: Lisa has one in her Imagine Spot.
  • The Bore: Only Principal Seymour Skinner would think it's a good idea to visit a box factory. Repeatedly.
  • Bowdlerization: Thanks to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the parts where Kent Brockman is trying to read a report about a tidal wave in Kuala Lumpur, then changes it to France because he can't pronounce Kuala Lumpur and the Mexican Bumblebee Man reading the tidal wave report after Kent Brockman refuses to do it because his cheese danish was stolen are cut on the UK's Channel 4.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Saying "I didn't do it" as Bart did in situations that call for Plausible Deniability becomes a huge meme. Although the episode doesn't acknowledge it, it's in fact an Abandoned Catchphrase of Krusty the Clown himself.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Echoing the dynamic between Homer and Burns, Krusty doesn't remember any of his prior encounters with Bart, although they included Bart proving his innocence after he was falsely imprisoned, reuniting him with his estranged father, and saving his career after his show got canceled.
  • Catchphrase:
    • This episode makes fun of the fact that people who become famous for blurting a catchphrase are only famous for a short time.
      Lisa: "If I'm ever famous for something, I want it to be for something worthwhile and not just some stupid fad."
    • ...and then parodied when, after Lisa assures Bart that he no longer has to be "a one-dimensional character with a silly catchphrase", every character on the show ends up saying their own catch phrase in rapid succession, and it becomes apparent that Lisa is the only main character without one.
      (Homer breaks a lamp.)
      Homer: D'oh!
      Bart: ¡Ay, caramba!
      Marge: Hmmmm...
      Maggie: (suck suck suck)
      (Ned Flanders walks up to the front window from outside)
      Flanders: Hidely-ho!
      (Barney Gumble walks in through the front door)
      Barney: [belch]
      (cut to Nelson Muntz, who is somehow in the house, sitting at the bottom of the staircase)
      Nelson: Ha-ha!
      (pan to Mr. Burns, who is also in the house for no apparent reason)
      Mr. Burns: Excellent!
      (Beat as everyone looks at Lisa)
      Lisa: If anyone wants me, I'll be in my room.
      (she leaves)
      Homer: (over the credits) What kind of catchphrase is that?
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: Bart at first loves the fame and attention it gets him, but eventually gets sick of the fact that he's treated as a one-trick pony.
  • Chirping Crickets: When Bart does his line and the audience is not reacting, we hear this sound.
  • Class Trip: The episode begins with Bart's class going on a trip to a box factory. On the way, they pass in front of a "Toy Town", a fireworks testing range and a slide factory, all of which have other schools' buses parked outside.
  • Closed Door Rapport:
    • Bart refuses to come out of his room to do another appearance on the Krusty Show. However, Marge changes his mind talking to Bart from behind the door.
    • Sideshow Mel shouts at Bart from behind the bathroom door.
  • Continuity Nod: When Bart is trying to get Krusty to remember him, he mentions how he saved Krusty from going to prison, reunited him with his father, and helped him put together his comeback special. In spite of all that, Krusty has completely forgotten about meeting Bart before.
  • Couch Gag: The family run into each other and coalesce into a multicolored five-headed blob.
  • Credits Pushback: Done to Krusty's show; this results in Bart's name being hard to read when the tape is paused, and his friends don't believe that he actually works on the show.
    Nelson: (after punching Bart in the gut) That's for taking credit for other people's work.
  • Dead Hat Shot: Bart tossing his red baseball cap on to a cardboard box when he ditches the Class Trip to the box factory leads Homer to conclude that he has been made into a box.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    Bart: It's my job to be repetitive. My job. My job. Repetitiveness is my job! I'm gonna go out there tonight and give the best performance of my life!
    Marge: The best performance of your life?
    Bart: The best performance of my life!
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Marge asks Bart to stop whistling that annoying tune after hearing him whistle the Simpsons theme song while coming into the kitchen.
  • Discredited Meme: Bart and his catchphrase inevitably become this In-Universe after his 15 Minutes of Fame are up.
  • Easily Forgiven: For a while, the In-Universe comedy value of Bart's famous Catchphrase is so undeniable that invoking its Implausible Deniability gets an instant laugh from all onlookers, whether it's Mayor Quimby caught in bed with another woman by his wife or Patty and Selma starting a fire at a large hotel by smoking in bed (with not only the fire department but a guy still trapped in the building chortling along).
  • Field Trip: The episode begins with Bart's class going on a trip to a box factory. On the way, they pass in front of a "Toy Town", a fireworks testing range and a slide factory, all of which have other schools' buses parked outside.
  • Forced Transformation: Upon seeing his lucky red hat on top of one, Homer believes the factory machinery had cleanly transformed Bart into an ordinary cardboard box.
  • Funny Character, Boring Actor: Humorously invoked with Bumblebee Man. It turns out he's a more professional newscaster than Kent Brockman is. For a couple of minutes, anyway.
  • Game Show Appearance: Bart dreams he's a panelist on Match Game 2034. He ends up knocking over, and breaking, Kitty Carlisle's head-in-a-jar.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Parodied when Bart tries to get into the TV studio:
    Guard: [Blocking the gate] Ah, ah, ah! Do you work here, little boy?
    Bart: Yeah.
    Guard: Well then, go right, in sir! [Opens the gate and salutes]
  • Happy Place: Lisa doesn't want to leave her Imagine Spot because she likes being in it too much.
  • Horrible Hollywood: Bart is exposed to the full force of showbiz, "a hideous bitch goddess".
  • Hostility on the Set: Yet another In-Universe example courtesy of Kent Brockman, who absolutely refuses to do his work as a newscaster because someone stole his danish and says so on live television, which leads to the producers immediately kicking him off the set and replacing him with Bumblebee Man.
  • Hypocritical Humor: At the end of act three:
    DJ 1: And that was "Kung Fu Fighting". Speaking of "one trick ponies", whatever happened to that "I didn't do it" kid?
    DJ 2: Boy, did that get old fast! WHOA! Y'know, if you wanna last in this business, you gotta stay fresh! (plays recycled sound effects)
  • I Can't Believe I'm Saying This: When Bart's entire class is waiting for him to say his new catch phrase.
    Bart: I can't believe I'm saying this, but...shouldn't we be learning something?
  • Imagine Spot:
    • Lisa has a rather disturbing imagine spot where she kills Bart with her Nobel Peace Prize.
    • Deliberately following suit, Bart has one when he tries to imagine a place he'd rather be instead of the box factory. It backfires when he can't think of anything else.
      Skinner: Class, instead of the box factory, today we'll be going to the..... box factory.
      Bart: Damn TV, you ruined my imagination, just like you ruined my ability to... to um... oh well. (pulls out a mini-TV and laughs while watching it)
  • Implausible Deniability: When Bart accidentally destroys Krusty the Clown's set in front of a live audience, his attempt to deny it spawns the Catchphrase "I didn't do it".
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Lisa gives a disgusted tirade on Bart's popularity and claims she'd loathe to be remembered for a mere obnoxious fad. When a hurt Bart is revealed to have entered the room, she awkwardly looks away and reads.
  • Incredibly Lame Fun: One more strike for Skinner, who is the one who organizes the visit to the box factory (implied by an annoyed Krabappel that it's the only place he can think of when it comes to organizing tours, which means he's organized it a large number of times), and Martin who thinks it's interesting.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: When Krusty declares that Bart doesn't have it as a star after ruining his set, he opens the door only to bump into a crowd of people waiting to see Bart.
  • Interrupted Bath: When Bart wanders off from a field trip, and Principal Skinner calls Marge at home, causing her to run to the phone dripping wet in a towel. When she doesn't answer on time, he calls Homer at work, where, for some reason, he also runs for the phone after a shower.
    Homer: You'll have to speak up, I'm wearing a towel.
  • Ironic Echo: "I wish I was dead."
  • Irony: In her Imagine Spot, Lisa remarks how ironic it is that she impaled her brother on her Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Jerkass: Krusty The Klown and his crew are seen here at their worst, berating Bart and using him for cheap labor, followed by Krusty escorting Bart out the door after his 15 Minutes of Fame are up and forgetting about him.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Sideshow Mel lambasts Bart when Bart mistakenly gives him a sandwich with cheese in it despite Mel being lactose intolerant. While Sideshow Mel was harsh, lactose intolerance is as serious as a food allergy, and Bart could have put Mel in danger by giving him cheese.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The whole episode basically has the early 90s Bart fad taking place In-Universe, so by the final scene the fourth wall is barely standing.
  • Leno Device: Conan O'Brien appears in his show with Bart as his guest. Considering Conan has written more than a few episodes of The Simpsons, it's appropriate.
    • The commentary has said that this was written for Conan in mind, but he was not selected yet for Late Night when they wrote the joke but was in the running.
  • Lost Food Grievance: Kent Brockman really loves danishes. When Bart swipes Brockman's danish (which resembles more of a cinnamon roll) to give to Krusty, Brockman discovers his pastry missing and won't do the news report.
  • Mean Boss: Krusty angrily fires a stagehand simply because there were no more danishes. This immediately provokes an Oh, Crap! reaction from Bart when he realizes he took the last one.
    Stagehand: [nervously] Sorry, all the danishes are gone.
    Krusty: They're not gone...[slaps the serving tray] YOU'RE GONE!
  • Mistaken for Transformed: Played for stupidity when Bart sneaks out of a field trip to the box factory. Homer investigates only to discover a cardboard box with Bart's cap perched on it.
    Homer: *bawls* My son's a box! A box! A BOX, DAMN YOU!!!!
  • Modesty Towel: When Homer comes out of the shower at the nuclear plant to answer the phone: "You'll have to speak up. I'm wearing a towel."
  • Museum of Boredom: It's a factory visit rather than a museum, but it's a box factory, so it still fits.
  • Negative Continuity: "I didn't do it" was a Catchphrase of Krusty's in Season 1 episode "Krusty Gets Busted". He uses it in his show, it's one of the recordings on his doll, and the crowd laughs when he meekly says it after getting arrested. In this episode, it's Bart's brainchild.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Dan Castellaneta based the box factory manager's voice on Wally Ballou, a character portrayed by Bob Elliott of the comedy duo Bob and Ray.
  • One-Man Band: Homer has a flashback to his teenage years where he played in a one-man band (and tried to do a cover of "Tighten Up" by Archie Bell and the Drells). He had a bass drum on his back, a guitar in his hands, a harmonica in his mouth, and a bicycle horn at his feet. Not only did crowds not like it, but he ended up getting attacked by an Italian organ grinder's pet monkey.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Bart makes a disaster in a TV studio, broadcasted live, and tries to excuse himself by saying "I didn't do it!". It was a big success, and he soon becomes the "I didn't do it" kid. Everything is fine, until he realizes that it's all just a fad. Everywhere he goes, nobody cares about anything he has to say, except for his line. And then, the end: as all fades, he becomes old-fashioned, and that's it.
  • Only One Finds It Fun: Only two, in this instance: Martin and Skinner are the only ones who find visiting the box factory (for the nth-time, it's implied by an exasperated Krabappel) interesting.
  • Overly-Long Gag: The final scene in which every character in the show with a Catchphrase appears to recite it.
  • Shout-Out:
    • For this episode's chalkboard gag, Bart writes that his homework wasn't stolen by an one-armed man.
    • To escape the box factory, Bart hides himself in a laundry basket, similar to Annie. The only difference is that nobody was there to take him out, so he just goes out through a nearby door.
    • The scene where Krusty makes Bart his assistant by entrusting him to wash his towel is staged like the classic Super Bowl Special by Coca-Cola where a boy gives Mean Joe Green his Coke and starts to walk off, only to get Joe's towel in return.
      Bart: Wow! A big clown hankie.
      Krusty: It's a towel, you yutz!
    • The "I Didn't Do It" dancers are clearly based on the Fly Girls from In Living Color!.
  • Skyward Scream: Homer sends one out after he believes his son was turned into a box.
    Homer: DAMN YOU! A BOOOOX!
  • Totally Radical: Much like Bart's Inner Child, this takes a look at Bart's then massive popularity from the early 1990s in the angle if he was actually famous in universe, and deconstructs it heavily by making him a typecast sensation bent figure who just happened to be at the right place at the right time, while in a World of Jerkass that treats him like a minstrel and never wants to hear anything otherwise before casting him away.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Lisa fantasizes about killing Bart in her fantasy.
  • What Have You Done for Me Lately?:
    Krusty: Good job, kid. What's your name?
    Bart: I'm Bart Simpson. I saved you from jail. (Krusty mutters non-recognition.) I reunited you with your estranged father. (Continued non-recognition.) I saved your career, man! Remember your comeback special?
    Krusty: Yeah, well, what have you done for me lately?
    Krusty: And I'll never forget it.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: This is what Bart's career amounted to at first, nearly driving him to quit. Then he has to fill in for Sideshow Mel and the rest is history.
    Krusty: This is a dream factory, the birthplace of magic — an enchantment! Now I need you to go clean out my toilet.