| Episode Information
"Simprovised" is twenty-first episode of season 27 of The Simpsons and the five-hundred and ninety-fifth episode overall. It originally aired on May 15, 2016. The episode was written by John Frink and directed by Matthew Nastuk.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Plot
- 3 Production
- 4 International airdates
- 5 Gallery
- 6 References
- 7 Promo videos
- "After butchering a speech in front of all of his friends at work, Homer turns to improv comedy to gain back his confidence in his public speaking skills. Meanwhile, Marge decides to rebuild Bart's lackluster treehouse, but tensions rise when Bart questions her building skills. Also, in the episode's last three minutes, Homer appears LIVE for the first time on television (both for East and West Coast broadcasts) to answer fan questions."
Homer is preparing his annual speech to do in front of all Nuclear Plant workers, his plan being to repeat the speech he did every year, however his lines were repetitive or offensive to the sick Lenny's grandmother. Mr. Burns used his only speechline he prepared and that made him nervous, and he passed out from the pressure, getting a trauma of public speaking.
To calm down Homer, Marge took him to a stand-up comedy show, where Homer is amazed by the talents of the actors to improv, and decides to join an improv class, where he learns he has a talent for improvising scenes. He, Lenny and Carl try their actor's talents at Moe's Tavern, where Homer gets acclaimed by the public and the Springfield Shopper critics. Homer is invited to perform at the Springfield Fringe Festival.
On a secondary plot, Bart and Lisa go to Ralph's birthday party, and Bart realizes that Ralph's treehouse, built by his father with the money he got from the evidence locker, is better than his decading treehouse. When they return home, Bart starts destroying the treehouse and when Marge finds out what's happening, she starts building a treehouse, however Marge overhears Bart being unthankful while talking to Milhouse, saying there's no need to thank her, and that she was only doing her job. Marge gets angry at him, but thanks to the help from Homer's speech cards, they reconcile the next morning.
At the end, Homer is introduced by Lisa, Bart, Marge and Maggie, for the live segment, inside the Fox Studios Secret Bunker. Homer answers calls from the TV audience, while several characters appear on screen, either performing some actions, showing cards, or in Bart's case, pantsing Homer. The secret bunker is later revealed to just be a fake set made out of cardboard inside the Simpson House.
Entertainment Weekly Interview
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Al Jean, executive producer of the show, talks about the realization of the live segment and how hard it's going to be. "Well, it's certainly us making it a lot harder on ourselves than we have to, but the interest in it has been so enormous, it's definitely worth it. When you have a show like this that has so many things going for it, you gotta use that capital and do interesting things because you can."
Jean continues saying that the live segment animation will be different than what we normally see in Springfield. "There is less of a variety of motion, and after awhile, it might start to look a little repetitive. "That's why we're not doing any more than three minutes. You have a limited number of lip assignments and motions that Homer can make, and you see him run through those in the course of the three minutes. The reason I don't think they're going to be doing half-hour motion capture shows in the near future is because although it is much cheaper and you can just film it live, you can't do the complicated set pieces that people want from animation. We do everything we can in the three minutes that's possible."
In the follow up of the previous interview, EW asks Al Jean how long has he been working on the live idea for this episode. Jean answered: "It's funny. We talked about doing a Homer-going-live thing on The Tonight Show for a promotion for The Simpsons Movie with motion capture. We discussed it as long ago as that [in 2007], but it didn't seem like the technology was up to what we wanted. And then John Frink, who wrote the episode, said, "Hey why don't we try to have Homer improv for real at the end of the show?" So we looked back at the motion capture [technology], which had advanced. Fox Sports had worked out a program from Adobe, and I thought it was much more convincing — at least for about three minutes, which is what we're using it for at the end of the episode. The other thing that's terrific is Dan Castellaneta does improv all the time. He's one of the best improvers there is. We couldn't have somebody better to be doing it."
Wondering why the segment is so short, EW asked if they thought of a longer segment or an entire episode revolving live. Al answered "[Motion capture technology] used to have electrodes wired into the person. Now they don't. The actor just speaks into a mic, and the camera records his motions, and transfers it to the character onscreen. However, you can only do that with one or at most two characters. The backgrounds don't change and the character can't really interact with somebody in the background. We have background jokes that are pre-set. For three minutes, that's fine. For 30 minutes, I think people would get pretty tired of it. (Laughs) Anything's possible in the future, but at the moment, three seemed like the perfect amount."
About the idea of using two characters, EW asks why Al Jean didn't use that idea, to which Al Jean answered "We thought about it, but then it was like, "Who would the other person be? Would we get a celebrity?" And we thought the better thing would be for Homer to interact with the fans." About the possibility for Homer to answer the questions with the rest of the family, Jean answered "Theoretically. Maybe we would do that someday. But for this, when you see the story of the episode, it's all about Homer improvising, so the thematic part of the show is Homer conquering his fear of public speaking."
EW asked whatever other characters will make cameos during the episode to which Al Jean answered "They appear in the background doing some stuff, but they don't speak." To EW wondering if the crew had any problems or glitches with this live segment, Al Jean said "We haven't had any glitches yet. I always feel — and this is the whole SNL philosophy: If there's a little glitch, that's fun, too. That's the excitement of live television. And to my knowledge, no animated show has done this before... I think this is going to be really incredible — or incredibly terrible."
EW asked what questions will Homer answer, especially with the fact that Jean is reticent about breaking the fourth wall, and he commented, "A question like, "What actor does what?", that won't get by. It would have to be a question to Homer, not a question breaking the fourth wall. I assume everyone is going to want to make it into this episode, so they're going to try to think of questions that we would use, rather than get rejected. There's still a wide variety of questions you can ask him."
EW asked where Homer will be and he answered "He'll be in a Fox secret bunker in an undisclosed location. That's the background we've drawn." The location was revealed in the last interview. EW asks if that breaks the fourth wall and he answers "No, because we've always said that there is a connection with Fox and The Simpsons, but he doesn't think he is an actor or a character." The next question is about how they got Homer in the bunker. "The family is on the couch and Lisa says, "Now we're going to do something that was first done on TV 50 years ago, and we've finally gotten around to it, and our dad will answer questions." And Bart says, "Take it, Homer."" How will Homer react to random people asking questions to him in the bunker is the next question. "Yeah... He just thinks: He's been an astronaut. He's done a lot of things. Why won't people want to ask him questions?"
Next is Dan Castellaneta's reaction to the idea: "He's game for everything. He's a very brave man and very funny and didn't blink. He's up for the challenge." And how will the writers will help Dan out to answer the questions. "We'll be there to screen questions and maybe think about [jokes] if there's a big event that day. But the truth is, you want to have somebody funny who doesn't feel like he's got eight things to try to decide between, where he's just going with his gut. So it really will be him. God only knows, if Donald Trump says something stupid, we might make a joke to lead off. But in general, it's just going to be Dan. That's what makes it live. That's what makes it exciting." Of course, a question would be how to make it feel live, and not recorded. "We'll do the equivalent of holding up today's newspaper, where we talk about something that's going on right then. It will be live, I guarantee it, and the way we set it up, it's to make it very clear that this is really happening. It's not a trick." What appealed to Al and if it's the unknown of what's going to happen is next. "Yeah — and I wanted to do it before any other animated shows did it. (Laughs)"
Regarding the difficulty of having to animate it in motion capture and how it will appear to the viewers is posed, and Jean answers "It shouldn't look any different. The difference is, there is less of a variety of motion, and after awhile, it might start to look a little repetitive. That's why we're not doing any more than three minutes. You have a limited number of lip assignments and motions that Homer can make, and you see him run through those in the course of the three minutes. The reason I don't think they're going to be doing half-hour motion capture shows in the near future is because although it is much cheaper and you can just film it live, you can't do the complicated set pieces that people want from animation. We do everything we can in the three minutes that's possible. But there would be no way we would be doing a full show like this anytime in the near future." Problems may arise with trying something new. "There could be a snafu where we don't get the question to Homer, that there's a little bit of a glitch. But as I say, that proves it's live. We'll have a seven-second delay, so it's not going to be any Janet Jackson sort of thing. Homer's not going to take off his clothes." EW wonders if this would be more difficult than Grease Live and Al Jean promptly answers "A lot less danger to the performers."
Something new and interesting is asked by EW next: how will the viewers interact, especially how will the phone system work, a new tidbit of information revealed just now, and how will Homer interact with Facebook and Twitter. "The phone number will be released to the public in plenty of time. My guess is because you're going to get on an episode of The Simpsons, we'll fill up quickly and then we'll just have people waiting... We're going to have one tweet that he'll answer and also a couple of writers will be tweeting and answer questions as Homer, one on Facebook and one on Twitter simultaneously. We're trying to answer as many questions as we can."
EW concludes asking Jean what he would ask Homer. "Hmm, that's a good question... "What does Marge possibly see in him?"" and advises for the viewers that are calling, to make their questions go through. "Just ask an interesting question about Homer, and his life and if it's funny, we'll try to get it in. We're not looking for people to ask trivia questions about season 23."
The Wall Street Journal Interview
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, showrunner Al Jean says "In terms of the anxiousness, I think this one's very high. Admittedly, we always have a million safety nets. Now, we have far fewer." Al Jean and his team revealed that they'll be using a software by Adobe called Adobe Character Animator that will capture the voice of Dan Castellaneta and create Homer's mouth movement syncing it. Using the software, the team of animators will be able to control Homer's movements.
David Silverman, producer and animator, adds "It's not a computer drawing; it's animation we've put in there that will be activated by these buttons, these triggers." Al Jean confirms that "It's not something you'd want to watch for the whole show." and will last only three minutes. Tests on how it'll go on both east coast and west coast airing has been done by the crew of the show and Al Jean, and also talked about future possibilities to expand on this "It's an incredibly fluid medium".
Al Jean also remembers that the number to call on Sunday night is 1-888-726-6660 and remembers the viewers to bring something sharp in the conversation with Homer "Homer's popularity is in no small way [related] to how funny Dan [Castellaneta] is. He improvised 'D'oh' — it had just said 'annoyed grunt' in the script."
In another interview, this time with YourTVLink, Al Jean remembers again about The Tonight Show "Early on, when we were doing 'The Simpsons Movie,' we had talked about Dan appearing live as Homer on things like 'The Tonight Show,' but the technology that existed then seemed too rudimentary, and you really couldn't get very much range with the animation. So, John Frink — one of our writers — was doing an episode about improvisation and he said, 'Why don't we try having Homer live at the end?'
And some more details about the program used to make Homer go live: "We checked into (the technical aspect), and it's greatly improved. Some guys at Fox Sports, working in tandem with Adobe, have come up with a (computer) program that I think is pretty convincing. It's going to be Homer taking questions on the phone and talking live ... and we're doing it because we can."
Then he talks about how Dan Castellaneta's movements will work live. "We don't know what he's going to say, but there's no one better to be doing this. Motion capture (with the character mirroring the actor's movements) is really the key to it, and the improvements in it have made this possible."
And at the end he talked about how the process will be permanent in the show's history, "There'll be baseball games that Homer could talk about, and developments on the political scene also would seem likely that day. We won't really know what's going to happen until it happens, but there will be only three minutes for it. It's a new process, so I didn't think you could do a full show with it, I think people would get tired of it, so three minutes is an optimal length." Al Jean remembers to the callers that will go live that "You'll be in the show forever, because it's going into syndication that way. We're not going to change it."
ET Canada Interview
In an interview with ET Canada, Al Jean reports "Dan Castellaneta [who voices Homer] will be in a booth where he speaks into a mic, and obviously what he says goes out live. And he's not hooked up by electrodes or anything, his motions are captured and translated into Homer's moves, which will then appear in the animation. For viewers watching, it will look like the normal show. We have background animation that has been pre-animated with several jokes, but everything Homer does, the centre of it, is live." As for why Homer was selected for this, Al Jean concludes "[Castellaneta] does improv all the time. He's terrific at improv and it was just a natural fit."
Other production information
Music editor Chris Ledesma put together the on-hold music for people calling in to Homer Live.
Proof we're live alternate jokes
Some alternates for the "Proof we're live" speech were written but never used.
- The Washington Post announced Donald Trump has pretended to be his own P.R. man. Trump spokesman Ronald Rump furiously denies this huge allegation.
- In sports, Canada crushed Slovakia five to nothing in Group B of the World Hockey Championships. Look it up!
- To prove we're live, the Toronto Raptors just beat the Heat. So did I, by pouring beer down my pants.
- To prove we're live, on Friday, Fox canceled all the shows. From now on, everything on the network will be live, so it can be instantly canceled.
- Today's New York Times front page investigates Donald Trump's unwelcome contacts with over 50 woman. Those are just his ex-wives.
- Serena Williams won the Italian Open. That's one of the most important warm-up tournaments for "who cares?"
The joke on Fox cancelling shows on Friday refers to the Friday night death slot, especially Fox's, well known for its shows cancelled after being moved to Friday slot.
- Homer Live! at YouTube
- Homer Is Live For The First Time Ever! at YouTube
- Therapy Hounds at YouTube
- Breakdown at YouTube
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