Stark Raving Dad
- "Lisa, it's your birthday. God bless you this day."
- ―"Happy Birthday, Lisa" lyrics
| Stark Raving Dad
| Episode Information
Stark Raving Dad is the first episode of season 3. It originally aired on September 19, 1991 and was written by Al Jean and Mike Reiss and directed by Rich Moore. Michael Jackson guest starred as Leon Kompowsky although he was credited as John Jay Smith due to legal reasons.
- "Thanks to Bart leaving his lucky red hat in a laundry load of white shirts, Homer ends up wearing a pink shirt to work. He is promptly committed to a mental institution where he meets up with a heavy-set, bald, white man, Leon Kompowsky, who walks and talks like Michael Jackson."
At the opening of the show, Lisa reminds Bart that her birthday is coming up and not to forget to get her a present. Homer's traditional white shirt turns pink in the wash, and he is forced to face the ridicule of his co-workers by wearing pink to work. He catches the attention of Mr. Burns, who pegs him as "some kind of free-thinking anarchist", and orders him to be examined by Dr. Marvin Monroe. After receiving a take-home psychological test from him, he has Bart fill it out for him. After handing it in, he is promptly judged to be insane and committed to a mental institution. There he is bunked with a large white man who claims he is Michael Jackson. The two quickly become friends.
The day of Lisa's Birthday, "Michael" calls the Simpson household to let Bart know that Homer has been committed, and Marge starts working on a way to get him out. Marge tries to convince the institution that Homer is not really crazy, and is eventually successful when they find out that they're really is a 'Bart'. Homer invites "Michael" to their home for the night. Bart, believing that Leon is really Michael Jackson, begins to inform all his friends that he is on his way. Meanwhile, in all the commotion, Lisa seems to be forgotten.
The word that Michael Jackson is on his way to Springfield, begins to spread through the town, and a large crowd forms around the Simpson house. When the two of them arrive, and the crowd sees a large, white man instead of Michael Jackson, the crowd gets angry and disperses. After the melee, Bart admits to Lisa that he forgot to buy her a birthday present. Lisa storms off, crushed.
That evening Lisa writes a letter to Bart saying that she is disowning him. "Michael" hears everything and then approaches Bart and tries to convince him to write Lisa a song to make up to her. After Bart confronts him about his obvious delusion about being a famous recording star, they get down to writing, and eventually compose a ballad called, "Happy Birthday, Lisa". The next day they perform it for her, and all is well again. After this, "Michael" tells them all that his real name is Leon Kompowsky, and he's a bricklayer from Paterson, New Jersey. He tells them that he was an angry and unhappy man until he started talking like Michael Jackson and saw that it made everyone around him happy, which in turn made him happy, so he just kept on doing it. Leon then takes his leave, walking down the street singing Lisa's birthday song in his normal voice.
Michael Jackson's appearance
Michael Jackson himself voiced Leon Kompowsky's dialogue, and sound-a-like Kipp Lennon performed all the singing parts. Jackson's guest appearance was credited to "John Jay Smith." The DVD commentary for this episode indicates that Jackson approached the Simpsons team wanting to appear on the show, but due to a contract obligation, was not allowed to sing. However, he did write "Happy Birthday, Lisa" for the show. Great secrecy surrounded the guest appearance for some time, and even Matt Groening, when appearing on the Jay Leno show, did not openly reveal that it was Jackson (although he hinted strongly). It wasn't until the episode "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie" that a more open clue was given to viewers, when Lisa mentions that Dustin Hoffman and Michael Jackson made cameo appearances in the movie, stating, "They didn't use their real names, but you could tell it was them..." (Dustin Hoffman, of course, voiced Mr. Bergstrom in the episode Lisa's Substitute, and his guest appearance was similarly shrouded).
After Barbara Bush commented on how much she didn't like the show and contacted the writers, The Simpsons show runners decided to get their own back! They produced a new opening for a re-run of "Stark Raving Dad".
The scene begins in the Simpsons' living room. They all stare at the television, watching Bush's speech. When Bush says "to make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons", Bart replies, "Hey, we're just like the Waltons. We're praying for an end to the Depression, too."
The episode was watched by 12.8 million households, and received overwhelming positive reviews from TV critics. Critics praised it's writing: "The greatness of 'Stark Raving Dad' has a lot more to do with The Simpsons' writing staff than with Jackson's voice-over talents. The show's scripters came up with a plot device far more ingenious than simply dropping the singer into Springfield."
In March 2019, following the sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson that publicly came to light in the documentary Leaving Neverland, the producers of the show decided to pull "Stark Raving Dad" from syndication, Simpsonsworld.com and future DVD releases.
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