My favorite Simpsons moments have always been when they used a type of joke I used to call "a switcharoo." I suppose I still call it that. When I was growing up, I was convinced that the Simpsons created this type of joke, and consciously used them at least once in every episode. It was like an easter egg only I knew about.
It is difficult to explain this abstract joke construct that my twelve year old self discovered, but I shall give it a try.
A "switcharoo" was when the Simpsons lead you to believe one thing, then flipped the joke completely and created a new punchline. These jokes were always my favorite. I felt they separated real Simpsons fans like myself from normal losers who would only watch one, maybe TWO episodes a day.
Two examples of "switcharoos:"
- In "Secrets of a Successful Marriage" (written by Greg Daniels), a distraught Marge is driving her car hearing Homer's voice, as SNPP.com refers to it, in "ghostly fragmants." "You mean I'm going to be a daddy? I hope we'll always be together . together . together " Then the switcharoo: we see Homer is actually in the back seat on the floor actually speaking these things to Marge. God, nobody saw that coming. And I mean that in a non-sarcastic way.
- In "Two Dozen & One Greyhounds," (written by Mike Scully) the episode where Santas Little Helper knocks up another dog, there is a very dramatic scene in which the puppies are coming out. They are counting each one as it emerges from Santa's bitch. 22 23 24 . Then a series of transparent shots of clock hands rotating over and over signifying time flying by. In a "normal comedy" this would signify dozens of more puppies being born, but on the Simpsons, after this montage, we hear " 25!" as Homer states "God, I thought that last one would NEVER come out." Man that was so damn funny. Still typing non-sarcastically.
These types of jokes are so great because they give so much credit to the audience. They assume, and hopefully correctly, that the viewers are intelligent enough to know which path the joke would stereotypically take, so that when it makes a complete 180, the punchline becomes so unexpected and hilarious.
Of course the Simpsons is more than just "switcharoos." It's slapstick and intelligence and character driven and smart and everything you want a comedy to be. Comedy is so subjective, so when you come across a show as universally appreciated as the Simpsons, you know they're doing something special.
What's your favorite episode? Mine is "Itchy and Scratchy Land" or "Homer in Space."