It’s not often we get a proper explanation behind what we think to be throwaway jokes in The Simpsons, and maybe that’s a good thing judging by the reaction one tasty bit of intel on an iconic gag is getting this week.
If you’ll be so obliging as to cast your mind back to 1994, and episode Bart Gets Famous, you’ll remember Homer’s brilliant phone greeting while wearing a towel.
What we’ve all believed to be a rather nothing line, albeit one which continues to elicit giggles from punters decades later, sees Homer Simpson run into his office at the Nuclear Power Plant, wearing only a towel before picking up a phone and answering with the now-famous greeting: ‘You’ll have to speak up, I’m wearing a towel.’
Much like Homer replied with a chuckle and a ‘yes, once’ when Hank Scorpio asked if he’d ever seen a man throw away his shoes, this towel joke has gone down in Simpsons canon as a simple non-sequitur. It was just there to give a laugh, but had no real meaning.
Or so we thought.
After punters on Reddit had previously assumed it was linked to people wearing towels on their head, covering their ears and, thus, inhibiting their ability to hear someone on the phone easily, this week show writer and former showrunner Josh Weinstein not only pulled the wool from over our eyes but ruined the joke for himself, after finding out the real intent behind it.
Josh, who worked on the beloved series between 1992–1998, wrote on Twitter: ‘I’m proud to say I’ve loved this joke and possibly misinterpreted it for nearly 30 years now.’
Confirming it was indeed what the Redditers had been banging on about, he continued: ‘For 25 years, I assumed (and loved it) that it was just a non-sequitor but then someone explained it’s what people with long hair say when they have a towel over their wet hair (and ears) after a shower when they answer the phone. Makes 100% sense but also make me like joke less. [sic]’
And yes, it really was as sensical as that. Gutting, right?
Be that as it may, this cut deep, so deep, for hoards of shattered fans who shared their heartbreak at finding out the not-at-all hidden meaning behind the comment, as Josh agreed it lessened the lols.
‘My whole life has been a lie,’ one dramatic, but accurate, response read on Twitter, while another simply wrote: ‘I refuse to believe this.’
Echoing similar sentiments, one fan of the show proffered: ‘Oh no i also thought it was a complete non-sequitur and now I don’t like it as much.’
Honestly, for a real trip take a ride through the comments to feel at home.
The realisation didn’t stop others chiming in with other theories on the greeting, with one suggesting: ‘People exposed to large amounts of radiation have to shower off the radiation. Maybe homer can’t hear because he’s been fried?’ to which Josh responded: ‘Now that’s an interpretation I’ve never heard until now!’
Some also brought up other examples of Simpsons gags ‘ruined’ in the same vein, as Josh said: ‘Sometimes finding out a joke is a reference can ruin it if you enjoyed it initially on its own.’
But perhaps fellow Simpsons writer and showrunner Mike Scully’s perfectly cromulent response is the one we need to take with us, after he replied to Josh: ‘Don’t let people ruin it for you. It’s the silly joke you think it is.’
The Simpsons is available to stream on Disney+.