For a television series whose characters don’t age, it’s a tad ironic The Simpsons has a tendency to make one feel older than fossil fuel when taking the time to realize the show has been running new episodes for the better part of three decades.
During its stoic tenure, the animated series about a dysfunctional family with yellow skin has not only invaded our televisions sets, but the big screen, music stores, apparel outlets, awards shows and even comic conventions as well. Thus it may be of surprise to no one that the venerable fivesome from Springfield finally overran the live orchestral scene with the one-weekend only live performance and firework show at The Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, CA. Aptly, the event was simply titled, The Simpsons Take the Bowl.
From the ripe young age of 11, I started watching The Simpsons on FOX with my parents right from the premiere of the first episode of season one in 1989. I was 11-years-old. According to the then sitting President of the U.S., my folks weren’t about to win any “Parenting of the Year” awards, but the series quickly became a staple of our viewing schedule and we tuned in every week like clockwork to see how Bart would get under Homer’s skin with each passing episode. My family became so enthralled with the show, that my mom and I quickly started calling my still follicly challenged dad Homer, and in return he would lovingly refer to me as “The Boy” (as has become one of the long running staples of the series.)
After the first decade of absorbing dialogue from The Simpsons like a sponge factory at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, my die hard Simpsons friends and I would frequently engage in non-stop conversations in nothing but quotes from the show. It’s one of the few skills I’ve managed to cling on to in my later years.
As you can probably piece together from the above examples, The Simpsons wasn’t just a cartoon, it was – and in many ways still is – a way of life. Hence, the moment I heard about this magical event, I knew I had to go, and I knew that Homer… errr, my dad needed to attend with me.
Let me just start by saying, despite the fact there was 25 years of musical content to work with, I really had zero clue what to expect. That lack of expectations turned out to be Springfield Gorge-sized blessing in disguise.
The one and only officially approved 20th Century Fox video of the event. (1 out of 10 ain’t bad.)
Right from the starting gate, the crowd was treated to original Simpsons content created just for the Hollywood Bowl show itself. In typical Simpsons style, not even The Bowl was safe from ridicule, as the family took aim at the horrendous stacked parking system that traps you in your vehicle post event until others have cleared out in front of you. If you want to know how laugh out loud funny it was, take a gander at the video below before FOX take sit down and sues me in oblivion.
Best… Seat Gag… Ever!
From there, Matt Groening kicked off the festivities by handing over hosting duties to Hank Azaria (Moe, Chief Wiggum, Professor Frink, Apu, Comic Book Guy), whom voices roughly 98% of the characters that have appeared on the series over the past two and a half decades. In what was the first of many surprises, Azaria broke out into a song and dance number from one of the shows earlier episodes, and first show centric album release, Songs in the Key of Springfield.
The man of many pens with the man of many voices.
So as not to drop the full load of host responsibilities onto Azaria’s lap – although from his quips he would have gladly taken them all – Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson, Ralph Wiggum) and Yeardly Smith (Lisa Simpson), stepped in for some impressive performances replicating some of the more memorable moments from the shows past. Including a tune from the way past called “Do the Bartman”, which admittedly was the entrance music at my Bar-Mitzvah. Yes, I had no qualms about hiding my geekdom at an early and impressionable age.
Sibling Rivalry.. LIVE!
Thankfully I just “walked” out to the song at 13… Yikes!
What followed was a deluge of special guests and live musical recreations from the series that for lack of a better word, stole the show! One of the funniest segments of the evening involved former Simpsons writer Conan O’Brien delivering a hilarious bit before performing The Monorail Song, which per his own words, is the only thing anyone remembers him for seeing as he wrote the infamous episode.
For my money, still the funniest guy on (or around) late night.
Overall best performance of the evening was hands down “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Simspons homage to The Simpsons via his parody of Life Goes On (Jack and Dianne) called Homer and Marge. For a guy in his 60’s, I watched in awe as he twisted and threw his body like he was in his 20’s. I also wondered how many gallons of Bengay he has stocked up in his garage after gigs like this.
They don’t call him Weird for nothing.
Speaking of gay, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles was tapped to do several songs with the help of one of my current composer icons, Hans Zimmer. Zimmer did the score for The Simpsons Movie back in 2007 and conducted some tunes throughout the evening as well.
Spider-Pig does what ever a Spider-Pig does.
Not to be out done, Jon Lovitz also made a special appearance that also had the Outlaw crying in more ways than one. Not only was his opening bit hilarious to the point of tearing up, but his shoutout to the late great Phil Hartman along with his song tribute to The Simpsons Planet of the Apes parody (originally performed by Hartman on the show) had the tear ducts watering up a bit. (The 48oz of Smith & Forge Hard Cider may also have helped with that a bit.)
There’s always a critic… especially when Lovitz is around.
Last, but definitely not least, The Bowl displayed a seemingly non-stop fireworks extravaganza in sync with the ending of The Simpsons Movie and various other clips from the show. No lie, it was literally one of the most impressive displays of exploding light I’ve witnessed in person. Kudos to the event organizers for sparing no expense.
Mmmm… exploding light show… [drool]
In the end, what made The Simpsons Take the Bowl so entertaining was its inherent ability to follow the same “no one is safe from ridicule” attitude that the series has always abided by. Not even the show itself or its lifelong contributors were safe from the zingers as each host and performer laid on the self-depreciating humor in successful fashion. The Simpsons has always been a show about laughs, however that’s not why the animated series predates certain dinosaur excrement. Many shows can bring hilarity, but none have lasted as long. It’s a testament to the heart and importance of family that has always been at part of The Simpsons core.
The only thing missing from the star-studded evening was an appearance from the voice of Homer himself, Dan Castellaneta. “D’oh!” Fortunately, the only Homer I needed was sitting in the seat next to me at the Hollywood Bowl the entire time. “Woohoo!”
He was also sitting next to me in my truck strangling my neck and yelling, “why you little…” as we sat trapped in The Bowl’s stacked parking lot for a half hour after the show.
*BONUS – More photos @ no extra charge: