The Simpsons may be the smartest show on TV when it comes to breaking the fourth wall and using clever gags to address viewers directly.
While the vast majority of shows tend to never break the golden rule of acknowledging the fact that there’s an audience sitting behind the screen, The Simpsons have done exactly that on a number of occasions. It helps to alter the way we view the beloved TV characters and our understanding of how they see the world outside of Springfield. From digs at Fox to criticisms of the show’s animation, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite, most clever gags The Simpsons have used to break the fourth wall.
The Simpsons’ most clever self aware gags: 1. Lisa and Homer praise Fox
Just like its cartoon counterpart in Family Guy, The Simpsons has been part of the Fox network since its inception, though Homer and the gang may not be as notorious as the Quahog cohort when it comes to calling out the network giants.
With that being said, in the season 18 finale, You Kent Always Say What You Want, Lisa took it upon herself to attempt to explore the dark secrets hidden within the backrooms of TV networks like Fox.
Disappointed with her lack of findings, Homer consoles his daughter. While promising to reveal “something really bad” about the Fox network, only to be immediately drowned out by an automated voice that advertises a range of Fox programs that “the whole family can enjoy”. It’s a rather meta joke about how even The Simpsons aren’t safe from media censorship.
2. Bart debunks the deeper meaning of cartoons
In this season seven gag, Bart and Lisa grapple with the age-old argument about whether cartoons like The Simpsons are multi-faceted, expertly written portrayals of the human condition, or simply just funny shows designed to make people laugh.
This is a clear lighthearted nod towards the plaudits that The Simpsons has received over the years for managing to squeeze in various deeper, underlying themes on top of its family-friendly episodes.
3. When Matt Groening’s work was criticized on air
Matt Groening may be the single most important person within The Simpsons universe. Although, he has seldom been seen or mentioned across any of the 34 seasons.
That was until Homer and Marge took a visit to a museum. The show’s creator joked about erasing Homer from existence for criticizing his artwork as if he were an animation dictator. As if hovering above the show’s cast ready to strike with his pencil at any given time.
4. Bart gets famous
The season five episode Bart Gets Famous is a rather chaotic one. It sees The Simpsons’ middle child become a star known worldwide for the catchphrase “I didn’t do it”.
As the episode begins to wrap up, Bart now freed from the shackles of fame, Lisa assures him that he’ll no longer be a “one dimensional character with a silly catchphrase”. This of course prompts multiple one dimensional characters to enter the room. But they all proceed to utter their signature catchphrase.
5. When Homer entered the real world
Of course, we couldn’t compile a list of The Simpsons’ most self aware gags without including one of the most clever, abstract moments from the series’ history.
The ultimate Simpsons fourth-wall-busting moment came way back in 1995. It was during the iconic Treehouse of Horror VI episode, in which we saw a Simpsons live-action moment for the first time ever.
A dazed-looking, rather creepy Homer can be seen wandering the streets aimlessly. In a moment that showed just how bizarre the cartoon really is when compared to the real world.