Yesterday, Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria (Moe, Chief Wiggum, Lisa) survived a close encounter with inhabitants of the notorious investigation-hindering and pony-fetish forum Reddit long enough to answer some of their burning questions. Frankly, his AV Club interview from several years ago was a lot more illuminating and in-depth if you really wanna know more about the Hankster, but nevertheless, here are the highlights from his "Ask Me Anything" interview so you don't have to navigate Reddit's terrible comment layout.
First, he tackled the obvious question, whether or not he's ever seen Dan Castelleneta choke Nancy Cartwright to get the Homer-strangling-Bart scenes just right:
i have never witnessed it, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence to prove that it has happened.
In a rather shocking development, it turns out he still likes the show that pays him millions of dollars each year:
mostly i'm too close to the show and love doing it so much to have an objective opinion. i do what i've always done, which is show up and enjoy making what they've written come to life. the show still really makes me laugh. i've certainly seen online over the years, and elsewhere, people criticizing the show. it reminds me of the beatles anthology. there's this section where people are talking about how the white album isn't so good...that it was too long and that a lot of the tracks didn't work, and you see various people saying it wasn't up to snuff. and then, they cut to paul mccartney who says "yeah, i've heard people don't like the white album, but i say it's the bloody beatles white album. it's fucking great." that's kind of how i feel about the show.
Panda rape & talking rags? Same thing as the White Album, basically.
Oh boy, it's that lovely time every three years or so when the Simpsons cast re-negotiate their contracts with Fox! And this time the stakes HAVE NEVER BEEN HIGHER. The Daily Beast reports that this time the voice actors are asking for a pay cut, instead of their usual pay raise. Say whaa??? Have we wandered into Bizarro World??? No, while they're asking for a 30 percent pay cut, it's because they want a piece of that hot, hot syndication and merchandise action worth billions of dollars in CA$H MONEY. Fox doesn't want to give up that money (after all, their parent company News Corp. has tons of phone hacking victims to pay off), and this time they're threatening to CANCEL THE SIMPSONS.
Difficult bargaining is nothing new for the show, which was created by James L. Brooks and Matt Groening. Fox studio execs have occasionally threatened to replace uncooperative cast members with sound-alike actors. But for the first time in nearly a quarter century of haggling, the executives have insisted that if the cast doesn't accept a draconian 45 percent pay cut, The Simpsons will die an abrupt death as a first-run series.
Just how nice is Dan Castellaneta, voice of TV's Homer Simpson? He is so nice that he will give you his house, if you ask him.
His best friend in the whole wide world, Simpsons co-worker Hank Azaria (Apu, Moe, etc.), was in the market for a new mansion after selling his home. Hearing that his good friend was now homeless, Castellaneta stepped up to his plate, and sold him his current mansion, the place where he lives and sleeps, because that is how nice a guy he is. Now, some people might let you stay in the guest room for a couple days or something, but Dan Castellaneta will just straight up give you his house.
So where are the Castellanetas going to live now? Nobody knows, maybe they will live in their car from now on. Only time will tell. [Los Angeles Times]
Nancy Cartwright, voice of Bart Simpson and a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, appeared before a legislative hearing at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield (!) to stress that her Scientology-inspired character-education program is totally secular and should be taught to schoolchildren.
The Illinois School Code requires "character education," defined as "the teaching of respect, responsibility, fairness, [etc.]" to be taught in schools. A House Resolution filed by Rep. Daniel Burke (D-Chicago), recommended several programs and clubs that satisfy that requirement, including Cartwright's "Good Choices" program, of which the bill specifically "encourages its use and the use of similar programs by educators, coaches, mentors, and other community service leaders."
Cartwright freely admits "Good Choices" is based on "The Way to Happiness," a 1980 self-helf booklet by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, which teaches important lessons like "Do Not Murder" (precept 8) and "Don't Do Anything Illegal" (precept 9). While Hubbard's tract is advertised as non-religious, Newsweek noted that it "uses key words and concepts taken directly from Scientology's religious lexicon." Cartwright is a big promoter of the booklet; through her charity, she distributed a million copies of it to the San Fernando Valley in 2007.
Now that Aflac has dumped Gilbert Gottfried as the voice (quack?) of its disyllabic duck character, who should replace him? timlowell, a commenter (commentator?) over at The Awl suggests Simpsons thespian Harry Shearer as a possible candidate:
Harry Shearer does a regular bit on Le Show where he mimics Gilbert Gottfried's Aflac duck, except he changes it to "AF-PAK", as in what the military calls the Afghanistan/Pakistan region. I e-mailed him, but he hasn't responded.
Here's the most recent "News of AFPAK" segment, so you can judge for yourself.
Yeardley Smith, voice of Lisa Simpson, is launching a new line of designer shoes called Marchez Vous (that's French for "you walk") YS, with the goal of marrying comfort and style.
That's all nice and good... but can she compete with these kicks???
Unlucky message boarder "JowTSJY" was forced to attend a table reading for an upcoming episode wherein Marge becomes a foodie, and he shared his horrifying ordeal with the good people at Simpsons Collector Sector with photographic evidence.
Some interesting observations:
Five of the six main voice actors were in attendance: Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner, and Hank Azaria. Tress MacNeille and Pamela Hayden were also providing their voice acting skills, while Harry Shearer was represented by a speaker phone in the middle of the table. I was informed that Harry Shearer rarely attended the table reads, instead "phoning it in" from home. In fact, I was also informed that Shearer rarely came in to record his lines in the studio. He does that from home over the phone, too!
To be fair, he's in a different recording studio using ISDN
, but it's still funny to imagine Harry Shearer as Charlie from Charlie's Angels
At 10AM the table read began as a man (whose name I didn't catch) announced that The Simpsons had been renewed for its 23rd season. During the table read, this man narrated the non-dialogue portions of the script
Presumably, this man is showrunner Al Jean, who mysteriously doesn't appear in any of the photos. That guy is craftier than Arthur C. Korn
On our way back across the Fox lot, we saw Nancy Cartwright driving away in her Lexus. Her license plate read "4EVER10," a reference to the fact Bart never ages. Someone mentioned that her old license plate used to read "I DO BART." If that's true, I can understand why she changed it!
hahahaha [Simpsons Collector Sector via No Homers Club]
Popular songstress and harpy Joanna Newsom is reportedly appearing in an upcoming Simpsons episode. It's being described as a "guest appearance," but I have reason to believe this is merely a smokescreen for the real truth: the producers are secretly bringing in Newsom to replace Yeardley Smith as the voice of Lisa Simpson.
Now, I know what you're thinking: hey, the Yeardster's voiced America's favorite starfish-haired feminist for nearly 25 years! They're not just going to throw her under the bus! Well, let's take a look at the evidence:
FACT: Newsom's voice is often compared to that of Lisa Simpson's.
FACT: The voice actors are not getting any younger.
Just look at what happened to Frank Welker, who used to voice the dog: the producers discovered Dan Castelleneta could voice the dog just as good, so they gave Frankie the boot. Could history repeat itself again when Newsom comes in to record what she believes is a cameo? Let's say, hypothetically, a director slides her a script and asks her, just for funsies, to read some of Lisa's lines. And what if, that night, the producers get together, in secret, and compare her vocal track with Smith's... and decide Newsom's is better?
If I were Yeardley Smith, I'd be looking over my shoulder at all times. And I were Joanna Newsom, I'd leave the harp at home, in order to prevent any Nancy Kerrigan-type shenanigans... Developing... [TwentyFourBit ]
UPDATE (10/20/2010): IN THE NEWS has successfully shamed the producers from going through with their plan, and Joanna Newsom's cameo is definitely not happening. Yeardley Smith, you're welcome. [Pitchfork]
According to a "blind item" over at the reputable-sounding BlindGossip.com, a "bratty actress" on a TV show wanted more money than her fellow cast members, which made TENSIONS SIMMER. Then they REACHED ONE HUNDRED DEGREES CELSIUS when she "used her character to promote an organization with which she is associated." Now things are all awkward, so she tries to avoid working with her fellow actors whenever she can, and the producers are totally cool with this.
The general consensus in the comments section of both this site and the one over at Gawker (and really, who better to trust than people who post in comment sections on blogs?) is that the actress in question is Nancy Cartwright, voice of TV's Bart Simpson. You might remember her from such controversies as that time last year when she used Bart's voice on some robo-calls to promote the Church of Scientology, which would definitely fulfill the "promote an organization" part of the criteria. Other points to consider: the use of the adjective "bratty" (Bart is an anagram for brat, which is one of the fun facts that are obligated to appear in every article about The Simpsons), it's really easy to avoid fellow cast members if you're a voice actor (in fact, Maggie Roswell avoids coming into the recording studio altogether by doing all her lines from Colorado), the actors all got a pay raise somewhat recently, and there's a stupid little doodle of a yellow-skinned lady-pacman. THE PIECES ALL FIT, except for the part where it mentions a "set" which musta been thrown in there to throw us off the scent.
Or it could be Pauley Perrette or something, who knows. [BlindGossip.com]
Huffington Post blogger Harry Shearer was once again hosed by the TV gods, who failed to nominate him for a prestigious "Emmy" orange blimp award in the category of "Best Voice-Talkin' Guy." Shearer, voice of Mr. Burns, Smithers, Lenny, and Principal Skinner, among others, has only been nominated in that category once (in 2009) and is the only regular Simpsons cast member to have not won it (the others somehow all won in 1992, WTF?). Dan Castalleneta (Homer), Hank Azaria (Moe), and Anne Hathaway (the princess in that godawful 20th anniversary episode) are nominated this year along with Seth Green, Dave Foley, and Coach McGuirk. [Los Angeles Times]
Harry Shearer has yet to win an Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance, but his alter ego Derek Smalls, along with the rest of Spinal Tap, have been nominated for a Grammy for their latest album, Back From The Dead. [Twitter.com/letwits]
Like fellow cast member Nancy Cartwright, Harry Shearer is also part of a cult - the cult of iPhone. [The Guardian]
Fun factoid: According to his Twitter, Harry Shearer - the most vocal critic of the show amongst the cast - offered to write an episode a long time ago but was never taken up on it. [Twitter.com/letwits]
Voice actor Hank Azaria (Comic Book Guy, Moe, Chief Wiggum) and his girlfriend are expecting a child. Imagine that! [E!]
Nancy Cartwright, voice of TV's Bart Simpson, has not always been especially vocal about her membership in the always-controversial Church of Scientology. Her autobiography makes no reference to it, nor does her website. Although she's done a few publicity events for it (one ad in the LA Weekly offered a chance to "Meet the Voice of Bart Simpson At The Scientology Center!"), she has not advocated for the Church in a big way - she didn't preach the virtues of Xenu while doing publicity for The Simpsons Movie, nor has she tried to plug Dianetics while doing DVD audio commentary. Unlike some of the bigger Scientologist celebrities, she does not lecture Matt Lauer on psychiatry (Tom Cruise), star in movies based on books by L. Ron Hubbard (John Travolta), or leave a show when they make one too many jokes about the religion (Issac Hayes). Last year, however, she donated $10 million to Scientology - twice her annual Simpsons salary and nearly five times more than that deadbeat Tom Cruise - a story which raised a few eyebrows, but generally flew under the radar. A couple days ago, however, audio of Cartwright doing a "robo-call" for some Scientology event was uploaded to the Internet. The story has gotten a lot of attention, garnering more than 2,700 "diggs" on Digg, which is apparently a lot in Internet metrics (?).
Cartwright opens the call with "Hey, man, this is Bart Simpson!" before quickly resorting to her normal voice and saying "Just kidding... this is Nancy Cartwright!" She then announces that she is now "auditing on New OTVIII" (??) and wants to share her "many wins" with you (????). At this point, it doesn't really seem all that different from getting a robo-call from Hollywood starlet Scarlett Johansson telling you about how cool Barack Obama is, except it's for a religion. But Catwright lapses back into her Bart voice several times in the call, laughing and saying, "It's going to be a blast, man!" in the same voice that used to shill for Butterfinger bars, blurring the line between Nancy Cartwright, real-life person, and Bart Simpson, fictional cartoon character. You can hear it for yourself here, assuming the YouTube of the audio hasn't been taken down.
A lot of questions arise: does Bart want me to get my thetans checked or just Nancy? When has Bart ever advocated for anything other than eating his shorts, anyway? Legal issues aside (technically, Fox owns the voices of the characters, which came to light when Dan Castelleneta got in trouble for introducing comedian Paul Krassner on his album "Irony Lives!"), is it ethical for voice actors to use an iconic cartoon character in such a way? Should celebrities use their fame to promote their belief system? Does Cartwright ever use her Bart voice to prank call bars?
In an episode that's sure to be controversial, The One-Eyebrowed Baby attempts to assassinate the president in order to win Maggie's affections. [Entertainment Weekly]
The cast of The Simpsons finally got around to renegotiating their contracts, thus putting an end to the pay dispute that threatened to tear apart humanity and resulted in at least thirty artists losing their jobs while production was halted. Dan Castellenta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Maggie), and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns) will now each get
$500,000 $400,000 per episode, an increase from $360,000, to donate to Scientology. Ironically, this pay increase comes at a time when viewership has dwindled by nearly fifty percent over the past five years. Aye carumba! [telegraph.co.uk]
E! reports Yeardley Smith, voice of Lisa Simpson, has filed for divorce from husband
Ralph Wiggum Daniel Erickson. [E!]
The voice actors and powers-that-be are in contract talks for like the 30th time over the past 10 years probably because they don't think they're getting enough royalties from bart simpson meat thermometers or something who knows
Since I didn't have to be sitting in negotiation this afternoon, I drove over to the Starz Media/Film Roman facility, where I discovered (via the employees) that Fox and the six voice actors on The Simpsons are deep in talks for a renewal of contracts. And that all parties, according to the artists, have imposed a news blackout.
Ten years ago, Fox was on the brink of replacing all the actors. If contracts aren't renewed this time, maybe they'll just get Seth McFarlane to do all the voices. [TAG Blog]