128th-Final, Round 8: Homie the Clown vs. Bart’s Girlfriend

128th-final, round 8: 2F12 vs. 2F04.

2F12: “Homie the Clown” (Season 6 / February 12, 1995)
Written by John Swartzwelder. Directed by David Silverman
Showrunner: David Mirkin

I love Homer's expression here so, so much.

I love Homer’s expression here so, so much.

vs.

2F04: “Bart’s Girlfriend” (Season 6 / November 6, 1994)
Written by John Collier. Directed by Susie Dietter
Showrunner: David Mirkin

The Simpsons 2F04 Bart’s Girlfriend

I watched these two back to back on the projector the other day. Usually I watch ’em on my computer but a friend was over for a movie and afterwards we put in the good old Simpsons DVDs. So my main observation for both of these season 6 episodes is how great they look on the big screen. I know I say this every week but back in its prime the show was so cinematic! You’ve got low angles and elaborate action scenes and dramatic close-ups and all that kind of stuff. Sitcoms are usually not the most sophisticated, visually speaking. They all look kinda… flat. These don’t.

I laughed way more during “Homie the Clown” than the other one. I think under David Mirkin they had figured out the sweet spot between Homer being a lovable goof you want to root for and him causing trouble and injury to those around him and himself, not through malice but kinda just by being there. There’s a moment here where he beats up the guy in the Hamburglar costume half to death that I wish they had toned down a bit, or even taken out completely. I get why it’s funny and maybe it’s so out there with its violence that it becomes okay again? I don’t know.

(I’m extra rambly today for reasons. Sorry if none of this is coherent.)

2F12 is like a mini masterclass in comedic timing, too. Three fantastic moments rely entirely on pauses: when Homer falls into the burger props outside the Krusty Burger, when he is ejected out of his car after crashing it in front of the Van Houten place, and when Flanders repeatedly gets shot. They all involve silences or a few seconds of nothing happening, and they’re made exponentially funnier because of that.

“Bart’s Girlfriend” is a very different kind of episode. It doesn’t rely on the loud, funny moments as much, but instead focuses on what Bart’s going through, giving his story enough room to resonate with us and feel more true to life. (I guess “falling in love with a troublemaker and having your heart broken” IS more relatable than “enrolling in clown college and getting kidnapped by the mafia”?)

You know what? Up until a minute ago I was gonna let 2F04 win this one but now that I’ve written all this and looked through the episodes again I’m going with “Homie the Clown.” They’re pretty much equally great and last night I would have picked “Bart’s Girlfriend.” But this isn’t last night. Sorry, Meryl Streep. You were great, though.

The winner: 2F12, “Homie the Clown.”

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Round 15: Homie the Clown vs. Treehouse of Horror VIII

Round 15: 2F12 vs. 5F02.

2F12: “Homie the Clown” (Season 6 / February 12, 1995)
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by David Silverman
Showrunner: David Mirkin

Marge Simpson tucking in Homer's shirt.

“Hold still, Homer. Don’t squirm.”
“I am holding still. I am squirming.”

On paper, “Homie the Clown” has all the traits of a typical, and typically bad, recent episode of the show. Homer gets a new job! Homer is subjected to and doles out brutal violence! A celebrity voices themselves. But in reality, this is far from bad. I laughed as much if not more than at any other episode in this tournament so far. The gags, absurd and outlandish as they may be, land just right. Comedy is timing, and maybe that’s what the show has lost over the years. Here, the timing is perfect, from the animation to the voice acting and even in little details like the sound work (like the thuds of the clown college billboard pushing its way into Homer’s thought bubble).

  • Happy Homer!
  • Dick Cavett is one of my favorite people, ever.
  • Too many memorable quotes to list here.

5F02: “Treehouse of Horror VIII” (Season 9 / October 26, 1997)
Written by Mike Scully, David S. Cohen, Ned Goldreyer
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Showrunner: Mike Scully

Homer Simpson thinking of Maggie, Santa's Little Helper, Snowball II and his TV set.

“Little Bart! Little Lisa! Little Marge! And the rest!”

Entertaining Halloween episode, couple of good jokes, not bad, but nothing special.

The winner: 2F12: “Homie the Clown.”