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The Simpsons on Banksy Opening: "95 Percent of It Is Just the Way He Wanted"

An update on how the show retained the elusive artist and how they slipped such eviscerating jokes past Fox execs.

Last night's Banksy-directed "couch gag" that opened The Simpsons has been making waves on the internet today—not just because it was Banksy, but because the show basically eviscerated its own brand in the span of a few minutes. If you haven't seen it yet, take a moment (and then another moment to cry for all the overworked pandas and unicorns of the world).


The show's jabs at its boss, 20th Century Fox, are certainly nothing new (here's a long and hilarious list of all the times Fox has been at the butt of its jokes). But how was the show able to get such an uncharacteristically dark and disturbing segment on air? Dave Itzkoff at The New York Times talked to show runner Al Jean about landing Banksy (a casting agent reached the producers of his film, Exit Through the Gift Shop) and then getting his idea past Fox.

Were you concerned that what he sent you could get the show into hot water?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it for a little bit. Certainly, Fox has been very gracious about us biting the hand that feeds us, but I showed it to Matt Groening, and he said, no, we should go for it and try to do it pretty much as close as we can to his original intention. So we did. Like we always do, every show is submitted to broadcast standards, and they had a couple of [changes] which I agreed with, for taste. But 95 percent of it is just the way he wanted.

Can you say what got cut out?

I’ll just say, it was even a little sadder. But I would have to say almost all of it stayed in. We were thrilled.


Itzkoff also addresses one aspect of the show that many fans might not be familiar with: Much of the The Simpsons' animation is produced in a studio outside of Seoul, South Korea, although not, as Jean adamantly states, under such conditions as depicted in the opening. Lately, the show has faced criticism for outsourcing to another country to take advantage of the cheap labor. Banksy's statement can be read as cultural commentary or just poking fun, but is it less hilarious when you think about how those workers had to animate a joke about themselves? Or might they take some sense of satisfaction in it?

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