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Mr. Burns’s Phone Greeting Is One Of The Simpsons Cleverest Jokes

Mr. Burns’s Phone Greeting Is One Of The Simpsons Cleverest Jokes #Burnss #Phone #Greeting #Simpsons #Cleverest #Jokes Welcome to Lopoid

Mr. Burns’s bizarre way of answering the phone is secretly an obscure, clever historical reference as one Simpsons writer helpfully explained.

The way Mr. Burns answers the phone in The Simpsons is one of the show’s most obscure gags, and the joke is also one of the cleverest history references that the series ever pulled off. At the height of the show’s popularity, The Simpsons was a critical darling. While The Simpsons will likely never regain its outsized critical acclaim, it is easy upon a rematch to see why the series was so beloved by reviewers during its so-called Golden Age between seasons 3 and 11.

The best episodes of The Simpsons went through over a dozen sets of rewrites and revisions, resulting in layered jokes that bounced between straightforward slapstick comedy, political satire, ambitious meta-humor, and straight-up surrealism. At its best, The Simpsons was both deeply silly and shockingly smart, an apparent contradiction that gave the show its unique tone. This style of writing is perfectly encapsulated in one famous joke, Mr. Burns’s bizarre phone etiquette.

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In The Simpsons season 7, episode 17, it is revealed that Mr. Burns answers the phone with the salutation “ahoy hoy” rather than “hello.” The mystery of where the Simpsons joke comes from wasn’t answered until writer Josh Weinstein took to Twitter in 2020 to explain. This bizarre greeting was how the telephone’s inventor Alexander Graham Bell thought the device should be answered, as opposed to the more conventional “hello” that his rival Thomas Edison preferred. While history sided with Edison, Burns evidently did not, resulting in the character still answering the phone with Bell’s phrase. One of the most obscure and clever nods to the absurdly old age of Mr. Burns in The Simpsons history, the gag works on many levels.

For viewers who know nothing about Bell, the line is an absurd, unexpected way to answer the phone that makes Burns seem like an unhinged lunatic. For any Golden Age Simpsons fans who somehow knew Alexander Graham Bell’s preferred phone etiquette, it is an obscure, clever reference. However, only a viewer who knows the context of the phrase and connects it to Burns’s incredibly old age would have fully appreciated the gag on first viewing. This would be particularly tricky since the next joke (wherein Burns tells his caller they need “more practice working your telephone machine”) comes only five seconds later.

This absurdly quick pace makes the implication of The Simpsons joke easy to miss, despite the detail being perfect for Burns. Not only does this prove that the character is around a hundred (since he was seemingly a contemporary of Bell), but it also shows that the obstinate Burns refuses to ever change with the times despite decades of history pushing Bell’s phrase out of the public lexicon. Like South Park, The Simpsons no longer enjoys the critical acclaim that its strongest seasons were met with, but jokes like this make it easy to see why. Until The Simpsons can return to layered, clever, obscure, and, crucially, funny gags like Burns’s absurd salutation, the series is unlucky to regain its historical popularity.

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About The Author

Cathal Gunning
(1692 Articles Published)

Cathal Gunning has been writing about movies and TV online since 2020. His obsessions include The Simpsons, Stephen King, the Scream series, and the horror genre in general. He has spent more time thinking about Stranger Things than the writers of Stranger Things, and he has never seen a Star War.

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