Kamp Krusty

By Gabriel, 24 May 21, 6

My Recollection.

“Mr Black”. “Mmm, strawberries”. Barney as Krunchie the Klown.

My memory of this episode puts it in the same blur of season three. The commentary track mentions that it was a holdover from that season, so there’s a chance the local broadcast was, like so many others, out of order. The standard resources for Australian broadcast order end at season two and, while I found a website that has archived Australian TV Guide magazines, most of these are just covers with some basic content synopses, so I’m not able to check.

Even as a child, Bart’s worship of something as deeply antiquated as a clown was alienatingly cartoonish, but terrible camp experiences were familiar. Australia doesn’t really have a tradition of “Summer Camps” but the ones we had during the semester were bleak enough to bridge the gaps.


The Episode.

Storytelling is an art separate from simply having an idea for one. I’ve had people ask if my anecdotes are fake, because they’re mistaking the facts of the story with the art of the storytelling. “I saw a kid go down a hill in a trolley, he fell out, it was funny as fuck” has the same factual content, the same story idea, as a thousand words that talks about trolley wheels, describes the feeling of watching the pilot go, and uses metaphor to communicate these in ways that trigger feeling, but the artistry is mistook for fakery. A suitably talented storyteller can squeeze something out of any idea, so the commentary track’s confession that the writers couldn’t come up with enough for the 21-minute runtime of Kamp Krusty is particularly embarrassing.

It also shows. The story is effectively split into two separate ideas with their own conflicts, enough that each may have been its own episode. Bart needing good grades to be allowed to go to camp is an idea. Things like faking the grades, but overreaching by faking As, is the kind of setup and failed initial conflict that a realisation finale would resolve. Homer being disappointed that Bart would even think he’d fall for that can easily be worked into an overall theme around how the pair’s fraught relationship makes basic interpersonal respect a challenge, and Lisa’s overreaction to a B+ is the simple “B” story. For resolution, Bart fails to change his grades, which fits the counter-sitcom realism of the show, but the work he puts in to fixing it demonstrates enough care and hard work that Homer lets him go; while Lisa learns that some of her heroes have had B-plusses, and that it’s not that big a deal. What’s there already goes for 8-9 minutes, and that’s without a follow up scene for Lisa’s B+. Throw in some scenes of Bart and Lisa attempting to get grades changed, a bedroom conversation between Homer and Marge about the kids, and bam, classic Simpsons.

The Kamp Krusty story’s absurdity makes it a better fit for a stunt episode. Bart and Lisa could start the trip fighting, only to eventually learn to set aside their differences, maybe even learning to appreciate them, in order to defeat Mr Black and the bullies, while the Homer and Marge B plot remains basically the same. Being a stunt episode, there would be (and is in the section we get) ample room for various references to classic stories—I’d probably add some Spartacus elements to the rebellion—that would help it move enough into the unreal to get past things like “children conquer a summer camp”, and you can probably imagine a dozen of your own.

This also presents an easy fix for the incredibly lazy conclusion. Homer and Marge, along with the other parents, could show up to de-escalate the situation, only to have Homer blow it. Krusty’s arrival can then remain the conclusion, but with the montage being about them fixing up and eventually enjoying the camp or even just going home. Really anything instead of Tijuana, which is almost Surf’s Up stupid. The end

In Homer Goes to Space, Homer goes to space. That’s the thing that happens. The reason this is a whole episode is because they attach elements of character to it in the form of Homer’s quest for respect, and they explore what going to space entails—such as training and possible dangers—to add more events to the narrative. Summer camp stories are so deep a part of the American experience that they are practically their own genre with dozens of entries, and the ’92 writers room consisting of but not limited to Conan O’Brien, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Mike Reiss, George Meyer, Jon Vitti and goddamn John Schwartzwelder couldn’t come up with some summer camp cliches to get to twenty-one minutes? I could come up with some just from absorbed cultural runoff alone.

One of the odd sources for this situation seems to stem from the fact that Kamp Krusty was being considered as the idea for a The Simpsons movie, which is a fascinating factlet all by itself. The show’s initial surge of success came years before 1996’s Beavis and Butt-Head Do America and nearly a decade before South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. There wasn’t any serious public expectation of a Simpsons movie until after these, as the suggestion had little to latch on to besides some Flintstones/Jetsons specials, so finding out that the idea existed by at least 1992 is a depressing discovery. The supposed reason for not doing one earlier was the lack of a worthy script idea, meaning they traded the classic summer camp story—the one with three minor show villains, a new boss villain, a new location, a fat camp, a full cast, and a rebellion—for a script whose one major achievement was Bart’s penis. I can’t wait for The Simpsons Movie 2: Ralph Wiggum’s Anus.

The given excuse, that the idea was demoted as the writers couldn’t stretch the summer camp rebellion to 90 minutes, is like explaining that you only shit your pants because all the supermarket self-checkout machines were busy. Being a feature chopped down to twenty minutes would at least be a reasonable explanation for why the episode is structured the way that it is, except in this case there were never the ideas there to chop.

I seldom talk about the writers or other behind the scenes elements as one of the background purposes of this essay series, at least at this point, is to illustrate how a work is to be judged from the materials within it. External elements can be interesting, and relevant to other forms of text response, but are ultimately irrelevant to whether a narrative works. But Kamp Krusty is an aberration of sorts, a mostly bland dud that exists between season three’s better work, and the shining gem that is the rest of season four. When confronted with something so odd, it can be useful to explore why, even when the answer only raises further questions.

Any idiot could have fixed this episode. The idea that a room full of professional comedy writers couldn’t wring some storytelling out of fucking summer camp is less believable than children overthrowing a summer camp. Until told otherwise, the real explanation is that two perfectly good scripts were shredded after Conan’s one and only taste of cocaine turned him into a tornado of destruction, not unlike a ginger Tasmanian Devil. This is historical fact until proven otherwise.  

Kamp Krusty is a below average episode, but in a peculiar way that would render it entirely forgettable were it not for the focus on the eponymous setting. It’s the okay bits of two episodes sewn together in a way where it does work, but you can see so many easier ways to have done this. Like a tower of chairs to reach a high shelf when a ladder is just nearby. The first segment is overlong, features its own B story, and pays none of this off later in the episode. The latter portion has all the elements of a better episode, but it is cut down to little more than montage. Two blurbs where I expected a book, and from writers with a library behind them.

Yours in having laryngitis and a bad back, Gabriel.

Jokes, Lines, and Stray Thoughts.

Good news! I have decided to update this section a little to include timestamps for my comments. This will mean you can look for specific things without needing the full run of the episode to create temporal context for what’s being discussed. Season 4, baby.

1:09. The couch gag is worth mentioning as it’s a reference to The Flintstones, a forebear of the show. Though not specifically for adults, its subject matter of a lower middle class, blue collar dad gave it broader appeal than the rest of Hanna-Barbara’s stable of teen bands and giant talking animals. The Simpsons is 106 episodes off matching The Flintstones here.

1:26. There’s a zoom on Bart here when Krabappel announces the last day of school that, coupled with his closed eyes, suggests the start of a dream sequence. We don’t get one, leaving the audience to think this just the start of an episode, which works well as the feint for the fact that this is a dream sequence we are already in.

1:40. “Well, it isn’t fair to the other children… but alright!” is a clear indication we aren’t in reality but it juxtaposes well with the dream fakeout.

1:45. The way the unreality reveal works is the same rule of threes principle. Krabappel just changing Bart’s grades (when Bart Gets an F has already shown us she won’t do), escalates into “Much obliged, doll” and Bart spanking her on the ass, escalates into destroying the school with a flamethrower. This whole sequence is like finding out a new use for a screwdriver. The creative repurposing of existing tools is an often neglected area of creativity, here it’s well used to multiply the value of a dream sequence.

1:57. Unchanging expressions or expressions that do not match their context are a great way to twist a scene for either humour or horror. Here, the children getting various weapons from their desks, as though it were as normal as pulling out a piece of paper, is funny, but it could easily be repurposed into something frightening.

2:01. While it is now obvious, Bart doing a Rambo impression draws in a level of unreality that finishes the gag.

2:08. Probably wouldn’t trust Nelson with a flamethrower, regardless of what’s going on.

2:17. I love the pan along the school ending in Willie driving through the school and then through the wall.

2:25. Bart in the wrecking ball here is nicely called back to in Lisa’s Wedding.

2:30. I enjoy the shift from Alice Cooper to Bart la-la-ing a little tune to fade from the dream.

2:32. I know it’s happened other times, but Homer waking Bart up stands out here. Feels like something that only happens as part of a joke.

2:45. Another good example of how an unchanging or ill fitting expression makes a better joke. Homer whaps Bart with the newspaper almost as a matter of duty, he takes no pleasure in it.

2:53. The Kamp Krusty flier is telling you more than you know.

2:59. “When you’re 18 you’re out the door.” Elements of this idea have come up a few times with Homer.

3:30. Elements of this conversation between Bart and Homer could have had setup parts for conflicts beyond the grades. If you make the grades as a vector for demonstrating something else, then that something else can be demonstrated by his leadership skills after overthrowing Kamp Krusty. This idea was sorta executed in Itchy and Scratchy Land, but just for a gag at the end.

3:37. In a good example of how The Simpsons goes beyond the norm, the setup-payoff for Homer’s bit about working for things you want leading straight into the lottery numbers is spiced up by having him excited that he gets one number, three numbers in.

3:44. None of my schools had lockers. We argued for them in High School, but they said no, with the given reason being they’d get messy. We later found out it was because the school couldn’t afford to install them.

3:50. Bart’s locker combo, 36-24-36, is probably, given his chuckle, a reference to the ideal measurements thing for a woman’s bust, waist, and hips. There’s an inconsistency to Bart’s sexual understanding, which makes jokes like this fit awkwardly. As a delinquent, the taboo factor will have natural appeal, but only in as much as it bothers authority.

3:53. Still just a potato.

4:00. I don’t know enough about American gym shorts to quite get this gag. Are they solid because they were never worn or because they were worn and never washed?

4:04. “I have nothing left to say to any of you” I wonder what Hoover’s hobbies are.

4:15. Lisa’s reaction to the B is a goodun, a mix of great voicework by Yeardley Smith and good animation touches. The mania and rage are the obvious points, but these are brought out by the delivery of “I’ve never gotten a B before” which beautifully walks the line of emotionlessness brought on by genuine shock. This rolls perfectly into Lisa putting her face into her palm, which could have been static, but here moves slowly through a crunch of shame boiling into anger. The little lines under the eyes has long stood as an indicator of some kind of frazzled state, in more animated series than just this. I’m a little curious as to why that specifically. My working theory is that it draws out human ideas of behaviour connected to eye bags and lack of sleep, so it’s become visual shorthand for cartoons that need to communicate a kind of mania when your eyes are just a dot on white.

4:23 “The dirt’s not coming off” is a classic that pops up again. Probably a Shakespeare reference originally, though I’d like to see some earlier modern examples where it shifted to that line specifically.

4:32. Krabappel has the intelligence to make her aware of her plight, which subsequently demands character. Evolution was inevitable for Krabappel, but never even attempted with Hoover. She’s a product of Springfield, not dead inside as what was in there barely qualified as life. Her bitterness has no snark to it because she’s not trying to make herself laugh, it’s just a thing that unquestioningly exists as much as the sky above her head.

4:37. To be fair to Lisa, if you’re gonna wound a kid, don’t make it so obvious. PE was right there, and you had to go and say that Little Lisa Bootlicker’s conduct was less than flawless? You’ve given the game away and given Lisa an external target. Something like this should have no outside villain, let it fester within the child as they question everything about themselves. I’m an Education major.

4:47. “Lisa… you’re… hurting me” is beautifully delivered and Maggie Roswell should never have had to argue about getting paid enough to fly in and do the show.

4:50. There are elements of Bart waiting on the grades here that harken back to Bart Gets an F. What little thought that any of that was going to carry over should be long gone by now, but it has been a while since they were relevant so dipping in here is acceptable within the genre reality. That said, it’s still a mistake to use it enough to highlight it but not enough to get any real value out of it.

5:01. “Duly noted” may have a use that doesn’t have the faint sense of passive-aggressiveness but I’ve yet to hear it.

5:03. Bart’s ass whack and his attempted flirting with Edna also harken back to Bart the Lover. There is an episode of Ren and Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon where Ren gets Stimpy’s ass pregnant, with the plot being a comedic means of highlighting the kinds of unspoken homoerotic elements that exist in children’s media pairings like Bert and Ernie. There’s an element of that in the relationship Bart has with Krabappel, where his comically necessary enhanced maturity (inconsistent as it is) paired with Krabappel’s man-hungry desperation adds a warp to their dynamic, but one that’s only there if you squint.

5:18. Per my point about Hoover earlier, Krabappel is absolutely taking personal delight in wounding Bart. Not via the grades themselves, those he earned, but in the way she twists the knife by turning them into a pun. There’s a human within Krabappel who needs the humour to survive.

5:25. Willie adding some Scots to the punch. My teaching focus was high school, which puts you in too much contact with people old enough to maybe realise you’re drinking on the job, but you could probably get away with maintaining a low-altitude buzz in primary.

5:26. Otto managing a wheelie in a school bus is just impressive.

5:28. The sickly Wendell and Ms Phipps, the seldom seen other nurse at Springfield Elementary. She’s in a few other background shots but is otherwise gone after this episode.

5:30. Milhouse getting a swirlie. Australian toilets work differently to the American punchbowls, so that’s probably why we never saw these here. Getting a human head submerged in the local variety would necessitate a staggering, probably fatal reshaping of the head.

5:44. Some different eyeball designs on the children in this shot, including the arced window style that has largely vanished. This moment also may as well be how American children are taught history, particularly now that states are replacing any mention of racism with USA chants.

5:51. The general destruction here is a fun joke, but not far off from some events. Muck-up day was what it was called when I was a lad, which mostly involved minor pranks like a friend of mine sending RAFTON SWALLOWS, a reference to our vice principal, to every printer in the school a few dozen times over. If you want actual chaos, read into what some of the entitled spawn from the private schools get up to.

5:56. Describing the fall of Saigon as “unfettered hurly-burly” is a great Skinner moment.

5:58. Calling Willie “William” sticks in my ear here. Skinner’s probably done it before, but I can’t remember it.

6:12. “Silk-wearing buttercup” has gotta be Willie’s earliest compound insult for Skinner’s relative fanciness. Really though, how long can it take to clean toilets that aren’t being used. Hell, I could do that really drunk with some headphones in and have a fun enough time.

6:13. A Birgit sighting on the bus! Among a few other solid sight gags of general mayhem.

6:15. I refuse to believe Otto’s life didn’t already involve spaghetti-os and daytime TV, as what could his duties as bus driver involve that would busy him outside of his routes? Also, the bare-ass kid is back again. I actually think it’s the same kid, too, which means there was a canonical streaker in the school for a few episodes.

6:17. I love that Bart always has access to a jewellers’ lens, and the joke is given a little rub through its wholly unnecessary use. It looks like one of those little kaleidoscopes you’d get at the Ekka.

6:31. I love the emotional journey here from Lisa, as her laughter and pity are both so very genuine.

6:42. Bears can’t talk, Lou. The amusing thing about animated shows is that a bear costume can be imperceptibly different from their drawing of a bear, so this dead-eyed, potentially lobotomised being pushing the girl on the swing plays well as both. Also a good example of the classic “ads showing up when needed” thing.

6:45. Krusty actually managing some really physically difficult stunts with the horse. Man has to be oddly fit. The horse looks like it’s hating every moment of this.

6:56. I do love treating being built on an actual Indian burial ground as a selling point. The dead are irrelevant, and no amount of thinking otherwise will change that. Wasting space on corpse piles is ridiculous and clinging to it is only done when a fight with an invasive culture prevents the ceding of any conceptual territory. Most of England is built on an ancient White Guy burial ground, guess what, nothing happened.

6:58. I had to look “megillah” up. It’s a Yiddish word, that I really should have figured, that means ‘volume’ or ‘scroll’ in the sense of a whole of a thing or portion of a larger thing. Probably comes from a specific piece of Hebrew writing. It gets used as a bit of slang in this sense to mean “all of it”.

7:00. There’s a extra bit of energy in the “fat” in the line “For you FAT kids” that really makes me laugh. It’s one of those things that is definitely there but in such a minor way that it may not be, and this is a form of very odd quasi-joke that I love because it can add a bit while being easy to get away with. What’s not subtle is the very funny “Diet and ridicule” line.

7:03. Krusty’s brand of gruel will turn your fat Milhouse into a weird skinny Milhouse. Kind of a Mario to Luigi thing going on here.

7:14. “Honest Injun”, well, we saw how that turned out for them.

7:22. Again with the unchanging expression joke as Homer mows over a variety of backyard obstructions. A good evolution here too, as most of us would run over a ball, but the comic extremity of a whole roller skate is amusingly absurd. One of those vintage ones that’s all metal, too. Not the plasticky kind.

7:28. “Stupid roller skate” is a great line that evolves the joke we just laughed at by telling us that Homer knew what he was mowing over the entire time.

7:35. Homer’s reaction to the report card is another great contrapuntal moment of using a subtle human expression within a highly stylised animated world to create something great. The lines, “You don’t think much of me, do you boy?” and Bart’s inaccurately subordinate “No, sir” stand out, but Castellaneta’s delivery of the “A plus?” line is my favourite thing here. It’s similar to the expression, in that the waver in the tone is a whole emotional journey by itself. Surprise that blows right past anger and straight into disappointment in a way that gains its comedic peak through dramatic veracity.

7:39. Homer’s parenting is really at its best when he’s advising Bart on the finer points of scumbaggery.

7:49. This whole sequence is the kind of family moment the show loves, the ones that claim realism through their opposition to the highly artificial sitcom standard. Only the first season stuck with this theme throughout, though, and the inevitably depressing results prompted a shift to moments like this being counterbalanced with schmaltzy happiness.

7:51. “But why should you pay for my mistake?” The series will often sharpen Homer’s intelligence for little moments like this, a lot like how Beavis and Butt-Head were smarter during the music videos, because they need him to walk the otherwise impossible line of dumb enough to do the bad thing but smart enough to make a self-aware comment about it.

8:03. “Now, you’ve got little hands…” Just flip the mower.

8:13. Bart just watching his mother pack for him.

8:18. The Frinkiac claims that Bart says “naked” here but there is a distinct E sound suggesting it’s more “nekkid” and the feigned accent fits with Bart basically doing a character here. It covers the unusual word choices and the oddness of the idea altogether, allowing for the setup to the Homer joke.

8:32. Homer’s back hair is seldom ever drawn.

8:34. Look, a whole Lisa moment that is effectively pointless. Actually, the entire stretch between Homer telling Bart he can go to the camp and the kids arriving at said is a waste of time and it really needn’t be. Even late in the game, dialogue and the like can be added to create thematic connective tissue. We didn’t even see if Lisa got her shot.

9:04. Marge sobbing over missing her hideous family gorging itself is a nice character moment for her.

9:07. The pickle scene is a good gag and one that works as a necessary character moment for the pair. Bart and Homer spend so much time as antagonists that little bits like this serve to show us the foundations the unconditional familial love conclusions stand on.

9:20. “Image Enhancement Camp” is fucking hilarious, and Martin’s glare, penetrating the implied camera and into the audience, really hits home. I loathe the use of euphemism to cover for reality. Words are the solution when words are the problem. Calling a knife a cuddle won’t make stabbing me feel nice.

9:25. “Daddy’s Chubby Little Secret” would make a good name for a The Simpsons themed gay bar.

9:40. I have no idea what the “leaves of four” line is referencing. No, it’s not weed. No functional weed plant has 4 leaves, and nobody eats the goddamn leaves. If it’s a weed joke, whoever wrote it probably has brain cysts. It would be the equivalent of making a beer drinking joke about eating yeast. Don’t comment about this unless you know, and I’m gonna say know again, know as in actually have meaningful information that you didn’t just imagine, what this means.

9:47. “Don’t look in my closet, in fact, stay out of my room altogether” is a familiar feeling. Particularly from a time when the only things you could worry about being discovered were physical.

10:00. The parents celebrating is a predictable gag, “don’t come back” being heard over the general celebration is that little bit extra.

10:03. I kinda wanna know more about why they went with “Krusty” as I’m assuming it was purely for comedic value. It’s one of those adjectives that is unpleasant when put near anything that’s not bread, so the show gets milage out of it.

10:06. The bridge collapsing is a nice animation work, and starting it as the bus is still on it is a good touch.

10:10. The pull reveal of the television is good. Plays against audience expectations of Krusty not being there.

10:21. The use of poorly edited in dialogue is a personal favourite of mine, and the use of such a distinct and in all manners different voice really adds to it.

10:41. Euro Disney didn’t do very well when it opened, to the point where it was in the news, and that’s the reason it shows up as a joke butt.

10:53. Counsellors Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearnie, is an overdo joke, you expect something bad but having just three bullies as the counsellors is above and beyond.

This is where you can see some of the film structure in it and why I’ll always be baffled that they said they couldn’t come up with anything. THIS IS SOMETHING, other movies have been made on less. A group of children including a delinquent, his bookworm sister, and maybe a fat kid, having to rebel against evil camp management is a fucking movie a chimp could write. There are a million ways to explain why the movie didn’t get made or why the episode is cobbled together but the one they choose is the least believable. CONAN OBRIEN AS A GINGER TASMANIAN COKE DEVIL. You know it makes sense, stop fighting it.

11.00. There’s an art to long pause jokes that this moment highlights well. The use of not silence, but the kinds of audio minutia you can only hear in absolute silence create an awkward, realistic tension that the eventual joke capitalises on breaking. Wendell’s frightened, tiny little cough is a perfect choice for target, as they are both so pathetic that it enhances Jimbo’s evil response into the absurd.

11:09. There was an in character interview with the voice cast, I can’t remember which show it was on, but Julie Kavner replied to a question on how Homer and Marge stay together by saying she has seven G spots. Hearing this in Marge’s voice, with the slight raspy chuckle, was somewhat confronting, but like Ned’s 12 inch penis, it’s canon.

11:13. Fucking in a shower really depends on the shower and the relative height of the parties involved. If one of these is out of sync, the process is a frighteningly dangerous one with little meaningful reward.

11:19. The use of darkness to provide a glimpse as opposed to an exterior shot for the cabin reveal is a good one, as it gives you a little more information to play with. A bit like the Krusty on TV thing being framed to make it look like it wasn’t, this gives enough information to rattle the audience assumption and keep the joke surprise intact.

11:22. The chicken is a good touch as it is a combo of noise and movement that is surprising but not actually threatening. Now we get the cut to the exterior shot that gets to be even more ridiculous as the third element.

11:29. Rattlesnakes crack me up. Something about an animal that evolved to threaten people with a danger-twerk amuses me. Nothing Australian and venomous really warns you about shit, at least audibly, and the visual cues are easily mistaken for “I’m interesting, pick me up” by humans.

11:32. Bart and Lisa’s eyes rotate to look about the room in opposite directions which is a really lovely bit of animation. Their pupils are so singular and distinct that they end up almost as part of the mise-en-scene.

11:38. I’d say Bart’s personal experiences with Krusty should have disabused him of his faith, but a combination of child and dumbass kind of shields him from that and keeps the plot stable.

11:53. The faulty electrical equipment is to be expected, but I do love the Krusty brand shiv, and the Krusty brand pistol Also, the disguise kit on the top shelf intrigues me. What could be so wrong with it?

12:05. Your camp being so shitty that you have to roast pinecones is funny; that the counsellor/bullies make you eat the pinecone is funnier.

12:08. Petrol and tyres are a great choice for shitty campfire fuel. Cousin dumped a pile of kerro over a campfire once, stunk for the whole evening.

12:14. “Well it ain’t getting any safer” The thing about a lot of these moments is that, while they are funny in isolation, they beg for plot. Did any of the kids end up swimming or anything? They’re meant to be at the camp for six weeks or some shit. I still can’t believe a room full of American writers in the 90s couldn’t work some basic camp stories into this.

12:27. While torturing fat people with exercises they absolutely can’t do is funny, it doesn’t help anyone get fitter. Start with the simplest thing you can do and go from there. To be honest, it’s impressive they’re even holding on to the bars that long. Chin-ups ain’t easy.

12:33. Lewis Black has certainly made plain the way volume works in comedy and it’s a principal the drill sergeant’s shout of “HAM” demonstrates well.

12:45. The song is funny, but this whole sequence is mostly a tell over show montage in an episode that is already mostly disconnected moments.

12:49. This episode being a holdover from 3 actually makes it a good marker for some child character designs I’ve been keeping an eye on. Doevid is in this singing shot, as is window eyes, a bootleg Lisa, the Weasels, what looks like one of the Flandereses, and bootleg Milhouse (now with a new hat). Doevid absolutely does disappear, and I’m suspecting it’s in the gap between series 3-4, so this will be a fun test. The Weasels will probably go here, too.

12:55. Gruel is thinner than porridge and sometimes made with water, which sounds depressing. Porridge made with milk and mixed with honey is quite nice. I’d not share my porridge with a frog. While I don’t consider them a gross animal, their skin has altogether too much going on for me to have it interact with my food.

12:29. Hey, you know what’s funny? Just a big ol’ hole. This moment has some fun freeze frames, as there’s basically a cut between Bart’s running animation to his falling animation, without any intervening movement.

13:03. The eye contact between injured camper and nurse is fucking hilarious to me. The height difference combines with the brow angle to give the whole shot a conceptual Dutch tilt.

13:08. The Mt Avalanche joke is an obvious one made better by some great expressions on the children’s faces, and the giant boulder a few seconds after the first volley. Lisa’s face is almost happy.

13:30. They added verses to the song to fill time. Archery was mentioned, what, you geniuses couldn’t get a joke outta that? What was Schwarzwelder doing? Yelling at the hole in the ozone that it didn’t exist?

13:34. The long dry creak of the wooden seats peps up the obvious collapse gag.

13:39. Lisa surprised she’s eating the gruel she was eating during the song. I am curious as to what imitation gruel could be, barley husks or something? This was the basic food for agricultural peasants for ages, which is why when a society fed men on regular meat like Sparta or the English navvies, their physical strength became a matter of note.

13:46. While the idea of wrangling my own team of delinquent youth as a means to power has crossed my mind, the idea of spending actual time with them is repulsive. Say what you will about Mr Black, he’s actually sharing his spoils with the underlings which is practically saintly by villain standards.

13:55. Homer’s life turning around without the kids is the obvious joke, though it is interesting to see his model altered in such small, realistic ways. Also, let’s be realistic, it’s not the absence of Lisa that’s made his life more comfortable.

13:58. I love that the combover is what Homer’s going for. Should really just shave it and try for the Bruce Willis look.

14:04. There’re parallels with the scenes between the parents and the kids that’s appreciated—entering the cabin/entering the shower, Homer and Marge canoodling in bed/Bart and Lisa freezing in US Army sacks—but that its largely isolated quality is a shame.

14:09. “Tail” is slightly more PG than the series feels during this era, a point which will seem absurd to anyone born after the mid 90s.

14:25. There’s an animation detail here on Krusty’s lips that you never really see in the series otherwise. It’s always stuck out to me.

14:34. Krusty is heckling Ivan Lendl, a Czech-American player.

14:40. I love the use of the word “harlequin” here as it’s a suitable phrase for the higher classes and means a clown. Though the clown it refers to is usually a mute. It’s also just a very fun word. I spent some time in the late 2000s telling people that the Australian English version of “assclown” was “bum harlequin” and it still makes me chuckle to think about.

14:47. Like they’d let new money sit next to the queen.

14:58. “Size… Strength… Agility”, good motto. One armed push-ups are hard, at least they are for someone whose shoulders are broader than their neck.

15:04. One little detail the series has been largely consistent with is the letters having the actual spoken content written in them.

15:10. The reveal of Kearnie eating the cookie is a goodun.

15:21. Montage number two! This one works better because it’s meant to be one, as it is a retelling of a character within the fiction.

15:28. “A snake bit me” Ew, the snake likes Milhouse.

15:31. Shirtless Kearnie, banging a drum with two mallets like the slave driver from Ben-Hur is a great reference. It just fits the environment and moment, even if only through the perspective of an 8-year-old girl, but is simultaneously ridiculous. The monotonous rhythm sounds phonetically akin to “chud purge” so it’s been my go-to gif for when something on twitter makes me want to see the dum-dums rounded up and convinced that jumping off a cliff would trigger the libs. Most of Ben-Hur is ahistorical nonsense. The Romans never used slaves on warships, preferring soldiers who had some stake in the fight or, failing that, mercenaries. There is enough going on in a fight that adding “people who want to run away” to the mix is not a good idea, particularly when boat rowing actually took a great degree of skill and coordination.

15:34. Possibly bald Doevid at Lisa’s bench in this shot.

15:47. I had a camp a bit like this for school on Moreton Island, stories from which have popped up here already regarding Peter pretending to molest a counsellor and a few other things. I’ll probably write the whole thing up eventually, as there are a few other standout events from that trip.

16:00. Some The French Lieutenant’s Woman referencing here. I’ve never gotten around to reading the book, but I want to as it’s meant to be an interesting piece. These references are based on some shots in the film, rather than their narrative content.

16:28. Seriously, it stormed the entire camp on Moreton Island, and we were in these big, canvas tents that weren’t properly secured. It was fucking hell. That said, not quite as bad as this. The kid in the top left goes on a fucking journey here. Firstly, he’s wrapped around the pole, then his legs slip and he’s hanging on with just his hands, then he loses one hand, and finally he’s blown to what I assume is his death.

16:34. Homer in the gentleman’s boater hat. I have one of these from when there was a bar thing at a croquet… I want to say course. It barely fits on my giant head and I remember very little of the event as I was savagely arsed on gin before it even began.

16:45. All these scenes of Homer and Marge being horny was a beautiful setup for this fireworks gag. I’m guessing this was where all the story energy went.

16:51. The broken children and slow look up at Mr Black, culminating in “I promised you a treat in lieu of dinner” is fucking golden. The delivery is understated, which is an important element of Golden Age Simpsons that much of the modern work and other shows forget. This is easy to miss as it’s not said like a joke and gets buried by the larger Barney gag, but this is what makes it great. Putting energy into a joke that is almost designed to get missed runs counter to a lot of how humour is approached, but it’s what gives the material so much depth and creates the rewatch value.

16:55. “Abandoned mule tannery” is a great choice for the odd thing the camp used to be. For this joke structure, picking something that is very unusual but also perfectly real gives it an internal unreal reality that enhances the joke. This tends to beat the overtly stupid.

17:07. The obviously Barney Krusty is a great gag. While close to the “Springfield resident omnipresence” problem, Barney fits here as his wino status gives him the ability to appear in odd places or with odd jobs. The accompanying fly, and Mr Black’s dead expression add to the moment.

17:15. The laryngitis and bad back excuses push the absurdity boundaries of the moment, which is risky as you can wind up between humour resets, but it works here as it is meant to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back within the narrative. The stunned stare of the children is a great shot.

17:20. “He’s still funny, but not ‘ha-ha’ funny” from Ralph is the tail end of his functional brain.

17:31. Barney acknowledging that he knows Bart is a good example of how his inclusion here fits the moment and isn’t a glorified cutaway as some later Springfieldians become. All of this is to service the “too far” theme of the scene, so calling Bart by name, calling himself Krunchie, and his BURP catchphrase fit, but also enhance, the narrative.

17:48. Bart’s rule of threes gag going from a calculator missing a 7 and 8 button to an oddly out of place complaint about his autobiography is the backhand version of the escalation joke that works off of the now common understanding of it.

17:58. Barney getting caught up in the revolutionary chant is a great bit. He really does just go along with whatever is the dominant mood.

18:07. “To the hydrofoil!” is a classic Simpsons line. It uses a similar idea to the Mule Tannery joke, by putting something that is real but very specific into a line like this, it creates a sense that it must be something without being something, and this internal tension creates a humorous absurdity. There are more moments like this, and most are personal favourites. A hydrofoil is a boat that uses blades to be less of a boat and go faster by reducing drag.

18:15. Huh, the before picture fat kid is in the fat camp still. This is some Running Man bullshit.

18:20. One kid just eating some bones.

18:26. I mean, this is not a healthy approach to food, Martin.

18:31. A very off model Ralph here, probably the most season 3 part of the episode.

18:35. “My insulin”

18:39. Some of the reference material says that there are Lord of the Flies elements here, which I disagree with. There’re some well known news footage references, and an Apocalypse Now one with the pig’s head and Bart meeting, but the actual subject matter of Flies has no similarity to this. It’s about lost children, not revolutionaries, similarities are extremely superficial and to be ignored in the face of the far clearer references.

19:03. Homer in full lotus is fucking impressive considering how fat his legs are.

19:12. “without hyperbole” good gag.

19:36. “Don’t be the boy” and Homer’s face really add to this moment. He knows, and that he knows helps dampen the ridiculousness of children overthrowing a summer camp. This is also the last we see of the parents because this episode is a disorganised shitfight.

20:32. “Superfluous nipple” is an odd phrase to hear as a child and it has stuck with me since.

20:38. “I’d never lend my name to an inferior product” IT’S OKAY TO BE SHIT IF YOU ACKNOWLEDGE IIIIIIIIT!

The rest of the episode is mostly “surf’s up” garbage.

And now, a new section…


Frist Annual Gabriel Morton Awards for Outstanding Achievements in the field of Simpsoness.

I’m adding this for something to do, and because it’s an easy way for me to keep track of things that I want to bring up in the Retrospecticus pieces. It’s more a novelty, but with more reason behind it than “occurred within the same year”.

Best Line

This can be either funny or serious.

An early frontrunner was the repeated “Mr Black” lines in his obviously edited in voice, but the joke isn’t a line so much as it’s structural. “Daddy’s chubby little secret” and “Shut up and eat your pinecone” also made the nominees list. The first is for being well written; each word is two syllables giving the line an appealing symmetry, “chubby” has a native humour to it phonetically and conceptually, and the sentence has broader comedic meaning. “Shut up and eat your pinecone” has none of that, but rates for the extreme absurdity of it. Making children roast pinecones because your camp won’t spend money on marshmallows is one thing but going to the extra effort to force the children to eat them is fucking funny.

“Lisa, you’re hurting me” was close to winning, on a mix of internal comedic value and delivery. That Lisa’s B+ could draw out enough anger to give an 8-year-old child the strength to crush the hand of an adult is funny, and the delivery lends it a jarring realism that enhances that part of the joke. There’s pain in Hoover’s voice but also fear, and it’s that which really puts it up there.

Another very close winner was “In lieu of dinner” because it’s like one of those Australian snake bites you don’t feel but kill you in an hour.

But the winner is

“A pluuuus?”

Homer’s line, delivered at Bart’s straight A+ report card, wins by being so much without any of the other lines’ advantages. Everything else is meant as a joke, which creates a series of attention focusing and humour rising structures around it, but this line still stands out. Castellaneta’s delivery is the source of this. Homer has the capacity to move into truly cartoon territory without damaging the surrounding world, so his moments of realism stand out. There’s no cartoon buffoon here, but there’s also not the other side of that coin. There’s no un-buffoon combination of broader dad tropes and stereotypes. This is Homer Simpson, 37-year-old father of three, looking at hard evidence of what his eldest and only son thinks of him, and reacting in a way that is both funny and lets us see a real adult human beneath the yellow clown outfit.   

Best Sight Gag

Best bit of deliberate visual humour. This means it can’t be something you only notice on freezeframes.

I came close to giving this one to the basket of fireworks reveal, but it’s too close to an anti/shaggy dog joke. Bart falling in the hole, and the kids fleeing from Mt Avalanche were close too, and there are a few things that don’t really count as sight gags, but I find funny for weird reasons. Like Mr Black standing beside the TV as Krusty talks. But the winner is…

The Cabin Reveal

I love this one for a similar reason to the Best Line winner. You think the joke of the state of the cabins is over, the establishing shot was denied to us as part of a joke involving the state of their interiors, but then that belief is turned into another twist. The entire first joke of the chicken and dilapidated cabin interior is turned into a setup for the even more extreme state of the cabin exterior.  

Best Overall Joke

There’ll be overlap with things like Visual Gag and Line because this is about assessment and not trying to give everything a cookie.

The Mr Black Scene

The clearly, insultingly obvious editing of “Mr Black” into Krusty’s video is very goddamn funny by itself, but the first one coming as some Mister with black hair in a black shirt stands and dead-eye’s the viewer adds this layer of the insultingly obvious that the viewer themselves experiences.

Best shot

Best non comedic visual.

This is always going to be a shitfight of a section because, while I will be trying to avoid them, things like references and jokes are going to get in here from time to time. References I want to avoid because they’re not really the work of the show. For instance, the moments when Lisa is passing her note to the mysterious rider are beautiful, but also deliberately derivative of other work. Jokes I want to avoid as then there’s just two visual gag sections. The reality, though, is that sometimes the best shot will be funny, or a reference with enough internal change to validate its inclusion.

Skinner murmuring to himself as the children engage in unfettered hurly-burly was close, but too busy in both content and framing. The winner is…

The introduction of the counsellors/bullies.

It’s simple, but a perfect example of how simple framing can communicate so much. The bullies tower over the already frightened children, with Jimbo’s smile suggesting nothing, but through that, everything.

Freeze Frame Fun

The funniest/most interesting things I got scanning frames.



6 replies to Kamp Krusty

Cliff Excellent on 25 May 21 said:

Summer Camp is one of those american things I only know of through their media, and basically only comedy at that, so I wonder how far off my mental image of it is from the reality. I'll probably never find out.

I imagine episodes like this must be the harder ones to analyse because it's not very good but also not bad in any ways that are particularly interesting

Gabriel on 25 May 21 said:

The challenge is in not being too repetitive. It would be way more work than I am paid to do to consistently reanalyze every article to ensure nothing is getting said twice, but also kind of pointless. I don't expect everyone to read and memorize every article, and there is value to demonstrating things more than once, as there'll usually be some slight variation that's worth discussing.

Rothope on 26 May 21 said:

leaves of four refers to four leaf clovers. finding one is supposed to be good luck. I actually have 100+ of 'em ghetto laminated in my wallet from jr high

Robin Wilde on 28 May 21 said:

The leaves of three/four line is a reference to a rhyme for identifying poison ivy, a rash-inducing plant found in American rural areas. The rhyme would be likely given to city kids going to the sticks for the first time to stop them getting stung.

"leaves of four" isn't a part of the original rhyme but I could see "funny sequel to the original rhyme" being a broader genre of dumb dad joke, rather than a unique one off Homerism.

Bungus Bronbo on 30 May 21 said:

"Julie Kavner replied to a question on how Homer and Marge stay together by saying she has seven G spots" What the fuck

Larger, More Powerful Alex on 09 Jun 21 said:

I was okay with the ending, Krusty fixing things by bringing a bus load of children to a foreign city known for debauchery is in character. Not necessarily the best solution but a far cry from the 'Surfs up' ending.

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