The Best Real-Life Roles of 'Simpsons' Stars
Lisa Simpson’s headed to the psych ward. Sort of. Yeardley Smith, who plays the best daughter in the whole wide world, Lisa, on The Simpsons, has recently been cast in Revenge as a hospital patient in the show’s upcoming season. This is not the first time Yeardley has tested her talents in front of the camera. In fact, many of the series’ stars started off playing “real-life” roles. You might even recognize their non-Simpson faces.
1. Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson) in The Legend of Billie Jean
Before she was playing teacher’s pet in the fictional town of Springfield, Yeardley was a fugitive. Which is to say, she played a fugitive in the 1985 film The Legend of Billie Jean. The story follows a young girl, Billie, as she exacts revenge on a thieving classmate, goes on the lam and launches a national campaign for kids’ rights. (“Fair is fair!”) As the situation spirals out of control, Yeardley’s character, Putter, volunteers to be Billie’s accomplice. Though Putter had some marvelous displays of heroism, she is most remembered for her unfortunate “time of the month” accident in Billie Jean’s back seat.
2. Harry Shearer (Ned Flanders) in This Is Spinal Tap
A perfect example of mockumentary filmmaking, This Is Spinal Tap shows a satirical account of heavy metal band Spinal Tap’s musical comeback. While his British accent may have been fake, Harry Shearer’s humor was 100 percent real: the actor and his fellow “bandmates” ad-libbed the majority of the script. Who knew Ned Flanders had it in him?
3. Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson) in Parks and Rec
When it comes to creating unique fictional characters, Dan Castellaneta is the man to beat. On the NBC comedy Parks and Rec, Castellaneta plays the recurring disgruntled radio host Derry Murbles, whose deadpan joke delivery and petty rivalry with the neighboring town of Eagleton gives us yet another reason to watch the show. (As if Amy Poehler’s hilarity wasn’t enough.)
4. Julie Kavner (Marge Simpson) in Awakenings
If I were Julie Kavner (AKA Marge Simpson), the 1990 film Awakenings would’ve been the highlight of my life. That’s because I would’ve gotten to work with the comedic legend Robin Williams, who stars in the movie as an optimistic doctor in a psychiatric facility. Kavner’s role as Williams’ supportive coworker (and romantic interest, winky face) gives the film a touching twist that’s worth watching.
5. Hank Azaria (Moe) in The Birdcage
First, let me just share the synopsis of this movie with everyone, because its ridiculousness has an allure that I guarantee no one will be able to ignore: “A gay cabaret owner and his companion agree to put up a false straight front so that their son can introduce them to his fiancée’s right-wing moralistic parents.” Intrigued? What if I told you Robin Williams was the gay cabaret owner? And that Hank Azaria (Moe in The Simpsons) was his housekeeper? And that he won a Screen Actors Guild Award for this role? Would that make up for his role in the 1998 Godzilla film? I know it’s pretty hard to let go, but everyone deserves a second chance.
6. Marcia Wallace (Edna Krabappel) on The Young and the Restless and The Bob Newhart Show
Though the voice behind Bart’s teacher Edna Krabappel died in 2013, her memory lives on in reruns of The Young and the Restless and The Bob Newhart Show. Her role as Annie Wilkes in TY&TR (which, thankfully, is nothing like Stephen King’s character) was short-lived, but just as dramatic as you’d expect from a soap opera character. She was also beloved for her portrayal of Carol, a giddy receptionist in Bob Newhart’s classic 1970s office comedy.
7. Kelsey Grammer (Sideshow Bob) as Frasier
As far as I’m concerned, Kelsey Grammer, the voice behind Sideshow Bob, owns this list. Not only did he make a name for himself on the long-running sitcom, Cheers, but he also achieved something I thought was impossible: he starred in a successful spin-off series. (For those of you shouting Angel at the screen, yes, that is the exception.) If only Joey had seen the same success.