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5 Real-Life Events Predicted by Simpsons Jokes

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1. Blood-Splattering Billboard

In 2008, the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi constructed a blood-splattering billboard in promotion of the television debut of Kill Bill Volume 1. The blood rained down on one of the busiest intersections in Auckland, New Zealand.

Seventeen years before the Kill Bill billboard, The Simpsons featured a similarly gory ad. In the season four episode “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie,” a promotional billboard for The Itchy and Scratchy Movie splatters blood on unsuspecting drivers.

2. Roy Gets Mauled

Simpsons Wikia

In 2003, Roy Horn of the duo Siegfried & Roy was attacked on stage by a 7-year-old white tiger named Montecore. Thankfully, Horn survived the attack and eventually regained the ability to walk and talk.  The duo even performed a final show with Montecore before retiring in 2010.

The Simpsons predicted the Horn attack 10 years before it occurred. In the season five episode, “$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)," Homer and Ned Flanders travel to Las Vegas where they meet Gunter and Ernst, a Siegfried and Roy parody. Near the end of the episode, one of the duo’s white tigers attacks the performers. On the commentary for the season five DVD, the production team dismissed this incident as evidence of their greenseeing abilities, saying that it was “bound to happen” sooner or later.

3. Grease Thieves

As oil prices have soared over the last decade, so has the ability to make a living stealing grease. Grease thieves target commercial kitchens and siphon away the valuable fryer grease. In 2000, the price for yellow grease was 7.6 cents/pound. By 2008, that figure had risen to 33 cents/pound. One raid on a Burger King netted a bandit 2500 gallons of grease worth over $6000.

In the season 10 premiere “Lard of the Dance,” which first aired in 1998, Homer and Bart initiate a get-rich-quick scheme where they attempt to steal grease from Springfield Elementary in order to sell it for a profit.

4. Don Mattingly Gets Benched Because of His Hair

In 1991, Yankee captain Don Mattingly was benched by manager Stump Merrill for refusing to cut his long hair. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner had demanded that Merrill bench all players with unkempt hair, so the Yankee manager was forced to sit his best player.

Months later, Mattingly appeared on the classic 1992 The Simpsons episode “Homer at the Bat” from season three. Mattingly is one of nine professional baseball players to appear in the episode as a member of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team. In the episode, Mattingly is benched by Mr. Burns for his unruly sideburns.

The episode was produced so close to the incident with Steinbrenner that most fans assumed The Simpsons was lampooning the event. But according to Deadspin, Mattingly recorded his lines for the episode a full month before his real-life benching. The story was actually inspired by showrunner Al Jean’s grandfather, who was obsessed with the facial hair of his employees.

5. Malfunctioning Voting Booths

In 2012, voters in the presidential election were furious when a man posted this video on YouTube:

The video shows a voter selecting Barack Obama, only to have the screen register for Mitt Romney. The populace were outraged and questions about vote integrity were raised by the media.

Four years earlier, during the Halloween special, “Treehouse of Horror XIX,” Homer found himself in an eerily similar situation. In the episode, Homer attempts to vote for Barack Obama, only to have the machine select John McCain instead.

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Big Questions
Did Tracey Ullman Get Rich Off The Simpsons?
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If you were born after 1989, you probably only know The Simpsons as a staple of Sunday night television on Fox. But before Springfield’s most beloved family had their own network sitcom, they were just one of several recurring sketches on The Tracey Ullman Show, a variety show in which the titular comedienne portrayed a variety of characters. (The Simpsons made their debut 30 years ago, on April 19, 1987.)

Ullman’s show, which was co-created by James L. Brooks, lasted for four seasons, with the final episode airing on May 26, 1990. But six months before that, The Simpsons had already moved on. After three seasons as part of Ullman's ensemble, Brooks developed the shorts into a half-hour animated sitcom that ended up becoming the then-burgeoning Fox network’s first big hit. Today, The Simpsons holds a number of Guinness World Records, including the one for longest-running sitcom. But, considering that they began their life on her show, did Ullman get a cut of the series’ success?

The short answer is: No.

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In 1991, Ullman filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox alleging four counts of breach of contract. According to the Los Angeles Times, the 14-page complaint alleged that Ullman’s contract with Gracie Films (Brooks’s production company) entitled her to “five to 10 percent of the net receipts of the merchandising and other profits from products or programs based on spinoff characters, including animated characters, even if those characters were originated by others.” And since The Simpsons began on The Tracey Ullman Show, she argued that she should be entitled to those profits.

Merchandising was, of course, a key part of The Simpsons’s financial success. The trade news source Licensing Letter estimated that The Simpsons raked in about $750 million in merchandising sales in 1990—making the animated family the third most popular “characters” that year, right behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and New Kids on the Block. It was reported at the time that Ullman did not name Gracie Films in the suit, so as not to damage her relationship with Brooks.

More than a year later, on October 22, 1992, a Superior Court jury sided with Fox and rejected Ullman’s lawsuit, which would have netted her an estimated $2.25 million at the time. Brooks, who testified during the trial, argued that The Simpsons was created by Matt Groening, with no creative input from Ullman.

Though Ullman was reportedly out of the country at the time, her lawyer, Michael Bergman, told Variety that he was “very disappointed. I think the jury did their best, but it was a very complex case ... and the issues just got lost somewhere along the line.”

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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11 Events Correctly Predicted by The Simpsons
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Agentneedlez via YouTube

With the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump looming on January 20, it’s a good time to remember that Fox’s seminal animated sitcom, The Simpsons, has had an impressive track record for predicting future events: In March 2000, the show presented an alternate reality where Trump was in the Oval Office. Take a look at 10 other times Matt Groening’s dysfunctional family peered into their crystal ball—with surprisingly accurate results.

1. THE SIEGFRIED AND ROY TIGER ATTACK

Vegas stage magicians Siegfried and Roy had spent decades performing with their stable of tigers without serious incident. In 1993, The Simpsons used stand-ins Gunter and Ernst—clear parodies of the European duo—to express the writing staff’s doubts that their track record would hold up: One of their tigers attacks them while performing in Mr. Burns's ill-fated Springfield casino. In 2003, Roy Horn was mauled by a tiger while on stage, severing an artery and leaving him with partial paralysis. Horn maintains the tiger bore him no ill will.

2. THE DON MATTINGLY HAIR SCANDAL

In a 1992 episode featuring Mr. Burns trying to sandbag competing softball teams by hiring professional baseball players, New York Yankee Don Mattingly is seen being kicked off the squad by the nuclear power czar over his long hair. (The animated Mattingly had only neat sideburns.) A month after recording his part, the real Mattingly was fined $250 by the real Yankees for refusing to cut his hair.

3. TWO WORDS: HORSE MEAT

In 1994’s “Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song,” Principal Skinner is ousted from his seat after angering the superintendent. Unnoticed by his inspection: the fact that Lunchlady Doris prefers to prepare school lunches using giant tubs of horse parts. In 2013, several food producers in France, Sweden, and the UK were found to have distributed frozen burgers and other products that contained horse meat, an unwelcome additive they did not disclose on package labeling.

4. THEY NAMED THE NOBEL PRIZE WINNER IN ECONOMICS SIX YEARS EARLY

In a fall 2010 episode, Milhouse tries to impress longtime crush Lisa by contributing to a prediction sheet over who would win the Nobel Prize for Economics. His pick: Bengt Holmstrom of MIT. In 2016, Holmstrom was named a joint winner of the prize. (The episode’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Krusty the Clown, has yet to be honored by the committee.)

5. THE FIFA CORRUPTION SCANDAL

In a 2014 episode, Homer is petitioned by the head of an unnamed football (a.k.a. soccer) league to help foster a better image after allegations of corruption emerge; he’s quickly carried away in handcuffs. In 2015, FIFA, the world’s leading governing body of soccer, made headlines for a widespread scandal involving the arrest of seven FIFA executives for abusing their positions for financial gain.

6. THE LEMON TREE THIEF

During a 1995 rivalry with the residents of Shelbyville, Bart and his friends are puzzled by the disappearance of a lemon tree from within Springfield’s town limits. In 2013, a woman in Houston was similarly confused by the disappearance of her own lemon tree, which had been excavated from the ground and carted off. The victim, Kae Bruney, told local reporters that the thief was apparently too stupid to realize it was too late in the season to plant elsewhere.

7. A BABY TRANSLATOR

Homer’s down-and-out half-brother, Herb, reversed his fortunes in a 1992 episode when his handheld baby-babble translating device became a sensation. In 2015, an app called the Infant Cries Translator purported to convert your child’s incoherent cries into something resembling speech. The app’s developers claim they analyzed the mewling of 100 newborns to help identify their particular diaper-related needs.

8. A SNAKE MURDER SPREE

In the 1993 episode “Whacking Day,” Lisa Simpson is dismayed to see the town caught up in the annual tradition of hunting and killing overpopulated snakes. In 2013 and 2016, Florida’s Everglades region sanctioned a real whack-a-reptile contest in an attempt to curb the area’s dangerous abundance of invasive Burmese pythons. Organizers used the less-sensational name “Florida Python Challenge.”

9. COOKING GREASE HEISTS

In 2008, The New York Times declared “fryer grease has become gold” for its application as engine fuel after undergoing conversion and detailed a criminal who had siphoned nearly 2500 gallons of the stuff from a Northern California Burger King and other outlets. In 1999, Homer and Bart attempted a similar heist at the grade school’s cafeteria, before being stopped by Groundskeeper Willie.

10. THE THREE-EYED FISH

Tri-eyed fish Blinky was pulled out of the water by Bart in a 1990 episode, a nod to the polluted environment surrounding Springfield’s nuclear power plant. In 2011, fishermen in Argentina caught a three-eyed specimen in a reservoir being fed water from a nearby nuclear power station.

11. LADY GAGA'S SUPER BOWL LI HALFTIME SHOW.

Gaga's enthusiastic, airborne performance during the historic 2017 Super Bowl LI broadcast--the first game in the series' history to go into overtime--got rave reviews. It turns out she did a dry run in animation five years earlier. In a 2012 episode, Gaga (playing herself) soared over Springfield in a wire harness, much like she did in Austin's NRG Stadium. Of course, since Gaga was aware of what her cartoon counterpart did, maybe it was less a prediction and more inspiration.

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