The Funny Story Behind a Classic Simpsons Scene

As the longest-running scripted series of all time, The Simpsons has built up its fair share of folklore surrounding how the series comes together. Just last week, How I Met Your Mother actor Josh Radnor (of all people) gave the world another anecdote to add to the history books.

In an appearance on the podcast You Made It Weird, Radnor told host Pete Holmes about a conversation he had with longtime Simpsons producer Bonita Pietila. He asked Pietila about a specific episode—one of his favorites—from 1993. The season five, episode two installment is a Sideshow Bob-centric parody of Cape Fear called “Cape Feare.” It’s a classic, and one of its well-known bits involves Bob stepping on a series of rakes after freeing himself from the underside of the Simpsons' car, which they’ve driven to their new home on Terror Lake as part of their new life in the Witness Relocation Program. The rakes scene is one of those jokes that lasts so long it goes from funny to annoying and back to funny all over again.

Here’s what Radnor had to say about his conversation with Pietila: “I said, ‘I love the rakes so much,’ and she said, ‘I’ll tell you a story about the rakes.’ She said, ‘It was the one episode that we're short on time-wise and a writer goes, ‘What about more rakes?’’ That’s why that’s in there. Which I thought was amazing.”

And there you have it. A classic joke from a classic episode was spawned from a simple need to fill time. To listen to Radnor tell the story, skip ahead to about 1 hour and 14 minutes in. He notes that, in syndication, the scene is shortened for time (irony of ironies), so make sure you watch the clip above for the full effect.

Can You Spot the Christmas Pudding?

Whether it’s a sheep hanging out with Santa Claus or a panda bear hiding among some snowmen, regular Mental Floss readers know that hidden picture brainteasers are one of our favorite things. And the optical experts at have released a delicious one, just in time for Christmas. Somewhere in the midst of all these holiday-themed goodies above, there’s a holiday pudding just waiting to be discovered. Can you spot it? Your time starts … now.

If you give up, or are the kind of person who reads the last page of a book before the first one and just wants to know the answer, scroll down to see where it’s hiding.


By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]


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