Mr. Burns’ telephone greeting is one of the cleverest Simpsons jokes

Mr. Burns’ bizarre way of answering the phone is secretly an obscure and clever historical reference, as one Simpsons writer helpfully explained.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answers the phone in The simpsons is one of the show’s most obscure gags, and the joke is also one of the cleverest historical references the show has ever made. At the height of the show’s popularity, The simpsons was a critical darling. Whereas The simpsons will likely never regain its outsized critical acclaim, it’s easy in a rematch to see why the show was so critically acclaimed during its so-called golden age between seasons 3 and 11.

The best episodes of The simpsons went through more than a dozen sets of rewrites and revisions, resulting in layered jokes that bounced between straightforward slapstick comedy, political satire, ambitious meta-humor, and outright surrealism. To his favorite, The simpsons was both deeply silly and incredibly intelligent, an apparent contradiction that gave the show its unique tone. This style of writing is perfectly summed up in a famous joke, Mr. Burns’ Strange Telephone Etiquette.

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In The simpsons season 7, episode 17, it is revealed that Mr. Burns answers the phone with the greeting “Oh oh” rather than “hello.” The mystery of where The Simpsons The joke just went unanswered until writer Josh Weinstein took to Twitter in 2020 to explain himself. This bizarre greeting was how the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, thought the device should be answered, as opposed to the more conventional”hellowhich his rival Thomas Edison preferred. While the story sided with Edison, Burns obviously didn’t, resulting in the character always answering the phone with Bell’s phrase. One of Mr. Burns’ most obscure and clever nods to absurd old age in The simpsons story, the gag works on many levels.


For viewers unfamiliar with Bell, the line is an absurd and unexpected way of answering the phone that makes Burns look like a lunatic. For any golden age The Simpsons fans who somehow knew Alexander Graham Bell’s favorite phone tag, it’s an obscure and clever reference. However, only a viewer who knows the context of the phrase and connects it to Burns’ incredibly advanced age would have fully enjoyed the gag on first viewing. That would be especially tricky since the next joke (where Burns tells his caller that they need “more convenient to work your phone machine”) only arrives five seconds later.


This absurdly fast pace makes the involvement of The simpsons easy-to-miss joke, despite the perfect detail for Burns. Not only does this prove the character is a hundred years old (since he was apparently a contemporary of Bell), but it also shows that the stubborn Burns refuses to ever change with the times despite decades of history pushing the phrase of Bell out of the public lexicon. . As South Park, The simpsons no longer enjoys the critical acclaim its strongest seasons have been met with, but jokes like this make it easy to see why. Until The simpsons may return to layered, clever, obscure and, above all, funny gags like Burns’ nonsensical greeting, the series is unlucky to regain its historic popularity.


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