The Advantages of Knowing Stuff, and Why the Simpsons Failed in Japan

January 29th, 2007


(Note: This kinda ties back into this post.)

There are a lot of advantages to knowledge, and people talk about them often, but one of the overlooked ones is the increased scope of comedy.

When I was a teenager, I liked the Simpsons a lot. And so did my parents. But it was always kinda interesting to note that I laughed at a lot more jokes than my parents did, for the simple fact that there were an intense number of jokes based on trivia and pop-culture which, not only did my parents not get, but which they didn’t even notice.

One of the ones that made me feel the absolute geekiest is that Homer Simpson worked in sector 7G, and was sometimes referred to as the “7G Operator”. Which, unbeknownst to pretty much anyone, was a callback to the frankly terrible but somehow famous anime Megazone23. Some kid finds a secret transforming government motorcycle (I said it was a horrible anime) whose model number was 7G, and when someone tried to contact him, they called on the intercom for the “7G Operator”.

Most of the jokes weren’t so hidden (and most were proper jokes, not just callbacks to pop trivia), but the show was rife with them. Things you’d know if you were steeped in American pop culture: music cues, lines from movies, even camera angles from movies.

So my parents laughed at the obvious jokes, but they didn’t even notice the subtle ones.

Well, you can magnify that by a billion in Japan. The subtle pop culture aspects all went over peoples’ heads, but so did the more universally known pop culture jokes (“Where’s the beef?”. “Who shot JR?”. Indian convenience store clerks. Super Christian families. Lunchboxes. Personal injury lawyer advertisements. Etc. & etc., so forth & so on). So what was left was a show with maybe 10 really obvious jokes. And 10 jokes in 30 minutes just doesn’t cut it when it comes to becoming a popular comedy.

The reason I write this is that I just laughed at a joke about ProTools in Dethklok Metalocalypse. And I thought, “Who besides a music geek would even know what ProTools is, let alone why it’s the butt of a joke?”

One Response to “The Advantages of Knowing Stuff, and Why the Simpsons Failed in Japan”

  1. Victor Says:

    An ex-girlfriend in Poland translated many seasons of the Simpsons into Polish… I was always in awe, how can you translate _that_ and make it sound funny to another culture… Amazing.

    (She did many seasons so it had at least some success in Poland)

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