Having been on the air for nearly 30 years, The Simpsons features a ton of instantly recognizable names, both for its many Springfield residents and also for the plethora of in-show brands. While many fans are aware of how Homer and Bart Simpson were named, and where the town of Springfield got its name, there are plenty of other monikers whose inspirations aren't so widespread. As part of the new book Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons, author Mike Reiss provided insight into, for instance, the potent potable Duff Beer's actual name origin, debunking the claims of a certain rock n' roller.
We needed a name for Homer's favorite beer, and Jay Kogen came up with Duff. No, it was not named after Duff McKagan, bassist for Guns N' Roses; we'd never heard of this guy. Have you? McKagan loves to claim we called him and asked to use his name: 'I knew nothing about branding yourself then or the royalties off it. I just thought cool, they wanna use my name and boom, The Simpsons was born. Yeah, if I had a nickel for every time ... but it's fine.' It's a cute fake story that McKagan tells in his aptly named memoir It's So Easy: And Other Lies.
So there you have it, Simpsons fans. Even though the show made its big primetime debut on Fox in 1989, a year after Guns N' Roses' second multi-platinum album was released, the naming of Duff Beer was nothing beyond coincidental, if it can even count as a coincidence. (Did anyone theorize that guitarist Slash was named after the hack-and-slash genre of role-playing games?) The band's bassist Duff McKagan may have laid claim to allowing The Simpsons to use his nickname for Homer's favorite beverage -- his given name is Michael Andrew McKagan -- but Mike Reiss is giving all the credit to Jay Kogen, who worked as a writer and producer on the early seasons of The Simpsons, as well as that show's own birthplace, The Tracey Ullman Show.
And I think we can all be amused with the potentially intentional irony of Mike Reiss calling Duff McKagan out for having "Lies" in the title of his memoir, when Reiss' book does the same thing.
Speaking of not lies, but the truth, one of the hardest working people in Springfield was Troy McClure, the celeb with an endless line of baffling and ridiculous credits on his resume. Voiced by the legendary Phil Hartman, Troy McClure was a popular mainstay on the show until 1998, when Hartman was tragically killed by his wife. Thankfully, the way the animated actor got his name is a much lighter and more positive story. Here's how Mike Reiss explained it, via EW:
Troy McClure, Springfield's favorite has-been actor, was named after film star Troy Donahue and TV actor Doug McClure. Doug McClure's daughter Tané later told me that her father was a Simpsons fan. Upon seeing Troy's first appearance on the show, he asked his children, 'Are they making fun of me?' Tané replied, 'Yeah, Dad, I think they are.' He watched a little longer, then remarked, 'Well, it's pretty funny!' Subsequently, Doug's kids would call him Troy McClure behind his back.
Doug McClure piled up around 100 movie and TV credits during his long career, most famously on The Virginian, and though he didn't have quite the same list of past projects as Troy McClure did, he was indeed in a lot of lesser-known projects that could have easily popped up as parody fare on The Simpsons. Such as the films The Man Who Understood Women and The Hell Hounds of Alaska, and the TV movies The Death of Me Yet and Satan's Triangle. Sadly, the esteemed actor passed away in 1995, but at least it happened after he ascertained that his name would forever live on as part of The Simpsons.
Head to the next page to get the funny story behind Mrs. Krabappel's name.
Anyone who sees Mrs. Krabappel's name on paper almost definitely reads it as if it were the traditional spelling of "crabapple," which is obviously intentional. But as Mike Reiss put it, the whole joke behind giving her that name seems to have flown over the heads of some fans. (For the record, Reiss also explained that not even he is immediately aware of the jokes that are imbued in some of the show's proper names.)
Bart's teacher is named Mrs. Krabappel (pronounced kruh-BOP-el), yet no student ever thinks to mock her as 'Mrs. Crabapple.' The joke here is that we don't do the joke. It's the same way Arnie Pye's helicopter traffic report is called 'Arnie in the Sky' instead of the pun 'Pye in the Sky.' I'm not sure anyone ever gets these jokes. That includes me: ten years after Jeff Martin named Homer's barbershop quartet the Be Sharps, I looked at a piano and realized there is no B-sharp!
It feels like I must have had an amused reaction to the first time "Arnie in the Sky" was used, but hearing that bit of info just now got me all the same. What Simpsons names have you wondered about the most over the years? Let us know in the comments, and check out how the show looked back to the past to parody Six Feet Under during its most recent season finale. Simpsons Confidential is currently available for purchase, and stay tuned for The Simpsons' record-breaking Season 30 when it kicks off on Fox this fall. In the meantime, head to our summer premiere schedule to see all the shows that have yet to debut.