The Homer Calendar, perhaps the internet’s only Simpsons-themed ritual countdown of the days between Pesach and Shavuot—the Omer—is turning 18 this year. The site, which, along with a Facebook page, doubles as a constantly updated chronicle of every known Jewish-related joke in the show’s history, still has a nostalgically low-tech Web 1.0 look to it. But it hasn’t always been a smooth journey for Brian Rosman, the calendar’s creator, a healthcare access advocate who lives in the Boston area and is a Simpsons Jewish humor completist: After all, he watches each new episode, even a decade into the show’s horrific and unwatchable twilight. “I still have to watch it every week just in case there’s something Jewish that pops up,” he said. “I started watching this with my kids when they were quite young, and now they’re all out of college.”
— The Homer Calendar (@CountTheHomer) May 6, 2017
The payoff for these irrevocable hours of depressingly and often insultingly awful new Simpsons episodes is the occasional Jewish-inflected reminder that the show is somehow still capable of winning a hard-earned laugh or two. In an episode this past week, Rosman explained, Krusty the Clown shows up at Moe’s fancy new rooftop bar, and begs to be let in. Moe says no. “Don’t tell me it’s because I’m Jewish,” the clown pleads. “No, it’s because you’re a has-been nobody likes,” says Moe. “Please say it’s because I’m Jewish!” Krusty bellows. Pretty good!
— The Homer Calendar (@CountTheHomer) May 9, 2017
Rosman first began watching The Simpsons in the mid-’90s. His family had temporarily relocated to Israel when his wife, who is now a congregational rabbi, had gotten a fellowship in the country. “They showed The Simpsons on Israeli TV. For us it was a little bit of home, and also watching the Hebrew subtitles was kind of challenging,” Rosman recalled. This was back in the days when Israel had just one TV channel—and when The Simpsons was airing masterpieces just about every single week.
The Homer calendar is both clever and practical: Rosman’s wife has distributed printouts at her Boston-area congregation. Delightfully, some of the Homers that appear alongside the Omer count reflect the different stages of the Omer itself. For one of the days of the new moon, Homer is floating in outer space. On Lag B’Omer, he rocks out on a guitar.
Rosman describes the calendar as “one joke taken too far.” Still, it fits perfectly with the spirit of the show, which encompasses a world-sized vastness from which fans can, and have, extracted a range of meanings and ideas.
— The Homer Calendar (@CountTheHomer) May 12, 2016
The Simpsons‘ classic period aired during a time when the technology needed to fully appreciate it all didn’t even really exist yet. Today, virtually any Simpson’s screenshot is accessible within seconds, but back in 1991, when the classic “Like Father, Like Clown” first aired, only the most sharp-eyed viewers noticed signs for Tannen’s Fatty Meats and the House of Pressed Fish hanging over Springfield’s Lower East Side. The show is still thick with mineable humor. Like commentaries crammed into the margins of a page of Talmud, The Simpsons fills every inch of available real estate—during a return visit to the Lower East Side in a 2003 episode, Krusty walks by I Can’t Believe It’s Not Treyfe! and Fantastic Shlomos: Peyos Trimps, Two For One in the space of about a second-and-a-half.
— The Homer Calendar (@CountTheHomer) June 7, 2016
And those are were just a few of the Jewish-themed jokes on Rosman’s site that might be unfamiliar even to obsessive fans. Did you know that Dolph, the shortest of Springfield Elementary’s resident bullies, is apparently a Member of the Tribe. Or that Kent Brockman’s real name is Brocklestein, and that Krusty’s Jewish heaven includes visions of the Marx Brothers and Golda Meir? Temple Beth Sprinfield has a half-dozen recurring characters who are known congregants, too.
The Simpsons’ remarkable ability to sprawl in so many different directions gets at a deeper aspects of the show’s vision of American society, and why Jews might find it so resonant. Rosman concurs: “I think The Simpsons illustrates the pluralism of America,” he said. “Jews are an essential part of what they’re trying to present as a satirical look at American life.”
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