A general rule of thumb for comedy is that if you’ve to explain a joke, it’s bad. This might not be the case here, for a gag from iconic TV series The Simpsons that’s gone over people’s heads for years – ours included.
In the episode ‘Bart Gets Famous’, Homer Simpsons answers the phone at the power plant mid-shower. Still wet, with a towel hanging round his waist, he tells the caller, “You’ll have to speak up. I’m wearing a towel”. For the longest time, this just seemed like a strange Homer-ism, a quip thrown out there because his buffoonery often leads to odd behaviour and quotes.
Well, some of us were unaware the punchline was pulling at a more specific reference. Josh Weinstein, former writer and showrunner on the animated series, didn’t get it either, and provided some clarification on Twitter. “For 25 years, I assumed (and loved it) that it was just a non-sequitur,” he tweeted. “Then someone explained it’s what people with long hair say when they have a towel over their wet hair (and ears) after a shower when they answer the phone. Makes 100% sense but also make me like joke less.”
Though I’ve got long hair, I was born in the late ’80s and thus haven’t answered the phone to a call I wasn’t expecting in a good decade. But, if my locks were around when it was common, I could imagine myself saying such a thing.
Whether or not it hurts the humour will depend on your subjective taste. I like this version, too, because it suggests Homer’s picking up mannerisms from Marge and deploying them verbatim. Imagine Homer using a hair dryer, or throwing a hat on to compensate for wet hair when he’s in a rush. It’s funny!
For 25 years, I assumed (and loved it) that it was just a non-sequitor but then someone explained it's what people with long hair say when they have a towel over their wet hair (and ears) after a shower when they answer the phone. Makes 100% sense but also make me like joke less.
— Josh Weinstein (@Joshstrangehill) June 14, 2022
In any case, you can find The Simpsons on Disney Plus, if you’d like to revisit this classic moment – season 5, episode 12!