It’s been a trying election season. But don’t give up on all things political because of one terrible voting cycle. Soothe your jangled nerves with these 10 politically themed episodes of The Simpsons. With over 600 episodes to date, the groundbreaking animated series has covered basically everything. So, naturally, Bart, Lisa, Marge and Homer have several fine political episodes for your enjoyment and, perhaps, catharsis.
“Bart to the Future” isn’t a great episode, but it deserves mention because it features Lisa as President of the United States—and jokes about a former President Trump that feel less funny now that the idea isn’t so absurd. Well, it’s equally absurd, but alarmingly plausible. Maybe hold off on this one until after the results come in: If Trump ends up winning, the gag might not land, no matter your taste in comedy.
What if the smartest people in town ran the government? That’s what ends up happening in “They Saved Lisa’s Brain.” The episode is primarily about Lisa becoming disenchanted with the lowbrow nature of Springfield and joining Mensa. When Mayor Quimby flees town, the Mensa gang (Lisa, Professor Frink, Comic Book Guy and Principal Skinner) take control. Despite their best efforts, it doesn’t work out, because, while the Mensa-ites are all smart, they don’t agree on how the town should be run. Shockingly, Comic Book Guy’s desire to make everybody in town follow Vulcan rules of mating doesn’t go over well.
Mayor Quimby is the foremost politician in the world of The Simpsons. Naturally, he’s incompetent, corrupt and unqualified. This becomes abundantly clear when Homer becomes Quimby’s bodyguard, and Quimby’s day mostly involves harassing women on the street and taking bribes. Homer does get Quimby to stand up to the mob, which ends with Quimby being mercilessly beaten with a bat. On top of everything else, this episode features Mark Hamill in two roles, including one as himself.
Here’s an episode dealing with many people’s least favorite aspect of the U.S. government—paying taxes and the IRS. Homer gets in trouble for tax fraud, and begins working for the government to avoid punishment. After he’s asked to find the trillion dollar bill that Mr. Burns stole from the government, the episode culminates with Homer, Burns and Waylon Smithers accidentally giving the bill to Fidel Castro. It’s admittedly an absurd premise, but Homer and Burns are a great pair.
Springfield prohibits alcohol and, at first, the city’s feckless police department turns the other cheek. Once Mayor Quimby is reminded that an election is coming in November (“What? Again? This stupid country!” he remarks), he brings in Rex Banner to clean up the town. But Banner is no match for the Beer Baron, a.k.a Homer. The episode ends with “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems!”—one of the most famous lines in the series’ long history. Before that, the episode offers some hilarious, biting commentary on the futility of prohibition.
The third part of this triptych is perhaps the most iconic “Treehouse of Horror” story of them all. We speak, of course, of “Citizen Kang.” Kang and Kodos kidnap Bill Clinton and Bob Dole from the campaign trail, and replace them to run for President. It’s consistently hilarious, and full of quotable lines. How many times have you heard somebody say, “Don’t blame me I voted for Kodos?” You can thank “Citizen Kang” for that.
Former President of the United States George H.W. Bush moves in across the street from the Simpsons. It’s such a big event it overshadows even Disco Stu’s debut. Homer and Bart drive Bush insane, leading to a prank war between the male Simpsons and the one-time most powerful man in the world. It is, in truth, a pretty silly episode, but that doesn’t stop it from being very funny, Disco Stu and all.
As Trump continues to raise the specter of the election being “rigged” (with no evidence to support his assertion, of course), the perfect antidote may be the rigged election of it’s “Sideshow Bob Roberts.” Bolstered by an excellent performance from Kelsey Grammer, Sideshow Bob is a great villain. He’s a snobby, elitist conservative who manages to become the Republican candidate for mayor of Springfield, and even wins. But before Bob can dedicate his entire tenure to making things rough for the Simpsons, Bart and Lisa find out that Bob rigged the election by having dead people and pets vote for him. It’s a parody, in part, of All The President’s Men, and a truly classic episode of The Simpsons. It’s also quite possibly the best Sideshow Bob episode, and that’s saying something.
This episode might be seen as representative of The Simpsons’s jaundiced view of American politics. In it, Lisa, the only Simpson politically active enough to be affected by the inner workings of government, wins a trip to D.C. based on an essay she wrote about what makes America great. Upon her arrival in the nation’s capital, she discovers the city is all corrupt politicians and tedious satirical musicians. This leads to a new essay from Lisa, which includes the phrase, “The city of Washington was built on a stagnant swamp some 200 years ago, and very little has changed. It stank then, and it stinks now.” Although it’s not entirely a polemic about the government not working, the episode ends with a corrupt congressman getting arrested, and The Simpsons remembers to stick plenty of jokes into the proceedings, too.
This early politically themed episode of The Simpsons is perhaps best remembered for introducing the memorable three-eyed fish, Blinky. It even won an Environmental Media Award for “being the best television episode of the year with an environmental message.” In the episode, Mr. Burns decides to run for governor against the seldom-seen Mary Bailey, and his money buys him a political machine that almost carries him to victory. That is, until Marge saves the day—by serving Mr. Burns Blinky for dinner. Like all good election cycles, this one was clinched by someone eating a genetically mutated fish.
Chris Morgan is not the author of THE book on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but he is the author of A book on Mystery Science Theater 3000. He’s also on Twitter.