i really want to talk about marge simpson in longer detail because i’ve gone on and on about how she’s an underappreciated character compared to homer, because he gets all the “wacky” bits and marge is often the one reacting to that - as such it is in a lot of comedies, where the guy, or guys, are all the ones getting the jokes while the women are sort of only given “here we go again!” - but i think the simpsons writers knew how to keep her character, and the characters not really suited for wacky stuff in general, great lines, great bits, great comedy
so here’s me talking about marge simpson and the “straight” character in comedy (again, not to be confused with the heterosexual character)
a lot of making these kind of characters work is not just in knowing the rules and execution of comedy, but in pushing to still give them lines and pieces and bits even if they’re not the ones best suited to quicker, easier comedy. i want to pull out an example from season 8, usually cited as the last “great” season of simpsons - specifically episode 9, “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer”. the one with johnny cash. they go to the chili festival, and while everyone probably remembers the “homer humiliates ned’s pathetic 5 alarm chili” bit, there’s a very quick, very good bit with marge at the beginning that uses her character and great voice execution to make a joke pop.
this is a really quick bit with marge, but i love it to bits. the fact that she’s stunned that there could be as much as EIGHT spices out there, playing on her often built up plainness, and then not only the confusion (even anger!) over the existence of a spice called oregano, but the way she says it - “orr-ehh-gone-oh”. followed up with that immediate “what the hell?”, which has marge so frustrated that she even swears, a rarity for her, and has a furious expression on her face. it’s a really good joke, if you ask me! it’s quickly passed over for all the other shit that happens in the episode, but oh, it’s good. those kind of tight, small jokes take a surprising amount of work to pull off, but it’s great.
since homer is better fit to things like devouring peppers so hot that they send him into a hallucination where he talks to a coyote voiced by johnny cash, if someone wants to make characters like marge funny, they have to keep their humor flexible, and they have to keep pushing to give her bits no matter how easy it’d be to just toss another physical gag homer’s way. how can they make plainness funny? a simple way that’s obvious once you think of it is taking that plainness to a comical level - such as marge does, with being confused and irritated over oregano.