A fan of The Simpsons has revealed yet another layer to the one of the show's best and most enduring gags: the immortal Steamed Hams dinner between Principal Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers.
The dinner, which takes place in the classic seventh season episode "22 Short Films About Springfield," is a sort of slow motion train wreck that sees Skinner attempt to save face as more and more things go wrong, and he has to conjure increasingly ridiculous excuses to keep Chalmers' suspicions at bay. The Steamed Hams moniker comes from the joke that Skinner claims to have prepared "steamed clams" (which was one of his first lies to cover the smell of his burning roast), and then, after retrieving hamburgers from Krusty Burger, claims Chalmers misheard him, and that "steamed hams" is what he calls hamburgers. The Aurora Borealis eventually play a crucial role. You really just have to see it.
The bit was always funny, but in recent years it's taken on a new life as the fuel for a seemingly endless number of increasingly strange memes. Writers for the show have shared earlier versions of the script that included a couple extra lines, much to the internet's delight. An interviewer even recently asked Jeff Goldblum to re-enact the scene, which is exactly as delightful as it sounds. Over-analysis of the scene - as if it were the latest episode of Westworld or Mr. Robot - has become part of the joke. And yet Reddit user OreoObserver may have improbably discovered something that actually adds a new layer to the original gag 22 years later.
This is both hilarious and an incredibly sharp read of how these characters work. Skinner is a notoriously buttoned up control freak, so the notion that he would have timed the roast to be ready the moment Chalmers arrives makes a lot of sense. It also makes sense that such a minor slip up, which would cause a minor annoyance for a normal person, would lead to a cataclysmic domino effect for Skinner - his escalating, hysterical anxiety leading to a series of increasingly outlandish lies that only become more untenable the more Chalmers begrudgingly accepts them.
The golden era of The Simpsons - generally accepted to be seasons 3 through 9 - was such a deep treasure trove of comedic excellence, and so thoroughly shaped most of the comedy that came afterward that it's only natural it would eventually become a reliable source of this kind of internet obsession. The recent availability of the series' massive back catalogue of episodes in the FXX app has also done wonders in reminding people how absolutely jam packed with genius the show was in its prime. The current regime's handling of some sensitive cultural issues may leave a lot to be desired - but they can never take Steamed Hams away from us.