The Simpsons has become so embedded in the hearts and minds of television viewers that opinions on the show, the characters, or even particular seasons have become deeply personal. Audiences have watched their favorite jaundiced dysfunctional family for so long that they’ve likely forgotten more than they actually remember and making a list about anything in the show becomes an enormous Sisyphean task. With every favorite moment that comes to mind, dozens follow with intertwining connections over the decades.
Instead, we want to focus on the un-sung heroes of The Simpsons universe who rarely get attention. We’re talking about the strange supporting characters that never really had their own episode or much of a backstory explained. Since a solid backstory isn’t a priority with these characters, it often results in conflicting and weird canonical facts. As these faces continue to appear, their stories become even weirder, which makes us we wish we knew more.
Standing out as strange in Springfield is a feat not easily achieved, here’s our list of the The Simpsons' 15 Weirdest Supporting Characters.
A show like The Simpsons could easily get away with putting a cast of nondescript characters in the background at any given moment. This is especially true when it comes to the faces at Springfield Elementary, since we only really need to know a few beyond Bart and Lisa.
Yet, for over twenty years, the cherubic face of Springfield’s only (presumably) exchange student, Üter Zörker, has graced the halls of Springfield Elementary. His lederhosen, thick German accent, and predilection to all things chocolate make Üter an obvious homage to Augustus Gloop from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and-- despite his good-natured disposition-- is often the target of bullying.
Perhaps the show uses Üter as an easy target or shorthand for the oddball in every classroom, but it’s admirable he has remained so (relatively) upbeat and comfortable in his own skin for 20+ years, even knowing he’s walking into a gauntlet of ridicule each and every day.
Jeremy Freedman a.k.a. “The Squeaky-Voiced Teen” seems to have every crappy job that anyone ever had to deal with as a teenager. Seemingly free from aging like the rest of the town, Jeremy is the personification of puberty-- which might make him the most unfortunate resident of Springfield. Frozen in the most awkward period of anyone’s life is punishment enough, and yet he’s still stuck with some of the worst entry-level jobs a zit-riddled teen could have.
The fact that his face and distinct voice pop up in vastly different places over dozens of episodes makes a strong argument for some fan theories which posit Springfield is actually some sort of cloning experiment or simulation like The Matrix, as if the people tasked with populating the world got lazy with some things and went with the default template for what kind of person belongs in particular jobs. Jeremy could simply be CTRL+C’d and CTRL+V’d wherever he’s needed.
If The Simpsons ever get to really age, there needs to be a spin-off show about Maggie Simpson and her nemesis Gerald “Unibrow Baby” Samson. It's something akin to the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, since the two appear to be opposite sides of the same coin.
Gerald was born on the same day as Maggie Simpson and the two didn't get along from the get-go. This was because Maggie was given the last available diaper in the hospital while Gerald was wrapped in the coupon section of the local Springfield paper. What's interesting is that in some episodes that cut into the future, we’re shown that Gerald and Maggie eventually settle their differences, begin a relationship, and end up having a baby. But, visions of the future in this show should be taken with a huge grain of salt.
Having the two fall in love is actually quite poetic since we’re reminded of their mutual disdain for one another in every opening credits sequence and it'd be interesting to see what that long road to love looks like for them.
Of all the bullies of Springfield Elementary, Kearney might be the most enigmatic. So many weird things have surfaced about him that it’s probably best we never really get the whole story.While it’s generally implied that he’s a fifth grader who has been held back a few years, there are some things about him that can be considered a bit disturbing.
His age has changed from time to time to serve specific jokes, but what is known is that Kearney is divorced, old enough to vote, and has custody of a child. Making things worse-- as evidenced in the 2001 episode "She of Little Faith”-- Kearney says he's "speaking as a teenager and parent of a teenager” which might mean he’s also a step-parent to someone alarmingly close to his age. It’s also been mentioned that Kearney was in Otto’s third grade class, dated his friend Jimbo's mother, and remembers the Watergate scandal.
This, of course, is all played for laughs but it’s disturbing to put it all together and realize there’s someone that’s likely (at least) in their 20s attending elementary school and bullying children alongside the child of an ex girlfriend.
Oh poor, poor Wendell. There aren’t many characters in the world of The Simpsons that have ever looked so consistently stressed out. Wendell’s constant worry is always noticeable, as he’s one of the rare Springfieldians with the distinct matching hair and skin tone similar to how Bart and Lisa are drawn.
Wendell's life in Springfield seems to be a relatively average one. He's often lumped in with the likes of nerdy kids like Martin Prince or as an occasional target of the school bullies. As a character who can break up the monotony of his yellow-skinned neighbors, Wendell also seems to be used in backgrounds more often than not.
That ability to stand out isn't even his weirdest trait as he also seems to be the universal analog for a type of kid everyone went to school with. Wendell's most iconic trait is that he's perpetually nauseated and can be seen getting car (or school bus) sick on more than one occasion. Every school in all of existence has, at any given moment, at least one kid constantly worried they're going to throw up and Wendell proudly represents them all with a quiet and worried dignity.
If Üter and Wendell are subtle nods to kids at every school, Lunchlady Doris is a candid condemnation of every person to ever don a hairnet and scoop out sloppy joes.
Doris Freedman is the lunch lady (and sometimes school nurse) at Springfield Elementary and is always shown to have a relatively sullen attitude and unapologetic stance on the poor quality of the food she serves to the kids. On multiple occasions, Doris is seen making the most out of some questionable supplies, like beef hearts and gym mats, in order get the students fed.
Doris embodies the stereotype of an unhappy cafeteria worker and, even though we’ve learned a bit about her over the years, her character hasn’t developed much (other than learning she’s a vegetarian and once dated Hans Moleman).
Fun fact: the 1996 episode “Team Homer” suggested that she’s the mother of the squeaky-voiced Jeremy Freedman (or at least one of his clone copies!) and that they don’t entirely get along.
While all the entry-level or fast food jobs are taken by the ever-present Jeremy Freedman, the middle management jobs in Springfield always seem to be populated by Raphael. His defining characteristics, other than being another omnipresent clone (probably), is his sarcastic nature and quasi-New Yorker accent.
For a character that's so recognizable in a show that's been on the air for so long, it's a bit alarming how little we know about the man who's everywhere. He can be seen in almost any odd job with a sarcastic "boyo" at the ready to knock anyone down a peg. His distinct voice is strikingly similar to The Simpsons universe's version of actor Charles Bronson seen in the 2002 epsiode "The Old Man and the Key". The family get off a bus in "Bronson" Missouri where the entire town appears to be clones of the actor with Raphael's signature voice and sarcasm.
Oh man! Could it be that Raphael is just a failed Bronson clone?
Other than Abe Simpson, none of the residents of Springfield Retirement Castle stand out as having a weirder life than Jasper Beardly. Although missing a leg and (sometimes) being completely blind, Jasper has always displayed a level of energy that puts the rest of his elderly neighbors to shame.
While most residents of the retirement home seem to be stuck there, Jasper appears to still have a lust for life and lives with a bit more autonomy than even Grandpa Simpson. He's seen around town on walks, in various part time jobs, attempting to bring back “paddlin” to the schools, or even trying to get to the future by freezing himself at the Kwik-E-Mart.
Of all the interesting aspects of Jasper's life, they pale in comparison to the time he managed to dodge the draft for World War II by dressing up as a woman and participating in the women's baseball league. Now that's something A League of Their Own didn't have!
The Simpsons often bases characters on real world analogs. Action star Rainier Wolfcastle and TV host Opal are based on Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oprah Winfrey respectively--but some may not know that the Bumblebee Man also has some real world inspiration.
While his costume is a nod to the Saturday Night Live sketch "The Killer Bees", the nature of the character itself is based on the Mexican comedy series El Chapulín Colorado (Translation: "The Red Grasshopper"). Springfield's Channel Ocho counterpart is basically an exaggerated caricature of the real life show but focuses more attention on the clumsy ineptitude of Bumblebee Man and the slapstick situations he finds himself in.
Unfortunately, it seems Bumblebee Man isn't actually acting as he's shown displaying the same clumsiness when he's not at work, to the same disastrous effect. In fact, in the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield", Bumblebee Man is seen accidentally destroying his house and his marriage all within the span of about a minute.
Is the diminutive Handsome Pete included on this list in some attempt to further the idea of cloning fan theories? Yes, to some degree he is. But without much backstory anywhere in the series, what else is there to do but make wild accusations about the possible dark deeds of Springfield?
Introduced as a simple sight gag when Bart and Lisa were on the search for Krusty the Clown, Bart under-inflates a Krusty balloon and the distorted result looks exactly like Handsome Pete. He appears to be self-employed at the docks playing "The Sailor's Hornpipe" for nickels and other odd jobs. Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed a bad check from Krusty's alias "Rory B. Bellows" made out to Pete for moving expenses totaling a whopping $13.67.
Handsome Pete certainly isn't just a one-off character, having shown up in the background on multiple occasions since his very silly introduction, but he still remains a mystery. With all the familiar (and duplicate) faces showing up all over Springfield, the idea of Handsome Pete being some sort of Mini-Me Krusty Clone seems (slightly) possible.
It's unclear what the minds behind The Simpsons are saying with a character like the Crazy Cat Lady but her story sure is a sad one.
In the episode "Springfield Up", it's revealed that before her resident role as the cat-hoarding, gibberish-spouting crazy lady of Springfield, Dr. Eleanor Abernathy MD JD led an astonishingly accomplished life. In flashbacks we're shown that, as a child, Abernathy had awesome confidence and believed she (and all women) could do and be anything if she put her mind to it. She then did just that-- putting her mind to earning a medical degree from Harvard Medical School, a law degree from Yale Law School, and even finding time to nurture her beautiful operatic singing voice. At some point, she suffered a mental breakdown and became the feline CAT-apulting menace of Springfield.
Not that the show has any responsibility to be fair to the mentally ill, but it seems the life they've given Eleanor over the years is unusually brutal. Her illness is shown to come and go for the sake of an occasional joke.
Referring to yourself in the third person is never a cool thing to do unless your name is Disco Stu. Owner and operator of Stu's Disco, Stuart Discothèque (his actual name), is a strut-walking and jive-talking stereotype of all things disco.
It's been revealed that Stu only loved Disco for a short period of time but simply can't drop the facade after modeling his entire life around it and fearing he's got no real personality outside of it. During a brief power outage in one episode, Stu is seen pulling out a gun to seemingly end it all at his disco club. His desire to rid himself of Disco has become one of his main punchlines in recent years and is even shown to be cured of his obsession with the help of Professor Frink when he appears as "Normal Stu" who likes "normal things."
Safe to say that everyone has that friend who's far too in love with a certain style or music genre. Maybe Stu's cautionary tale serves as a reminder to reach out to that friend and make sure they're okay being a real life Disco Stu.
Yarrrr! Where the likes of Disco Stu may be ashamed of what he thar' be, tis' no man better at pretending to be a sea-farin' scurvy dog than yonder Captain Horatio Peter McCallister!
That's right, that man who is part Quint from Jaws and part pirate stereotype is 100% not really a sea captain. Still, that hasn't stopped him from acting the part for 25 years. A relative failure in both sailing and running various businesses, McCallister has often been presented as a sad-sack punchline who can't seem to get a peg-leg up in life.
Despite admitting he's not really a captain, that hasn't kept McCallister from listening to the sea's siren song whenever he can as he's usually found near shore or at the helm of a ship. And this ability to continually find work--even if he had the right nautical credentials-- is no small accomplishment considering it's been hinted at that McCallister has two glass eyes.
Okay, there’s one more person in The Simpsons universe able to speak in the third person and still remain cool. That person's name? Duffman.
Originally presented as an over-the-top hip-thrusting parody of the Anheuser-Busch marketing character “Bud Man”, Duffman has evolved into a much more layered character since he first appeared back in 1997.
What audiences have learned is that there's a certain dubious mystery around the entity that is Duffman and how he's presented to the public. Like a beer-fueled Captain America, it's revealed that many people have taken up the mantle over the years when longtime Duffman, Barry Huffman, commented "Duffman can never die! Only the actors who play him!"
When Homer donned the beer-soaked cape of Duffman, he found the life of a su-beer-hero to be rather depressing since he was required to stay sober. Huffman eventually returned to his post, but Duffman can never be looked at in the same light know that we know how tough and thankless the job can be.
Face it, Hans Moleman is the only Simpsons supporting character the world really needs to know about. The man is a riddle wrapped up in an enigma which is then wrapped in the wrinkly skin of a tiny and seemingly immortal man.
Other than Homer, it seems Hans has survived more calamity than anyone else in Springfield (Unless we're talking clones again!) and-- time and time again-- shows up without a scratch.
At the nebulous age of, let's say, "really old", Hans has survived a lot. He's been burned, crushed in car accidents, blown up, thrown out of vehicles, suffocated, left in X-ray machines, had his skull drilled into, and-- perhaps most famously-- been hit in the crotch with a football. And still, Moleman prevails.
And while part of the purpose of this list was to shed light on characters' backstories, any origin story The Simpsons writers could come up with would never do Hans justice.
Wait a second! It's so obvious! It's the clone theories! Hans Moleman is the original Homer Simpson cursed to walk the streets of Springfield continually shriveling and taking all manner of abuse.
Who is your favorite wacky minor character on The Simpsons? Let us know in the comments!