Scotsman Assembly, Edinburgh
14 August, 2000 (one night only)

It's rare to see the entire Fringe community scrambling so frantically for tickets to a single event, but this was, after all, a chance to bask in the presence of comedy gods. Dan Castellanata, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith and the rest of The Simpsons' voice team (with the sole but glaring absence of Julie Kavner), complete with their characters' creator Matt Groening, kicking off a tour by appearing live on stage to read an episode!

To read an episode? Yes, indeed. Paradoxically, where Rick Miller's MacHomer tries to flesh out his Simpsonese vocal skills with various kinds of visuals but still feels deficient, a group of people sitting at lecterns and reciting their lines gave rise to no sensation that anything was lacking. Of course, we had been warmed up with a compilation of "greatest hits" clips, astutely concentrating for Edinburgh on Groundskeeper Willie. (What part of Scotland is Willie meant to come from, came a question from the audience later; most of it, is my guess, to judge by his accent.)

The reading of "Lisa's Date With Density", in which the yellow second-grade genius falls for school bully Nelson, ran to nearly double its screen time what with enthusiastic audience response. The brief Q&A session which followed consisted largely of people asking for phrases from their favourite characters (Castellanata as Homer: "Well, of course I can say 'Doh'... [well timed pause] Doh!") As an event, it was beyond criticism; we were all there as fans, and rightly so.

Written for the Financial Times Web site,

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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