Do the Bartman

Do the bartman nc.jpg

June 19, 2018
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(After the Channel Awesome logo and the opening, we fade to NC in his chair)

NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Folks, (shakes head) we need to talk about the Bartman.

(Cut to footage of The Simpsons)

NC (vo): Let's go back to a simpler time, when a cartoon boy swearing was the most shocking thing on TV.

(In the clip from the season 2 episode "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?", the Simpsons are seen in a car going down the road)

Bart Simpson: So, any idea where this bastard lives?

Homer Simpson: (at the wheel, turning to Bart sharply) BART!

NC (vo): It's no question that The Simpsons has shaped and redefined humor for so many of us, but people forget in the early years, there were not only popular, they were insanely popular.

NC: Well... Bart was insanely...

(Various commercials and footage with the show's merchandise focusing on Bart are shown)

NC (vo): ...popular, with commercials, toys, video games and countless T-shirts, Bart-mania as everyone called it, and by everyone I mean FOX executives, was on fire. People, especially kids eight and up has anti-authority nature, especially when authority itself tried stomping him out.

(We are shown a snippet of President George H. W. Bush making a statement at the 1992 Republican Convention)

George H. W. Bush: Make American families a lot more like the Waltons and lot less like The Simpsons!

NC: Thank God that didn't backfire!

(Cut to a clip from season 8 episode "Two Bad Neighbors", showing Bart speaking to his new neighbor, Bush himself)

Bart: How many times were you President, George?

NC (vo): At the height of his popularity, Bart was given what every popular icon in the early 90s was given; a music video. Do the Bartman was one of the many songs on the hit album, Simpsons Sing the Blues, and in 1991, it was given its own special video airing on FOX. It was filled with every late 80s cliche trying to turn into early 90s cliches. But what makes this stand out is not just the video itself, but the fascinating story in the making of the video.

NC: Now, granted, I've never reviewed a nostalgic song before, but I present that argument with this picture of Bart waving his ass at you.

(A vector image of Bart mooning the camera pops up and moves from left to right, with the sound clip of Bart laughing being heard)

NC (vo): To understand the story behind the video, though, we must first analyze the video itself.

NC: So journey back to a time when this was risky...

(Cut back to "Oh Brother" clip)

Bart: Bastard, bastard, bastard!

Marge Simpson: (yelling) BART!

Bart: Bastard, bastard, bastard!

Homer: (yelling) BART! BAARRRRTTT!

Bart: Bastard, bastard, bastard!

NC: This is Do the Bartman.

(The video starts at Springfield Elementary School)

NC (vo): The Simpsons are off to see Bart's fourth grade recital, which, unfortunately, has him all the way in the back. But Bart will fight back those boring adults whose 90s commercials explain just don't get us...

(We are shown the commercial for Bubble Tape, featuring an elderly woman speaking and opening her mouth quite big)

Elder Woman: Bubble tape is not part of a well-balanced diet!

NC (vo): he plugs in his own music.

Bart: (singing) Yo. Hey, what's happening, dude? / I'm a guy with a rep for bein' rude.

NC: (feigned surprise) Oh, dear, I feel an impromptu ninja rap coming on.

(Bart starts to take his blue jacket off, angering Principal Seymour Skinner and the teacher Edna Krabappel)

NC (vo): He starts rapping in front of the crowd about what a troublemaker he is, as Skinner has to look up his file to see who he is dealing with.

(Sure enough, as Bart continues singing, Skinner opens a file cabinet and finds a document for Bart Simpson, with file photo and everything)

Bart: (singing) I'm the kid that made delinquency an art. / Last name: Simpson, first name: Bart.

NC: I have a hard time believing Skinner doesn't know who this kid is by now!

(As the audience, including the rest of the Simpsons, look at Bart in puzzlement, Maggie sucks on her pacifier in rhythm with the music)

Bart: (singing) I'm here today to introduce the next phase, / The next step in the big Bart craze.

NC: Ooh! He's going to introduce the next phase. I'm so excited to see what's up next for the BCU! (The group poster for "Bart Cinematic Universe" is shown, showing Bart's head superimposed on Iron Man's)

(Bart throws his jacket right in Skinner's face)

NC (vo): He then proceeds to tell us how to do the Bartman.

NC: (adjusts his glasses) I assume it ties in with awkwardly timed baseball catching. (A photo of Steve Bartman is shown)

(Skinner tries to move Bart from the stage using a cane, but Edna silently stops him)

Bart: (singing) So move your body, if you got the notion, / Front to back in a rock-like motion. / Do it to the music, that's the Bartman.

(Milhouse Van Houten, Martin Prince and another student take Bart's place and start dancing singing as clearly male voices)

Boys: (singing) Everybody, if you can...

NC: Whoa! Those boys' testicles dropped!

Boys: (singing) Everybody, if you can, do the Bartman.

Bart: Whoa!

Boys: (singing and doing a pelvic thrusting) Shake your body, turn it out, if you can, man.

Bart: Check it out, man!

(The audience, except the Simpsons, starts smiling and dancing along)

NC (vo): Gotta give credit to a song that recommends "do the Bartman if you can", as in, "are able to".

NC: Not everybody is Bartman accessible.

(Skinner and Edna stare at this with blank looks and exchange a whiskey flask)

NC (vo): Also, gotta love a kids' music video that shows school figures taking a shot out of a flask.

NC: My mom said it was chocolate milk, and I still stand by that.

(After drinking, Skinner shudders)

NC: And judging by that reaction, it was probably Yoo-hoo.

(Bart, the audience and the students leave the school and dance along the streets of Springfield)

NC (vo): Of course, the Bartman can't be contained and has to make its way to the streets, where the Bartman was practically born!

NC: It was (photos of...) dice, lines of coke (raises hands) and the Bartman!

NC: We segue to a couple of weeks ago, when he (Bart) was sent to his room for putting moth balls in the beef stew. Could perhaps doing the Bartman change his woes?

(Bored, Bart turns the radio in his dark room on, and then everything lights up and Bart dances)

Singers: Move your body, if you get the notion...

Bart: Whoa, I'm feelin' the groove now, baby!

NC: I call false advertising. I purchased the first comic. (The cover for Bongo Comics' Bartman #1 issue is shown) There was no mention of this dance move at all.

(Bart sneaks out of the room through a window and climbs down a tree)

Bart: (singing) If you can do the Bartman, you're bad like Michael Jackson. (The branch he's standing on breaks, and he falls)

NC: No, thanks. I've seen what your interpretation of Michael Jackson looks like. I'm not impressed. (A still of Leon Compowski, a man who thinks he's Jackson, from the season 3 opener "Stark Raving Dad", is shown)

(Bart lands in the city street in front of three cool-looking kids)

NC (vo): Bart sneaks out of his suburban home, which has suddenly been moved to a more urban landscape...

NC: Perhaps it was shot when they moved to Capital City. (A clip from the season 2 episode "Dancin' Homer is shown)

(As the street kids continue to dance, Bart just walks along and sings)

NC (vo): he continues to explain how to do the Bartman without actually showing us how to do the Bartman. Yeah, weirdly enough, Bart never does the Bartman in this music video.

NC: Isn't that like singing the hokey-pokey, but doing the Electric Slide?

(Homer pops out of the sewer hatch)

NC (vo): But Homer interrupts their fun, telling them to turn it down.

Homer: Will you shut that infernal racket?!

(The shot of Homer zooms out via four cuts, and all of the people surround him to say...)

All: (singing) Do the Bartman!

NC: You can't stop us, you old fart! (grooves in his chair) The Bartman is a movement!

(Bart hears his sister Lisa playing the saxophone on the bridge)

NC (vo): Bart plugs his ears after hearing the most sound grating of instruments...the saxophone?

Bart: Oh, my ears! Put the saxophone away!

NC: (chuckles) Wait until they invent Nickelback, kid.

(In the dump, Bart is knocked down by a pack of dogs)

NC (vo): Bart is so popular, even dogs are converting their language to his name.

(As the dogs run away, they are heard barking the word "Bart")

NC: Terrifying, I know, but it's still less creepy than (photo of...) the Bart Simpson phone.

NC (vo): Bart's posse awaits his ever-dope rhymes.

(Bart and the street kids trio walk past Lisa playing the sax with Bleeding Gums Murphy)

Bart: (singing) Now I'm in the house, feelin' good to be home, / 'Til Lisa starts blowin' that damn saxophone.

NC: There's an irony that years later, Bart would have a posse...

(Shots of season 16 episode "Pranksta Rap" are shown, showing Bart interacting with 50 Cent)

NC (vo): ...from rapping, being what the show calls "a pranksta rapper".

(Back to the music video)

NC (vo): But they don't have the air-swimming vibes these badasses have!

Bart: (singing) And if it was mine, you know they'd take it away, / But still I'm feelin' good, so that's okay. / I'm up in my room, just a-singin' a song, / Listen to the kick-drum kickin' along.

NC: You ever noticed Bart isn't really rapping about much?

NC (vo): He says how to do the Bartman, lets his backup singers demonstrate, never doing it himself, then raps about getting sent to his room and hearing Lisa's saxophone.

NC: Doesn't seem like much cause for a high production music video. But, then again, neither did (poster of...) Kazaam, and... (looks confused) I forgot what my point was.

(We're shown that in Egypt and China, the people are also dancing, but not in unison. In Moe's bar, Barney Gumble's and the other two tired drinkers shake their behinds)

NC (vo): We cut to the people all over the world not doing the Bartman. Even barflies' asses get caught up in the beat. And what the hell? (The 25 Years action figure of Charles Montgomery Burns as an alien in the season 8 episode "Springfield Files" is shown) There's an action figure of alien Mr. Burns, but not these background characters? (Zoom in to crudely drawn people in the background)

NC: (looks at pictures of both alien Burns action figure and the crudely crowd) Actually, I forget which one's which.

(A conga line led by Edna and Skinner approaches Bart)

NC (vo): Look, even Skinnier and Krabappel have decided to join in! They were so angry before, but now, they're just dancing along. That's the power of the Bartman. It unites all people through its rock-like motion. (Cut back to Edna and Skinner drinking whiskey) Or bitter drinking. It's probably bitter drinking.

(The ending of the season 8 episode "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment" is shown, showing Homer on top of several beer barrels)

Homer: To alcohol! The cause of and solution to all of life's problems.

(In the music video, we're shown other people rocking on the town square. Burns, however, is helped by his four bodyguards)

NC (vo): Even Mr. Burns...'s security is getting into it. And heads up, this is the funniest scene in the video.

(Jacques from the season 1 episode "Life on the Fast Lane" is seen waltzing with his partner, who is Helen Lovejoy, then Princess Kashmir, Ms. Mellon from "Bart the Genius"...and Karl from "Simpson and Delilah", much to Jacques' surprise and shock)

Singers: Don't you slip, let your feet glide now...

NC: See? I told you Karl was gay.

(Carl Carlson, one of the secondary characters, is shown, followed by a still of him and his close friend, Lenny Leonard)

NC (vo): No, no. Not that Carl.

NC: ...Anyone named Carl on the show is gay.

(Reverend Timothy Lovejoy and Satan also groove together, as well as the rest of the Simpsons)

NC (vo): Even the church and Satan can see eye to eye over the Bartman. Now, if only they could stop possessing everyone's upper half of the face. (Four off-model stills of Bart in the show pop up)

NC: (points to the camera) You paused those scenes, too! Don't act like you didn't!

(The music video ends with Edna pushing saddened Bart offstage before the rest of the students dance, which reveals most of the video was Bart's dream)

NC (vo): But the song comes to an end, as it looks like it was all part of Bart's fantasy. Oh, good! I can still consider this part of the Simpsons canon!

NC: I'd hate for their continuity to get us queued. (The promo image for the infamous season 19 episode "That '90s Show", which featured Homer, Lenny, Carl and Apu as a grunge rock band in their youth, is shown)

(Various clips from the music video are shown as NC goes to say the song and the video's backstory and legacy)

NC (vo): Do the Bartman, I guess not surprisingly, was a big hit. It reached number 11 on the Billboard charts, topped several other charts all over the world, was played on MTV for several months and made their Simpsons Sing the Blues album go platinum. It even led to a sequel music video called "Deep, Deep Trouble", also featuring Bart rapping about him being punished.

NC: It seemed like all the hard work paid off. And what do you expect when now world-famous director Brad Bird was in charge?

NC (vo): That's right, the director of Iron Giant and The Incredibles movies got his start directing Simpsons episodes. And, according to Bird himself, he said this was the hardest thing he'd ever done. The video was apparently so rushed that they had to storyboard it in just two days, then fly out to Varga Studio in Hungary and do the show in only two and a half weeks.

NC: Holy God! It takes me a month (A picture of a person flipping pages in his flipbook to see the animation of a ball is shown) to animate a ball bouncing on my post-it notes. This was only two and a half weeks?!

NC (vo): That explains a little bit why some of the background characters don't quite look finished, but, honestly, I kinda prefer this style of animation over the recent style of animation.

(The start of The Simpsons intro circa 2009 is shown, before showing a comparison of Marge in the mall in the 1991 and 2009 versions of the intro)

NC (vo): Don't get me wrong, the recent style is very clean, smooth and allows for more jokes to be squeezed in, but the old style had so much more life to it. They felt like they were leaping off the screen.

(Back to the clips of Do the Bartman video)

NC (vo): And this video is one of the best examples of it.

NC: Funny enough, there was apparently even a choreographer.

(A still from the video's end credits is shown, showing the choreographer Michael Chambers. Some more clips of the episode "Dancin' Homer" are shown with the titular character dancing in the baseball field in front of the crowd. But since it was one of the early episodes, the movements Homer makes are really still)

NC (vo): Which, I guess, makes sense when comparing the dancing in the show to the dancing here. Look at that GIF animation go! Bottom line, they worked their asses off, and it clearly shows.

NC: Not bad for a Michael Jackson song. (Beat) Oh, yeah. That's another interesting side note!

NC (vo): Michael Jackson apparently wrote this song. Though not credited, Matt Groening claims that Jackson called him up one day, said he was a big fan of the show, and wanted to give Bart a number one single. So he wrote, produced, and even did the backup vocals for the song. Yep, that's apparently Jackson himself singing those parts.

Singers: Everybody, if you can, do the Bartman, / Shake your body, turn it out if you can, man...

Bart: (speaking over the backup) Hey, everybody, may I remind you?

NC (vo): Groening said he was shocked nobody figured it out, as Bart references Jackson twice in the song*. And, as Groening put it, who else would do that?

  • Note: Actually, Michael Jackson was mentioned once in the lyrics

NC: (shifts eyes) Well...maybe not him?

(Another credit is shown, this time for the music writer and producer Bryan Loren)

NC (vo): Bryan Loren, the person who got credit for writing and producing the song, said that, despite Groening's confession, he was the sole writer. Groening says Jackson couldn't come out about it because he was under contract with another studio. But Loren states he was the only one who wrote it. Despite this rather large disagreement, Loren did state that Jackson did provide the title for the song, the backup vocals, and yes, requested that he be mentioned in it.

NC: (imitates Jackson as he is portrayed in the South Park episode "The Jeffersons") That's ignorant! You're ignorant!

NC (vo): I have no idea which one of these is true, but either way, Jackson had involvement with this song, even leading to a guest-star appearance on the show, again, being uncredited.

NC: Don't worry, though. I'm sure Bart represented him...

(A clip from the 1991 American Music Awards ceremony is shown, showing the plump person wearing the rubber Bart Simpson mask and shoes hosting one part of the show along with K. T. Olsin)

NC (vo): ...when he showed up to the American Music Awards!

"Bart": Hi, K. T.!

K. T. Oslin: Hi, Bart.

"Bart": (laughs) I'm the Bartman.

NC: (with a frozen smile) By Christ, is that terrifying!

NC (vo): Yep, this is what doing the Bartman apparently gets ya. No joke, that's pregnant Nancy Cartwright in there with clear evidence now to why she did Rapsittie Street Kids.

NC: If I had to act in that, I don't know what the hell I would say yes to afterwards!

"Bart": Hey, "fun" has a middle name. It's Bartholomew J. Simpson!

NC: (waves his arms frantically) Oh, God! Take it off-screen!

NC (vo): Overall, much like the video, the details are fuzzy, but the final product is really creative and fun. Sure, it's corny and rough around the edges, but that's kind of part of its charm. It has a wonderful amount of energy that's trying every second to entertain you in a musical or visual way. It's a product of the times and the silly in the most enjoyable ways. I don't know if a ton of people are gonna be rocking out to the this any time soon, but for me, and the people who saw it when it premiered, we remember when for a short, enjoyably ridiculous amount of time, every kid was doing the Bartman.

NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.

(He gets up and leaves. We cut to a clip from a season 9 episode "Simpson Tide", showing Bart dancing in the school bus, to the confusion of his classmates)

Bart: (singing) Everybody, if you can, do the Bartman! / Shake your body, turn it out if you can, can! / Do the Bartman! Yeah!

Ralph Wiggum: That is so 1991.

(The credits roll, followed by a Channel Awesome logo)

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