Dan Castellaneta

"Homer's Odyssey"
© TV Guide (The Advetiser), March 2, 1995.

Some families just have a natural capacity to get up other people's noses. Take the Simpsons. The dad, Homer is a beer-guzzling, TV-addicted loser. Long-suffering mum, Marge has the biggest feet in creation. Eldest daughter Lisa turns pre-consciousness into an art form. The baby, Maggie, sucks her life away on a dummy. And then there's Bart, a skateboarding certified smart alec and underachiever.

Yet The Simpsons' appeal keeps growing in Australia - consolidated by the Ten Network's decision to strip the program five nights a week at 6pm, then run new episodes at 7:30pm on Wednesdays. Dan Castellaneta, who provides the voice for Homer (and Krusty the Clown and Barney the drunk), the show has provided an incredible five years.

"While everyone connected with the show hoped it would be successful, none of us dared to imagine it would turn into the phenomenon it has," Castellaneta says. "Matt Groening (the cartoon's artist/creator) had such an original sense of humor and point of view. This was evident in his syndicated cartoon, Life in Hell and brought both to The Simpsons."

Groening moved to Los Angeles from home state Oregon in 1977 and immediately started producing his Life in Hell comic strip, featuring an unwell-looking rabbit called Blinky and an incestuous relationship between Islamic identical twins. While The Simpsons is not nearly so radical, nor weird, the same sort of character neurosis is apparent. "The humor is essentially dark for a cartoon and sophisticated," say Castellaneta. "But, at the same time, being a cartoon gives the writers more freedom than in a normal sitcom. It always pushes the line that, despite human failings, the Simpsons are really decent people."

Castellaneta had built a reputation in voice-over work in Chicago radio when asked to join The Tracey Ullman Show to supply the voice for Homer, as Groening had been commissioned to create The Simpsons as a lead-in and out of commercial breaks.

"To many, Homer may appear lazy and a loser, but he's just much misguided," Castellaneta says. "He's boorish, sure, but well meaning and, I guess, the one thing we have in common is the pursuit of lousy diets."

Castellaneta started acting at age six when his mother enrolled him in summer drama classes in Chicago. In the mid-70s, he joined the TV show Copycats, a group of impressionists doing parodies of old movies.

"Now I go to movies and come home and try them out on my wife, so things haven't changed a lot. She cringes and says `Shut up' a lot," he says.

Transcribed by Christopher Dent

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