July 27, 2002
Homer Simpson, the benign patriarch of the best-known animated family in the world, has become the centre of a censorship dispute between Rupert Murdoch's television company, Fox, and the counter-culture comedian and writer Paul Krassner. Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer on The Simpsons, performed an introduction for Krassner on a live comedy album, Irony Lives.
In Homer's voice, Castellaneta said his only problem with Krassner was that he was an atheist. He asked : "If there is no God, then who has placed a pox on me and mocks me every day?"
The album, which was due out this month, pokes fun at President Bush, the US attorney general, John Ashcroft and the "war on terrorism". But Fox's lawyers stepped in and insisted that Homer's voice is part of their intellectual property. After requesting seven copies of the CD they denied its use.
In a counter move, Krassner has placed the introduction on his website, paulkrassner.com. He has now had some 250,000 hits so the ban appears to be garnering more publicity for the CD than Artemis, the company releasing the album, would have been able to buy.
"Who ever thought that Homer Simpson would one day become an intellectual property?" asked Krassner, who is completing a novel based on his friendship with the late comedian Lenny Bruce.
During his days as editor of The Realist, often described as the first underground magazine in the US, Krassner said he never asked for permission for anything on the grounds that he had no assets and therefore was not worth suing but Artemis feared a possibly damaging lawsuit from Fox.
The US ninth circuit court of appeal in San Francisco ruled this week that the use of fictional characters enjoyed protection under the first amendment when it found in favour of the band, Aqua, who made humorous reference to Barbie dolls in a 1997 song.
Krassner and Fox crossed paths over censorship in 1999, when The Realist publicised the removal of parts of The Simpsons that the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights found offensive.
In one episode, Bart said to his mother : "Mom, can we go Catholic so we can get communion wafers and booze?" His mother replied : "No one is going Catholic. Three children is quite enough, thank you."
Fox declined to comment on the matter yesterday.
Received in email
I wanted to let you all know about Homer Simpsons' run-in with FOX. Paul Krassner’s new album Irony Lives! (due August 13th on Artemis Records) was to include an introduction by Dan Castellaneta in the voice of Homer Simpson. Although Castellaneta wrote the introduction, Fox has refused to allow Homer’s voice to be included on the record. In a move to counter this suppression, Krassner has posted a transcription and MP3 of the performance in its entirety on his website www.paulkrassner.com. Krassner’s site has been hit over 100,000 times since the MP3 was posted, and site traffic has been growing exponentially.
Irony Lives! was recorded on February 16, 2002 at Genghis Cohen in Los Angeles. Krassner has dedicated the album to the memory of Ken Kesey.