Album: Songs in the Key of Springfield
. . .
Hi, I’m Jim Connelly. You may remember me from such Certain Songs posts as “#1224: Mystery Science Theatre – “Love Song From Mystery Science 3000” or “#1723: R.E.M. – “It’s The End of The World (and I Feel Fine)”
In a fantastic Vulture oral history of this episode — Episode 19 of Season 7: “A Fish Called Selma” — we find out that the writers had decided to do a Troy McClure showcase, pairing him up with one Marge’s sisters, Selma.
McClure was voiced by the late, great Phil Hartman, and you might ask whether or not it’s a coincidence that two out of three Certain Songs posts I’ve done on the Simpsons feature Hartman, and the answer is that it is not. Phil Hartman was the actor equivalent of handclaps in songs: he made good things great and great things immortal.
Anyways, the set-up here is that McClure has convinced Selma to marry him in order to revive his career, which had been destroyed by rumours of his unconventional sexuality, which prompts this phone call with his agent, MacArthur Parker — played by Jeff Goldblum:
Mac: “Troy, Mac Parker. Have you heard of… Planet of the Apes?”
Troy: “Uhhhh, the movie or the planet?”
Mac: “The brand-new, multi-million dollar musical! And you are starring…as the human”
Troy: “It’s the part I was born to play, baby!”
“Uhhhh, the movie or the planet?” is another one of those jokes that kills me. Kills me. It’s an amazingly random question that somehow makes complete sense and no sense whatsoever at exactly the same time.
But they’re just ramping up: as showrunner Bill Oakley marvels in that Vulture oral history, the whole thing “was just a visit from joke fairy.” It also helped that in the late 60s long-time Simpsons Musical Director Alf Clausen had written out the arrangements for the musicians who played the original score for Planet of the Apes. Or that he was equally adept in coming with music for orchestral scores and cheesy 80 euro-pop knockoffs.
Because “Stop The Planet of The Apes. I Want to Get Off!” is presented in the episode as a full-blown legitimate theatre musical, we just get excerpts from it, with Clausen’s score deftly changing each time.
One of the long-time running jokes of The Simpsons is that all of the non-humans on the show are smarter than the humans — or at least make better decisions — and one of the fun things about “Stop The Planet of The Apes. I Want to Get Off!” is that it’s set in a world where the non-humans being smarter is absolute canon. And’s that’s the key to the first segment: when the apes realize that this human they’ve captured is different from all of the others. So the first thing we see is when McClure declares “get your paws off me, you dirty ape!” and as all of the apes are marveling that he can talk, McClure goes one further, because he can do more than just talk.
I can SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGG
This is followed by a complete non-sequitur: “Dr. Zaius” — a parody of Falco’s 1986 #1 hit single “Rock Me Amadeus,” which along with Nena’s “99 Luftbaloons,” was part of the micro-mini-trend when German language songs became massive U.S. hits — which weaponizes the cheesiest vaudevillian doctor jokes (“Can I play the piano anymore? / Of course you can / Well I couldn’t before”) with the stupidly catchy “Dr. Zaius, Dr. Zaius” chorus. None of this has anything to do this the plot of Planet of the Apes, of course, which makes it that much more funny, especially when the final excerpt takes us back to the end of the film.
SPOILER ALERT!! If you haven’t seen the end of Planet of the Apes, you probably shouldn’t read any further. Actually, you probably shouldn’t read any further anyways. Or have started this at all. Or read anything I’ve ever written, really.
Anyways, in the climax, Troy sings his disdain for his ape overlords.
I hate every ape I see
From Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z
No, you’ll never make a monkey out of me
You guys!! “Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z.” COME ON! That’s like a perfect joke, maybe even better than “the movie or the planet?” even though they’re from totally different ends of the spectrum.
And of course, as the apes point to the ruins of the Statue of Liberty, rising over the backdrop, McClure (accompanied by course a choir of background apes) head towards the grand finale.
Oh, my God, I was wrong,
It was Earth all along.
You finally made a monkey…
(Yes, we finally made made a monkey)
Yes, you finally made a monkey out of meeeeeeeeeee!
At the end, having been fully monkeyized, McClure non sequiturs “I love you, Dr. Zaius”, because at this point, why the hell not!
Unlike “The Monorail Song” or (especially) “The Amendment Song,” it took multiple viewings for me to fully realize the genius of this whole sequence — I mean outside of “the movie or the planet? and “Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z” of course — which might also have taken on more resonance in the wake of Phil Hartman’s death, and the trend of making musicals out of things that were never supposed to be musicals.
Anyways it seems like “Stop The Planet of The Apes! I Want To Get Off.” has become perhaps people’s most favorite of all of Simpsons musical sequences.
Oh and BTW, “A Fish Called Selma” aired one week after “The Day The Violence Died,” just in case you need any more proof as to what kind of insane roll The Simpsons were on in the mid-1990s, despite the fact that the “Simpsons aren’t as good as they used to be” trope was already out there in the wild. (No, seriously, it was.)
“Stop The Planet of The Apes! I Want To Get Off.”
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