Thirty years ago this month, America’s favorite animated family made their debut as part of The Tracey Ullman Show. To celebrate, CoS will be broadcasting live from Springfield all week with a slew of Simpsons features. Today, Andrew Bloom looks back at the recurring characters who didn’t need a name to make us laugh.
Names are one of The Simpsons’ many strengths. There will never be another “Homer” this side of The Odyssey who isn’t compared to Springfield’s resident oaf. Only The Simpsons could mine the middle name of former President Richard M. Nixon and give it to poor Milhouse. And who could forget that Sideshow Bob’s real name is Robert Underdunk Terwilliger, an appellation as elaborate and ungainly as his hairstyle.
But there are many within the show’s expansive cast of characters who haven’t needed a name to make a big impact on The Simpsons’ universe. Whether it be surly comic book store proprietors, voice-cracking Krusty Burger employees, or feline-tossing loonies, Springfield is filled with plenty of people that stand out, even if we’re not sure what’s on their driver’s licenses.
Instead, these folks are referred to by whatever we know them best for: their place of employment, their most popular accessory, or just their overall demeanor. And yet, they are as vital and hilarious as any other denizens of Springfield, even as they soldier on in relative, nameless obscurity. In that spirit, here is our salute to the 12 best characters from The Simpsons who are known by a title, a pseudonym, or as Marge once put it, a vague description, rather than an actual name.
Voiced By: Dan Castellaneta
First Appearance: “Brush with Greatness”
Also Known As: Jeremy Freedman, Pimple-faced teen, Puberty Boy, Geeky Teenager, Steve, Pop, Mr. Peterson
Squeaky-Voiced Teen is seemingly fated to work every menial job Springfield has to offer. He could be slinging milkshakes at one of the town’s many fast-food huts, bagging groceries at the local market, taking tickets at the Aztec Theater, or even selling knick-knacks in Australia. But wherever he goes, you can bet he’ll be performing some low-level task in a less-than-flattering uniform, while thanking the customers in his unsteady, perpetually-cracking voice.
Perhaps that multitude of jobs helps explain his multitude of names. Principal Skinner once referred to him as “Jeremy,” the bullies called him “Mr. Freedman,” and Abe Simpson said his name was “Old Man Peterson.” Sadly for him, none of these have stuck. Instead, the character has long been better known by his puberty-bound description. It’s possible that each job comes with a new name tag, a moniker as transient and disposable as his employment prospects.
Nevertheless, Squeaky-Voiced Teen has left his mark on Springfield, remaining one of the show’s more recognizable characters despite never having a story, a fleshed-out personality, or even a name to call his own. There is a quiet determination to him, one that ensures he’ll never give up, no matter how silly, pointless, or painful the task before him may be. In short, Squeaky-Voiced Teen doesn’t let his ever-unstable vocal cords or his acne-ridden face get him down, just the cancellation of Futurama.
Voiced By: Hank Azaria
First Appearance: “The Way We Was”
Also Known As: Sarcastic Man, Raphael
You cannot escape Wiseguy. He may be your limo driver, your exterminator, your handyman, or your security guard, but no matter where you go or what you do in Springfield, there is no evading either his various odd jobs or his trademark bon mots. Most often, he’s sitting behind a counter, selling pets, guns, or Sharper Image-style novelties, and dispensing his insults and casual asides with relish.
Voice actor Hank Azaria has admitted that his take on the character is an impersonation of Charles Bronson, a detail the show has playfully acknowledged. But Wiseguy doesn’t carry his inspiration’s appellation, with the only hint of a real name coming from Sideshow Bob having once referred to him as “Raphael.”
He is, however, one of the few Simpsons characters whose lack of a name has been acknowledged by folks behind the scenes. When asked what to call the character by the fans, one of the show’s sound editors, Bob Beecher, replied: “He doesn’t have one name. His character’s name always fits the scene, so he’s gone by many names: ‘Clerk’, ‘Shopkeeper’, etc. But in the script, the direction given to the voice is ‘Wiseguy Voice’. So call him ‘Wiseguy’ if you want.”
And we do! Whether he’s adding “boyo” or “pally” to the end of a sentence or just cutting Springfield’s residents down a notch, it’s always fun to see Wiseguy turn up at each shop, eatery, or Bloodbath and Beyond outlet with yet another sarcastic remark.
The Sea Captain
Voiced By: Hank Azaria
First Appearance: “New Kid on the Block”
Also Known As: Horatio McCallister
When you need to go on a nautical voyage, try an all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant, or locate a training academy for wimpy lobsters, you’ll find The Sea Captain, there to steer you, feed you, or ask you for spare change. Like other characters on this list, The Sea Captain wears many hats in Springfield, though in this case, he’s always wearing the same hat. Sea Captain is quick with a “yarr” and eternally committed to making his living near the water, whatever form that may take this week.
But unlike the many ships he’s piloted, The Sea Captain is rarely, if ever, known by his actual name. Though Homer refers to him as “Captain McCallister” in his first-ever appearance, since then the denizens of Springfield have simply referred to him by his familiar ocean-faring title. His seldom-used first name, Horatio, is appropriate for the aquatic aficionado, as he shares it with Horatio Hornblower, a naval officer in a series of novels by C. S. Forester.
But whether he’s fighting with a giant squid or ferrying hot pants to their final destination, The Sea Captain is utterly unsinkable, with our without a name.