This week the voice cast of "The Simpsons" signed a deal guaranteeing them each around $400,000 per episode and also that the show will run through its 20th season, tying "Gunsmoke" for the longest-running episodic primetime series in history.

With the exception of Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa, each voiceover artist on the series serves as a utility player, voicing dozens of characters each. For example, Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer, provides the vocals for Groundskeeper Willie, Mayor Quimby and several more characters, while Bart's voice, Nancy Cartwright, plays nearly every child in Springfield Elementary.

With so many characters integral to the show's humor, it's no wonder the relatively small cast were handsomely rewarded for their services. The fact that such a tiny group can produce so many enduring and hilarious characters is a marvel.

Of course, some of these characters are better than others, and some get more credit than they deserve. Others are truly great creations that have stayed on the fringes of Springfield and never seem to get the attention from fans befitting of such funny creations.

The following are the most overrated and underrated secondary characters on "The Simpsons":


5. Lindsey Naegle (Tress MacNeille)

She's so underrated that her name probably isn't instantly associated with her face. To clarify, she's the career woman seen as a network executive, financial consultant, marketing executive and several other jobs. No matter where she pops up, viewers can count on that same husky voice and emotionless mannerisms. Naegle is the perfect satirization of the modern-day, heartless businesswoman.

4. Bill and Marty (Harry Shearer and Dan Castellaneta)

In a show that so perfectly satirizes modern American life, these KBBL DJ's may be the most spot-on of the bunch. They perfectly capture the wacky morning zoo that's dominated the FM airwaves for the better part of three decades complete with wacky sounds and the same joke told over and over again. Their best moment came in the episode "Bart Gets an Elephant" when their station manager showed them how easily they can be replaced by a machine. Bill and Marty are so great that they seamlessly blend into the background of each episode in which they appear, just like the background noise that DJ's usually are.

3. Kearney (Nancy Cartwright)

Kearney started out as a member of the trio of non-descript bullies along with Jimbo and Dolph, but has since blossomed into the character with maybe the funniest back-story on the show. So far it's been discovered that he has a child who attends the same Elementary School, he drives a Hyundai, and remembers Watergate among other traits befitting a person much older than grade school age. Every time the writers unfold a new Kearney-based wrinkle, it's bound to be funnier than the one before it. Not bad for a character who's rarely given more than a couple lines every few episodes.

2. Wiseguy (Hank Azaria)

How underrated is this character? He doesn't even have a name! OK, in one episode Sideshow Bob called him "Raphael", but he's better known as sarcastic pet store clerk, sarcastic customs exchange worker, or one of the many other vocations he holds around Springfield. No matter where he pops up, his Charles Bronson-esque voice is locked, loaded, and ready to deliver a sarcastic one-line gem. Wiseguy is the glue that hold Springfield together, especially since he appears to work in every one of its stores.

1. Eddie and Lou (Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria)

Often times, Chief Wiggum's fellow officers are funnier than he is, rattling off one-liners like they're in a seventies cop movie. Of course, that's exactly how they're supposed to sound, and function as pitch-perfect parodies of that genre. They also act as a foil to the corrupt and bumbling Wiggum as they are very competent officers often to a fault as they've been known to interrogate babies and dogs with tactics seldom seen outside of Gitmo. Despite the brilliance of each character, they've remained entirely in the background throughout the run of the series and Eddie seldom speaks anymore. This is a shame, because every time either of them opens their mouth comedic gold is certain to come out.


5. Barney Gumble (Dan Castellaneta)

Has there ever been a more tragic case of sobriety? The writers essentially destroyed a once beloved character by having him push away from the bottle. Despite this, the character's status has remained largely unchanged. Viewers still see him as the bumbling drunk ne'er do well of the Golden Age, but unfortunately for us, he's moved on. The character doesn't really make much sense anymore but still gets the respect of his former self.

4. Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel (Hank Azaria)

This is a character that started out very funny as a one-note occasional guest star but soon grew too big for his britches. There really isn't enough to Cletus to put him on as often as the writers do, but he's been given several character-centric episodes already. This despite having few more traits than bad teeth and a southern accent. This worked incredibly well as a pop-in, but when the writers featured him more frequently and tried to flesh his character out, we all found there was nothing much there.

3. Comic Book Guy (Hank Azaria)

Comic Book Guy is one of the most beloved "Simpsons" characters, but much like Cletus he is essentially a one-note character that quickly outgrew his T-Shirts in more ways than one. When he was nothing more than an occasional sarcastic quip, the Comic Book Guy was pure comic gold. Once the writers wrote episodes based around him and brought him outside his shop, he became more irritating than funny. His popularity is probably a result of many fans seeing themselves in this geek-culture knowledge vault, but this geek really should have stayed in the Android's Dungeon.

2. Otto Mann (Harry Shearer)

Noticing a trend here? Otto is the third consecutive one-note character that grew too large in scope, he was also one of the first to get an episode centered around him when he moved in with the Simpsons during the third season. This may have led to his becoming so beloved, but it probably has something to do with everyone loving his desire to rock out. The problem is, that's all there is to him. He likes to rock out. That's it. This would be fine if he stayed in the driver's seat, but at this point he's been overexposed and shown that there really isn't much there there. Certainly not enough to merit the love he's receive from fans over the years.

1. Professor Frink (Hank Azaria)

Finishing off a quartet of one-joke overrated characters is the most overrated of them all: Professor John Frink. The mad scientist has transcended the show like no other minor character. It could be because of his theme song that played over the end titles of the beloved "22 Short Films About Springfield", it could be Hank Azaria's spot-on Jerry Lewis impression, or it could simply be that most "Simpsons" fans make Frink look like Steve McQueen by comparison. Whatever the case, Frink is a character that has had programming languages and satellites named for him despite being little more than a guy with glasses shouting "Glavin!" The odd thing is that outside of some prolonged appearances in "Treehouse of Horror" episodes, the writers have never really expanded on their one-not premise for Frink. Despite this, he remains one of the most transcendent of all characters on the show. Now that is overrated.

Check back next week for the most overrated/underrated Couples of Acting.

Story by Andrew Payne

Starpulse contributing writer



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