If you’re of the opinion that The Simpsons is a cartoon series for children, well, this isn’t the article for you. If at some stage over the show 30-year lifespan you’ve realised there’s more to the show than meets the eye, we’ve got a story for you. For 7 seasons and three years, the Four Finger Discount podcast has been picking apart each episode of the series, one by one, revealing just how many layers, jokes, concepts, themes, and ideas were hidden within.
Though many have tried to tackle a Simpsons themed podcast in the past, it took two mates from Geelong to truly nail it. Mitch and Dando have turned Four Finger Discount into a high-charting, high-quality and above all else, highly entertaining listening experience. On top of that, they’ve created a safe place for all those who found themselves irrationally connected to the long-running series – we now have a place to call home.
We spoke with the dudes about how this came to be. But first, there’s only one way to properly start this article…
The Neversphere: On paper, A podcast about The Simpsons seems like a simple idea. But, there are other Simpsons themed podcasts that don’t do it justice quite like Four Finger Discount. How did you pull it off?
Dando: Well, there was already a couple of Simpsons podcasts out there and they weren’t doing it quite the way I would have done it. I’ve done podcasts in the past, and I’m a big Simpsons fan so I wanted to launch this, the only problem was I didn’t have any friends that still a) watched The Simpsons or b) Talk about The Simpsons. Then, funnily enough, my Wife became friends with Mitch’s wife. Ash, who’s Mitch’s wife said ‘Hey, my Husband likes The Simpsons, here you go, talk about it…’ That’s when I pitched the idea for the podcast and from there it spiralled, didn’t it Mitch?
Mitch: Yeah, I guess, and to your point; other people definitely did have that idea, I didn’t listen to all that many but the ones I did listen to didn’t strike me as being very entertaining of their own accord. I feel like, for the most part, podcasts that might be dissecting movies or TV shows, if the hosts can’t stand up to be entertaining regardless of what they’re talking about, I tune out pretty quickly. I thought well, if we’re going to do it our point of difference – the only point of difference – is who you are. There’s nothing stopping anyone in the world with a microphone and access to the internet from doing the same show, apart from the fact that no one else in the world is us.
The Neversphere: You guys are entertainingly talking about something that is entertaining. That seems to be the main point of difference. Other Simpsons themed podcasts seem to just talk through the motions of an episode but you guys have this banter element, and a pacing to the humour which matches that of an actual Simpsons episode, if that makes sense…
Dando: We’re fallen a bit more into our own of late but I felt like the way we would talk in any given episode would directly correlate to the episode. If it was an irreverent episode that didn’t have a lot of important things to say, then we would carry on in the same tone. We would bring our own external stuff to it because there was less to dissect. Whereas if it was a more serious episode that had a lot more going on, we’d talk more deeply about whatever it was. We tried to mirror the episode to a certain extent.
The Neversphere: How different is the structure of any given episode to the original idea of what you set out to make?
Dando: This was the show that I had always wanted to make. But, to say I was confident I’d be able to pull it off…I wasn’t too sure. I had never met him. We met two weeks before we started, that sounds about right doesn’t it, Mitch?
Mitch: About that, yeah. I think we had one dinner together beforehand.
Dando: In the first episodes you can tell we don’t really know each other. Now, when you listen to the current episodes I feel we’re so much more confident in ourselves, and in our relationship. We feel confident enough to banter about our personal lives for ten minutes and not feel like we’re boring people.
The Neversphere: For me personally, I was thrilled to finally find a community who felt a similar sense of comfort with The Simpsons, I never saw it as a children’s cartoon, and you guys don’t treat it as one. Do you get similar feedback from your listeners?
Mitch: Massively. that probably has been the biggest surprise – the amount of engagement just from people who have listened. I’m not a name that you’d be googling. I love that anyone who’s found the show has found it organically. Whether it was through word of mouth or googling the show. But they didn’t stick around because ‘Mitch and Dando’ were doing this. If anything, they saw our names, shrugged and thought ‘Oh well, it’s about The Simpsons so let’s see what it’s like anyway.
From there, we’ve been able to cultivate that reaction you were just describing. Seeing how some of these guys interact online, you can see they’ve been starved for it in their day to day life. I think for some people it really did mean a lot to have a connection over The Simpsons. Now that it’s been uncorked, they’re going ballistic with it.
It is cool to have facilitated that. It was never a plan or a goal, but it’s been a nice side effect.
Dando: Before the podcast, I was just like our listeners. I didn’t have anyone I could discuss The Simpsons with. Which was one of the reasons I wanted to start the show. So, it’s been fantastic to be able to discuss The Simpsons each week, and having people all over the world interact, and want to be engaged with the conversation as well.
The Neversphere: I’m sure you knew just how many people would be fans of the podcast, but were you surprised by just how many people were drawn to it after you launched?
Mitch: Yes and no for me. The show was as big as it was, so everyone in my generation grew up watching it, virtually. I was a little surprised by how many people would be interested in a week by week dissection of something that happened so long ago. I get when Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul is on, that you’d want to download the podcast each week to pick up on what you’ve missed, and that helps feed your enjoyment of next week’s episode. But, it’s surprising that so many people would be excited about a Simpsons podcast now, given that it went to air nearly 30 years ago.
Dando: I reckon, Mitch, I feel like if the Simpsons were airing now there’d be so many more podcasts about The Simpsons, like there is for shows like Breaking Bad. That’s what got me into podcasts was listening to , and Talking Dead. I thought ‘How’s there not one about The Simpsons?’ That’s where the idea of the show actually started.
The Neversphere: What’s it like for you guys watching The Simpsons now. Are you able to chill out and enjoy the episode, or do you find yourselves constantly picking it apart?
Dando: It’s a bit up in the air. Sometimes I get a bit annoyed by it. I really, really try my best to enjoy it…but sometimes it’s a bit too hard, right Mitch?
Mitch: It can be. I can still watch it and switch my mind off but I’ve always been that person – probably from the age of 16 or 17 – I started, with any TV show or movie, I’m not just looking at what’s going on. I tend to be looking at the performances, the camera effects, and all that stuff as well. I can still enjoy a movie or TV show where all those things aren’t up to scratch, but I can also hear that voice in the back of my head going ‘Oh if only they did it this way…’
Dando: The show’s made for a new audience now, isn’t it?
Mitch: Yeah. I don’t like trashing the new episodes. Way too many people do it and for the most part, when you see an article like that online, it’s someone who’s just thought if they put ‘The Simpsons Is No Good Anymore’ in their headline, they’ll get attention.
The Neversphere: What response have you had from The Simpsons machine so far. That is, the actual core team who create it?
Dando: The people who we’ve interview seem to have enjoyed the episodes, haven’t they? I went to the Simpsons studios on my Honeymoon. We actually became friends with Nikki Isordia, the Animation production coordinator and she invited me to do a backstage tour. We were winding up for lunch and she introduced me to Mike B. Anderson and he’s one of the most popular directors in the history of the show, and he said he listened to our show! I fan-girled out, man.
Mitch: One thing we mentioned in the book was that everyone who works on the show, loves the show. It makes you appreciate it – even the new episodes – more. You might not think the quality is there, but the passion and the love for the show is there. Which is another reason why I get annoyed when people say The Simpsons is no good anymore there are still hundreds of people slaving away on that show and they’re trying to create the best product they can.
The Neversphere: You have such a great format already with the alternative titles, the review, opening fan mail…Are you planning on bringing in any more new elements or segments?
Mitch: I’ve been pitching an idea about genital hygiene that Dando keeps knocking back. Dando, you go, I just wanted to get the cheap joke in.
Dando: A lot of people write in and they say, ‘Once you get past the good seasons, are you going to keep doing the show?’ and the answer is yes, because there’s 500 other episodes out there that need to be reviewed. I’m quite interested because I’ve watched up to season 21-ish, but Mitch stopped at season 12. He’ll be watching it for the first time. I think it’ll be really interesting once we leave the ‘golden era’ episodes because Mitch will be experiencing it for the first time.
Mitch: For me, my philosophy from the very first episode up until this week has been, to an extent, we’ll wing it each week. We’ve got an idea of what we’ve want, but different things evolve as it goes along and it will always be driven by whether or not someone is paying attention. If people say ‘Nup, we don’t want that anymore’ we’ll have to come up with something else.
The Neversphere: The Simpsons is great for a laugh, but sometimes it gets very real and deep. You’ve spoken a lot about your favourite episodes, but I’d like to know your favourite pieces of wisdom or advice that you’ve taken away from The Simpsons.
Mitch: Alright, well I’ll throw out Marge telling Lisa that it’s OK to be sad, and it’s OK to be yourself. That was a super adult lesson to be teaching. The Simpsons isn’t some kids show, but it’s presented as one and it has kids watching it. So that was a really cool thing to throw in. It wasn’t a joke, but it’s a moment that makes you sit up.
Dando: I think Lisa The Vegetarian goes a long way in teaching younger viewers tolerance. Not just regarding vegetarianism but it can be applied to religion – anything. This is what I learned watching it as a kid; Just because you don’t believe in what someone else believes in, doesn’t mean that I’m right and their wrong…
…You just have to learn to accept and tolerate others.
You can check out Four Finger Discount via their official website. Though we strongly recommend following their socials too.