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In the Simpsons episode Sunday Cruddy Sunday (S10E12), Homer, Wally and others head to the Super Bowl.

When Homer asks Moe if he'd be interested in going to the Super Bowl he said he'd love to as his favourite team were playing:

Moe: "The Atlanta Falcons"

He covers his mouth with a beer mug when he's saying this. Homer does the same when he says

Homer: "The Denver Broncos"

and then Wally does the same when he mentions the Clintons.

Was there a particular reason for them covering their mouth or just to be a bit strange?

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up vote 22 down vote accepted

The episode was aired on the same day as Super Bowl XXXIII and the writers want the episode to seem current. They had already animated the scene and it would have been very awkward to re-animate the whole scene just to put the team names in.

So they just held up a glass over the mouth so they wouldn't have to animate their mouths to match the sound.

They did the same when Wally was mentioning the Clintons as Bill was being impeached at the time so they weren't sure if he would still be President when the program aired. They were also poking fun at the fact that Hilary mightn't be his wife either when it aired.

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1  
Would the animation of the mouth change radically for different words? or was it an internal Joke? – fdisk Jan 15 '13 at 23:50
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I thought it was a joke about the use of the episodes in reruns. – Dan Jan 16 '13 at 0:02
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This isn't really the right answer though. At least, it's not complete. The reason they did this is because it's funny. It's a joke. The practical aspect could have been handled any number of ways, so that was not the actual primary reason. – DA. Feb 8 at 16:18
    
@DA. Feel free to adress this in a separate answer, since I would definitely agree with you that the joke was the primary purpose of the whole matter and I feel this answer doesn't really adress that in full. – Napoleon Wilson Feb 8 at 16:31
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@cde, again, it's a joke. Not a technical or logistical hurdle that wasn't insurmountable via any other solution. – DA. Feb 8 at 18:12

A typical Simpsons episode takes 6-8 months to do one episode according to Simpsons creator Matt Groeing. Of course, they are creating multiple episodes at a time, but from the starting ideas to finish episode, it takes months.

The average time between the last game of the NFL Conference Championship and the Superbowl is 2 weeks or less. In 1999, the Conference Championship was January 23rd, and the Super Bowl was 7 days later, on January 30th.

This was the day before the Simpsons episode "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday" aired on January 31st.

The reason they cover their mouths, out-of-universe, is simple. They wanted to air an episode about the then current Super Bowl, without the complications of redrawing the scenes in a week, or multiple times. By hiding the mouths, they could quickly dub the team names in. Alternatively, they could have animated the mouths to fit multiple team names, but that would be much more costly.

According to Wikipedia, who cite the episode writer Mike Scully's Commentary for "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday", in The Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season DVD set:

Originally, the characters would be saying something else, however, because the staff wanted the episode to be "current", new dialogue was recorded for the scene. Because there was no time to animate the scene from scratch, the staff simply made the characters hold a glass in front of their mouths while saying their lines.

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It's comedy. It's a joke. Contrary to the other two answers, this was not any sort of scheduling or technical limitation.

The joke is that the audience knows cartoons such as the Simpsons are created months ahead (South Park being one of the few exceptions to this rule).

The mugs-in-front-of-the-mouth is just a very obvious nod to that. Note the comedic timing of the inserted audio for each statement of the team. It's simply a joke.

In fact, it's a more complicated solution than other solutions:

  • cut away from the character as they state the team
  • animate the mouth generically
  • don't use a close-up as they speak the name
  • don't repeat the gag so many times (Of course, that's what made it a joke in the first place).

As for Clinton/Hilary part...the joke there is that the character Fred Willard doesn't get the joke the show is making. His character is rather oblivious throughout the entire show. Again, because it's funny. :)

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1  
While being the only answer that cuts to the core of it, it still fails to adress why it is funny. When will we just say it straight out. They simply imply that Clinton might not be president anymore at all. His presidency is as uncertain as the Superbowl contenders. – Napoleon Wilson Feb 8 at 18:24
    
I admit I have no citation for this. CDE's answer actually does, so I think in the context of SO, that one is more correct. However, I don't have access to the full commentary of said DVD that the Wikipedia article references. I'd like to think there was something lost in translation between his actual commentary and the transcribed comments. – DA. Feb 8 at 18:24
    
@NapoleonWilson I think that could be the joke...or the intended joke, but I read it much differently as simply Fred Willard's character being a dunce. He just didn't get the joke that was being portrayed (remember, he plays a really gullible character the entire episode). Of course, maybe both interpretations are correct. – DA. Feb 8 at 18:25
    
You're thinking it's a joke for the sake of a joke. Instead, its a joke for the sake of fixing a problem. They had a problem (production time vs intended topic) and found a funny solution. – cde Feb 8 at 18:46
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@cde yea, that logic can go both ways, I suppose. I'd argue that the Simpsons writers are huge fans of jokes-for-the-sake-of-jokes, so would suggest this is the more obvious reasoning ("hey, that's funny!") – DA. Feb 8 at 19:00

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