The Real Life Inspirations For 14 Simpsons Characters

I don’t know about you guys, but I love The Simpsons and I must say that getting to watch The Simpsons while writing about the show was a dream come true for me. Getting to learn about the stories behind many of my favorite characters made this one of the most fun articles I’ve written for Neatorama so far. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Barney Gumble

Barney was based on a drunkard character named “Crazy” Guggenheim that was in the “Joe the Bartender” sketches of The Jackie Gleason Show. Matt Groening wanted him to be the most pathetic sitcom sidekick ever and he always wanted to break the unspoken rules of television that made it taboo to have alcohol serve as the source of comedy. As for his name, it was based on another popular comedy character, Barney Rubble of The Flintstones.

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Bart Simpson

While Bart’s name is just an anagram of "brat", the character was largely based on Matt Groening’s older brother. On top of that, the character is an extreme version of a bratty child, and Groening incorporated all of the bad traits from Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Dennis the Menace.

Bleeding Gums Murphy

Image via Hans Reitzema [Wikipedia]

Bleeding Gums’ character design is loosely based on the now deceased saxophone player LeRoi Moore, who played for the Dave Matthews band. His character is believed to be a homage to saxophone player Sonny Rollins, who quit his jazz career to play by himself on a bridge.

Bumblebee Man

Bumblebee Man is the Simpson’s version of a popular Mexican television character known as El Chapulin Colorado (The Red Grasshopper). The show’s producers said that whenever they watched Telemundo, the character seemed to always be on the screen, which served as inspiration for Bumblebee Man to always be on TV as well.

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Charles Montgomery Burns

Image via James Duncan Davidson [Wikipedia]

The city’s most diabolical millionaire was based on a number of tycoons including the Rockefellers, but a main inspiration for the character was Fredrik Olsen, a reclusive mogul who owned a number of companies, including Timex. Another source for Mr. Burns personality came from Matt Groening's his high school teacher, Mr. Bailey.

The look of the character was based on Fox founder Barry Diller (seen above) and a praying mantis.

Doctor Julius Hibbert

When Doctor Hibbert first appeared, he wasn’t based on anyone specific, but when The Simpsons were moved to the same time slot as The Cosby Show, the staff thought it was appropriate to make him a character of Dr. Huxtable, Cosby’s character on the show.


Bud Man's superhero advertising character is a direct inspiration for Duffman. The catchphrase “Oh Yeah” came from the song of the same name by Yello, which was a popular advertising tune during the eighties, which fit right in with Duffman’s persona.

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Jimbo Jones

If you like the bully, John Bender, from The Breakfast Club and you like Jimbo, there’s a reason for that; Jimbo is based on the Brat Pack character. His name, on the other hand, has a source much closer to the show’s heart…he was named for executive producer James L. Brooks.

Krusty The Clown

Image via Carl Lender [Wikipedia]

Many Simpsons fans already know that Krusty the Clown was based on a television clown that Matt Groening watched as a child, named Rusty Nails. On the other hand, fewer people know that Krusty’s biography is largely based on the life of comedian Jackie Mason (seen above), who was the son of an orthodox rabbi. Mason voices Krusty’s father, which must have been cathartic for him during the first episode he was cast in.

Moe Syzlak

Moe was largely based on a two people, one of the main inspirations was Louis "Red" Deutsch, a boxer-turned-bartender made famous when tapes of prank calls made to his bar were released to the public. Two Jersey City pranksters repeatedly called him and when he started to catch on, he started angrily threatening the callers and their families. This played directly into Bart’s phone relationship with Moe throughout the series.

Another inspiration for Moe was comedian Rich Hall, who was friends with writer George Meyer.

Nelson Muntz

Nelson was also based on John Bender to some extent, and his name is not only a reference to the full nelson wrestling hold, but also to Judd Nelson, the actor who portrayed John Bender in The Breakfast Club. Nelson has even more in common with John Bender than Jimbo does, particularly when it comes to personality and his home life.

Professor John Frink Jr.

Originally the geeky inventor we’ve all grown to love was supposed to be a mad scientist, but when Hank Azaria first voiced him, he did an impression of Jerry Lewis’ Nutty Professor and everyone loved it, so the writers changed the script around to make him more goofy.

Troy McClure

While it’s easy to see that Troy is more of a stereotypical Hollywood wash up than a caricature of any one specific person, his name is based on two B-movie actors: Troy Donahue and Doug McClure. Doug’s daughter said that while her dad considered it an honor to have such an iconic character named after him, she still enjoyed talking back to him by calling him “Troy.”

The Yes Guy

Although he has no real name, every fan is familiar with the mustachioed character that constantly says “yeeeessss.” The character is a tribute to Frank Nelson’s many appearances on The Jack Benny Program and other shows of the period. His trademark was the same “yeeeeesssss” that Yes Guy is known for.

There are tons of Simpsons characters out there, who’s your favorite? And do any of you know any other stories behind the characters?

Source: Simpsons Wiki

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How can the character design for Bleeding Gums be based off the guy from the Dave Matthews Band? He was first introduced in 1990, before LeRoi Moore even met Dave Matthews!
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I heard that Bart was modeled on the famous Diane Arbus photo of the boy with the toy had grenade, and that after Matt Groening got rich, he bought a print.
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