Nancy Cartwright

By Sharon K. Woulfe

"Bart's Voice a Real Character "
© The Pantagraph, November 3, 2001.

Stories shared about popular 'Simpsons' show

BLOOMINGTON -- Actress Nancy Cartwright, voice of cartoon superstar Bart Simpson and other characters, says she has "the best job on the planet."

"I've got so many fans," she told an enthusiastic Illinois Wesleyan University audience Friday night.

More than 400 chairs were filled at the Memorial Student Center's Main Lounge, with others standing in the back as she told her stories. IWU's Student Senate sponsored Cartwright's appearance.

She said that on a flight to London about 1{ years ago, a flight attendant asked her if she was the voice of Bart -- the 10-year-old wisecracking underachiever on the syndicated series "The Simpsons" -- and she then spent two hours in the cockpit with the pilots, who were huge fans of the show.

When it came time for announcements before landing, they asked Cartwright to go on, and Bart assured the passengers the pilots had not been drinking and said the plane would be "landing in Tokyo in about 20 seconds."

When actress Meryl Streep made a celebrity appearance on the show, Cartwright really wanted her autograph but was afraid to ask for it.

But then, she said, there was a tap on her shoulder. Streep said her kids were great Simpson fans and she would be in big trouble if she did not get Cartwright's autograph.

Cartwright, who has provided voices for many cartoon characters and played on-camera roles in television and movies, realized she enjoyed making people laugh when she won a school contest at age 10. In junior high, she perfected sneezes, hiccups and other sound effects to get out of class.

She was on the speech team in high school in Dayton, Ohio, and then later in college. Cartwright was good enough at altering her voice and becoming different characters that speech contest judges suggested she do voices for commercials or cartoon characters.

She had a job scooping ice cream when someone from a local radio station asked her to create a character for a show. While at the station, she met someone from Warner Brothers who had come into the station.

While still a college student, she moved to the Los Angeles area and attended UCLA, and one thing led to another. And for the last 15 years, "The Simpsons" has been going strong.

In a fast-paced two-hour presentation -- interspersed with video clips of the Simpsons as well as a look at the production of the show, which includes a full orchestra -- she also answered some audience questions.

She said she still does not know where Bart's catch phrase "Don't have a cow" came from -- it was just written in the script.

But "eat my shorts" is a different story. When Cartwright was in high school marching band in Dayton, Ohio, the phrase was part of the chant they used to keep in step. After it was aired on the show, she said, "the next thing I know, it was on a T-shirt."

When asked where the Simpsons' hometown of Springfield was, she replied, "I think it's in 38 states," then said Springfield was anywhere a person wanted it to be.

Another audience question concerned the effect of the sometimes irreverent show upon children.

"I take responsibility for raising my kids and teaching them right and wrong," she said. She said it is wrong to blame entertainment-industry influences for children's poor behavior.

The show, she said, has garnered 19 Emmy and Peabody awards and "is satire at its best."

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Last updated on September 22, 2002 by Jouni Paakkinen (