‘Simpsons’ sets milestone

Fox toon celebrates 400th episode

HOLLYWOOD — 17 years later, Bart Simpson has grown up to be a good boy.

At “The Simpsons” 400th episode block party Tuesday night on the Fox lot, the skein’s creators and cast recalled their pioneer days of pushing primetime’s laugh envelope.

But the times have changed.

“We use to have those battles a lot, but we don’t as much anymore,” said Hank Azaria about the show’s early brushes with conservative and parent groups. ” ‘Family Guy’ gets racy, but because we’re an 8 p.m. show, we settled into a groove where we don’t go that far. We’ve become such a family show.”

Yeardley Smith, who voices Lisa Simpson, remembered pulling the plug on a potty-mouth scene in order to protect her character’s charming reputation.

“Lisa had a crush on a stable boy, and the way it was written was way too sexual,” Smith said. “One of the writers told me, ‘Yeardley, girls today are forward.’ To which I responded, ‘Well, I don’t know girls like that, and I don’t want my girl to be like that.’ ”

Creator Matt Groening‘s take on winning the hardliners over: They can only stay mad for so long before they move on to another target.

“I think you can make people laugh in spite of themselves,” explained Groening. “People weren’t use to ‘The Simpsons’ when it first came on the air. At the time, animation was known as children’s entertainment. We defined ourselves as entertainment for adults and did a lot of stuff you couldn’t do on Saturday morning.”

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