Here’s one more tribute to John Updike, who died yesterday at the age of 76: “Insane Clown Poppy,” The Simpsons episode in which Mr. Updike made a cameo (along with Tom Wolfe, Stephen King, and Amy Tan).
In the book Updike in Cincinnati (Ohio University Press, 2007), the author explains how he came to appear on the show in 2000:
I used to watch The Simpsons faithfully until they changed the hour when it was shown, and it suddenly no longer fit with my domestic rhythm. So I can’t claim to be a morbidly avid fan, but I’m basically well disposed towards The Simpsons, and was flattered to be asked to be one of the many voices that they work into the endless saga of Springfield. I was shown the script which I would have to perform, and it consisted of saying, “John Updike,” which I thought I could do since I’d done it before, and producing a chuckle. A chuckle. Well, that proved to be the hard part of the performance. I went to a Boston sound studio and a young man—I assume he was young, he sounded young to me, most men have become young to me—coached me through it from an L.A. sound studio. In the full plot of all this, Krusty the Clown has invited me to write his biography—well, not invited me, but persuaded me, and I’ve written it as part of the factual basis of this plot. But he is so rude to me, so slighting of my talents, that when he suffers some embarrassment at a child’s hands, I chuckle. So how do you chuckle over a microphone three thousand miles to make it worthy of The Simpsons? That was tough …
Skip ahead to the 5:50 mark in this video to see if Mr. Updike pulled it off.