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‘The Simpsons’ has been on the air for 34 years. Why a character’s shocking death is rare for the series.

Spoiler alert: This article contains details about the “Cremains of the Day” episode of The Simpsons.

The Simpsons fans were shocked when an original character was killed off in the show’s April 21 episode, “Cremains of the Day” — something that’s only been done eight other times in the show’s 34-year history.

The episode, which was the 15th installment of Season 35, saw the death of longtime Moe’s Tavern patron Lawrence Dalrymple — aka Larry “The Barfly.” While the character didn’t play a large role in the series, his death still resonated with audiences.

According to Tim Long, co-executive producer of The Simpsons, it doesn’t matter how small Larry’s role was, because characters on The Simpsons don’t die often — “so, it’s a huge deal when they do,” he told TMZ.

In fact, Larry is only the ninth recurring character to have been killed off during The Simpsons’ more than three-decade run — likely in order to maintain the show’s comedic heart, according to Mike Amato, who maintains a blog about The Simpsons.

The character was a regular at Moe's along with Homer Simpson. (Photo credit: © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. /Courtesy Everett Collection)The character was a regular at Moe's along with Homer Simpson. (Photo credit: © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. /Courtesy Everett Collection)

The character was a regular at Moe’s along with Homer Simpson. (Photo credit: © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. /Courtesy Everett Collection)

“Deaths of recurring characters don’t really happen often on this series,” Amato told Yahoo Entertainment.

“Even though this series has told very emotional and poignant episodes about death from the early seasons, I get how [the writers] aren’t eager to write a story about characters grieving someone’s loss in a funny ‘ha-ha’ comedy show,” he added.

For Amato (who has been blogging his journey in rewatching the series, episode by episode, since 2011) The Simpsons is an all-encompassing social satire and never one to shy away from tough topics — but those emotionally fraught moments have to be mixed with humor.

“The show was always at its best when they could balance the more honest and serious emotional elements with humor,” Amato said. “Some of the crowning moments of this series are when I find myself laughing and tearing up at the same time.”

While Larry might not be as famous as other side characters from the long-running show — such as Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns or Krusty the Clown — he’s appeared in nearly every season since the show’s premiere episode in 1989, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.”

Since then, Larry was often depicted in scenes set in Moe’s Tavern drinking alongside buddies Homer, Lenny, Carl, Barney and Sam (another enigmatic barfly seen throughout the series).

However, if some viewers failed to notice Larry, they’re not alone. In “Cremains of the Day,” after attending Larry’s funeral, Homer and the Moe’s Tavern crew reflect on how little they knew about their longtime drinking companion — even though Larry considered them his best friends and referred to the group as “Moe’s Bros.”

While the cause of Larry’s death is unknown — after Moe kicks everyone out, Larry sits unmoving at the end of the bar until his friends finally realize he’s deceased — it’s a significant move.

Larry joins a very short list of characters on The Simpsons who have been killed off: “Bleeding Gums” Murphy (1995), Frank Grimes (1997), Maude Flanders (2000), Amber Simpson (2006), Clancy Bouvier (2006), Mona Simpson (2008), Fat Tony (2010) and Edna Krabappel (2013).

As the longest-running American animated, sitcom and scripted primetime television series, The Simpsons has amassed millions of fans worldwide, many of whom have been watching the show their entire lives.

While Homer and the Moe’s Tavern gang might not have paid much attention to Larry, superfans have — and they’re feeling his loss deeply.

According to Long, the creative team wanted Larry’s death to have an emotional impact on fans.

“I’m sorry if some fans are upset, but we really wanted to use Larry’s death as a way to show that even the most peripheral people in our lives have dignity and worth, and that we really shouldn’t take anyone for granted,” reported Variety.

Al Jean, showrunner and executive producer of The Simpsons, declined to comment.

“Cremains of the Day” is now streaming on Disney+.



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