How 'The Simpsons' Works

Springfield, USA
People gather in front of a Simpsons mural in Springfield, Oregon, the city many people once believed was the namesake of the animated Springfield. FOX via Getty Images

Springfield, the town where "The Simpsons" is set, is a major part of the show's success because it's so adaptable — literally anything can happen. Paradoxically, it's a stand-in for every small town in the U.S., with friendly neighbors and an "everybody knows your name" feel. But it also hosts multiple universities, sports teams and stadiums, a major airport, a monorail and several significant landmarks (like a gorge, a volcano, a tire fire and a Mystery Spot).

Groening chose the name "Springfield" partly because it's a common one in the U.S., and the writers intentionally play with the idea that the town's specific location is impossible to determine. They've hidden it on maps, prevented characters from talking about it or described it in impossible ways (like when Ned said the state it's in borders Kentucky, Maine, Nevada and Ohio ... which is a geographic impossibility). Groening said he named the town after Springfield, Oregon, in an interview, leading people to think the northwestern city was the show's actual setting. But an episode of the show that premiered soon after the interview debunked the myth in Bart's chalkboard gag, where he writes "the true location of Springfield is in any state but yours" [source: Busis].

There are hundreds of stores, museums, hotels, restaurants, bars, schools and other locations in Springfield, but some are more prominent than others. There's the Kwik-E-Mart, operated by Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. There's Mr. Burns' nuclear power plant, where Homer is paid for a job he is profoundly unqualified to do. Bart and Lisa attend school at Springfield Elementary, never aging through 30 years of episodes. Homer spends a lot of his free time drinking Duff beer at Moe's Tavern. Of course, the Simpson family is usually in their home, a modest suburban house with a polite, if overbearingly religious, neighbor named Ned.

Would you like to read about some of the gags "The Simpsons" is known for? Do you like information presented in an easily digestible bulleted list form? Well, continue reading!