The Only Simpsons Chalkboard Gags That Have Ever Changed In Reruns

"I will not waste chalk." This is the first phrase eternal troublemaker Bart Simpson wrote on an animated blackboard in the opening credits of the second-ever episode of "The Simpsons." That was in January 1990, and though the seminal cartoon sitcom's "chalkboard gags" (as they'd soon be known) have ebbed and flowed in frequency over the years, it's safe to say that Bart has, by now, written thousands of words on that same old dusty board.

The typical, classic "Simpsons" chalkboard gag is written in Bart's voice –- unapologetic and ornery, as if he's blowing a giant raspberry in the face of authority. In the decades since the visual joke caught on, though, the chalkboard gags have become more meta and at times offered knowing winks at the state of the world that clearly come directly from the show's writers' room. In "The Simpsons Movie," for example, Bart writes "I will not illegally download this movie." When Donald Trump was elected as President in 2016, an outlandish turn of events that "The Simpsons" had jokingly predicted way back in season 11, Bart wrote, "Being right sucks."

The chalkboard gag by now feels like an art form, and it's one that, when done well, can inspire laughter or even tears. When the actor who played Mrs. Krabappel for much of the show's run, Marcia Wallace, passed away, Bart wrote his message on the board just once: "We'll really miss you, Mrs. K." 35 seasons into its run, "The Simpsons" still recognizes the art of a quick, powerful visual — comedic or otherwise.

A political gaffe inspired a last-minute Simpsons joke

Chalk might be easy to wipe away, but most of the chalkboard gags in "Simpsons" history have been immortalized in reruns of the series and on streaming (the whole series is currently available on Disney+). Still, there have been just a handful times in the show's lengthy history — five, by our count — in which the chalkboard gag did get erased, replaced with another one-liner specifically for syndication. The first example of this came in season 2, in "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish," otherwise known as "the one that introduced Blinky the three-eyed fish."

Unlike other switch-ups for syndication that trade in topical messages for more generic ones, the Blinky episode actually started with a pretty basic message that was later upgraded for one specific rerun. Bart's initial message was "I will not Xerox my butt," a classic Bart statement. But when the episode reran in June 1992, a full year and a half after its original air date, it had changed to something different: "It's potato, not potatoe." While this statement probably seems random to anyone who wasn't of voting age in the early '90s, it was immediately recognizable at the time as a dig at Vice President Dan Quayle, who became the butt of countless jokes when he corrected a child — incorrectly — at an elementary school spelling bee press op the week before the "Simpsons" rerun aired.

The Simpsons writers once forgot to vet a 'fake' website they showed on screen

The story was relayed in Simon Horobin's book "Does Spelling Matter?" In the introduction, Horobin writes that Quayle "presided over a spelling bee at a school in New Jersey [...] one of the words he was given to read out was 'potato' and 12-year-old William Figueroa duly wrote the word on the board." The kid got the word right, but Quayle didn't: "You've almost got it," he reportedly said at the time, "but it has an 'e' on the end." An embarrassing symbol of everything wrong with the George H.W. Bush administration, this was a political gaffe that was too fun to pass up: David Letterman interviewed "the potato kid" the next week, and "The Simpsons," then quickly becoming the pre-eminent form of cultural comedy, also weighed in with a chalkboard insult implying that even Bart Simpson can spell "potato."

Not every "Simpsons" chalkboard change-up was satirically relevant. In a November 1998 episode, according to numerous "Simpsons" reference sites and fan message boards (plus the DVD commentary), Bart originally wrote " is not my e-mail address." It's a silly joke that doesn't entirely make sense, but since it appeared during the dot-com bubble when more people were getting online than ever, the joke apparently drove plenty of viewers to check out the real website of the same name. That site was, unsurprisingly, home to a lot of porn. Reruns changed the site to the even less coherent "butt.butt" and from that point on, "The Simpsons" seemed to be more careful about which "fake" websites it showed on screen.

A live-action version of the Simpsons intro aired in America for one night only

As the show entered the 21st century, it faced new competition in the form of edgier, meaner comedies like "South Park" and "The Office," and the comedians behind both shows ended up influencing couch gags that were changed for reruns. In 2006, comedian Ricky Gervais, who created the original U.K. version of "The Office," penned an episode of "The Simpsons" he also guest starred in. Fans who watched "Homer Simpson, This is Your Wife" live got a special treat, as a live-action version of the opening credits — complete with a child actor playing Bart — was shown in place of the traditional animated opening.

This introduction only played once, and was replaced in reruns by a more typical animated opening in which Bart writes "I will not laminate dog doo" (in the live-action version he wrote, "I will not eat things for money"). While no one involved in the show has explained the change, it seems possible that it was rights-related. According to Londonist, the live-action intro was originally created as a commercial for British channel Sky One, and by the time it popped up in the real show, it had already aired countless times overseas. Though the intro doesn't appear in conjunction with the episode on streaming, you can still find it on YouTube.

The Simpsons (sort of) commented on South Park's biggest controversy

The show's "South Park" reference was more polarizing, which isn't surprising given, well, everything about "South Park." Trey Parker and Matt Stone's controversy-courting animated series garnered serious attention in 2010 when the show included a plotline related to the Muslim prophet Muhammed. Ahead of the episode, the creators received death threats due to their apparent plan to portray the prophet (many Muslims consider visual representations of prophets forbidden), and when the two-parter aired, it was heavily censored by Comedy Central. This ignited a conversation about censorship in the comedy world, and "The Simpsons" weighed in via chalkboard gag.

"South Park, we'd stand beside you if we weren't so scared," Bart wrote in an April 2010 chalkboard bit. At the time, the gag was apparently well-received, though it's clear that public conversations surrounding the "South Park" situation also blurred the lines between free speech and post Bush-era Islamophobia. It's unclear when exactly the chalkboard gag in support of "South Park" changed, but if you watch it on streaming now, Bart writes the much tamer phrase "Je ne suis pas français," which translates to "I am not French," on the board. It seems likely that this chalkboard gag, much like the Dan Quayle bit, was changed last minute before airing (the second half of the controversial "South Park" two-parter had just premiered four days earlier). With that in mind, it would make sense that a previous chalkboard gag had already been animated before the more timely version was added in, and that's the one that ended up in circulation later on.

Bart once had to apologize to Metalheads

The final abandoned chalkboard joke is perhaps the most bizarre out of context. In the January 2014 episode "Married to the Blob," Bart writes, "Judas Priest is not death metal" on the board. If this doesn't seem like a joke, that's because it's not; it's an actual act of contrition, a cheeky apology via the show's animated avatar. The week before, a star-studded episode featured Paul Rudd, Channing Tatum, Seth Rogen, and Leslie Mann, but it also included a guest appearance by Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford. The show mistakenly called Judas Priest "death metal" several times, a writing choice that drew the ire of some surprisingly angry fans.

"I don't care if you want to have fun at metal's expense," Stereogum's Michael Nelson, one of several music writers who weighed in, wrote (according to The Guardian), "but if you brazenly mix up black metal and death metal — and the essence of the joke hinges on getting that reference right — well, that's just lazy writing and it deserves to be called out and mocked relentlessly." While "The Simpsons" has generated some serious controversies over the years, this is one instance where the reaction to the episode is funnier than the under-baked joke itself. At any rate, Bart only wrote the apology the first time the episode aired, with subsequent reruns replacing it with yet another call to (relatively mild) chaos: "If you haven't broken your Christmas presents yet, you're not trying." Classic.