The springs of Springfield: Database

You often see him in the background with the other brains of Springfield Elementary. His black curly hair and red glasses make him noticeable, but not remarkable. You often wonder what he is thinking. Then, when he opens his mouth, you remember — Database should never be allowed to talk.

Database is on the fringes of nerd society at Springfield Elementary. He’ll never achieve the recognition for his intelligence from teachers and fellow students the way that Martin Prince and Lisa Simpson do. His dialogue is often inserted into scenes, without any plot-driving effect and it never enhances a joke. He just says things with his nasal off-tone, and the result is comedic.

For example, in “Lemon of Troy,” he says “Oh, you mean going to Shelbyville? Heh, we’ll never make it out alive.” Not funny. But when Nancy Cartwright, who provides the voice for Database, adds her whiny, nerdish flair, the line becomes instantly hilarious.

Granted, he is a member of the Super Friends, an exclusive club for the intelligentsia of the school, but he has neither the leadership skills of Ham, who enjoys ham radio, or Report Card, for his eponymous academic achievements. In other words, he is an outcast, even from the outcasts.

Stan Lee, Marvel comics legend, has a cameo on The Simpsons in the episode “I am Furious Yellow.” Stan Lee comes into The Android’s Dungeon, the local comic book store, and finds Database trying to buy a Batman figure to go in his Batmobile. Stan Lee takes an oversized figure of The Thing and crams it into the Batmobile, claiming he made an improvement. It seems that Database is the nerd that other nerds pick on, even incredibly old ones like Stan Lee.

Database is even an outcast from some of the staff on the show. Matt Groening, creator of the Simpsons, absolutely hates Database. In the audio commentary for “The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show,” Groening states that Database’s voice is like “fingernails on a blackboard,” and he says “that voice drives me crazy.” Other commentators on the Simpsons DVDs typically agree that, while they love the character, Database would drive anyone crazy if he had too many lines. This love for Database, then, is only to a point.

But even Matt Groening, a proud nerd himself, has come around to Database a little. In the commentary for “Lemon of Troy,” executive producer David Mirkin says “Database used in moderation: brilliant.” After a second, Groening chimes in, “Like paprika.”