Lunchlady Doris

After Simpsons voice actress Doris Grau passed away in 1995, her character Lunchlady Doris remained in the show. Or so we thought! It turns out that at some point in the series Doris was silently replaced with a pod person named “Lunchlady Dora,” who just happens to look and sound exactly like her.

Out of respect for the late Phil Hartman, his characters Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure were completely retired from the show (well, eventually… they still made occasional background appearances until 2003). This wasn’t the case for Lunchlady Doris, who lurked silently in the background for years.

Her silence was broken in a 2009 episode, when Tress MacNeille took over the role with a pretty dead-on impression. Some viewers felt recasting the character was disrespectful to Grau. However, it turns out it was actually a “new” character, “Lunchlady Dora,” a loophole that made the move perfectly ethical. Although MacNeille was credited as Lunchlady Dora in that episode’s press release, this little change was not mentioned in the actual show until 2013, when Groundskeeper Willie casually mentioned making sweet love to Lunchlady Dora (my fanfic came true!), and a second time in last night’s episode, where Dora is mentioned in the school newspaper. AV Club writer Sean O’Neal tweeted about it, assuming it was a typo, which lead Michael Price to set the record straight and confirm it’s a “different” character:

Well, now that there’s precedent for döppelganger replacement, we can all look forward to the never-ending adventures of Mr. Kurns, Jed Flanders and Principal Skynnyr once Harry Shearer decides to quit.

[Twitter via No Homers Club]


Back in February, beloved Twitter user and occasional film critic Roger Ebert went on Oprah to show off his fancy new computer voice. In an article on the subject, Ebert went into detail about the technology used to create the voice:

One day I was moseying around the Web and found the name of a company in Edinburgh named CereProc. They claimed they could build voices for specific customers. They had demos of the voices of George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. (I amused myself by having them argue with each other.) In August 2009, I sent an e-mail to Scotland and heard back from Paul Welham, the president of CereProc, and Graham Leary, one of their programming geniuses.

They said they needed good quality audio to work with.


Before I lost my voice due to cancer-related surgery, I’d recorded commentary tracks for some movies on DVD: “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca,” “Floating Weeds,” “Dark City” and, ah, “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.” These tracks had been recorded separately from the movies, so they could be edited to fit scenes. They might be “pure” audio.


This began a back-and-forth process with CereProc, which had to transcribe every recording with perfect accuracy so they could locate every word.

What’s stopping an unscrupulous Fox executive from harnessing CereProc’s technology for evil, and ensuring The Simpsons continues forever, with no need for participation from the voice actors and their pathetic mortality? The engineers would have a lot of pure audio to work with: two decades’ worth of episodes, video games, commercials and a movie, plus hours and hours of outtakes that are probably sitting in a Fox vault somewhere. Fox has made no secret of its disdain for the handsomely paid cast; during contract re-negotiations in 1999, they were told they could be easily replaced by college kids. The show itself has used replacements occasionally – Marcia Mitzman Gaven was brought in to voice Maude Flanders, Ms. Hoover, and Helen Lovejoy after Maggie Roswell left the show, and in recent seasons Lunchlady Doris (voiced by the late Doris Grau) has been given speaking roles after more than a decade of silence.

Plus, if they start using cheaper Flash animation (like the exquisite Superjail!) and outsource the writing to a computer algorithm (which has already happened), Fox will have cut costs dramatically, thus making the show still profitable (did you know it costs like $3 million an episode??) despite its declining ratings.



In a quick review of “The Simpsons Handbook,” a how-to-draw Simpsons book that came out earlier this year, The Courier-Journal identifies the authors as voice actresses “Doris Grau and Marcia Mitzman Gaven.” One problem: Grau, voice of Lunchlady Doris, died in 1995.

To be fair, Amazon lists them as the authors as well. [courier-journal.com]