In an upcoming episode airing November 21 on Fox, the nerdy and loyal right-hand man (voiced by Harry Shearer) of the show's benignly evil Mr. Burns is swept off his feet and taken around the world on a whirlwind romance by billionaire fashion mogul Michael De Graaf (voiced by the veteran actor Victor Garber). Smithers came out in a groundbreaking 2016 episode, but has remained singled...until now, that is! Both episodes were penned by longtime series writer Rob LaZebnik, who revealed to the New York Post he had an assist from his gay son, Johnny, in the creation of both episodes.
"I am a Midwestern guy, so I don't tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I thought, 'What better way to tell my son I love him than to write a cartoon about it?'" Rob revealed to The Post at the time.
Out son Johnny (left) and father Rob LaZebnik (right) wrote the episode
"I know my dad is a comedy writer. I grew up with him. Obviously, I know he's a funny guy," Johnny, 27, revealed. "But actually getting to sit down and write jokes with him was so much fun. And there were some moments where I was like, 'Dad, that's disgusting -- we can't put that on television,' which I didn't expect to be saying because I'm usually the disgusting one."
While letting Smithers come out of the closet was a major achievement for visibility back in 2016, the father-son duo wanted to do more than just make another one-dimensional gay couple and relationship.
"So often, gay romances are a subplot or alluded to or shown in some kind of montage or as a punchline," Johnny continued. "And what I think I was really excited about, with this episode, we get to see -- without spoiling too much -- the beginning, middle and who knows how it ends of a gay relationship, of really getting into the nitty-gritty of how gay people date, how they meet, what it's like," he said. "That was really special to me to get to highlight characters who are not punchlines, who are fully formed."
Appropriately enough, the love interest of Smithers is voiced by out, Emmy-nominated actor Victor Garber (Titanic, Alias, Legally Blonde), who tied the knot with his longtime partner Rainer Andreesen back in 2015.
"I think it's crucially important that these stories are acknowledged," Garber, 72, told The Post. "I haven't played a lot of gay characters, but every time I do it, it brings back certain feelings I had as a young actor where I couldn't be gay."
Earlier this season, famed low-rent Crusty the Clown tried to cash in on Pride Month by introducing the LGBTQBLT sandwich at his struggling fast-food franchises.