Screenshot: The Constant Agony of Hans Moleman (YouTube)

With a city as well-populated as Springfield, it can be difficult to decide which of the many colorful background Simpsons characters is your favorite. We’re willing to bet, though, that creaky Hans Moleman is near the top of most people’s lists. The shriveled, squinty-eyed senior citizen has taken the brunt of some extra-physical comedy over the years, yet, still, little is known about Moleman’s origins. Recently, Vulture spoke with executive producer Al Jean and a handful of other Simpsons writers to try and finally answer the question: Who is Hans Moleman?

According to Jean, when Moleman made his debut in the season two episode “Principal Charming,” the show’s creator Matt Groening took an immediate disliking to him. “It really stood out as being kind of not a Simpsons regular design, almost like a mole, though in human form,” says Jean, noting that there was a rule on the show at the time that background characters shouldn’t be more bizarre-looking or distracting than the principal cast. But the writers saw something special in this pathetically feeble old man and continued to bring him back for more abuse and societal indifference.

“I like to use Hans Moleman to illustrate that even the most wonderful events have a downside,” writer Tim Long tells Vulture. “He’s straight out of Samuel Beckett, a man who can get out of bed in the morning but at the same time recognize his own crushing isolation.”

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The versatility and resilience of Hans Moleman is part of what makes him so entertaining. No matter how many times he gets trampled, run over, blown up, or hit in the groin with a football, he’ll always be back for more. “He’s been blessedly free of any change or growth, any learning or any knowledge,” Jean says. “He’s the same lovable loser stuck in a line.”

Read Vulture’s full analysis here.

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