Last week's New Yorker contained a "Talk of the Town" piece about Yeardley Smith, who provides Lisa Simpson's voice.
Smith is compact and petite, with kidlike features—eyes like frosted blueberries, pink lips, short blond wedge of hair. Her voice, though slightly squeaky, is not as high as Lisa's. People often beg her to do the Lisa voice on command ("Can you call my five-year-old daughter over the telephone and wish her a happy birthday as Lisa Simpson?"), but she needs a script to channel Lisa properly. To demonstrate, she grabbed a tin of Altoids from the dressing-room table and read from the lid in an aggrieved, hopeful lisp: "'The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Wintergreen Artificially Flavored Mints.'" Lisa.
When Smith's agent wanted her to audition for Lisa, back in 1986, when "The Simpsons" was to be a series of short spots on "The Tracey Ullman Show," she balked. "I went, you know, 'I don't wanna!' My mind was still on being the most famous actress in the world, and that didn't include doing a cartoon." But she went anyway. "They said, O.K., super, you got the job, easy-peasy."
"My theory," she said, "is that Lisa Simpson is a reflection of most of our writers and the plight they survived as young people—that they were the smart ones, that they were different, that they were socially not as integrated, that they weren't athletic. I think they're all working out their own angst in Lisa Simpson." This month, while "More" is still playing, Smith will be taping Lisa's next season. "She's a great little girl—extremely bright and thoughtful and an old soul," she said. Lisa may be celebrating just her eighth birthday this year, but it's for the sixteenth time.