Dan Castellaneta has learned a lesson from Homer Simpson after doing his voice for the past 18 years.
"There's a lot of leeway given for bad behavior," Castellaneta says as he reflects on "The Simpsons'" 400th episode, which airs Sunday.
Well, maybe Castellaneta has a point.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Sun Herald
In the nearly two decades of "The Simpsons," Homer has stumbled a time or two. Oh, who are we kidding? Stumbling and bumbling are a way of life for the potbellied, yellow-skinned head of the Simpson household.
He has deceived his friends, blown up his town, divided his neighborhood -- and driven his wife, kids, pets, pastor, bar buddies, co-workers, bosses and more than one celebrity to distraction.
Homer might explain it another way. As he stated in one episode, "Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals, except the weasel."
But Castellaneta has a more prudent assessment: "He's done a lot of things. He's won a Grammy Award. He helped Mel Gibson re-cut a movie. He's had a very full life."
Week after week, all is forgiven, and Homer - a seemingly unassuming nuclear plant employee from Springfield (state unknown) -- gets a clean slate.
And as the venerable cartoon hits a milestone episode, Homer continues getting into trouble.
This week, he accidentally causes a local anchorman to be fired.
But for all the messes that Homer gets into, Castellaneta says he has a soft spot for the character.
That could be why Homer has endeared himself through hundreds of episodes, plus syndication. He seemingly can't wear out his welcome.
"He enjoys life," Castellaneta says. "He enjoys his TV. He enjoys his food. He really has no ambition to go beyond his station. He doesn't really want anything to bother or shake up what he's got going."
Neither does Castellaneta. "The Simpsons" has been his career maker. The Chicago native, once a member of the prestigious Second City comedy group, has had stints as a writer, an actor and a standup comic.
But winning the role of Homer in the 1980s, when the character was introduced on Fox's "The Tracy Ullman Show," put him on the map. He has won three Emmys over the years for the performance.
Because Castellaneta alters his speaking voice for Homer and his real-life face is never seen on the show, few people realize he's the man who gives Homer his personality.
"I never get recognized, except, maybe, by a diehard fan," he says.
As a child, Castellaneta would mimic cartoon voices from television. "My dad was an amateur actor, and I liked to do the accents he would do," he says.
Castellaneta, 50, developed Homer's trademark speaking voice through inspiration. The tone is a slight amalgamation of Walter Matthau and Castellaneta's father, and he likes to stay in character while doing the voice work for Homer.
But unlike the slob lifestyle that Homer embraces, Castellaneta doesn't drink, and he's a vegetarian.
"Dan eats pretty healthy," says his wife, Deb Lacusta. "He walks a lot so he gets in his exercise. He is not like Homer in that sense at all."
But, occasionally, over dinner, Castellaneta will savor a good meal with a Homer-like sigh, Lacusta admits with a laugh.
Now, with a "Simpsons" movie arriving this summer and more episodes on tap for TV, Castellaneta can't imagine his life without Homer.
"I am sure he will always be part of my life," he says.