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Only Hardcore Simpsons Fans Know About Skinner's Connection To Les Misérables

It may come as a surprise that before he was writing bee jokes on "The Simpsons," Conan O'Brien wrote his Harvard thesis about authors William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor. However, ride-or-die fans of "The Simpsons" know that the show's writers are highly educated, with 30 Harvard alumni joining the staff over several decades according to Harvard Magazine.

Scriptwriters like John Swartzwelder and Al Jean love dumb gags, but they enjoy interesting books and history as well. "The Simpsons" helped change television comedy forever, in part because its success demonstrated that audiences would accept dense, esoteric nods to history and world events alongside utter silliness, including Mr. Burns (Harry Shearer) saying "Ahoy-hoy" just like Alexander Graham Bell (via NME).

The Atlantic spotted 15 literary references on "The Simpsons," including the Ayn Rand School for Tots and a full recreation of "The Raven," but did you know the show paid homage to the classic novel "Les Miserables" through Seymour Skinner (Harry Shearer)?

Several Simpsons characters are assigned 24601 in prison

In "Les Miserables" and the novel's later adaptations, including several films as well as the hit musical, the famous number assigned to Jean Valjean

while in prison is 24601. This eventually resulted in at least three references to the number on "The Simpsons" over the years. The first homage to the Victor Hugo book occurs in the Season 3 episode "Black Widower," in which Selma (Julie Kavner) writes to Sideshow Bob's (Kelsey Grammar) prison number, 24601. A season later, Marge is assigned the 24601 number while imprisoned during "Marge in Chains."

Finally, Vietnam veteran Seymour Skinner (Harry Shearer) marvels at finding his old helmet from when he was a Viet Cong prisoner of war in "Homer's Barbershop Quartet." On the front of the helmet is his number, 24601.

Fans may see this as part of some odd glitch in the "Simpsons" universe in which the characters keep getting assigned 24601 when incarcerated, but either way, it's a perfect example of how much fun the writers have incorporating obscure references into the show. As beloved "Simpsons" scribe John Swartzwelder said, the creators were armed with a lot of creative control: "All we had to do was please ourselves" (via The New Yorker).