When he dies, Bill Oakley knows what's going on his tombstone: "Here Lies the Guy Who Came Up With 'Steamed Hams.'"
Fans of The Simpsons will get the reference. Otherwise, it's hard to explain in an economical fashion. Let's just say it involves Principal Skinner, Superintendent Chalmers, the Aurora Borealis and a tray of Krusty Burgers served under false pretenses. In five distinguished seasons writing for the show during its mid-'90s glory years, it stands as Oakley's crowning achievement—or at least his most meme-worthy.
So it's not totally surprising that, two decades and several other high-profile comedy gigs later, he'd pivot into a new field: reviewing real-life Krusty Burgers on the internet.
Since early May, Oakley—a Portland resident since 2008—has filled his Instagram page (@thatbilloakley) with one-minute video critiques of lowbrow foodstuffs, from Taco Bell's Naked Chicken Chalupa to the automatic pancake machine at Portland International Airport. It might seem an ironic goof. But Oakley is a genuine connoisseur.
"I love fast food, some more than others," he says. "I also love snack food and convenience food. In the supermarket, when there's a new flavor of ketchup or some crap like that, I'm in there buying it and trying it out."
Oakley cares enough that, two years ago, he went on a Twitter rant about the declining quality of McDonald's, the chain he mythologized growing up in the boonies of Maryland in the 1970s. So when the franchise announced earlier this year that it would swap frozen patties for fresh beef, he felt obligated to offer his feedback. Rather than tweet about it, Oakley decided to film his response in real-time, from the front seat of his car.
"It's a slight improvement," he declared through a mouthful of Quarter Pounder.
It wasn't the heartiest endorsement, but the response from his followers encouraged him to keep going. He's since logged reports from restaurants in L.A., Seattle, Las Vegas and Portland, recording his takes on everything from the newly rechristened IHOB (he graded it a "C+, B-") to the Impossible Burger (which he called "simulated space meat"). He's gradually improved the production values, adding music and more sophisticated edits, occasionally integrating clips from The Simpsons.
And while the presentation is just wry enough to betray his day job, he's sometimes genuinely caught off guard—like when he visited the burger chain Freddy's for the first time and was so blown away he had to put on a nice shirt before delivering his verdict.
"The video is almost 100 percent serious," Oakley says. "It's really hard to make a good review funny, so I didn't even try with that one."
Click here for the full Best of Portland 2018 guide.