By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Under the starry skies of Hollywood on Friday, the animated world of America's longest-running television series "The Simpsons" came alive through music and lively performances from the cast on stage at Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl.
Matt Groening, the show's creator, kicked off the first night of the three-night event reminiscing about Fox's early censorship regulations, as the program prepares to enter its 26th season later this month.
Cast member Hank Azaria, who voices many of Springfield's best known residents such as bartender Moe, Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu, and police Chief Wiggum, hosted the evening and dressed as Apu to sing "Who Needs The Kwik-E-Mart" accompanied by dancing hot dogs.
Premiering in 1989, donut-loving Homer and his dysfunctional family have been tapping into the changing American zeitgeist and satirizing popular culture for over two decades.
On Friday, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra played musical numbers from specific episodes and opening sequence couch gags while a giant screen played clips from the show.
Cast members Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, and Nancy Cartwright, who voices Bart, held an "in memoriam" tribute for former Fox TV presidents, including Barry Diller and Kevin Reilly. Cartwright also made one of Bart's famous crank phone calls on stage with Azaria answering as Moe.
Special guests included talk show host Conan O'Brien, a former writer on "The Simpsons," who sang "Monorail," dressed as his character Lyle Lanley, accompanied by the Los Angeles Gay Men's Chorus.
Composer Hans Zimmer came on stage to perform his work from 2007's "The Simpsons Movie," and comedians Weird Al Yankovic and Jon Lovitz also performed musical numbers. The night ended with an array of fireworks.
"The Simpsons" is the world's most-watched U.S television show, syndicated across more than 100 countries, and reaches more than 150 million viewers a week.
The anniversary celebrations this year have included a crossover with Lego building blocks in an episode, and a holographic Homer appearing at San Diego's Comic Con in July.
Fox's sister cable channel FXX hosted a 12-day "Every Simpsons Ever" marathon earlier this month, airing all 552 episodes back to back.
The series will kick off its 26th season with an anticipated crossover episode with Fox's animated series "Family Guy," created by Seth MacFarlane, where the show's Griffin family will meet the Simpsons in Springfield.
(Editing by Curtis Skinner and Mark Potter)