Archive for the 'Simpsons Alumni' Category


Highlights from Jay Kogen on Reddit

The Telltale Head12

“Alright, Kogen’s got Wolodarsky open in the end zone . . . he throws it . . . it’s complete, touchdown!” – Radio Announcer

Yesterday, Jay Kogen, one of the original writers who departed in Season 4, went on Reddit for one of their “Ask Me Anything” posts.  He talked a lot about the old days of the show, working with Bryan Cranston on Malcolm in the Middle, and just television writing generally.  I’ve pulled some of the highlights below, though there is much, much  more at the link. 

Turns out they had to fight for one everyone’s favorite sequences:

[–]nschug 717 points 21 hours ago

What is your all time favorite Simpsons joke? Also thank you for doing this.

[–]JayKogen[S] 2022 points 21 hours ago

We had to fight hard for Homer falling down the canyon in Bart the Daredevil and it worked well. My favorite was getting put in the ambulance then it crashing and him falling down again.

More on “Bart the Daredevil”:

[–]tedistkrieg 36 points 1 day ago

I wrote a research paper in college about the types of humor used in the simpsons and I used the most memorable scene in Bart the Daredevil with Homer falling down the gorge. I thought it was a perfect example of the humor used.

What made you decide to have him fall down the second time?

[–]JayKogen[S] 68 points 1 day ago

as I just wrote, i just thought going through that long bit again was pure joy.

Hee hee:

[–]hollaback_girl 459 points 21 hours ago

What’s your favorite moment from in the Simpsons writing room? What’s your most memorable?

[–]JayKogen[S] 1155 points 21 hours ago

My partner Wally threw a cup of mashed potatoes onto the ceiling tiles and they stuck as a clump there. The potatoes remained there for many many years.

[–]JayKogen[S] 1855 points 21 hours ago

I also remember pitching a joke for one of the treehouse of horror episodes where Burns is taking Homer’s brains out of his head and puts it on his own with the brain stem hanging down and says "Look at me! I’m Davey Crockett!" and then laughing at my own joke(which I never do and is not considered good form) for five minutes, falling on the floor and possibly farting. Embarrassing but true.

On black Smithers in some (but not all) Season 1 episodes:

[–]ErikF 801 points 21 hours ago

When you created Smithers, was it your intent from the start to make him gay or was that something that evolved?

[–]JayKogen[S] 1485 points 21 hours ago

Originally he was gay and black. And we actually drew him purple in his first show. But we thought it was too much so we just kept him gay.

The oft asked “what is a writers room really like?” question:

[–]OccupyTamriel 305 points 1 day ago

How’s the atmosphere in the writers team?

[–]JayKogen[S] 680 points 1 day ago

The writers room is work. Sometimes fun, sometimes boring. We tend to work as a team. It’s not competitive. If you hear a great joke from someone else you laugh. The more good jokes that you get, the faster you get to go home to your family.

Love for Krusty but not Sherri and Terri:

[–]Cfeds77 209 points 1 day ago

Favorite and least favorite character and was there any episode you regretted?

[–]JayKogen[S] 406 points 1 day ago

In every episode there are moments and jokes that simply don’t come out right and when I watch them now I still cringe. But when I watch the ones I had nothing to do with I can’t see the mistakes. Just the joy.

[–]JayKogen[S] 601 points 1 day ago

I love Krusty and I wrote alot for him. I feel like I helped give him that good old comic feel. Least favorite? Sherry And Terry. We created them and nothing much came of it.

Here’s that Hollywood Christmas parade that was mentioned in Ortved’s book:

[–]brodesto 165 points 1 day ago

What is your most memorable moment while working in The Simpsons?

[–]JayKogen[S] 324 points 1 day ago

Wow, this is odd but I really remember being in a Hollywood Christmas parade as a Simpson writer and thinking that we very strange but amazing.

Not much love for Agnes:

[–]goingglobal 63 points 1 day ago

If you could change any of the characters on the show, who would you change and why?

[–]JayKogen[S] 173 points 1 day ago

Skinner mom bugs me. Not sure why.

On “Treehouse of Horror”:

[–]tedistkrieg 125 points 1 day ago

Did you get to choose to parody To Serve Man for the first Treehouse of Horror? Where did you get the idea for Kang and Kodos?

[–]JayKogen[S] 394 points 1 day ago

We did get to choose the parody. We pitched it. We wanted to spoof the Twighlight Zone. Kang and Kodos were named by Jon Viti who’s a star trek fan. They are all Trek names. I actually drew the aliens. My only drawing on the show. The artists couldn’t figure out what our description of a one eyed octopus with fangs and a space helmet looked like. so I drew it. Loved that. have it hanging in my house.

Apparently Wallace Wolodarsky kinda looks like Otto:

[–]cupofpens2 101 points 1 day ago

Which of your artistic creations most closely resembles you physically? What about psychologically and behaviorally?

[–]JayKogen[S] 241 points 1 day ago

Otto looks like Wally. None of them look like me. I’m alot like Homer on my worst days.

And here’s the pointless and obligatory “what do you think of Zombie Simpsons?” question:

[–]tallandlanky 104 points 1 day ago

How do you feel about the quality of the writing on the show today? I feel as if the current writers are trying to rely on zany antics and celebrity guests as opposed to writing deep, emotionally touching episodes.

[–]JayKogen[S] 105 points 1 day ago

I must say I find the show still great. Every episode still has heart but after 23? years they are still kicking ass. Al Jean and Matt Selman and the rest are great.

Questions like this are utterly and completely meaningless.  Maybe Kogen really thinks that, maybe he doesn’t, but he sure as shit isn’t going to say, “They suck” or some variation thereof.  He works as a television writer, he knows these guys, it’s just not fair to put him on the spot like that and expect an honest answer. 

There’s more at the thread, and like many Reddit “Ask Me Anythings” it gets choppier and less organized as you scroll down (and you have to expand more of the comments to get everything), but it’s a fun read.  When not answering questions from Simpsons geeks on-line, Kogen is currently working on a new show called Wendell and Vinnie that’s coming to Nick @ Nite in November. 


Reading Digest: Alumni Success Edition

Lisa's Sax4

“I can assure you our preschool is of the highest quality.  Over 75% of our graduates go on to first grade.” – Miss Tillingham’s School for Snotty Girls and Mama’s Boys Administrator

It’s always nice to see people who worked on The Simpsons continue to do well, and we’ve got several of them this week.  Rich Moore (Seasons 1-5, 9), Donick Cary (Seasons 7-11), Greg Daniels (Season 5-9) and Mike Reiss (um, a lot of Seasons) all either have new projects in the works or are just getting some well deserved recognition.  There’s also a lot of great references and usage, a fantastic law school graduation gift, old Twilight Zone video, and a non-ironic award for being the biggest FOX marketing whore. 


Seattle Rep Workshops New Play Inspired By The Simpsons July 15-16 – Want to see:

Seattle Repertory Theatre will workshop and perform two public readings of Anne Washburn’s new play Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play July 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Poncho Forum. A play with music, Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play is set in a post-apocalyptic world where episodes of "The Simpsons" gain new significance as stories from a fallen civilization.

What are you really looking at when you think you’re looking at something? – This is neat.  Some researchers hooked people up to devices that measure where their eyes are actually focusing when they watch video.  There’s a clip from There Will Be Blood, a 2008 presidential debate, and the HD Zombie Simpsons opening sequence. 

Disney Announces CG Comedy Adventure Wreck-It Ralph – Disney is making a computer animated movie about a video game character, and it’s going to be directed by Simpsons (and Futurama and The Critic) alum Rich Moore. 

Saban Brands plots Christmas special – In other Simpsons alumni news, Mike Reiss is producing an animated holiday special based on monkey cartoon characters that originally started out as clothing accessories. 

Deal Me In: Startups Pursue Variations on the Groupon Model – Donick Cary is working on a discount group shopping application that uses animation to get people’s attention.  Or something, neither the link above nor this one are super clear on just how it works. 

Film Geek: Favorite Star Wars references & spoofs, part II – There’s everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Futurama, including some Simpsons stuff.  I’ll admit to being slightly disappointed in the inclusion of some Zombie Simpsons while Burns having the “Imperial March” played for him gets omitted.  Oh well, it’s still a pretty good list.

The Twilight Zone: The Shelter – YouTube of The Twilight Zone episode on which the end of “Bart’s Comet” is based. 

VEGAS 2011: Ink honoured by Fox Consumer Products – Apparently the Krusty Brand Seal of Approval has its own awards show now:

The firm was awarded Agent of the Year at The Homeys – which are given annually by Fox Consumer Products to its partners for outstanding achievement.

Slow clap.  Slow clap. 

Apple/Samsung lawsuit revised: more products included – This isn’t the world’s greatest reference or anything, I just like the way it completely describes The Simpsons in the past tense:

Remember those Itchy and Scratchy cartoons that would show up in episodes of The Simpsons from time to time? They were like Tom and Jerry, but uncensored. One clip I can remember shows Itchy trying to outdo Scratchy by threatening him with a larger weapon than the one he was holding. Itchy retaliated with an even bigger one. And so, the duel continued until they had guns the size of the planet. That is exactly what this Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit is turning in to.

The man behind The Office has long history in comedy – Unlike the other Simpsons alums in this week’s post, Greg Daniels doesn’t have a shiny new project.  But here’s some deserved butt kissing for him anyway, including this fawning whoopsie:

In fact, it was The Simpsons connection that first endeared Daniels to Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the creators of the original British version of the Office.

When the British comedian discovered that Daniels had written Badman Homer, in which the Simpson patriarch becomes public enemy No. 1 after being falsely accused of sexual harassment by a feminist-leaning babysitter, they knew they had their man.

Review: Duke Nukem Forever (PC) – Heh:

Duke Nukem was one of the “raddest” video game action heroes of the late 80′s/early 90′s. It was a simple time – Unsolved Mysteries was scary, The Simpsons were funny, and the Australian Classification Board was run by SEGA.

Make your Franklin – This is a number of alternate images of a $100 bill, with Benjamin Franklin either altered to look like someone from pop culture or replaced by same.  They’re neat, if weird.  For example, the Homer one also has a Disney swastika.  Huh?

Top Five – T.V. Dads – Homer checks in at #3 here.

Top 20 TV Theme Songs of All Time – Lots of good nostalgia YouTube here, with The Simpsons grabbing the penultimate spot. 

Simpsons Video of the Week: Al Gore – Lenny, who’s got a guest post coming up next week, brings us video of Al Gore celebrating. 

The 2011 Tony Awards…In 10 Words – Here are your hosts, Tyne Daly and Hal Linden. 

Like Wearing Nothing at All, Nothing at All … – This Captain Marvel action figure bears a striking resemblance to skiing Flanders.

Natural History: Anthony Lepore and Mark Hagen – Nice reference:

Nature still does this sometimes, but as in Werner Herzog‘s Grizzly Man, there’s some element of collective dumb surprise when a modern man who frolics with wild bears gets eaten by one, as if nature hadn’t got the memo we’d already beaten it. A classroom nature film from The Simpsons sums it up best: Man Versus Nature: The Road to Victory.

Five Terrifying Treehouse of Horror Segments – Not a trace of Zombie Simpsons.  Excellent.

PlayStation Vita: It Only Does Too Much At Once – Excellent reference:

Fans of The Simpsons know the episode, "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" where Homer receives the green light to design his own car, an opportunity that proves disastrous when he throws practicality out the window in favor of bloated excess.

The point? Less is more. That, and Homer should keep his day job at the power plant.

It’s a memorable scene (Homer grinning from inside the automobile, his brother’s successful career evaporating before our eyes), one we cannot shake since experiencing PlayStation Vita, Sony’s new portable system. It’s without question one sexy piece of hardware, but the chance of Sony overextending itself is quite real.

I would drive a Homer.  I don’t know if I’d pay $82,000 for it, but I would drive it. 

A little touch of Springfield – I put this up on Twitter on Monday, but it’s too cool not to mention again.  A woman carved 71 plywood Simpsons figures for her son’s graduation from law school in 2008.  The picture is amazing. 

‘The Killing’ Gets Picked Up For Season 2 – Heh:

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "I suppose ‘The Killing’ will be fun enough."

DRINK(s): Bartender Interview at the Beach Tavern – Moderate usage:

Homer Simpson once said, "The only guys who wear Hawaiian shirts are gay guys and big fat party animals." Mark Gill, bartender of the Beach Tavern, is the latter.

The actual quote is, “There’s only two kinds of guys who wear those shirts, gay guys and big fat party animals”, but I don’t think that would’ve worked as well in the sentence. 

The Wry Successes of Archer – But Do They Come Too Late? – This is a rather long discourse on the rise and fall of smart animation on things like Adult Swim.  I don’t agree with the main premise, that the fantastic Archer is behind the times, but I do agree with this:

The Simpsons was slipping in its old age, but still kicking (it’s never really been again what it was in the nineties).

If there’s one thing Zombie Simpsons does, it’s kick.  Mostly it’s audience, but still. 


Ned Flanders: Party Guy

“That was Edna Krabappel.  You only get one chance with Edna Krabappel.” – Sideshow Bob

Via comes an interview with Marcia Wallace.  She talks about her career, how she got started and, naturally, Mrs. Krabappel.  It’s a neat little read, but there’s also this nauseating bit about an upcoming episode of Zombie Simpsons:

Carol had better luck than poor Edna, she is looking for love in all the wrong places. I just did an episode last week where I have a romance with Ned Flanders. And there is going to be an online poll to ask America whether they should get together.

The only question I have is whether or not this is going to be more teeth grindingly painful to watch than the time they awkwardly shoved Marge and Ned together.  Since Zombie Simpsons is nothing if not adept at disappointing its audience, I’ll withhold judgment until I’ve seen it.  The online poll is a nice touch, albeit one that reeks of desperation to still be relevant. 

As much as we loathe Zombie Simpsons around here, we do love Marcia Wallace.  The interview is to promote an appearance by her and some other actors in Chicago this weekend (today and tomorrow).  It’s mostly people like her, recognizable actors who never become big stars.  The guy who played Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos and told Joe Pesci to get his shine box in Goodfellas will be there, as will Cindy Morgan of Caddyshack and TRON fame.  So if you’re in Chicago and don’t have plans for the weekend, you could do worse. 


Simpsons Alumni Update: George Meyer & the Mr. Burns Toad

Mr. Burns Toad

Both images from Conservation International.

“Why here’s the fellow.  Wiry, fast, firm proud buttocks, reminds me of me.” – C.M. Burns

Deep in the jungle primeval in Colombia, a couple of new species were discovered, a frog and two toads, to be precise.  One of them, pictured above of the genus Rhinella, was dubbed, in an excellent publicity ploy, the “Mr. Burns” toad.  Unlike that “Homer Simpson gene” from a few months ago, these scientists have a Simpsons alum to back up their gimmick.  Here’s Dr. Robin Moore:

"As for the new beaked toad, it is easily one of the strangest amphibians I have ever seen. Its long pointy snout-liked nose reminds me of the nefarious villain, Mr. Burns, from The Simpsons television series."

After seeing pictures of the new species, Simpsons series long time writer/producer and amphibian enthusiast, George Meyer said of the resemblance, "The toad’s imperious profile and squinty eyes indeed look like Monty Burns." Meyer is an active member of Conservation International’s Chairman’s Council.

Here’s the toad looking imperial and godlike:

Mr. Burns Toad2

(via Columbia Reports)


Simpsons Alumni Update: Lovitz & Shearer Interviews

Two quick alumni updates for you:

1)  Lovitz takes his show on the road – with a stop in Calgary – This is an extensive Calgary Herald interview with Jon Lovitz about three nights of standup he’s doing there this weekend.  This makes me sad that we missed another season or two of The Critic:

Arguably, Lovitz’s finest post-SNL moment came in 1994-95 with his animated series, The Critic, in which he voiced the lead role of movie critic Jay Sherman. The Critic got off to a shaky start on the ABC network but things were looking up for the show when it was picked up by FOX and programmed following The Simpsons on Sunday nights.

The Critic’s ultimate cancellation still baffles Lovitz to this day.

"We retained 90 per cent of The Simpsons’ audience, and The Simpsons’ ratings were way higher then than they are now. . . . People loved it. They watched it. . . . It was a hit. And they cancelled it anyway. I don’t know why. . . .

"That’s showbiz. There’s no rhyme or reason sometimes."

2)  Q&A With Harry Shearer: Voice of The Simpsons Speaking Up for New Orleans – Via Defend New Orleans comes an even longer interview with Harry Shearer.  With the exception of the sweet photo montage of Shearer with all of his Simpsons characters, there isn’t a lot of entertainment content here.  (It is a cool image though.)  But if you feel like finding out once again how obtuse and scientifically illiterate the American media is, this is pure heroin.  Also, Shearer rules.  But you knew that already.


Simpsons Alumni Update: Harry Shearer (He Just Won’t Stop!)

Harry Shearer’s documentary about how Katrina and the Army Corps of Engineers fucked New Orleans will be going to theaters one night only: Monday August 30th.  Trailer:

Local show times all across the US can be found here.  Give ’em hell, Harry.


Simpsons Alumni Update: Harry Shearer (Yet Again)

Harry Shearer went on the local New York FOX affiliate’s morning program yesterday to flog his new album, “Greed and Fear”.  It contains humorous songs about the recession, one of which you can listen to on YouTube.  The FOX affiliate’s website has video of his four minute appearance here

Far and away the best part is when he does a couple of Simpsons voices over the halfhearted yet squirming objections of the eminently replaceable local FOX morning people.  It starts around the 2:15 mark of the video.  The hostess implies that he’s not allowed to do any of the voices and he then proceeds to do Burns and Smithers.  She then, as if this would do anything but encourage him, mentions that he’s under contract not to do those things.  She’s laughing all through this, but it’s a nervous laugh and you you can tell she’s at least a little skittish about violating FOX rules like that.  Hi-larious. 

The only piece of Simpsons news, and it’s not really that, is comes when Generic FOX Morning Guy asks about a sequel to the movie and he calls it “inevitable”.  But then points out that the actors are the last to know. 


Bill Oakley Interview

In today’s Reading Digest post I put up a link to an interview with Bill Oakley from a television show called “Outlook Portland”.  I couldn’t find the video or a transcript on the show’s blog or on the website of the television station.  Since I’m an idiot it didn’t occur to me to take three seconds and check the world’s largest and most popular video site.  Fortunately, someone from Outlook Portland showed up in the comments and pointed me to the first place I should’ve looked, YouTube. 

(When I was watching it on for some reason it would not go smoothly from one segment to the next so I’ve embedded them all below.) 

Segment 1 wherein Oakley discusses how he got into animation and things that influenced The Simpsons:


Segment 2 sees Oakley discuss how he got to the show and the writing process.  Starting at around the 5:15 mark he’s discussing all the steps between writing a joke and seeing the finished product.  The exchange starts around the 5:15 mark but the nut comes forty seconds later:

And that’s the ultimate thing about The Simpsons is that, at least in the old days, you had to laugh at every one of those things or we would cut the joke and rewrite it.  And that’s why it became so arduous and to some extent so good, is because these had to be jokes that would hold up for ten months over repeated viewings to actually make it to the air. 

Now, when he says “at least in the old day” does he mean that that’s how they did it when he was there and he doesn’t know how it’s done now.  Or does he mean that he doesn’t think that’s how they do it now?  The first is a relatively neutral statement, the second is a dig at Zombie Simpsons.  I’m gonna say that it’s both, but judge for yourself: 


In Segment 3 Oakley discusses how he thinks Season 3 was one of the pinnacles of comedy and how he and Josh Weinstein consciously tried to pattern Seasons 7 & 8 (when they were running the show) after Season 3.  He also talks about reading internet discussions way back in 1992 and what a pain in the ass it was to get on-line in that primitive time:


In Segment 4 we find out why this interview is taking place.  Oakley can do his job from anywhere these days and decided Portland was nicer than Los Angeles:

Many thanks to Outlook Portland, both for steering me in the right direction and making their show available on YouTube. 


Simpsons Alumni Update: Groening & Azaria

Unbeknownst to me there’s a spinoff of that Top Chef program called  Top Chef Masters.  According to Wikipedia, “In the series, 24 world-renowned chefs compete against each other in weekly challenges.”  Also, there are regular judges and guest judges.  For Season 2 Matt Groening and Hank Azaria will be among the guest judges.  Okay. 

(A hearty middle finger to IGN for bringing me this news but screwing up the link to the original Entertainment Weekly story.  That meant I had to wade through, as over designed and seizure inducing as any commercial website you’ll ever visit.) 


Simpsons Alumni Update: Richard Appel

Richard Appel came in at the tail end of the best of The Simpsons and was around for the last few good years.  He then went on to higher places at FOX and became a writer/producer for various other animated programs.  He’s going to continue doing that for at least three more yearsThe Hollywood Reporter describes the deal as a “rich seven-figure pact”.  Good for him.  Right now he’s working on Family Guy Spinoff #2.  Uh, less good for him, but whatever.  It’s always nice to see people who worked on the show doing well. 


Simpsons Alumni Update: Yeardley Smith

The voice of Lisa showed up in a recent episode of People Will Watch Anything (a/k/a The Big Bang Theory).  She was playing a clerk in an unemployment office of some kind.  If you want to get an idea of how it went down without actually subjecting yourself to the horror of watching it, Entertainment Weekly has you covered:

But did we really need the scene between Sheldon and Yeardley Smith (a.k.a. the voice of Lisa Simpson) in the employment office as he looked for a menial job to help goad his brain into decoding his problem? For one, it boiled down to yet another Sheldon-cluelessly-drives-someone-crazy scene, a trope that’s maintaining a rapidly diminishing half-life. For another, the best moment in the scene — Smith “checking” her computer to satisfy Sheldon’s desire for a job best described as Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Building Slave — had already been done much better in the “Computer Says No” sketch on BBC America’s Little Britain.

I realize that teevee is mostly just dumb entertainment and that a guy who habitually watches twenty year old cartoon episodes he’s seen dozens of times before has little to no right to criticize anyone else’s dumb entertainment.  But I refuse to cede ground to anything that has a laughtrack.  Laughtracks are to laughter what someone shooting a pistol at your feet is to dancing. 

Through a marvelous coincidence I recently came across a video of this exact program without its Pavlovian crutch.  Behold the brutal emptiness that is The Big Bang Theory Without a Laughtrack (via):

Anyway, I’m glad Smith was able to pick up a check.  Other than that I eagerly anticipate the demise of this show and its entire genre. 


Simpsons Alumni Update: Brad Bird

Of all the people who worked on The Simpsons perhaps none have found greater post-show success than Brad Bird.  The man truly has the golden touch in that there isn’t anything embarrassing lurking on his IMDB page.  He worked on The Critic, left The Simpsons in Season 9, and of the three movies he’s written/directed since then only 1999’s The Iron Giant isn’t on the IMDB Top 250.  (Though it has a rating of 7.9 which is the same as the last twenty movies on the list.)  Oh and he’s a perfect 2/2 on Oscar nominations/victories.  This man has as impressive (and profitable) a resume as you can possibly find. 

And yet he is apparently having trouble getting his next movie going:

For a while now he’s been working on 1906 – a film detailing the catastrophic quake that rocked San Francisco in, guess what year? And it’s been a bugger to get off the ground.

Given recent events in the world, you can understand studios not wanting to green light anything to do with earthquakes…they seem to be fine with destroying the planet and re-creating terrorist atrocities, but not this. The film was set to be co-produced by Pixar and Warner Bros. Apparently, the latter studio has concerns over budget and the massive script.

I’m sure those are legitimate concerns, I’m also sure that this guy has never made a bad film.  And while I do not run a movie studio if I did I might look at that IMDB page and conclude that this guy knows what he’s doing.  Good luck, Mr. Bird.  If a recommendation from some guy on the internet will put things over the top, feel free to cite this as a reference. 


Very Belated Simpsons Alumni Update: Conan O’Brien

There was no new Zombie Simpsons last night and because it’s Martin Luther King Day here in the States things are kinda slow.  (MLK Day is like a lot of America’s second tier holidays in that we only partially observe it.  Case in point: the mail doesn’t get delivered but my garbage was picked up as usual this morning.)  But I did find this absolutely excellent New York Times op-ed piece from 1993 (via Warming Glow).  It was written by a fresh off The Simpsons Conan O’Brien as a fake review of his opening night as a late night host.  It is a thousand kinds of awesome absurdity:

Last week, this writer had the opportunity to watch a test show in Rockefeller Center’s legendary studio 6-A. Frankly, I was not impressed.

The crowd was visibly eager to like the young newcomer, but some seemed puzzled by the radical new set. The backdrop, consisting of 15-foot representations of Mr. O’Brien’s laughing head, loomed over his desk and chair, both carved from illegally imported African ivory. While this was somewhat unsettling, an aura of eager anticipation still hung in the air.

Until, that is, the new Late Night band began to play. Composed of musicians cut by the Boston Pops, the band lurched into an interminable version of "Waltzing Matilda," apparently the show’s theme song. The bandleader, a surly cellist, refused to make eye contact with anyone and hissed at a young girl who tried to clap along.

There is more than a little whiff of Simpsons on things like furniture carved from illegal ivory and a “surly cellist”.  I highly recommend the whole thing. 

Programming note: Consumed with Spurlock stuff last week we didn’t get around to properly mocking the terribly dull episode that preceded it.  So we’ll be doing that this week.  The Dead Homer Society, the timeliest blog on the net!


Simpsons Alumni Update: Harry Shearer (Again)

At this rate Harry Shearer is going to wear out our “Simpsons Alumni” category, but I guess you can’t keep a funny man down.  Besides, there’s simply too much awesome in this interview to just bury it in tomorrow’s Reading Digest.  In it he talks about why liberal talk radio can’t get a foothold, the processes of comedy, and his upcoming documentary about Hurricane Katrina (which he hopes to have ready in time for the fifth anniversary next year).

The whole thing is a fun read, but two quotes jumped out at me.  In reverse order (bold mine to denote questions):

It’s all dandy until you get censor notes from the network.

Funny, in the “Unplugged” Spinal Tap Tour last spring, during one of the comedy parts of the show, Michael McKean had gotten a hold of the censor notes from NBC of what they would have to do to show “This Is Spinal Tap” on NBC — and he reads them out. That stuff is always funny. There was a legendary book an old gag writer named Leonard Stern wrote, he worked for Jackie Gleason and Steve Allen and those guys, and I think he worked on “My Favorite Martian.” The script note he got from the network one day, next to a particular line, became the title of his book. And the note was, “a Martian wouldn’t say this.” You just can’t do better than that.

A friend of mine saw that show and said the reading of the NBC censor list was funny as hell.  Wish I’d gone.  Also, this sent my heart aflutter:

How would you rate the current writing on “The Simpsons”?

Umm, no comment.

You don’t need to comment, Mr. Shearer; we’ll do it for you.


Simpsons Alumni Update: David M. Stern

David Stern’s new show Ugly Americans was previewed during yesterday’s South Park.  Comedy Central’s website has the preview from last night as well as a slightly longer clip (that has some of the same stuff).  The only information about it that I could find (I didn’t try very hard) is the same stuff from the generic press release a few months ago.  It’s animated, it’s coming in March, and it’s set in a New York City where horror monsters are part of the everyday. 

Though I can’t stand almost all television shows my ravenous lust for teevee is powerful enough that I’ll give anything a try.  This at least looks like it’s got a chance to be both original and decent. 


Simpsons Alumni Update: Harry Shearer Podcast

Harry Shearer was on this podcast last week (via).  His interview starts right at the 30:00 mark and goes for quite awhile.  There’s a lot of interesting info and it’s worth a listen, but here are some of the highlights:

  • He knew Mel Blanc when he was a child actor.
  • He does some Lovejoy and Flanders commentary about Marge in Playboy.
  • Said doing the table read with Michael Jackson (at Jackson’s manager’s house) was one of the most awkward moments ever.  Castellaneta was stuck in traffic but Jackson was right on time and instead of goofing off or chit chatting everyone just sat there in perfect silence until Castellaneta showed up.
  • Tactfully declines to discuss the current quality of the show, and implies that these comments were meant to be private.  I don’t doubt that some things can get said in the heat of negotiations that one may later want to retract but, and this may just be me reading too much into this, he sure sounds like he thinks the show’s gone downhill.  Shortly after that, in discussing how Hollywood in general has changed over his career, he laments that shows now have huge numbers of writers when once upon on time it was just a few funny people.  Hmmmmm.
  • He says he’s never watched an episode of Family Guy and jokes that it’s against the religion of Simpsons people to watch it.  Then a little later he drops the bomb that people on the Simpsons have always thought Family Guy was originally created as a low cost replacement for The Simpsons timeslot and hence there’s some resentment.  Hard to tell how serious he’s being, but at least on the surface that does make sense.

15 November Edit: Had the links backwards, they’re fixed now.


Simpsons Alumni Update: Dan Castellaneta

This has been kicking around on-line for a couple of weeks now but I’ve been studiously ignoring it because I don’t care.  That said, it probably doesn’t deserve a mention.  Dan Castellaneta is going to be making a guest appearance on an upcoming episode of Desperate Housewives.  He’s playing a pilot.  This now concludes the most thought or effort I have ever put into Desperate Housewives.  Thank you.


Simpsons Alumni Update: Mike Reiss

Twinkle Twinkle Little Flake Longtime Simpsons writer Mike Reiss has penned a limited edition children’s book for, of all things, Saks Fifth Avenue department store.  It’s called “Twinkle Twinkle Little Flake” and it’s available exclusively at an over priced store near you:

Twinkle Twinkle Little Flake tells the story of a snowflake named Twinkle who embarks on an adventure in New York City once she has fallen from her cloud. Readily available to purchase in-store, this exclusive limited edition book makes the perfect gift for children this holiday season.

As part of their “Placate the Mob” program, Saks will give $2 of each $18 book purchase to charity


Simpsons Alumni Update: Yeardley Smith

Yeardley Smith has donated a combined $1.14 million dollars to a couple of microfinance organizations.  The idea behind microfinance is that poor countries harbor plenty of hard-working, would-be entrepreneurs who, with just a little bit of capital, can launch small businesses that will make them less poor.  Smith jumped in with both feet:

Smith was first introduced to microfinance after seeing 2006 Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus on Oprah. Inspired to become actively involved, she traveled to Haiti, accompanied by Grameen Foundation president Alex Counts, to visit with women in remote villages to learn how microfinance and complementary health and literacy services improve the quality of life for them and their families.

“I’m greatly inspired by people who demonstrate initiative and perseverance. I saw with my own eyes how eager these women are to be self-sustaining and that the smallest bit of success can rebuild a person from the inside out,” said Smith.

Were I writing this as a newspaper lead I’d probably have to put in some horrible piece of dreck about how playing do-gooder Lisa has rubbed off on Smith.  For example:

  • “Voicing the charity minded Lisa Simpson all these years seems to have had an effect on actress Yeardley Smith who donated . . .”
  • “Life imitating art?  After lending her vocal talents to the animated Lisa Simpson for twenty years Yeardley Smith has brought a little bit of Lisa to the real world . . .”
  • “Yeardley Smith has taken some of the money she made playing Lisa Simpson and put it towards a cause Lisa would like . . .”

Isn’t this post much better without that crap?  I sure think so.

Update November 5th: Nailed it!  Here’s the lead from John Zorabedian from the site The Daily Tell:

The actress Yeardley Smith seems to have the conscience of Lisa Simpson, the famously activist character she voices for the popular TV show The Simpsons.

This was not the most difficult thing to predict, but still, nailed it.  Hopefully there will be more.


Simpsons Alumni Update: Harry Shearer

Shearer has created an art installation called The Silent Echo Chamber (hee hee).  I’ll let The Columbus Dispatch explain:

The installation — previously shown in Chicago; New York; and Ridgefield, Conn. — features news feeds of politicians, TV hosts and commentators captured in the moments before going on live television. They fidget with microphones, scratch, adjust clothing and watch themselves on monitors.

The vignettes, shown on a continuous loop, are from the 2008 presidential campaign and include candidates Barack Obama and John McCain; and James Carville, Anderson Cooper, David Gergen, Sean Hannity, Larry King and Henry Kissinger, among others.

It’s on display through January in Columbus, OH. 


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