By Matt Groening
I don’t remember much about the last fifteen years, but I do remember one thing; I ended The Simpsons. I even wrote the final episode myself. By the end of it, half of them are dead and the other half revealed themselves to be bunny-people in disguise. It was finished, final, done. The bridge was burned and there was no going back. I packed my office and I headed over to work on the future of adult-oriented cartoon comedy, Futurama. Now, fifteen years later, after finally leaving my Futurama office for the first time to get a sandwich, I see The Simpsons playing on a television and lo and behold it’s an episode I’ve never seen before. And it sucks.
That’s why I wanted to get out while the getting was good. We were the most popular show for ten years running and winning awards left and right. Everyone loved it from children to mom’s friend Rick who doesn’t look you in the eye when he talks to you. Nobody could get enough Simpsons. I don’t think I’m any kind of genius for coming up with it. It’s a simple idea about simple people. It’s really all in the execution. That’s where I excel, not as an idea man, but as a man that knows when something is as good as it can be. I was no slouch in the finding talent department, either.
Having James L. Brooks as a writer on a comedy show may seem like an obvious choice now, but it wasn’t then. Sure he had created comedies like Taxi and the Tracey Ullman Show, but that meant that he was a big name. Someone that would throw his weight around and need things done his way. Most people would hate that idea, but I welcomed it. I would have been happy letting James write every word of the whole damn show if he really wanted to. It was James L. Brooks! Writer of Terms of Endearment! This is a guy that bumped elbows with Kaufman and made a star of Tony Danza. If he wanted to drag me into the upper echelons of the comedy writing gods with him, I wasn’t going to argue.
A lot of writers let their ego get in the way of the best possible joke, but not me. Not that I don’t have an ego, of course that’s still there, but my ego is more concerned with making everything I put my name on as good as it can possibly be. Whether it’s my joke or not, people are going to associate it with me. I don’t care if it’s something that came specifically from me, I care if it was funny. In fact, most things that come specifically from me don’t make it into the show. I decide which jokes make it in and I hate myself, so most of my personality generally gets filtered out. Which is for the best, trust me. I’m a pretty messed up dude when it comes down to it. You should see some of the stuff I’ve done to donuts. I’ve got a weird, sick thing for donuts.
I can’t believe they’ve been making this thing without me. Did they think I wouldn’t notice? Well, I guess they were almost right on that one, but still. Apparently I’d been getting paid the whole time, too. Quite a lot. I don’t deal with the money aspect of being a billionaire personally. I let my nephew take care of everything for me. He tries not to bother me with the every day details of my accounts but last time I talked to him he said that everything was, “dope.” He’s a nice kid but an idiot. I once had to convince him to stop trying to open a soup can with his teeth.
It’s sad to see that The Simpsons has declined in quality so drastically, but it’s not a surprise. It’d be more of a surprise to see the quality have remained steady. Both a surprise and an insult, really. It’s something of a blessing to see the Simpsons of today as less than The Simpsons of my time. It just goes to show you that what we had back then really was lightning in a bottle. The stars had to align in just the right place at just the right time to bring us all together to make something as close to perfect as man could make a cartoon. Something subversive yet mainstream. Something that could make both adults and children laugh in the same minute and maybe even teach you all a little something about having an open heart and mind.
Then we’d have Homer say, “D’oh!” again.