Iconic Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder has done a rare interview about his career (Picture : Fox)
Iconic Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder has pulled back the curtain on the long-running series and shown us how the Fox sausage is made in an incredibly rare interview from the TV stalwart.
Swartzwelder penned 59 episodes over his career with the animation and is the man we are to thank for such glorious episodes as Bart Gets An Elephant and Homer’s Enemy (according to Swartzwelder, ‘Grimey was asking for it the whole episode’), as well as the infamous popularisation of the word ‘meh’.
In a lengthy Q&A with The New Yorker, Swartzwelder opened up on his time on the show, explaining the gruelling writing process which involves two days spent in the writers’ room before an episode it pitched, changed, edited and re-written over the course of various drafts. And that’s before the animation has even been imagined.
According to Swartzwelder – who wrote from a diner booth he bought for his home (apparently ‘great places to write’) – ‘if a joke survives all that, it’s probably pretty good’.
He went on: ‘Writing the scripts and whipping them into shape, even though there’s not a lot of time for each step, is actually quite fun. The difficulty of working on The Simpsons is that each episode takes about six to eight months from beginning to end, and if you’re on staff you’re always working on half a dozen episodes at the same time, all of them at one stage of completion or another.
‘It’s actually quite exhausting, or was back then. It’s probably the easiest job in the world now. You Simpsons-writer kids today don’t know what work is.’
He shared his thoughts on the ‘glory years’ of the series (this is a 1993 episode, considered a classic) (Picture: Fox)
When it comes to the famous use of the word ‘meh’ – which, sure, is not a word the show invented, unlike ‘cromulent’, but it did rise in popularity somewhat after airing in 2001 episode Hungry, Hungry Homer – Swartzwelder does ‘claim credit’ for that inclusion.
He explained: ‘I originally heard the word from Howie Krakow, my creative director at Hurvis, Binzer & Churchill, in 1970 or 1971. He said it was the funniest word in the world.
‘I don’t know when it was invented, or by who, but I got the impression it was already very old when Howie told it to me.’
What we want to know, though, is what are Swartzwelder’s thoughts on the ‘golden era’ of the series – on which we have our own take – which in the article was suggested to be anything pre-1998.
Remaining Switzerland on the idea, sort of, he answered: ‘I’ll let the TV historians debate that. I will say that I’ve always thought Season 3 was our best individual season.
‘By Season 3 we had learned how to grind out first-class Simpsons episodes with surprising regularity, we had developed a big cast of characters to work with, we hadn’t even come close to running out of story lines, and the staff hadn’t been worn down by overwork yet. Season 3 was a fun year to be in the Simpsons writers’ room, and I think it shows in the work.’
The Simpsons is available to stream on Disney Plus.