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Simpson writer John Swartzvelder gives a rare interview

Episode of John Swartzvelder in The Simpsons

An episode of John Swartzvelder in The Simpsons
Screenshot: The Simpsons

For Simpson fans who have a very strong opinion about which particular round of episodes make up the “good ones”, the very fact that the legendary writer John Swartzvelder gave extremely rare interview for The New Yorker it should be enough to click this link as soon as possible and see if it has anything to say about Homer’s Enemy or the story that he received special approval to work from home, and then bought the booth in which he wrote, in his favorite diner, and installed it in his house (yes, he pays attention to both). For everyone else here’s the pitch: Swartzwelder is undeniable (perhaps perhaps) the best writer he has worked on The Simpsons, responsible for almost all the best jokes in the best episodes until he left the show in 2003. He is also a notorious prisoner and rarely gives interviews, which means that this is not only an insight into the creative process of the brilliant writer, but and one of the few insights of this kind sometime– and also the interview is really fun.

In the interview, Swartzvelder explained that one of the reasons he got into writing comedies was that he found it an easy job, or at least a job where he could do whatever he wanted when he wanted. He talks about the big laughs from a play he wrote as a child, but not about what he thought was the funniest part, and how he later sent unwanted packs of jokes to Late night with David Letterman hoping to be hired. He wrote briefly about SNL and a few comedies, but writing jokes about the comedy zine (like, “They can kill Kennedy, why can’t they make a cup of coffee with flavor?”) noticed him from Simpson producer Sam Simon, who took him to work on the show.

The whole thing is quite interesting, even if you are inexplicably not a fan of the classics Simpson, and includes details of how the writers worked, which episodes are Swartzwelder’s favorites, and how his approach to writing episodes will involve going through it as quickly as possible (even with bad jokes and replacement lines) and then returning and reviewing later. He admits that he introduced the word “meh” Simpson canon, he explains, writing Homer as if he were a talking dog (“At one point he was the saddest man in the world because he had just lost his job, or dropped his sandwich, or accidentally killed his family. Then, in the next moment, he is the happiest man in the world ”) and politely rejects Simpson fans using “Swartzweldian” as an adjective because it sounds so awkward, creating a fantastic punch in a word:

So how would you describe your sense of humor, your comedic sensitivity?


Swartzwelder also offers some new perspectives on his legacy, saying that it is writers like him who actually persuade people to read the credits in their favorite shows, and says that anyone else who is interested in a career that involves making people laugh should just to worry about laughing. “At least you’ll laugh.”

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