Renowned The Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder has given a rare interview about his work on the long-running show.
Swartzwelder wrote some of the show’s most iconic episodes, including ‘Itchy & Scratchy & Marge,’ ‘Bart the Murderer’, ‘Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment,’ ‘Homer at the Bat’ – plus many more.
Speaking to The New Yorker, the famously reclusive writer opened up about writing 59 episodes of The Simpsons – the most of any writer in the show’s history.
Speaking about how his work in a zine called Army Man got him an interview with the show’s creators, he said: “The Army Man jokes got me my initial interview with Sam and Matt [Groening], which led to my first script assignment, ‘Bart the General,’ but I wasn’t actually hired to work on staff until I’d done three episodes. The Simpsons didn’t have enough money for a full-time writing staff until late in 1989.”
Speaking about the writer’s room at The Simpsons, he added: “A writer is assigned a story, often a story he originally came up with himself, though not always. Two days are spent in the writers’ room, with everyone helping flesh out the story, adding jokes, and so on. Then the writer writes an outline. Then everybody gets back in the room and pitches more changes, additions, and jokes.
“The writer writes the first draft, and then it’s back to the room for more rewriting. The script is rewritten again after the read-through and after the screening of the animatic, with additional possible rewrites at the recording session itself and after the finished animation comes back from Korea. There might be other rewrites I’ve forgotten. If a joke survives all that, it’s probably pretty good.”
Swartzwelder, who left the show 20 years ago, added: The Simpsons did something I didn’t think possible: it got viewers to look at writers’ credits on TV shows. When I was growing up, we looked at the actors’ names, and maybe the director, but that’s it.
“Now a whole generation of viewers not only knows about writers, they’re wondering what we’re really like in real life. And they want to know what we’re thinking. And look through our windows. That’s progress, of a sort, and we have The Simpsons to thank for it.
Dictionary.com has acknowledged the use of the word “embiggens”, which was first used in a 1996 episode which saw Lisa left devastated after discovering Springfield’s town founder, Jebediah Springfield, was actually a murderous pirate.
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Date: 3 May 2021
Author: Elizabeth Aubrey