Our guest on this perfectly cromulent episode of the Popzara Podcast is Emmy Award-winning writer, producer, script-fixer and all-around funnyman Mike Reiss, known for everything from children’s books – most of which aren’t considered pornographic – and Hollywood films as diverse as Airplane II (yeah, the sequel), Ice Age, Despicable Me, and Horton Hears a Who!
But it’s television where Mike shone the brightest, helping create pioneering animated shows like The Critic, Queer Duck and a little show you’ve probably heard of: The Simpsons. Which is fortunate seeing as he’s the author (with Mathew Klickstein) of Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for the Simpsons, offering hardcore fans and curious gossips exactly what the title promises. Now that’s proof in advertising!
Our resident Simpsons expert and unashamed Alf enthusiast Nathan Evans chats with Mike about his early days writing for the Harvard Lampoon to helping shape crude animated shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show into the global phenomenon that just won’t quit. Seriously, after three decades and 600+ episodes in the can, The Simpsons will outlast us all.
Of course the two talk The Simpsons – that’s what you came here for, isn’t it? From early comedy influences to pivotal episodes like “Stark Raving Dad” where Mike helped transform pop megastar Michael Jackson into an insane mental patient to the Jon Lovitz-powered “The Way We Was”, which helped convince the world there was more to the show than jokes and t-shirt friendly catchphrases.
Also discussed are his early days writing for Alf, creating (with longtime writing partner Al Jean) The Critic, discovering comedy talent everywhere from the utopian bliss of Canada to the cesspool of Twitter, the importance of not writing down to the audience (hint: it’s the parents, stupid), as well as the project he’s most proud of, the innovative online series Queer Duck.
But hey! It’s more Simpsons you want, so it’s more Simpsons you’ll get. Mike dishes details on the troubles getting Jay Sherman to Springfield, screwing up the marketing rollout for The Simpsons Movie, his thoughts on the recent “Problem with Apu” controversy, and even a little on Matt Groening’s upcoming Netflix series Disenchantment. Want to know more? Read the book! It’s great!