So, pop superstar Justin Bieber had a small 10-second cameo in last Sunday's Simpsons episode, which seemed to disappoint everyone. Bieber fans didn't like it because it was too short, unbeliebers thought it was too long, and Bieber himself initially tried to suppress all evidence of it last year.
Perhaps wary of The Controversy, executive producer Al Jean attempted to deflect blame for it onto his boss, Matt Groening:
According to Jean, Groening requested that Bieber be worked into an episode. "I think he has a family member who was a fan," Jean says. "I think he's a fan, too. So he asked us to find a place to use him. I think [Bieber] had also met Matt and wanted to be on the show."
Matt Groening, a Bieber fan? It's possible, but Groening - a former music critic - is known for his eclectic music taste. He likes oddball rock & roll, Balinese gamelan music, and Romanian brass bands. He said pop music "usually sounds like the audio equivalent of CGI." He wrote a biography of The Residents. He's curated the All Tomorrow's Parties progressive music festival twice. He guest-edited an anthology of music writing. He's let indie bands Tender Forever and Electrelane hang out at his house. He's a big Captain Beefheart fan. He interviewed and was friends with Frank Zappa.
Nice try, Al.
Simpsons creator Matt Groening added yet another company to his only robust portfolio last year, a mysterious entity known as "Bapper Entertainment." Bleeding Cool suspects he's "getting ready to reveal" whatever this new thing is. I wouldn't count on it, though, because making new companies seems to be something of a hobby for him. Let's take a look at some of the other companies he's had over the years, shall we?
Simpsons creator Matt Groening has apparently joined the advisory board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization that's basically an ACLU for funnybooks. According to its website, one of CBLDF's missions includes providing "for the legal defense of individuals whose First Amendment rights are threatened for making, selling, or even reading comic books."
It's a change of pace for Groening, who's usually the one playing legal offense.
Matt Groening gave a brief interview with Rolling Stone about ending his long-running comic strip Life in Hell that's worth reading. He reveals that it was only running in 38 papers, compared to its zenith of 250 or so, which is pretty sad. I did make an effort to check it out every week in the LA Weekly, but when they dropped it there were no other LA-based papers to pick up the slack (at least, as far as I could find) so I haven't been able to read it on a regular basis for years. I did find out fairly late it was running in The Oregonian, though.
Some choice quotes:
Why pull the plug on Life in Hell now? Did you simply run out of jokes?
It's pretty obvious that I ran out of jokes a couple of decades ago - but that doesn't stop any cartoonist!
[A] TV producer sneered at the strip and said, "Why do you bother? Give it up." Because of that, I dug in my heels and kept it going two decades longer than I might have. I also liked the idea of having one slice of my creative output being completely solo, unlike TV animation. It's very satisfying to sit down at a drawing table by yourself and solve a puzzle with a deadline.
[Rolling Stone via The Comics Journal]
Matt Groening announced he's quit his legendary long-running weekly comic strip Life in Hell just a couple hours ago at The Illustration Conference (ICON) in Rhode Island, according to this guy on Twitter:
For the past twenty years, Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Goosebumps author Stephen King, New York Times economist Dave Barry, and a bunch of other folk have been a part of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a dorky all-author band that mostly plays at bookseller conventions. But now, they're saying "adios amigos" to the hectic rockstar lifestyle and calling it quits. What could have prompted the retirement of these rock legends?? Did they get Yokoed? Were they tired of all the sex and drugs? Is there even still a book industry now that you can look up cat videos on the web? Well, whatever the reason, your last chance to see Matt Groening - a multi-millionaire cartoonist who's almost 60 - play a cowbell will be at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on June 22.
Simpsons creator Matt Groening got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today. According to KPCC, it's star #2,459 , located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd, in case you want to visit it and step all over it. Since The Simpsons themselves already have a star, you can consider this one a quiet acknowledgment of Futurama and Life in Hell.
It's been a banner couple of weeks for the Groenster - he's getting a toy modeled off of his likeness, he just celebrated the 500th episode of The Simpsons, he just created the Matt Groening Chair in Animation with a $500,000 donation to UCLA, and his birthday is tomorrow. Everything's coming up Groening!
Simpson creator Matt Groening went to Egypt to check out the pyramid and he foolishly ignored all the hieroglyphic warnings and trespassed into the forbidden zone when all of a sudden The Mummy appeared and cast a big curse on him. As karmic retribution for all his brazen merchandising and capitalist crimes, Mr. Groening was turned into a piece of merchandise himself, how ironic. Now he is no longer human, he is just a doll and can't do human things anymore, rip.
OK but seriously now, for just fifty American dollars you can buy a toy version of the guy whose signature appears on all your other Simpsons toys. Here's what the solicitation says:
Created by legendary "Life is Hell" cartoonist Matt Groening, THE SIMPSONS is celebrating its 500th episode in February 2012, and Kidrobot is honoring the father of primetime animation in the only way we know how - making him into a 6-inch vinyl toy! Complete with goatee and glasses, director's jacket, and pad and pencil accessories, it is the first EVER Simpsons Matt Groening toy.
Essentially, if you cut out the middlemen, you can pay a guy money and he will give you a doll version of himself. This is so weird and messed up that I needed to lie down to fully contemplate the many levels of Meta this object encapsulates.
The National, an English-language newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, called Simpsons creator Matt Groening "one weird creature" for no apparent reason.
THE BASICS, PART ONE The Simpsons is the longest-running scripted show in television history - and a cultural phenomenon that is recognised the world over. Its creator, the cartoonist Matt Groening, is one weird creature.
What a baffling little statement. There's no elaboration or explanation whatsoever. "Weird," okay, I can buy that. But "creature?" Like he's a jolly little gnome-person or something? And this is supposed one of the basic facts one should know about The Simpsons?
Perhaps The National should change its name to "The Irrational."
Beloved cartoon character Milhouse Van Houten might have began life as part of an unsuccessful pitch for a Saturday morning cartoon.
In a discussion on Twitter last week, Simpsons superdirector David Silverman clarified some things about Milhouse's origins, shooting down rumors he's just a rip-off of Paul Pfeiffer from The Wonder Years (come on dudes, he's pretty much just Akbar/Jeff with hair and glasses). He also shared a little more behind-the-scenes information about his first appearance. It's been known that Milhouse first appeared in a pre-series Simpsons Butterfinger commercial - in 2000, Simpsons creator Matt Groening told TV Guide he "needed to give Bart someone to talk to in the school cafeteria" - but until now it was believed he was created specifically for that commercial.
Yes, it's true. For the first time ever, you will be able to buy t-shirts with Matt Groening characters on them.
How did we get here? For decades, Groening has been adamant in his refusal to merchandise his highly popular creations (outside of book collections and DVD releases). He has rejected countless offers to license his characters, turning down billions of dollars in the process. After spending years battling his syndicate, he announced his decision to end his long-running comic strip Life in Hell in 1995. Pent-up demand for officially licensed Simpsons merchandise lead to a boom in bootleg car decals featuring Bart Simpson urinating on various logos, which is now a million-dollar industry despite its questionable legality. The ever-reclusive cartoonist has made virtually no public appearances since the famous incident at the Fox network upfront presentations in 1998, when he declared money to be the root of all evil and ran out the auditorium during the announcement of Futurama.
His anti-commercial martyrdom took its toll on his personal life. After his divorce in 1999, Groening retreated to a yurt in central Oregon and cut off all ties with his close friends, including Lynda Barry, creator of the mega-popular Fox sitcom Marly's, and Gary Panter, who took over Peanuts in 2000. After seven years in isolation, Groening re-emerged with The Mean Kids, a dense 16 x 21 inch 20,000-page graphic novel that bankrupted its publisher, Buenaventura Press, upon its release.
So what changed his mind? "Well, I had a lot of time to think about it," he told The New Yorker. "I figure a few pieces of merchandise here and there couldn't hurt, as long as I oversee all aspects of their production and donate the profits to charity. I want my signature to become synonymous with high quality and social responsibility."
The "PLAY IN HELL" series of T-shirts will be available in Comme de Garcons stores starting next week. [On the Runway]
Yes, even rich people get jury duty sometimes! Simpsons creator Matt Groening has been been selected to be a juror in a five-member jury two states away in Park City, Utah. What the heck? Is Utah so desolate that they have to call in people from other states to serve on their juries? Weird. [The Salt Lake Tribune]
The Simpsons turn 20 today (that is, if you don't count the Christmas special as the first episode and completely ignore the original shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show), and there's been a number of retrospectives to mark the occasion. An oft-repeated claim in many histories is that creator Matt Groening, fearing the loss of his Life in Hell characters, came up with the Simpsons in fifteen minutes before a meeting with Ullman producer James L. Brooks. But the characters actually originated nearly 40 years ago, in an unpublished novel Groening wrote in high school:
Chat Transcript (April 6, 1999):
Interview with Robert William Kubey, published in Creating Television: Conversations with the People Behind 50 Years of American TV (Late 1991)
Question hobgoblin: How old were you when you first came up with the idea for "The Simpsons"? I know that the show has been on for a long time.
Matt_G "The Simpsons" originated in high school.
Matt_G I wrote a bleak little novel called "The Mean Little Kids" starring a teenage Bart Simpson with buckteeth and a very bad complexion.
How quickly did The Simpsons gel in your mind?
I needed to come up with an idea really quickly. In the back of my mind was the idea of doing something that might possibly end up spinning off into its own TV show, so I created a family which I thought would lend itself to a lot of different kinds of stories. In high school I had written a novel, a sort of a very sour Catcher in the Rye, self pitying, adolescent novel starring Bart Simpson as a very troubled teenager. I took that family and transferred it, made them younger, and then drew. It took about 15 minutes to design the characters the first time out.
Were they all the same characters that we now know and love?
Yes, but they've been transformed.
Why didn't you leave Bart as an adolescent?
TV does children really badly, and I thought there was room for something different. Teenagers are already running rampant on television, but kids are done very unrealistically in sitcoms. Sometimes, a particular character gels with an audience and becomes the star.
Was Bart at the center all along?
Yeah. The rest of the Simpsons in my original conception were in a struggle to be normal and Bart was the one who thought that being normal was boring.
And now you know... the rest of the story.
Upon being reminded that Simpsons creator Matt Groening grew up in Portland, former Simpsons writer and future Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien said this:
"He'll always be my boss. You know how you feel when you run into your third-grade teacher at the supermarket? Your worry that you're going to get in trouble, even if you're 45? That's how I feel when I see Matt Groening."
The LA Weekly has dropped Matt Groening's weekly comic strip Life in Hell after 22 years. As far as I can tell, no other Los Angeles periodicals are carrying it, which means Life in Hell is no longer available in the city that inspired it. [CNN]
Simpsons creator Matt Groening has always enjoyed a favorable relationship with the press. Serving as a sort-of go-to cultural commentator, the head of Fox's billion-dollar cartoon franchise is often quoted on everything from animation to music to high school to Olympic mascots. These days, however, he is often asked to comment on Fox's other billion-dollar cartoon franchise, Family Guy. In a Wall Street Journal article about Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, MacFarlane's contemporary is relegated to a handful of sentences, including a paragraph which curiously reads like a line from a Fox press release:
Cartoonist Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpsons," says, "He's laid the groundwork with this smash hit show and now, with new media opening up and Seth's specific kind of rapid-fire visual humor, how to exploit it just depends on how ambitious he wants to be."
Given that Fox and the Journal
are corporate siblings, could this be another sign of The Simpsons
's diminishing stature in the eyes of Fox executives? [Wall Street Journal]
Along with at least 100 other showrunners, Matt Groening and James L. Brooks joined in solidarity with the WGA strike, signing a pledge and vowing that they "will do no writing" until a deal is made. Wait, they still work on the show? [WGA.org]
Popular celebrity-stalking website TMZ has posted an article by Melissa-Mindy Trump Hilton, who bears strong resemblance to comedienne Amy Sedaris, in which she declares her intentions of becoming the Akbar to Matt Groening's Jeff:
People have been saying that I have "set my cap" on becoming "Mrs. Matt Groening." And they say that for the entire summer, I have been drunkenly throwing myself at Matt, in a way that appears almost desperate, making plans to cross his path during movie industry events and parties and receptions, always popping up at his side. And that one incident where I got kind of drunk at the Viper Room with Matt that caused my banning. Anyway: Matt Groening and I are "just friends," as they say. We do like to go to the beach together, we've been to a few local spas, we enjoy board games like Twatch and Scrabble. But we are just friends. Period. Oh, well, I have my hopes ... like any girl does. But for now those hopes are private and I know that TMZ won't betray my confidences.
The Simpson [sic] creator Matt Groening has snubbed new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown by insisting he'll never have a cameo on the hit animated series. While Brown's predecessor Tony Blair guest starred on a show in 2003, cartoon genius Groening is adamant there won't be another British statesman on the show for years. He says, "One Prime Minister per century is enough."
Could this lead to a British boycott of The Simpsons
??? Developing... [Starpulse]
The aloof creator of The Simpsons will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Playboy! Here is a funny quote:
As a parent, Groening says, "I'm the dad I wished I had. I try to let my kids have a good time." His reward? "[My kids] tell me I'm not funny anymore. ... My son said he wishes ['Family Guy' creator] Seth MacFarlane were his father." [NY Daily News]