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Online Chat with Matt Groening
TV Guide - Yahoo! Chat
April 6, 1999
Source: Official FOX Futurama website

Matt Groening's comments appear in black. The moderator's comments and questions appear in red. Questions from the internet audience appear in blue.

Matt, welcome to the show! Let's jump right in - we have so many Questions for you tonight.

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.

First of all, greetings to everyone all over the world who are tuning in on this chat. I understand it's quite early in the morning in England. "The Simpsons" originated in high school. I wrote a bleak little novel called "The Mean Little Kids" starring a teenage Bart Simpson with buckteeth and a very bad complexion.

Satsuka: How did the idea of "Futurama" come to you?

I've been a sci-fi fan since I was a kid. I really loved those old sci-fi magazines with those garish covers and thought it would be fun to do an animated version of the book and magazine covers I loved so much.

Was "Life In Hell" an outgrowth of the Bart Simpson character?

All my cartoons are an outgrowth of my doodling in the back of the classroom in grade school when I should have been paying attention. The teachers thought I was a goof-off. So I had to become a successful cartoonist to prove them wrong. I know the Questions are pouring in. I'll try to answer as many as possible.

RoutyRyanP: What do you think of all the "Futurama" websites already on the internet? Do you have a favorite?

I understand at last count we saw 22. It's nice, they're all in the top 25. (Smiles) Everyone on the "Futurama" staff is delighted by the intensity of interest in the show at such an early stage.

Future-Boy: If you could have dinner with any one person from the 20th Century, who would it be and why?

Hmm. . . any one person? I'd like to have one more dinner with Frank Zappa, who I got to know several years ago before he died. There are about 100 more Questions I'd like to ask him about his music.

Satsuka: Do you plan on merchandising "Futurama"? I want action figures!!!

There are many merchandising plans in the works, but sadly, no action figures. No. . . for you, we'll do action figures. (Smiles)

Immike: Matt, now that "Futurama" is out, are you still going to work on "The Simpsons" or are you going to stick with "Futurama"?

I will still be working on "The Simpsons." These days the show is in good hands at Film Roman. And there's a great writing staff. So I feel like I can sit back and enjoy the show more like an audience member.

Who is your favorite character?

My favorite Simpsons character changes from episode to episode. I hold a special place in my heart for Lisa. She seems to be the only character who will escape from Springfield.

Are there any plans to make Bart and Lisa Simpson age?

One of the great advantages of animation is that the characters don't age, wrinkle, or develop strange personality disorders. So, the answer is no. They remain forever youthful and exuberant.

You still do "Life in Hell" comics every week. Do you ever think of making them into a tv show?

I have about 8 or 9 ideas for tv shows. "Life in Hell" is number 7 on the list.

Are you going to have any Simpson characters show up in "Futurama"? I know I've seen Blinky on the show.

"The Simpsons" are still on the air in 1000 years. The difference between "Futurama" and "The Simpsons" is that "The Simpsons" are fictional and "Futurama" is real. (Smiles)

OviD: I love the 3-d effects in "Futurama"! What made you decide to do that in the show?

When we started "The Simpsons" ten years ago, we couldn't do that kind of animation. Now we do, so we got more ambitious. We try to make use of 3-d animation, without making it look too much like it was done by a computer.

Milpool: If you could pick a night for the show to be on, when would that be? Or do you like it squished between two other animated shows?

I don't care where the show is as long as its fans can find it. It seems pretty obvious that Sunday night after "The Simpsons" would be a pretty good spot, but I think "Simpsons" fans are smart enough to find it any night of the week.

MattWood: Is there going to be a "Simpsons" feature film?

We have had some early, maybe, kinda, sorta, preliminary discussions of doing a "Simpsons" movie. I imagine there would be a "Simpsons" movie one of these years.

Growed: Matt, what advice do you have for students who are trying to doodle in the back of the classroom and not pay attention?

Growed must not be an English major.

Finish whatever creative work you're doing, finish it. I have pages and pages of unfinished poems, stories, comic strips, and drawings. If I just expended a little more effort, they'd be finished works. I think being able to sustain your creative self expression to the bitter end is very good training. The other thing I recommend is no matter where you are in school to try to get your work in front of an audience. A student newspaper, or xeroxing your work and handing it out.

Jon: Matt, words can not describe what I think of you. Next to my father you are the man.

That's the Question?

That is just a Comment from him...quite a compliment though.

Very cool.

HumorProbe: Is there any chance that Conan O'Brien will participate again in the production of "The Simpsons" or "Futurama?"

We're hoping Conan will realize the error of his ways, and come crawling back to "The Simpsons." We may never forgive him for leaving. (winks)


HomerDoh: Are any fictional "Simpson" characters' personalities based on someone real??

Nope. And if they were, I would never admit it. (winks)

El-barto: Is the beginning of each "Futurama" episode going to be like Bart's blackboard where it says a different thing (i.e. in color, in hypno-vision, on your tv)?

We're throwing in lots of sneaky little details in every episode for the discriminating fan. It's one of the fun things we do on "The Simpsons" and we're continuing that tradition on "Futurama".

Astrihd: Will "Futurama" ever reach Australia? Everybody here is talking about it and I've never heard of it before today.

My gosh it is late in Australia. I think it is tomorrow already.

"The Simpsons" is more popular in Australia than just about any other place in the world, and I expect "Futurama" to find its way there quite soon.

Fatty: What is your absolute favorite cartoon BESIDES ones you've invented?

I don't have a single favorite cartoon. I like lots of cartoons. Currently on tv, I enjoy "Dr. Katz", "The PJ's", "King of the Hill", "Dilbert", "Powder Puff Girls", "Space G", "Dexter's Laboratory", "Hey Arnold", "KaBam!" As you can see, I watch way too much tv.

Where do you find the time to create with all the tv watching?

I have the tv on above my drawing table. I take a peek out of the corner of my eye when I should be paying attention.

My tv is like the radio station: it is always on but I hardly ever watch it, I just listen to it.

Chlorine_poop: At the opening credits of "Futurama" does the sign in the lower left corner really say "DEFCON Cult of The Dead Cow"?

Wouldn't want to be Chlorine Poop. (smiles)

No. But we'll change it to that right now. That's a good one!


IslandTalker: In "The Simpsons", they always talk about God and his power, how he made it snow, thunder, etc. However, they are always criticizing religions, like the Jehovah's Witness and the Catholics. Why?

"The Simpsons" is equal opportunity satire. We'll poke fun at anyone we can think up a funny joke about.

JackieBrown2002: In "The Simpsons", you have a lot of references to different movies and stuff. Do you have a favorite movie or book that influenced any of "The Simpsons" episodes?

On "The Simpsons" we reference a lot of Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock films, because their movies are imprinted on our brains. I think the movie we have paid homage to the most over the last decade is "Citizen Kane." You could probably construct an entire episode made up of the references to "Citizen Kane".

beem237: Matt if there were to be a cartoon bar fight between "The Simpsons" and "Futurama" who would win and why?



Well, the characters in "Futurama" have ray guns. They have a slight advantage. However, Mo the Bartender would probably fight with broken bottles, and Homer would no doubt run away. So, Homer would win by running away.

Homer would win by default...by lack of attendance.

Kyls1: You are on a deserted Island somewhere in the South Pacific. What would be the 3 things that you take with you?

Oh man! I have no clever answer for that. Next Question.

mac-gk-1: Who is the person you have wanted to cameo on "The Simpsons" but haven't been able to get yet?

Hmm. The list of celebrities who want to be on "The Simpsons" is quite long. We pretty much have our pick. The only people who turn us down are either actors who either too old to get "The Simpsons" or actors that are too big that they have evil publicists who won't forward our phone calls.

(LOL) I would image that a lot of people call you to be on the show?

Yeah. We have many rock groups and many actors on the list.

Clancey: Kang is my favorite (I actually got a tattoo of him). Any chance of him & Kodos showing up in "Futurama"?

That's a possibility - they may make a cameo appearance one of these days.

Scary getting a tattoo of Kang.

Kipsie: With all the work you have been doing for you "The Simpsons" and "Futurama", how do you manage to fit in spare time for other things?

The secret of a balanced life is to work with a lot of people who work much harder than I do. "Futurama" and "The Simpsons" are staffed by people who knock themselves out week after week, who allow me to toddle off and do online chats. That's true actually. "The Simpsons" writers have gone home, but the "Futurama" writers are probably still there.

(LOL) - You're still working anyway. Enjoying yourself?

Yeah. It's fun.

HariW: Matt is God! After this I shall return to my Matt Groening shrine!


Quite an impact you have there.


I guess they gave up the Gahunza for you.

Amazing! One of the great things about animation is that it makes you feel like a god. You have these little creatures who wouldn't exist unless you thought them up and gave them life. And with writers putting funny words in their mouth, it's like they have free will! When the characters say jokes I don't like, I understand God's wrath. But when the episodes are great, all is well with the universe. (winks)

Your splendid creation has given me such joy. I would just like to thank you, you have no idea how much joy your creation has given me. I can always depend on "The Simpsons" to greatly improve my mood.

On behalf of the hundreds of people who put on "The Simpsons", including the actors, animators, writers, and bootleg t-shirt makers, we thank you.

Frank: The ironic humor in "The Simpsons" often suggests you are quite cynical. What's your real outlook on life?

I don't think of "The Simpsons" as being particularly cynical. We try to provide a celebration every week, and if we can possibly tear down civilization at the same time, so much the better. (winks)


Glacia_62: How long does it take to create one show of "The Simpsons" or "Futurama"?

It takes about 6 months to do a single episode. Obviously, we work on many episodes at the same time. We're still finishing up the first season of "Futurama" for broadcast, and we're writing the second season simultaneously. In fact, as I'm doing this online chat, the "Futurama" are toiling away back at headquarters.

nutsy125: Will there ever be a "Star Trek" spoof on "Futurama"?

Nutsy - great name. (smiles)

We're going to try to stay away from extended spoofs of "Star Wars" and "Star Trek", no matter how tempting that may be. I hope "Star Trek" fans appreciate the appearance of Leonard Nimoy. He was a good sport, even when we had his disembodied head eating food like goldfish.

amber22f: Who is the brains behind Ralph Wiggum. He must be a genius!

Nancy Cartwright, who plays Bart, also does the voice of Ralph. When you see her do it in person, she gets this Ralph-like stare on her face that brings the character to life.


RoBottik: Who wrote the theme for "Futurama"? It's really cool.

Chris Tyng is our intrepid composer. He's working on multiple re-mixes of the theme and we're going to try to put them out in some form as soon as we can.

evilangel2: After screening a "Simpsons" episode in Australia, is there a chance you can do one in New Zealand and poke some fun at us as well?

LOL! Sure, why not? "The Simpsons" in carrying on the tradition of having them visit countries we know nothing about, have "The Simpsons" visit Japan in an upcoming very special episode.

TheMightyLeifer-- How did you first get on Tracy Ulman? Did she find you or did you find her?

James L. Brooks, the brilliant movie director, gave me a call after having seen my comic strip "Life in Hell." He said he was putting together a comedy show for the brand new Fox network, and wanted to know if I had any ambitions to try animation. And I thought to myself "It's about time somebody made this call".


Mr.Tinklebury: I think it would be great if there was a whole episode dedicated to monkeys trained in the art of the Samurai.


That must be because of the Japanese statement earlier.

We have Fry become college roommates with a super intelligent monkey later this season on "Futurama." No sword fighting, however. But there will be plenty of biting.

murdochspe: How does it feel to know that people TATTOO themselves with your "doodles", as it were?

I think tattoos are the ultimate compliment for a cartoonist. However, I have mixed feelings when the people showing me their tattoos have the characters' names misspelled.


This has actually happened a few times. Isn't that sad?

Did you hear about the Marine that is suing the tattoo parlor for misspelling "Villain" on his arm. It took a year for him to notice.

I never tell someone with a misspelled tattoo that the name is misspelled.

nategilmore: The Simpsons Complete Guide to our Favorite Family was great. I was wondering if there was going to be a second book to cover the later seasons?

We're working on a second volume, with all new material, so you won't be paying for the same book twice. The tentative title is The Simpsons Forever.

Kevin_G: Will there be any more "Simpsons" houses built in the future like the one that was built in Las Vegas??

That's Kevin G not Kenny G.

I suggested to Fox that they build another "Simpsons" house and blow it up live on the air. On Halloween. So stay tuned.


Who knows? (smiles)

yokel: What do you think of the people who hate the "Simpsons" because they think it's a bad influence even if they haven't watched an episode?

This is a pretty astute Question

Part of the fun of being alive is knowing that you're annoying the hell out of someone else. It's that great feeling Bugs Bunny has when Elmer Fudd starts shaking with rage. If nobody hated "The Simpsons", I'd know we've lost our touch.

RoBottik: Who drinks more? Barney or Bender?

I believe Bender has a 30-gallon capacity, so Barney wins by a hair.

JListon: T-shirts...when do the T-shirts come out?

The only t-shirts that exist right now are t-shirts for the staff featuring Bender in his impending catch phrase: "Kill all humans". But don't worry, no doubt there will be so many t-shirts down the line that you will get totally sick of "Futurama". That's the modern merchandise way.

We've got three more Questions...we're going to start rapping it up here.

EVEREST-EXPED: Do you ever just watch kids at school to get ideas, or how do you get most of your ideas?

Kids are a great source of ideas, and yes, I listen to kids all the time. I quote my 2 sons, Will and Abe, in my weekly comic strip quite frequently.

-XxX-MeL-XxX-: what did you do when The Simpsons became so popular? And did you ever expect this show to be so popular??

I have to admit that I thought if I could get a cartoon show on the air, that it would be a hit. At the time, I did not understand exactly what the ramifications were of being so popular. I'm still staggered by the vast amounts of fan mail and enthusiastic response to "The Simpsons" on the internet.

Okay, two final Questions here.

TheMightyLeifer- Do you accept unsolicited material? And where can I send it if you do? Also, do you have a website or address where I can write to you?

"Futurama" and "Simpsons" are both staff written. We have way too many writers as it is, and it's next to impossible to break into the inner circle unless you went to Harvard with one of those eggheads. (LOL)

Do you have a website?

We're working on a "Futurama" website, at which the "Futurama" staff (including me) will try to answer as many Questions as we can on a regular basis. We'll have more information. We'll be making an announcement about that shortly. Look for a web address in the "Futurama" credits soon.

Here's a good one to end it on.

BigBillyRay--With all your success, what is the one thing you want but you know you will never get?

Oh my God! Let me think about this one. I know even after all this success, my high school teachers will always think I'm a goof-off.

(LOL) You'll never get the respect that you needed.


Anything in conclusion?

Thank you all for your interest. I know most of you didn't get your Questions answered. Hang in there, and look for the official "Futurama" website. We'll continue to try to make a show worthy of videotaping, freeze-framing, and criticizing on the Web. Aloha!

Matt, thank you so much. Everyone have a good night. Everyone check out the transcript. It will be available on Fox.com.

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