By the third season, The Simpsons had stopped focusing
on Bart and his adventures. What made you guys want to do
AJ: There was no conscious
decision. People have often asked that kind of question. I
think that when the series started, Bart was such a great
character that it caught people's fancy and maybe we had a
little problem as writers pitching too many stories for Bart,
because he's cool, and we weren't cool. I tended to relate
more to Lisa's stories and a lot of people related to Homer.
But there was never a conscious decision to do that. We wanted
the series to be rich and to deliver the unexpected.
UGO: Who do you think is
the sexiest Simpsons character?
AJ: [laughs] The sexiest?
I'd say Duff-Man is probably in the best shape.
UGO: Who's your favorite
Simpsons family member?
AJ: I think they're all hilarious.
Lisa is the one I feel closest to from my own life. I have
a daughter and I grew up a little like her.
UGO: What about your favorite
non-Simpsons family character?
AJ: I can single out two.
I think Ned Flanders is a really rich, funny character, and
I've heard there is an actual religious cult in Britain modeled
after him. Also, Hank Azaria just won an Emmy for probably
Moe [the Bartender] Szyslak, who is also a very multileveled
UGO: Do you think The
Simpsons was hitting its stride by the third season? A
lot of people consider seasons 3 - 5 the high points of the
AJ: I will tell you that
I ran the show with Mike Reiss for seasons 3 and 4. The only
thoughts running through my head every minute of the day was,
"Don't blow it and screw up this thing everyone loves." Maybe
because the show was established we were able to do deeper
things. I have heard people say that seasons 3 - 5 were great,
but I think that it couldn't have been more popular than it
was in season 1. So it's a show that from day one was always
UGO: Is it a blast working
on the show, or a lot of hard work, or both?
AJ: Its both. It's a great
job with a lot of responsibility. But the fact that people
love it so much is great.
UGO: What do people outside
the industry think when you tell them what you do?
In the beginning, there was mixed reaction, where people would
say it's controversial or they don't let their kids watch
it. But now its pretty much, "Oh, that's great."
UGO: I know there was some
controversy when The Critic appeared on that episode
of The Simpsons. That was a show you created. Did you
and Matt Groening make up?
AJ: We get along and we even
got along then. He just didn't want to do a full-fledged crossover
and [executive producer] Jim Brooks did. It was one of those
things where everyone had their opinion, but it didn't have
any lasting repercussions. I'll say that Matt is consistent,
because we never did a full-fledged Futurama crossover
UGO: The Critic also
has a major cult following.
AJ: It's astounding to me.
It's still on Comedy Central at 1 AM on Sundays. But it's
ten years later and it's still on. What really killed it was
when it was on FOX and the guy who ran the network then, John
Matoian, just didn't like the show. He preferred a show that
no one remembers called House of Buggin with John Leguizamo.
UGO: I remember that. It
AJ: Yeah. He liked that show
and didn't like ours. Even though our ratings were better,
he cancelled us. It was very infuriating.
UGO: Now you're the exclusive
runner for The Simpsons.
AJ: Yes, this will be my
third year at it. People ask how it feels to work alone, but
I work in a room with eight other writers. There's no loneliness.
There's a little more pressure, because Mike Reiss is really
funny, but he just didn't want to be full time in show business
any more. It's similar, though, to when I did it. The ratings
have gone up.
UGO: There's been a lot of
criticism thrown at The Simpsons that the show isn't
as funny or sharp as it used to be.
AJ: There is a small group
in the internet that will say it's not as good as it was.
The people who say that also say that it's improved in the
last two years. I would say, in addition to the ratings being
up, it's in its 14th year. We got nominated for a Golden Globe
last year for the first time. I would argue that we're doing
as well as we've ever done.
UGO: What was it like watching
the third season again for the commentary?
AJ: It was interesting. Usually,
when people do a DVD commentary, it's right after the movie
came out. These were almost little reunions. I was proud of
what we had done, and I wish we could still do simple stories.
We can't do an episode where Lisa has a bad birthday, because
we've done that.
So the episodes have to be more complex?
AJ: Yeah, we don't want to
repeat ourselves but still do stories about a family. That's
UGO: Have you ever heard
people quote lines you've written?
AJ: The first show that aired
I put in a song I remembered from my youth "Jingle Bells,
Batman smells". I heard a little kid sing it at one point
and I was glad that I kept that alive.
UGO: You've got some cool
things coming up.
AJ: Yeah, guest voices coming
up are Ian McKellan, Jerry Lewis as Professor Frink's father,
Thomas Pynchon the reclusive author and Tony Blair. You won't
see those guys on According to Jim.
UGO: Do you like the shows
that have come about because of The Simpsons?
AJ: King of the Hill
is a good show. There is a reality to their portrait of Texas.
UGO: How about Family
AJ: I wasn't a big fan of
Family Guy. To be honest, I thought it was a little
to derivative of The Simpsons to the point where I
would see jokes we did on The Simpsons or The Critic
on Family Guy. They should be more original.
UGO: I hear that a lot of
The Simpsons writers are a little nerdy.
AJ: A little is understating
it, highly nerdy. A couple of guys are triathletes but, in
general, they weren't the most popular group in high school.
UGO: A lot of the writers
must be people who grew up on the show.
AJ: We say that Bart was
born in 1980. We have a writer now who was born in 1980, so
we say he is as old as Bart. Mostly the writers range from
30 to over 50.
UGO: Here's a big geek question.
If Bart is only ten and Marge got pregnant in high school
then Homer should be only 28. But it's been said he 36 or
It doesn't make sense. We actually had debates about that
when we first did the flashback to Marge and Homer meeting.
We can't reconcile it. We actually do a joke in an upcoming
episode where we show Marge and Homer as ten year olds and
we say, "It was back in the '60s…or was it '70s…maybe it was
UGO: What superpower would
you want to have?
AJ: I'd like to be able to
travel through time. First I'd go to a comic book store and
buy Amazing Spider-Man number 1. Then I'd save Lincoln.
UGO: What movie franchise
is your favorite out of Lord of the Rings, Star
Wars, or The Matrix?
AJ: I would say Lord of
the Rings were both great, so they're two for two. I thought
the last Star Wars was terrible, so Lord of the
Rings has a better batting average. I'm not a big fan
of The Matrix.
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