Simpsons in Vanity Fair

Conan on The Simpsons

Vanity Fair has published an extensive oral history about The Simpsons. The piece includes the thoughts of everybody from cartoonist Gary Panter to Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch, as well as many people who have worked on the series including Brad Bird, Gabor Csupo, Kent Butterworth, Bill Oakley, Larry Doyle and Hank Azaria. The same issue of VF also has an interview with Conan O’Brien discussing his time working on the series. I think the following comment from Conan really hits the nail on the head about why the humor on the Simpsons more often than not feels so tired and lacking in spontaneity:

By the time an episode came out, you had maybe heard the script read through like 20 times, and if for some reason the joke wasn’t getting a laugh on the 21st time, you had to rework it. Sometimes your first pitch is your best pitch, but over time, if you revisit it constantly, you’ll grow weary of it, it will start to wilt, and then you’re just coming up with a different pitch that’s maybe not necessarily better. Obviously it’s clearly a strength of The Simpsons that by the time you see it, things have been road-tested and thought about and so much work has gone into it. But sometimes I felt like, “Let’s bake the pie and serve it.”

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