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    Ask Bill and Josh Q&A Thread

    Please note that if you post in this thread, it WILL NOT appear right away (we may also reserve the right to withhold questions that are not as appropriate or repetitive). We are screening the posts in this thread, so please only post your questions once!

    Back in 2002, the NHC was given a very special opportunity to hold a Q&A session with Simpsons executive producer Al Jean. Now, three years later, we just might be ready to top that.

    We've got a couple of guys here you might know... they go by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein. They wrote some episodes. They ran the show in seasons 7 and 8. And yeah, they also had that great show Mission Hill. And they're here, and they just might answer questions you might have.

    Guidelines

    1. Limit three questions per person per 24-hour period. If a person has already asked a question, please do not ask it again (even if it wasn't answered). Please note that not every question can be answered; it's up to Bill and Josh's discretion as to how many questions they will answer.

    2. Keep questions appropriate. Only the appropriate questions will be displayed. We'd like to have as many questions about season 7 as possible, as this is the next DVD set to come out.

    3. No flash photography.

    4. If Poochie isn't around, everybody must ask, "where's Poochie?"

    Enjoy!
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    Bill & Josh:

    1) When you took over the show in 1995, what kind of stortytelling style did you try to establish?

    2) Where did the writers get most of their ideas from?

    3) Have you ever thought about returning to Springfield?

  3. #3
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    What will the alternate season seven box look like? Around what time will season eight be out? Could you tell us anybody that will be doing commentaries on season eight?
    thanks

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    Will you have anything to do with the Simpsons Movie?

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    Me and a friend, let's call him... Sloppy J. No, that's too obvious. S Jimbo. We were wondering:

    Other than the two episodes he showran, how much influence did David Mirkin have on the show in season 7?

    Who makes the ultimate decision when it comes to picking a new showrunner?

    My final question is a joint question. I would like to know, is Smithers gay, where is Springfield, does my ass look big in this and are you really the Head of the Kwik-E-Mart?

    Really.

    Thank you for your time.


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    Wow!

    1) In the episodes "Homer's Enemy" and "Lisa the Simpson," it has been said that there may be a thematic connection between their main plots and subplots. Was this just a coincidence or was this a conscious decision of the writers?

    2) Who was your favorite guest star when you were showrunners?

    3) What is your favorite episode from season 7?
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    Were there any plotlines or stories that you two came up with either as writers or EP's that didn't make it into the show one way or another, and why?

    Were there any celebrities that you two really wanted to have appear on the Simpsons but couldn't?

    How have your experiences with working on the Simpsons helped you with your projects since, or have they at all?
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    Was there anything you guys consciously changed when you took over the show?

    What are your favorite lines or scenes from the run of the show?
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    Was the "look" of Mission Hill pure Lauren MacMullen?

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    How much input did you guys had in season 9 as creative consultants, and roughly what percentage of your ideas leftover from s8 were used in s9?

    Do you feel that Greg Daniels leaving The Simpsons to do King of the Hill was a particuarly significant loss for the show, or is it always like that when someone leaves?

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    you guys have done the only double episode feature of the simpsons, was it easy to put all the pieces of the episode together and what inspired you to do a 2 parter?

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    Why were you chosen as showrunners?
    What's your favourite THOH?
    Last edited by Channel Surfer; 10-22-2005 at 01:16 PM. Reason: Duplicate Question
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    1. Do you guys still watch the show, and has anything surprised you about the new episodes?

    2. What are your feelings toward Family Guy? Simpsons rip-off or misunderstood?

    3. If you were asked to come back to the Simpsons would you?

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    Any upcoming projects you're working on?

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    Are there any jokes in The Simpsons or Mission Hill that you don't think any of the fans "got"?
    If a fan came up to you, somehow managed to recognize you on the street, and started asking you about fifty questions in a row about The Simpsons, would you answer them or would you just be annoyed?
    Do you have any funny stories about animation mistakes (storyboard, animatic or otherwise) to share?

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    First off, it's awesome that you're taking the time to do this. Many thanks.

    1. Looking back at your years on the show (especcially the years you ran), what were some of the goals you had that you think you really accomplished as well or better then you had hoped? Any goals that you didn't get to or that you feel could have gone better?

    2. Were there any episodes ideas you had that you never got around to using, or discarded for other reasons?

    3. You guys did some consulting on "Futurama" at one point. What kind of contributions did you make to it?
    Two eyes, two ears, a chin, a mouth, ten fingers, two nipples, a butt, two kneecaps, a penis. I've just described to you the Loch Ness Monster. And the reward for its capture? All the riches in Scotland. So I have one question: why are you here?

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    in the middle of a hoedown eric's Avatar
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    That's enough questions for now; we don't want to overwhelm the guys.

  18. #18
    Came 2 Burgle Carnegie Hall billoakley's Avatar
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    Hello from Bill and Josh

    Hey, everybody!
    Bill and Josh speaking:

    It's really fun to be here and thanks to NHC for this opportunity.

    And thank you guys for all your questions.

    We're going to answer your posts in the order they appeared, one by one.

    It'll probably take us a couple of days to catch up with all the questions asked so far. But the good news is, there's no time limit. We'll just keep answering until you get sick of us, or vice-versa.

    Josh will answer some, Bill will answer others but the replies come from both of us.

    So here we go....

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    Quote Originally Posted by barts friend
    What will the alternate season seven box look like? Around what time will season eight be out? Could you tell us anybody that will be doing commentaries on season eight?
    thanks
    1. Sorry, we haven't seen the alternate box yet. But I assume it'll be in keeping with the style of the Season 1-5 boxes.

    2-3. I am not sure when Season Eight will be out but I can tell you we have not even started recording the commentaries for it, so probably at least six months. But we'll keep you updated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by deathdrivesastick
    Will you have anything to do with the Simpsons Movie?
    No, we're not involved with the Simpsons Movie.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vox Nerduli
    Me and a friend, let's call him... Sloppy J. No, that's too obvious. S Jimbo. We were wondering:

    Other than the two episodes he showran, how much influence did David Mirkin have on the show in season 7?

    Who makes the ultimate decision when it comes to picking a new showrunner?

    My final question is a joint question. I would like to know, is Smithers gay, where is Springfield, does my ass look big in this and are you really the Head of the Kwik-E-Mart?

    Really.

    Thank you for your time.
    1. Other than the episodes he showran, Dave consulted one day per week on Season Seven, usually on the day of the table reading. He would help with the rewrite and pitch new jokes. He also spent some time helping Josh and myself learn the technical side (editing, mixing, etc.) of the job. He was incredibly fun to have around and a very valuable part of the show.

    2. I can't say for sure, because it's probably different in every case, but I believe the contractual authority rests with James L. Brooks. But in the cases I am familiar with, the outgoing showrunner would present his choice to Jim Brooks and Richard Sakai and Matt G. I don't know (and don't believe) that Fox has any input.

    3. This is an awesome question. You have brightened our day.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by FuzzyWuzzyWuzABear
    Wow!

    1) In the episodes "Homer's Enemy" and "Lisa the Simpson," it has been said that there may be a thematic connection between their main plots and subplots. Was this just a coincidence or was this a conscious decision of the writers?

    2) Who was your favorite guest star when you were showrunners?

    3) What is your favorite episode from season 7?
    1. This was purely coincidental in both cases. (Perhaps it was subconscious?)

    2. There's a lot of talk about this topic on the DVD commentaries so we don't want to spoil it, but here are a few:

    FAV. PERFORMANCE: Donald Sutherland, R. Lee Ermey
    FAV. GUYS TO HANG OUT WITH: John Waters, Dave Thomas
    GREAT IN BOTH CATEGORIES: Jeff Goldblum

    3. Bill -- 22 Short Films, Fish Called Selma, Summer of 4 Ft. 2
    Josh -- Marge Be Not Proud, Bart Sells His Soul

  23. #23
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    Answering Semaj!

    Quote Originally Posted by Semaj
    Bill & Josh:

    1) When you took over the show in 1995, what kind of stortytelling style did you try to establish?

    2) Where did the writers get most of their ideas from?

    3) Have you ever thought about returning to Springfield?
    Hey Semaj!

    Good questions -- the first one we answer in detail on the commentary for "Home Sweet Diddly,etc." the first episode we showran in Season 7, so I'll be brief on that one:

    1) STORYTELLING: We were huge fans of the show before we started working on it in Season 3 -- even before we worked on it, we felt it was the best. show. ever. -- so we didn't want to change the already excellent storytelling style that was established by Matt/Jim/Sam/Mike/Al and the other guys. One of the reasons The Simpsons works so well is that the stories are based on some sort of reality and the characters responses to the situations are based on real emotions, so the show is a lot more "real" than most sitcoms. I think that's a major reason for the show's universal appeal.

    So our goal was to tell stories that hadn't yet been told on the show. Also, we felt that by season 7, we could start exploring other characters in Springfield in more depth. We also felt we could start pushing the envelope a little more, like with 3-D Homer and "22 Short Films".

    I guess our biggest philosophy about storytelling is: the more involved a viewer is in the story, the more they will like the jokes and everything else that comes with it. So we wanted to tell very involving, entertaining stories.

    A side note about this: we agree with those of you who have said that sometimes we got too bogged down in the story -- it didn't happen a lot, but I can see in hindsight which episodes I would've "picked up the pace" on.

    2) IDEAS - This sounds bogus, but it's true -- ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes, it's from a news story (the gambling episode was based on an article we read about a small town in the US that was considering legalizing riverboat gambling casinos). Sometimes, it's based on a writer's personal experience -- something similar to "Bart Sells His Soul" actually happened to Greg Daniels (you can hear the full, crazy story on the commentary for that one.) And "Marge Be Not Proud" was based on something that really happened to Mike Scully (he tells it much better on the commentary). Sometimes, it's based on people we knew or encountered -- part of the basis of "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Sweeeeeet, etc." was based on the sad lives of teachers we had in our school (Bill and I went to high school together.) Sometimes, stories were even based on criticism of the show -- Poochie was sort of based on that, among other things.

    3) Have we ever thought of returning? We're over at Fox a lot doing our commentaries and whenever we are, I have to say an old, sappy fondness kicks in. We see Matt, Mirkin, and a bunch of the writers we worked with and a bunch of the animators we worked with and it does bring up good memories. The crazy communal feel of working on the show, the fact that we could do anything, tell any story we wanted and work with some of the funniest people ever -- these are all things we miss.

    But we are pretty happy doing our own thing -- we're writing a pilot for a one-hour dramedy for CBS and we're just finishing up a movie we wrote for the actor Seann William Scott, and it's a real pleasure to be able to do these sort of things. But if they asked us, we would absolutely consider it.

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    LOL

    Quote Originally Posted by bovine_university
    Were there any plotlines or stories that you two came up with either as writers or EP's that didn't make it into the show one way or another, and why?

    Were there any celebrities that you two really wanted to have appear on the Simpsons but couldn't?

    How have your experiences with working on the Simpsons helped you with your projects since, or have they at all?
    Dude, your Bovine University link isn't working. Just so you know.

    1. The great thing about the Simpsons is that we pretty much were able to get away with everything, so there weren't any episodes we REALLY wanted to do that we couldn't do. Even the crazy high-concept ones like Two Bad Neighbors and Frank Grimes we managed to put on the air because honestly there were no network execs there to stop us. I can tell you four episodes that never did get done for other reasons:
    SEASON THREE: "Thirtysimpsons" by David Stern. A "thirtysomething" style look at Homer and Marge's marriage, as contrasted by some yuppies who move in next door. It just wasn't the style of the show, and much of the material got put into other episodes.
    SEASON FIVE: The Prince Episode by Conan O'Brien. An entire episode was written to showcase an appearance by Prince. But it turned out Prince was on a completely different wavelength (imagine!) and actually had a friend of his write a script for the episode instead. No reconciliation was ever reached and the episode never happened.
    SEASON SEVEN: Greg Daniels pitched an episode about racism in Springfield. It never got pastthe planning stages because the topic was just too incendiary to be dealt with effectively. (We talk about this on one commentary this year; Greg didn't even remember pitching it.)
    SEASON EIGHT: A hilarious and fully worked out story by George Meyer. I can't reveal the subject matter here but we never went forward with it because of 1) legal ramifications and 2) the fact that at least a couple of people on the staff/cast would've felt personally attacked by the episode and we just didn't want to deal with the fallout. But it was hilarious and George is the funniest writer to ever live.

    2) We did get almost all the celebs we wanted. We always wanted Robert DeNiro but never had a role for him. We tried to get Al Gore to host the Halloween episode in season six or seven. There were a number of rock and rollers (Bob Dylan especially) we tried to get for Homerpalooza but didn't land. We also had an insane amount of trouble getting 40-60 year old female celebs on the show (other than Meryl Streep and Glenn Close). I'm not sure why, but a number of people over 40 weren't interested in being on the show unless they had kids that urged them to do it.

    3) We learned everything we know about comedy writing from the Simpsons. Probably the most valuable was to really let our imaginations run wild, not be constrained by the kind of things that hem regular sitcoms in -- limits on characters, sets, audience intelligence, and budget. Of course, when we do live action projects now we're always radically over budget because our shows have too many characters and sets. Also, we learned to never write down to the audience because we always assumed that at least someone out there would get even the most obscure reference to Grover Cleveland or Ayn Rand or William Dawes, etc.

    The one thing you DON'T learn at the Simpsons is how to deal with executives and the grim realities of the TV business that everyone outside the Simspons faces every day. It's a wonderfully insulated environment, like grad school, and when you go out into the real world you don't know how good you had it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jamie
    Was the "look" of Mission Hill pure Lauren MacMullen?
    Thank you for asking a Mission Hill question. You get a gold star.

    Lauren actually covers this in the commentary for the MH DVD's (order now from Amazon! Coming out in November!) but here's the short version:

    Lauren was completely in charge of the look; it was entirely hers. However, it was consciously designed to feel like one of the alternative comics (Hate, Eightball, etc.) that we all loved at the time.

    She credits her primary inspiration for the look as Harvey Kurtzman (the genuis behind MAD). He was also a heavy influence on Dan Clowes, which is why some people have asked if Dan was involved in the design of the show.

    Quote Originally Posted by Navin Johnson
    How much input did you guys had in season 9 as creative consultants, and roughly what percentage of your ideas leftover from s8 were used in s9?

    Do you feel that Greg Daniels leaving The Simpsons to do King of the Hill was a particuarly significant loss for the show, or is it always like that when someone leaves?

    If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
    1. To my knowledge, there were no Season 8 ideas used in Season 9. By the time we left, we had used up all the ideas from the last Season 8 story conference and the Season 9 ideas were all new (except for our 2 holdover shows.)

    We had somewhere between 0 and .0001% input in Season Nine. We were at the show the whole time, finishing post-production on Season Eight, but all we did for Nine was attend the table reads and sometimes contribute a thought or joke. (Sometimes being a "Consulting Producer" is like that, other times you're working full-time just like everybody else. It's all part of the contract negotation.)

    2. Greg was certainly a loss, but remember that people coming and going is always a part of the show. At the end of Season Four, Jeff Martin and John Vitti and David Stern all left, and Mike and Al as well. (For three weeks between Seasons Four and Five, Conan and Dan McGrath and me and Josh were the only writers on the show before David Mirkin came onboard.) And then in Season Five, Conan left. Greg was writing the KOTH pilot while still on staff, I think, so we did have him for longer than you'd expect. We didn't feel like the world had ended when Greg left, but yes, we did miss him.

    3. Oak. Now aren't you sorry you asked that question?

    Quote Originally Posted by SideshowTim
    you guys have done the only double episode feature of the simpsons, was it easy to put all the pieces of the episode together and what inspired you to do a 2 parter?
    This is covered in such great detail on the Who Shot Mr. Burns DVD commentaries that I won't go on for long.

    1) The original notion came from Matt G. who came into our office one day before a story retreat and said,"Why don't we do some stunt episode?" He rattled off a number of ideas off the top of his head and one of them was "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" (Just that one phrase; it was a parody of the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of "Dallas", as I'm sure you know.) We thought it was a great idea and ran with it, worked out the story, mystery, etc. It was obvious from the start it had to be a two-parter because of its cliffhanger nature.

    2) It was not easy at all. It took an incredible amount of work to lay in all the puzzle pieces, especially from the animators. Actually, setting it up (Part One) was a lot easier than paying it off (Part Two), which is why Part One is much funnier than Part Two, because in the payoff there was so much story-work to do. In Part One, there was more breathing room for humor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jwbph
    Was there anything you guys consciously changed when you took over the show?

    What are your favorite lines or scenes from the run of the show?
    The first question we pretty much already answered so I'll jump to your next one, which has made me realize we quote from the show all the time:

    FAVORITE LINES

    There are certain lines that we end up using in our day-to-day life, like:

    George Bush speaking to Dr. Hibbert when he says "I thought it was pretty clear, but I guess I'll take it on down" from "Two Bad Neighbors" where George Bush painted a cruddy insulting banner that was supposed to be Homer and Bart. We say that line any time something isn't clear.

    We also say "Whoa, whoa, slow down, egghead" a lot -- Chief Wiggum talking to Prof. Frink in "Homer 3D".

    Sometimes we use Roger Myers' line "Great, why don't you mail it to yesterday when I might have cared" from "The Day The Violence Died".

    And we quote many lines from the Poochie episode, especially when we're dealing with network notes on a project ("Attitude, attitude... sunglasses!")

    We also quote from Frank Grimes a lot. That really was an inspirational episode, don't you think?

    And we love saying "I'm gonna keep rockin' forever... forever... forever" from "Homerpalooza".

    There are also lines that I just love for their own sake, like store detective Don Brodka's "If I wanted smoke blown up my ass, I'd be at home with a pack of cigarettes and a short length of hose" from "Marge Be Not Proud". This line caused the network to have a giant fit and try to censor us, but Jim Brooks came to our aid and got them to back off.

    Some of my other favorite lines:

    "Just remember, one of our patients is a cannibal. Try to guess which one. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."
    -Dr. Foster in "Hurricane Neddy". This is one of my favorite underrated episodes, one I especially like for its exploration of Ned's psyche. And the fact that the episode is both insane and very believable at the same time!

    "Riding the chairlift gives us an eagle-eye view of the area directly beneath the chairlift."
    -The Forest Ranger in "Mountain of Madness". One of the reasons I love this line is Hank's voice, which was a loose imitation of Al Gore. I also love the "voice of John Muir" in this episode, which was done by Dan Castellaneta and is delightfully bizarre.

    "To alcohol! The cause of-- and solution to-- all of life's problems" Homer in "Homer Vs. The 18th Amendment". A great, honest line, maybe the truest thing ever said!

    John Waters going "Zap! Zap! Zzzzzzap!" in "Homer's Phobia".

    "Homer, on your way out, if you want to kill somebody, it would help me a lot" - Hank Scorpio in "You Only Move Twice". By the way, some of the best lines in this episode were adlibbed by Albert Brooks. That's why he's such a great guest star -- he writes the jokes for us!

    I also love the "Dr. Zaius" song, and if on my tombstone, it says "He Helped Come Up With Some Stuff For The Dr. Zaius Musical," I will have died a happy man.

    FAVORITE SCENES:

    One of my favorite scenes is Homer in the land of Chocolate from "Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk".

    I love the Monorail song in the Monorail show.

    AND, finally, my favorite lines of all time are also from my favorite scene of all time, which is MR. SPARKLE! To me, that is one of the most inspired moments of "The Simpsons". I also love that episode because we got to work with Gedde Watanabe, who is one of our all-time favorite guys (Forgot to mention him in yesterday's guest star question). He was really cool, and even called my wife on the telephone and pretended to be "The Donger" from "Sixteen Candles", and that is the single greatest thing ever to happen to me and my family.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ihaveblink
    1. Do you guys still watch the show, and has anything surprised you about the new episodes?

    2. What are your feelings toward Family Guy? Simpsons rip-off or misunderstood?

    3. If you were asked to come back to the Simpsons would you?
    Yo, dude. Here's some answers for you:

    1. We watch the show but not nearly as often as we would like to. Since before we got hired in Season Three, we have always been big Simpsons nerds and like to sit and pore over every episode with a religious fervor. However, since both Josh and I have had children in the past few years, our schedules have been insane and there simply hasn't been time for the level of nerdery we would like to indulge in. Therefore, we have missed a lot of first run episodes and are trying to catch up with them in syndication. And also as our kids grow older, they enjoy the show as well. I can't speak with any authority on recent seasons, but what we have seen we have really liked.

    2. We both like Family Guy. I think when it first came out, we were kind of pissed at it because it got so much attention and praise and our beloved Mission Hill went right down the tubes in ignmoniny. However, as time has gone on, we have gained more perspective and everytime I see Family Guy I really laugh. As to whether it's a Simpsons rip-off, I wouldn't say that -- I would say it is the next evolution of a form pioneered by the Simpsons.

    3. I think Josh already answered this one up above.

    Adios.

    Quote Originally Posted by Binky
    Any upcoming projects you're working on?
    Josh mentioned this up above, but I'll elaborate.

    We have two movies in development, one with a producer at Disney and one at New Line with Seann William Scott. I have to say that we really like doing movies because it's a bit more like the Simpsons in that you don't have all the infuriating constraints placed on live-action network TV shows (limits on sets and characters and the intelligence of the audience, as well as the aggravating need to have a forced gag every two lines). In the movies, we are able to do the slightly more high-concept stuff we were always fond of, e.g. Frank Grimes.

    We also have a couple of TV projects in development, one of them is a one-hour comedy/drama at CBS, the other is a really insane half-hour comedy we are just setting up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Random Viewer Guy
    Are there any jokes in The Simpsons or Mission Hill that you don't think any of the fans "got"?
    If a fan came up to you, somehow managed to recognize you on the street, and started asking you about fifty questions in a row about The Simpsons, would you answer them or would you just be annoyed?
    Do you have any funny stories about animation mistakes (storyboard, animatic or otherwise) to share?
    Random Viewer Guy, these are some complex questions. But I'll take a whack:

    1. This could take hours to answer. Because the answer is yes, at least once for every episode of Simpsons and MH we worked on. Fortunately, I believe in the commentaries on both series' DVD's we point out these moments. The one joke I always wonder if anyone in America got was in "Two Bad Neighbors" when Grampa says "Grover Cleveland spanked me on two non-consecutive occasions." We often use that one as an example of how much freedom we had on the Simpsons to do obscure, highbrow reference humor because you can never ever imagine that kind of joke appearing on a regular sitcom.

    An entire episode that I wonder about in the same way was the Sgt. Skinner/Armin Tamzarian show. I know it's extremely contraversial, reviled by some, but I always wondered if people understood that it was basically an homage to one of the most respected films of all time, "The Return of Martin Guerre".

    In Mission Hill, I always wondered if anyone appreciated that whole Gus & Wally episode where Wally was basically Ed Wood. It was loaded with obscure movie references and jokes. I also wondered whether anyone appreciated Gus and Wally. In all the fan mail we've ever gotten, people always say they love Andy/Jim/Posey/Kevin and even a lot of minor characters but not once has anyone ever cited Gus and Wally, which is weird because they are our favorite characters to imitate and we quote them almost every day.

    2. I don't think we would mind answering fifty Simpsons questions. Why else would we be doing this? As I said above, we're big Simpsons nerds, too. I have my Supt. Chalmers figurine right here on my desk right now, looking on with disapproval as I waste my time answering NHC questions instead of pursuing paying work.

    3. It's probably not possible to describe these. You would have to see them. The only one I really remember was that during Season Seven, there was a storyboard artist who would deliver these beautifully inked storyboard, like finished Simpsons comics. (Normally most storyboards are rough sketches). But the thing is, this guy DID NOT get the jokes. He was very literal minded and several of his misinterpretations of our more abstruse jokes were hilarious. We cut them out and put them up on the wall. Later I think he got fired by Film Roman, so it wasn't so funny to him I guess. But I still have one of his panels in my desk somewhere.

  27. #27
    But All My Stuff Is There!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nameless
    Why were you chosen as showrunners?
    What's your favourite THOH?
    Hi Nameless!

    There are probably a few reasons we were selected to run the show:

    We wrote about 10 episodes under Mirkin that I think showed we really got the show, that we were innovative and funny and that we were also incredibly hardworking and anal. To be an effective showrunner/showrunners, you have to manage 100 different things at the same time while shepherding TWO seasons at once (because of the lag time in animation, every episode takes about 10 months to produce from start to airdate, so you have to oversee many different episodes in different stages of production all at the same time) and oversee about 200 people -- you're headwriter, you oversee the animation, you meet with the animation directors and music composers every week, you edit every episode with an editor, you give notes on designs and storyboards, etc. so it's a giant barrage of work to manage.

    We had also been on the show since Season 3, so we were well-acquainted with many aspects of the show already, and Mirkin taught us a bunch of technical stuff we didn't already know.

    Speaking of Mirkin, I just wanted to add, he was one of the funniest guys we've ever had the privilege to work for, and we will forever be indebted to him for selecting us as his replacement. Thanks, Dave!

    OUR FAVORITE THOH?

    For me, probably "Homer 3D" and "Attack of the 50 Ft. Eyesores". Bill says he also loves that Bob Dole/Bill Clinton one -- "Citizen Kang". Also "The Devil And Homer Simpson" from THOH IV. And "Dial Z For Zombie" from THOH III, for one of the greatest Simpsons lines ever:

    Bart: Dad, you killed the Zombie Flanders!
    Homer: He was a zombie?

    Okay, I gotta get back to work. See ya!

  28. #28
    But All My Stuff Is There!
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by DotheBartman
    First off, it's awesome that you're taking the time to do this. Many thanks.

    1. Looking back at your years on the show (especcially the years you ran), what were some of the goals you had that you think you really accomplished as well or better then you had hoped? Any goals that you didn't get to or that you feel could have gone better?

    2. Were there any episodes ideas you had that you never got around to using, or discarded for other reasons?

    3. You guys did some consulting on "Futurama" at one point. What kind of contributions did you make to it?
    Hi DotheBartman!

    OUR GOALS?

    We sort of answered this up top -- and keeping in mind I already explained about the hair -- but I'm happy to elaborate:

    I'd say we accomplished 99% of our goals, which were to tell really excellent, entertaining stories that were grounded in real emotions and were stories that hadn't been told before with jokes that had never been done before ("Mother Simpson" and "Bart Sells His Soul" are good examples of this).

    Also, each season, we wanted to have at least a few episodes that really pushed the envelope, and I think we totally did that, be it 22 Short Films, Homer 3D, The Spin-Off Showcase, Frank Grimes, etc.

    We're really proud of nearly every episode we did, and we were especially pleased when "Homer's Phobia" won the Emmy and it didn't go to some show like "Pinky & The Brain," who beat us one year!

    It is also exciting for us to meet people now who are in their 20's but were kids when the show started and hear how much the episodes meant to them. That's a great feeling.

    ANY REGRETS?

    Yes. Small, but still... there are probably 4 episodes, I think all in Season 8 that did not live up to our standards and were, well, let's say it -- boring! I won't say which ones -- I'm sure you can guess. They were episodes, like I said, where there was too much story and not enough great jokes. Sorry about those!

    Also, there is one joke that I have hated from almost the second we put it in and I will always regret it. At the second act break in "Homerpalooza", after the doctor says Homer could die from the cannonballs, there's a joke about Jimi Hendrix's dog. The joke is crummy. We should've just gone out on the excitement of the doctor saying Homer could die. And I will always regret it, 'cause that joke will be there forever, mucking up an otherwise awesome episode. (The bad joke, I think, was the result of a time-consuming rewrite we had to do where we had to write all new stuff for the famous rock stars we actually got to appear in the show, having already written stuff for some stars that dropped out, and I think we were all very tired. The body of the script was great from Brent Forrester's first draft, but guest stars can sometimes cause these type of problems. But don't blame the Smashing Pumpkins, it's my fault!)

    ANY EPISODES, IDEAS WE NEVER GOT AROUND TO?

    This one we answered up top, but I can talk about something sort of related -- there's been some discussion here about A and B stories and whether there were ever intentional underlying related themes between the two. As Bill said, this was usually coincidental or at least, unconscious. So how did we choose B stories? Well, it was usually for BALANCE - say we had a heavy Homer A story involving Bart -- then we might want to balance that out with a Lisa B story. Also, if the A story was more emotional, we might want to have a sillier, lighter B story, that sort of thing. Also, sometimes there were story ideas that were great, but just didn't seem to have enough juice as an A story, but as B stories they were great. And sometimes, not too often, the main story was so involving, we had to cut the B story and put it in another episode (I think this was the case with Homer's muscle car, which then went into Season 9).

    OUR INVOLVEMENT WITH "FUTURAMA"

    We were incredibly excited to be able to consult 2 1/2 days a week on Futurama for about a year. Matt Groening and David X. Cohen are two of our favorite people and there were a lot of other incredibly talented writers on "Futurama", so it was fun.

    I'd say, during our time there, we contributed a lot of jokes and we helped a good deal on stories, particularly 2 episodes, where we really helped with the story -- the one with Harold Zoid and the Roswell episode.

    Man, that show was good!

    Okay, until the next batch of questions!

  29. #29
    pretty rad
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    Once again we want to thank Bill and Josh for taking the time out of their busy schedules in order to answer these questions.

    I know there are a lot of you have submitted questions, and we'd like to get as many questions answered from as many people as possible. And we'd like the questions to be as original as possible (i.e. different from the ones already asked).

    Beginning tomorrow (Friday) I'll post two questions from the batch for Bill and Josh to answer, and we'll continue to post two per day each weekday (M-F) for as long as the guys want to continue answering questions.

    Since we'll be going randomly with the questions, feel free to submit more questions (but please stay within the limits mentioned in the first post) by posting them in this thread. Once again, thanks to Bill and Josh, and thanks to all the members who have submitted questions!

  30. #30


    Friday's questions:

    From George Cauldron:

    Every time I see your names listed on the show, they're always credited together. Was the work done between you 50-50? Did one of you write or manage in a completely different style to the other, or would you say you're both very much alike when it comes to comedy?

    From Mohammed Jafar:

    Was there any change in the level of collective staff participation in the writing process (as opposed to the credited writer writing the vast majority of material in a script) when you were showrunners to when Jean & Reiss or David Mirkin were running the show?

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