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Interview with Al Jean of "The
Simpsons" on FOX 9/19/16
It's always great to speak with Al Jean. He's been great
about talking to us about the show every Fall. It's so
amazing that the show is almost 30! The season premiere is
pretty good. I hope you enjoy this fun interview. It's a
shame more people didn't turn up to ask questions, but I
guess you never know with these calls how many people will
FBC PUBLICITY: Al Jean
September 19, 2016/1:00 p.m. PDT
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank
you for standing by and welcome to the Al Jean Conference
Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only
mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session.
Instructions will be given at that time. [Operator
instructions.] And as a reminder, this conference is being
I would now like to turn the conference
over to our host, Mr. Michael Roach. Please go ahead.
Michael: Thanks, everyone, for joining us today on this
conference call with executive producer and show owner, Al
Jean, on behalf of the Season 28 premiere of The Simpsons
titled “Monty Burns Fleeing Circus” which premieres this
Sunday, September 23rd at 8 p.m./7 Central on FOX.
And, Stacy, we’re ready to begin the call.
Okay. Would you like to take questions at this time?
Al: Yes. That would be great.
Moderator: Okay. One
second here, just give me a second to bring this up.
Alright. [Operator instructions.]
Our first question
comes from the line of Suzanne Lanoue. Please go ahead.
Suzanne: Hi. Good morning.
Al: Good morning.
Suzanne: I was wondering—was it the 27th season?
Al: The 28th.
Suzanne: The 28th. Are you already
planning something big for Season 30?
Al: Well, we
will definitely go at least a little into Season 29. The
cast is signed for two years beyond that, but we haven’t
officially been picked up for Seasons 29 and 30. I think we
will be, but that’s just my guess. So, no, can’t plan it
yet, but hoping—fingers crossed.
Suzanne: Okay. Oh,
I’m sure. They’ve got to at least let you get to 30, I mean,
my gosh, who wouldn’t do that?
Al: I know.
Suzanne: I watched the premiere, and I enjoyed it. It’s
always good to see Mr. Burns and his background stuff.
Al: Thank you very much.
Suzanne: I would think
after all this time, though, do you have trouble, not just—I
don’t mean coming up with ideas but like character history,
little things like that that define the character’s history?
Al: Well, the amazing thing, there’s so many characters
on the show that people are interested in, and if you
explore their pasts or their connections with each other
that haven’t been seen on the show, there seems to be a
relatively, an almost infinite number of combinations and
plots you could do. So, it’s hard, it definitely gets harder
as the years go by but it’s not impossible and we really
love doing it.
Suzanne: Alright. Well, we appreciate
all the hard work you guys do. It’s a great show. Thanks a
lot for talking to me today.
Al: Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you. And our next question comes from Tara
Bennett with Blastr.com. Please go ahead.
Al. Thanks so much for doing the call.
Tara: I wanted to ask about the “Treehouse
of Terror”. It was the 600th episode. You guys have been
doing these, and they’re always wonderful every year, so
when you know it’s a milestone episode and you’ve been doing
them for so many years, and have used so many things in the
horror genre as inspiration already, where did you guys
start this year in terms of planning and writing and how to
shake it up?
Al: We weren’t sure which one was going
to be the 600th, and we were just doing a Treehouse show. It
came out, even by our standards for those episodes which are
quite high, we thought very well. And so at that point we
thought it would be—what was great was the 600th episode
will air October 16th, so we could make that the Treehouse
and it wouldn’t be out of place.
Because in the past,
I have to admit, we’ve said things like that the 302nd
episode was really the 300th and tried to fool people which
you cannot do anymore. And then once we knew it was the
600th, there’s three things we’re doing with it. There’s a
special ending which actually we shot at Comic-Con.
There’s a special beginning and there’s a third thing, I
can’t say it, but there’s three—the 1st and the 100th
episode Bart wrote on the chalkboard, “I will not celebrate
meaningless milestones,” so we’ve made sure to really
celebrate this one.
Tara: Any voices that you can
tease, anybody that you’ve got in to do vocal talent or are
Al: Yes. Sarah Silverman plays Lisa’s
imaginary friend, and when Lisa starts making real friends,
the imaginary friend is so jealous she starts murdering
them. Drew Carey has a cameo, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan,
Kelsey Grammar as Sideshow Bob and also Hank Azaria as Frank
Grimes. That wasn’t so hard to get, but he’s back.
Tara: Nice. Wonderful. Thank you.
Al: Thank you.
Moderator: And we have a question from Liam Mathews with
TVGuide.com. Please go ahead.
Liam: Hi, Al.
Liam: I just wanted to ask about what can you
tell us about Amy Schumer’s guest appearance coming up.
Al: She’s across all three animated shows on this Sunday
on premiere night on FOX. Because this is something where
all three of us said well, we’re going to do a musical
themed episode and we’re going to try to get the same guest
star, we said oh, let’s go for a woman who is funny—Amy
Schumer fits most of those qualities. And we said a good
character for our plot would be that she’s Burns’ mother in
the past and kind of the source of this unhappiness that he
has that’s haunted him to the present.
recorded it over the phone, and she was very funny. It’s not
a huge part, but that was because, again, we didn’t have the
actress until a little late in the process that we knew who
was going to be in all three shows.
Liam: And did you
feel competitive with the other shows to make the best use
Al: The competition is over; the Emmy’s are
done, so now we’re just wrapped [ph].
And our next question comes from Art Shrian with
MyNewYorkEye.com. Please go ahead.
Art: Thank you.
Hi, Al. Great to talk to you again and congratulations on
the last interactive show that you guys did in
[indiscernible]. It was wonderful.
Al: Thank you.
Art: Can you share a little bit about your experience
after doing that particular episode and are we going to see
more interactive programming as we go?
Al: It was
really cool to do, and the trickiest part of the technology
was honestly getting the phone calls in, making sure we had
calls and making sure Dan could respond to them. And what
was wonderful to me is I got to see how Dan Castellaneta ad
libs, thinks on his feet. That’s what we get to work with
every week, and it was a pleasure to share it.
think in terms of that animation style, we consciously just
did it three minutes long because it’s kind of hard to make
it look interesting for much longer than that, and I don’t
know that you’re going to have full animated shows much less
series that way for a while because it’s just too limiting.
I mean, it would be great because then you could do a live
animated show and comment on the events of the day, but I
wouldn’t want to see it visually for what the current
process is for more than three minutes.
Right. It was really fun, I mean, to be able to be a part of
it, for the audience to be able to be part of such a
Al: It was great too. The fans got to
call in and we were—it was very exciting. We really loved
Art: Yes, it was awesome. So I did watch the
episode, and I really, really enjoyed it. You created a lot
of destruction in Springfield, of course. All the
destruction and all the chaos that’s going on, does that in
any way reflect the chaos that’s going on in the country
right now with the political situation and all that stuff?
And are we going to see now—I’m sure we are but I mean how
much of that are we going to see on the show, the political
chaos that’s going on? Are there going to be any upcoming
episodes or something you want to talk about?
Well, we do some things that are based on politics, but it’s
hard with our lead time. We have an episode coming up,
actually after the election, and it was originally pitched
without a political context. It was that they start a
for-profit university in Springfield, and we thought well,
it would be great if it was Burns’s University once we heard
about Trump University and then the ideas kept springing
But I think even if Trump loses, this idea
that a rich man starts a university to make money is still
going to be something people are going to be aware of, those
private colleges aren’t going away, and it’ll still be
funny, so it’s that kind of thing we do.
should be fun. That will be really cool. One question,
something that I wanted to ask you and I forgot last time,
about the diversity in your show which is very much of a
conversation right now. You do have an Indian character on
the show which is great to see. But I’ve talked to my
friends about it and some love it and some friends feel
offended by the character as well.
On one side, the
way the character sounds and stuff, I can find it offensive,
or the fact that there is an Indian character on your show,
on such a big show and an important character, that’s
wonderful. Can you talk a little bit about Apu, and I mean,
why make him such an important character? And can you talk
about the process, how this character shaped up and how do
you think of diversity in an animated show or on TV right
Al: Well, there’s been a history of diversity of
a small cast doing multiple accents and characters, and
we’re part of that tradition. But I will say, I’m aware of
what you’re discussing, and I certainly respect people’s
We did an episode where a critic of Apu,
Utkarsh Ambudkar, voiced Apu’s nephew and voiced many of the
criticisms that you or your friends expressed, and it aired
this past January. I think it was a really interesting one,
so that was sort of—we like to take our position or make our
opinion through what we do on the show and that was the
episode we chose for that.
Art: Right. But I still
would like to say that I and several of my friends
appreciate that you do include that diversity factor in
that. One last question, several folks who have read the
interviews asked me to ask you if you would want to
answer—probably not though. Where is Springfield? Do you
want to tell which state Springfield is in?
Al: We can
never really answer it. I would say just judging by the
street names and locations, it’s closer to Springfield,
Oregon, where matt Groening is from Oregon, than any other
Springfield, but the great thing about it is it’s universal.
I grew up in Michigan, and I can totally relate to it.
Anybody, wherever you’re from, has a Springfield near them.
Art: Right. Right. So then I’m going to drive the main
theory. I’m going to throw a new bomb today and say it’s say
it’s not Maine, I will say that it’s Oregon.
Let’s run that up.
Art: Thanks a lot. It’s wonderful
talking to you, and it’s great seeing all this wonderful
work you’re bringing. It’s amazing. Last time you said a
critic, we should not write up critic. Are you going to? Any
exciting news on critic? Are we going to see something?
Al: Nothing new, but you never know.
need to move to the next caller. Thank you so much.
Art: Thanks a lot.
Al: Yes, thank you.
Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of
Phyllis Thomas with TV Music Network. Please go ahead.
Phyllis: Hi, Al. How are you?
Phyllis: Good. [Audio disruption].
Al: I’m so sorry, I
can barely hear what you’re saying.
Phyllis: Sorry. I
just said, the look and [audio disruption] of the show has
been consistent over the years. How did you manage that?
Al: Well, it’s always been based on the hand-drawn style
of Matt Groening, and obviously there have been changes, but
mostly since Season 2, as you say, it’s been pretty
consistent. We had a consistent style sheet, and we had
background packages that we relied on after that point.
We had to change, obviously, for HD, and there’s a lot
more information. We used to do things where you’d have like
cartoonist squiggles for writing, and you can’t do that now.
You have to actually have some joke and write out what’s
But mostly we have just this fanatical
animation crew, the directors and the storyboard artists and
the designers who really know the show, and we were always
trying to make it so that you believe these are real people.
The way Matt had created the designs, they’re so—I would say
what’s genius about them is that even like a 7-year-old can
draw Bart, and as soon as you see the drawing and you know
And they’re very expressive and very
simple drawings that convey a world of information.
Phyllis: That’s great. Is there anything that—I know that you
guys have left [audio disruption] the network, but is there
anything that they want in the episodes every season, or
have they given you any feedback about what the seasons
should look like?
Al: They like when we do—we’re going
to do an hour-long episode in January. They like anything we
can do, because there’s so many channels and it’s not a
small TV universe like it was when we started where you can
make a little bit of an event of an episode. It’s not to say
that we go into our plots thinking okay, how can we make
this big and brassy? We always want to do stories that are
But I understand that, especially a show that
has been on 27 years, you’re trying to say to people it’s
still great and we want you to watch it, and even if you’ve
seen 600 of them, the 601st will be worth your while.
Phyllis: Great. And there’s been so many milestones seen
on the shows throughout the years. Are there any that stand
out especially personally?
Al: Well, the beginning was
really special. The 400th ironically, it just so happened to
be the last episode before The Simpson’s Movie came out so
that was a time that was a lot of work but also memorable,
and I think 600 is great. I mean, there’s only one other
scripted show that’s every gotten this far in the US—
Gunsmoke, and to get this far is really, I have to say it,
we’re proud of ourselves.
Moderator: And then we have a question from Jennifer Bollnow
with Voice of TV. Please go ahead.
Bollnow? Miss Bollnow, your line is open. Did you care to
ask a question? Apparently not. I’m going to release her
[Operator instructions.] We have no further
questions at this time. Please continue.
Great. Well, thank you so much. Thanks, everyone, for
joining us today on this call and thank you, Al, for taking
time out of your schedule. As a reminder, The Simpsons
premieres this Sunday at 8 o’clock p.m.
Al: And this
is the first of five new episodes, and the 600th show will
air October 16th.
Michael: Perfect. Thanks, everyone.
Al: Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you. Ladies and
gentleme. You may now disconnect.
(Executive Producer, THE SIMPSONS)
Emmy Award-winning producer/writer Al Jean has worked on THE
SIMPSONS since it became a series in
1989. He has a credit on more than 500 episodes and has been
showrunner for more than 300. In addition to eight Emmy
Awards, he has won the coveted Peabody Award and was
nominated for two Golden Globes. Currently, he serves as
executive producer and showrunner. He also served as writer
and producer on “The Simpsons Movie”
(which took in more than $525 million worldwide), working
heavily on the film throughout its entire four-year
production and was producer and writer on the Academy
Award-nominated short film “The Longest Daycare.”
Jean co-created “The Critic” and “Teen Angel” and served as
producer of “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” for which he won
three CableACE Awards. Other television credits include “The
PJ’s,” “Alf” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
Episodes of THE SIMPSONS that Jean
has written or co-written include “Moaning Lisa,” “The Way
We Was,” “Treehouse of Horror II & III,” “Stark Raving Dad,”
“Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala (annoyed grunt) cious,”
“Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder,” “Day of the Jackanapes” and
the Emmy Award-winning “HOMR.”
Jean also co-wrote Funny or Die’s “SNL Presidential Reunion
Video,” which is credited with helping establish the
Consumer Financial Protection Agency. A graduate of Harvard
University, Jean served as vice president of the college’s
humor magazine, “The Harvard Lampoon.”
He lives in Los Angeles.
PREMIERE**--“THE SIMPSONS”— (8:00-8:30
PM ET/PT) CC-AD-HDTV 720p-Dolby Digital 5.1
MR. BURNS PUTS ON A VARIETY SHOW TO HEAL OLD WOUNDS
THE ALL-NEW SEASON 28 PREMIERE OF
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, ON FOX
Amy Schumer (“Inside Amy Schumer,” “Trainwreck”)
Tonight’s Season Premieres of BOB’S BURGERS, THE
SIMPSONS and FAMILY GUY!
When Springfield is burned to the ground, the
Simpsons beg Mr. Burns to fund its
rebuilding. Burns agrees – with one condition: he gets to
put on a variety show at the Springfield Bowl, on the
all-new “Monty Burns’ Fleeing Circus” season premiere
episode of THE SIMPSONS airing
Sunday, Sept. 25 (8:00-8:30
Voice Cast: Dan Castellaneta as Homer
Simpson; Julie Kavner as Marge
Simpson; Nancy Cartwright as Bart
Simpson and Nelson; Yeardley Smith as Lisa
Simpson; Hank Azaria as Moe; Harry
Shearer as Skinner; Tress MacNeille as Dolph; Pamela Hayden
Guest Voice Cast: Amy Schumer as Mrs. Burns
the milestone 600th episode of THE
SIMPSONS is the “Treehouse of Horror
XXVII” episode, airing
Sunday, Oct. 16 (8:00-8:30
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