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Interview with Al Jean of "The
It's always great to speak to Al Jean! He's so funny, and
he seems very kind. He gives great interview answers. FOX
sent this transcript late (the episode already aired week
before last), but I hope you enjoy reading it, anyway. Also,
you can watch the episode still on FOX.com.
FBC PUBLICITY: Executive Producer: Al
Jean of The Simpsons
March 29, 2017/1:00 p.m. PDT
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
Thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Executive
Producer with Al Jean of The Simpsons. At this time, all
lines are in a listen-only mode. Later, there will be an
opportunity for your questions, and instructions will be
given at that time. [Operator instructions.] As a reminder,
todayís conference is being recorded.
I would now
like to turn the conference over to our host with Fox
Publicity, Mr. Michael Roach. Please go ahead.
Michael Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining us today
on this conference call with Al Jean, executive producer and
show runner on The Simpsons. This Sunday, an all-new episode
entitled ďCaper ChaseĒ airs at 8 p.m./7 p.m. Central on Fox,
and in this episode, Mr. Burns opens his own for-profit
university. Homer is hired as a professor.
Additionally, guest voices on the episode include Jason
Alexander, Neil deGrasse Tyson; Ken Jennings from Jeopardy;
screenplay guru, Robert McKee, and Suze Orman.
think thatís it, Tom. I think weíre ready to begin.
Moderator Thank you. [Operator instructions]. One moment
please for our first question. Our first question today
comes from the line of Suzanne Lanoue with The TV MegaSite.
Please go ahead.
Suzanne Hello. How are you today?
Al Very good.
Suzanne Great to speak with you
Al Thank you.
Suzanne I didnít get a
chance to watch the episode yet, but can you say again the
names of the people that are guest staring? Because I
couldnít hear part of it.
Al Jason Alexander, and
then he forms a super team of teachers that include Ken
Jennings, the Jeopardy champion; Neil deGrasse Tyson;
financial guru, Suze Orman; and Robert McKee, the
screenwriter and screenwriting teacher.
they going to all play themselves?
Al Jason Alexander
does not, but the other four do.
Suzanne Are there
going to be a lot of jokes based on The Paper Chase or some
of them at least?
Al The plot is that Mr. Burns
discovers that he wants to endow a nuclear studies program
at Yale, but he canít believe how politically correct Yale
has become. They basically drive him out, so he decides to
found his own for-profit college. Never having been aware
that you could have a college for profit, heís really
excited, and who knows? Itís been in the air lately, and the
four teachers figure into the plot later on.
Okay. And so did you answer my question about The Paper
Al If thereís any movie that it references,
itís more Ex Machina.
Suzanne Just one more question.
What happens to the power plant while all these people are
working, while Homer leaves his post?
looking for teachers, and Mr. Burns as well. What do you
think of when you think of a teacher? You think of someone
low paid, no healthcare, so there they are. Just pull them
off the plant one by one until the power goes out. Weíll be
Suzanne Okay. Thank you very much.
Moderator Our next question comes from the
line of Nick Venable with CinemaBlend. Please go ahead.
Nick Hi, Mr. Al Jean. Iím so glad to talk to you. Iíve
been a huge fan of The Simpsons all my life.
Nick I was wondering if there were any events
that this show has predicted for the future that you wish
would come true that havenít already.
Al Weíve had
certain visions of utopia, of world peace. We did a Da Vinci
Code parody where Maggie brought joy and kindness to the
world, so I donít think theyíre too likely to come true
though. If you wanted to just go off on a prediction that
did come true, following Trump is President Lisa Simpson, so
thatíd be good.
Nick Second question to go off of
that would be was there any pushback on this upcoming
episode as far as the Trump relations go?
Al No. It
was basically conceived originally, the satire of for-profit
colleges, by Jeff Westbrook before Trump University hit it
big, so we figured that this was going to be topic that was
good whether he won or not. It to me is something thatís a
big issue thatís going to be with us for a long time.
Nick Thank you so much.
Moderator Our next
question comes from the line of Art Shrine [ph] with The New
York Eye. Please go ahead.
Art How are you doing?
Itís such a pleasure to talk to you every time.
Art Congratulations on all the wonderful
things that you guys have been doing recently with all the,
I would say, new kinds of presentations with the show, and I
think several have been very successful. I was wondering
whatís next on the list to break that mold in terms of
interactive programming, because itís been impressive what
you guys have been putting lately with live shows and [audio
disruption] shows and festivals. Anything new and exciting
you guys are thinking about?
Al This yearís Halloween
show is going to be a very interesting foray into new media,
and I wonít go further. Weíll show some of it at Comic-Con,
and the great thing about The Simpsons is that whatever
comes along, like we just did VR, The Simpsons is adaptable
to it. People want to work with us because of who we are, so
Iím sure thereíll be many more.
Art VR would be super
exciting [audio disruption], and of course, a lot of people
have it at home. [Audio disruption], so I really look
forward to that. This episode was really good. The Simpsons
has done both predicted the future and follow it up on
current events, and it kind of does a good commentary on
that, of course, being funny. In these times where we are
right now, is this easier or difficult as a storyteller you
feel to find absurdity and tell stories that are still
entertaining and meaningful?
Al I think thereís a
silver lining for comedy writers in whatís going on right
now, but Iíd rather have it the other way. Thereís so many
ridiculous things. Itís been good not just for us, but for
people like Steven Colbert and Samantha Bee, but I think all
of them would rather that it wasnít so interesting.
Art All right. The last question, itís amazing, I was so
happy to see Robert McKee. Iím a big fan. Iíve taken his
session, classes, story seminar twice. How was the process
of bringing all these guys together, and especially, McKee,
how was your experience?
Al He was great. We just
asked him to play himself, and heís really funny. Everything
he says in this episode really gets a laugh. We do a thing
where thereís a time cut, and he goes, ďThat was a very
useful time cut.Ē
Heís very nice. Theyíre all really
nice. It was a real pleasure.
Art Heís amazing. Thank
you so much, Al. This is wonderful, and itís always a
pleasure to talk to you. Congratulations on everything.
Moderator Next weíll go to the line of Terry Terrones
with Colorado Springs. Please go ahead.
Terry Hi, Al.
How are you doing today?
Al Very well.
Good. Two quick questions for you. First of all, The
Simpsons have had a ton of guest voices on the series over
the years. Who were the voices that youíd like to get that
you havenít, youíve never been able to for some reason?
Al The one I always say is Sandy Koufax. I used to say
Neil Armstrong, but sadly, thatíll never happen. Weíve kind
of given up on ever having a president on this show, but we
did have Teddy Roosevelt. We used the real audio from
national archives. Heís a good president. Iím happy with
Terry Okay. Recently, I donít know if you saw
this online, but Nancy Cartwright ran into a student who was
selling cookies or something along that line. He didnít
recognize that Nancyís the voice of Bart Simpson. I donít
know if you saw that or not, but have you guys ever thought
about, I know youíve done live shows and stuff like that,
but anything where you see the show, but you see the actors
who portray them?
Al What weíre going to do at
Comic-Con this year is weíre going to do Bart live. We did
Homer live on the show last year, so Nancy will be
Comic-Con. Weíre going to have Bart animated live on the
screen as she answers questions from people that are there,
so Iím glad you asked.
Itís always really amazing to
see. She did it at Buckingham Palace once I heard and tried
to get one of the guards to crack up, because to hear those
voices coming out of her is always a fantastic effect.
Terry Thank you, Al. Appreciate it.
Al Thank you.
Moderator Next weíll go to the line of Fred Topel with
We Live. Please go ahead.
Fred Itís We Live
Entertainment. Thanks, Al. You earlier answered my question
about was this idea developed before the Trump University
scandal. Since it was, did you adapt at all or add any
references through the development process of the episode?
Al I think we made for-profit colleges even look
greedier because of what happened, and we rushed it. We sped
the idea up, but we knew anything with Trump goes 90 miles
an hour. Now, he seems to have settled his way out of that
lawsuit more or less, and so we knew his involvement might
not be central to peopleís thoughts. We knew that the topic
was a really good one, and Mr. Burns would be the perfect
guy to run one.
Fred Do you expect to get any 3:00
a.m. angry tweets from Trump?
Al I could only be
honored if that happened. By the way, if Trump didnít tweet
us from depicting his hair as an orange dog, I donít know
what would bother him.
Fred We know he watches SNL,
but I donít know if heís on The Simpsons every Sunday.
Al I donít know. He signed a poster. We have a picture
of him signing a depiction we did of him, but I donít know
if he knew where it came from.
Fred The Simpsons has
been in syndication since five or six years after it went on
the air. Has the FXX deal empowered you even more than
syndication because itís a major secondary market for the
Al Whatís terrific about it, I mean a lot
of things. I love the way they advertise the show. I think
theyíre the perfect people to carry us. Those marathons that
theyíve done have been spectacular. They generate new
interest in the show. They bring new fans to the show.
Theyíre just wonderful.
To have your career like
playing for 14 days, I wish everyone could have that. Itís
really, really something special, so an unqualified yes is
the answer. Itís been great.
Fred It seems like in
the first ten years you and Fox were cautiously optimistic
about keeping the show going. Now that youíre approaching
30, does it seem indefinite?
Al Itís a case of Iíve
made so many erroneous guesses that I donít guess anymore. I
know weíll go through 30, but I wouldnít say thatís the end.
Nobodyís told me to write a last episode or to shut it down,
and as long as the cast is willing and the economics work,
which again, I think FXX helps with, itíll go on, and as
long as families like the Simpsons have problems which is
unfortunately not going to stop.
Fred Has there ever
been talk of a spinoff?
Al There were two. There was
a Krusty show they were talking about doing live in the
í90s, and then Matt had talked about doing a spinoff of the
non-Simpsons characters. I think itís a good thing that the
non-Simpsons spinoff didnít occur. I think that might have
diluted the show. I mean it was a good idea, but one key to
our longevity is that weíre the one source of Simpsons that
you have. Iím glad that weíve run this long, and I donít
know if you couldíve run this long splitting up.
Who were the characters that were considered for a spinoff?
Al It would be like Moe and Mr. Burns where the Simpsons
were either background characters or not seen. It was about
halfway through the run of the show, so it made sense at the
time. It didnít come to be for whatever reason.
Is that where the episode, ďThe Simpsons Spinoff ShowcaseĒ
Al I think it was inspired by that a
little bit, but it was talked about after that.
Was the Krusty idea to have someone in live action play
Al Yes, it was going to be Dan. There were
talks to write a live pilot and have Dan playing Krusty.
Part of the problem with that I think was that it wouldíve
cost like $10 million an episode to replicate what we do.
Fred You never filmed that pilot?
Al It was never
filmed. It was just discussed.
Fred Lastly, what
other episodes are coming up before the season finale?
Al April 16th I believe is 30 years since the first
Tracey Ullman episode featuring The Simpsons, so we marked
that, not this weekís episode, but the following one. Thatís
a really amazing anniversary, and we have an episode where
Homer has to decide whether heís going to hit a dog or Gil
with his car. He chooses Gil, and the courts says thatís
great. And so Springfield sort of becomes a dog town, and
thatís the season finale.
Fred With the success of
the ďKamp KrustyĒ episode, have you thought about doing a
sequel to any other classics?
Al We have. People talk
about Hank Scorpio. That would depend on whether Albert
Brooks is interested in doing it obviously, and thereís a
couple others that I think would be good. We might. It was
really fun to do, and we were glad that David Stern came
back to do it.
Fred Great. That Comic-Con sounds
great. I canít wait to see what you guys do there.
Yes, itís going to be terrific.
Fred Thank you, Al.
Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Stacy
Roberts with seriouslyomg.com. Please go ahead.
Hi, Al. Nice to talk to you again.
Al Thank you.
Stacy My question is I know we know what youíre doing up
to the season finale, but I want to go past that. Do you
know what youíre doing for Episode 666 and the episode where
youíll beat Gunsmoke?
Al Not Gunsmoke which will be
636. Six hundred sixty-six by a fortuitous coincidence airs
in October, so it will be a Halloween show. Weíve already
got it marked up.
Itís not next yearís Halloween
show, but the one after, I think. We will do an Episode 666.
Weíre going to get to that number. Iím just worried that
itíll mark the end of the world, that thereís some sort of
horrible timing that this means it for everything.
Stacy No, not yet. If Trump didnít do it, The Simpsons 666
Al Itís all coming together. Thatís all I can
Stacy Did you ever think that you would beat the
Gunsmoke record, and what does that feel like for you all?
Al I feel it now, but it was crazy. Thereís a famous
sort of story where when we hit 200 at the read David Mirkin
said halfway done, and there was a huge laugh like thatís
crazy. Whoíd do 400? And now of course, weíve tripled 200
and moving past it.
Again, Iíve stopped calculating
or counting. Itís amazing. It was never something where we
said, oh, we have to beat Gunsmoke. Itís a totally different
show. The point is for us to do a good show, but I have to
admit, it was cool to get to 600 and be only the second show
that ever had.
Stacy Itís incredible. This question
actually came to me a few weeks ago, and itís not a happy
question. The Simpsons has outlived a lot of people that
have guest starred on the show. Who are you surprised most
that the show has outlived?
Al Thatís a very sad
question. I mean the one that was the most shocking and
unexpected I would have to say is Phil Hartman. That was
many years ago and really, really tragic, but itís never a
good thing. Itís a terrible topic. I hope that we continue
to be as lucky as we have.
Stacy Talking more about
death, Iím sorry, any chance of bring back The Critic?
Al I would love to. I always am trying to figure out a
way to do it. I canít do it while Iím working on The
Simpsons, so thatís not saying end of Simpsons. I know Jon
Lovitz really wants to do it, and he was great. Iíd love to
work with him again.
Stacy I donít want The Simpsons
to end for The Critic.
Al Believe me, if it ends,
itís the first thing Iíll do.
Stacy Very cool. Thank
you, and Iím looking forward to the rest of the episodes
Al Thank you.
instructions]. Weíll go to the line of Robin Rowe [ph] with
Robin Congratulations on passing so
many episodes, and Iím really looking forward to Comic-Con.
Can you talk a little bit more about the technology behind
that, and also over the years, how the technology has
changed from what you did to build the first episode to what
youíre doing now and maybe next year?
Al When we did
Homer live it was in conjunction with Adobe software, and
there was an operator whoís long-term director David
Silverman who would sort of key in the hand movements that
were programmed in. And then Dan Castellaneta was in a
separate booth where he would answer questions that were
The hardest part of it technically was the
phone lines, just making sure that we had calls up and that
they didnít drop off, that they were heard properly. In
terms of the show itself, itís just worlds of difference. We
didnít have word processing or Google obviously when we
started. Digitation has changed. Now we donít have hand
painted cells. We have computer colored animation.
Obviously, all our editing is digital. I can do it over my
phone where I used to have to go into an editing room.
The process is so much more streamlined, and with HD so
much more information that you can put in every shot.
Retakes are easier and cheaper.
Robin Will there be a
Grease Live! episode?
Al A Grease Live!?
Robin Yes, will there be a musical all-live episode like
Grease and so many other live events that have been on?
Al I think the one live that we did is our contribution
to live television for the moment, but you never know. Weíre
just always interested in doing something new that weíre
able to do because weíre us.
Robin Thank you very
Al Thank you.
Moderator Did you want to
take one more question?
Al Sure. Great.
Moderator Our final question will come from the line of Fred
Topel with We Live Entertainment. Please go ahead.
Fred I get to close this out. You got to address sensitivity
to Indian stereotypes with the Apu episode a little while
ago. Did that actually come just by developing his character
for 30 years?
Al Yes, and we were able to get an
actor, Utkarsh Ambudkar, who had been critical of Apu in the
past. We thought it would be fantastic to have him on the
show. A footnote, he was actually in the original cast of
Hamilton before it went to Broadway, so we thought that was
Fred When you talked about the longevity
of The Simpsons, I have the experience like probably many
callers of growing up with all of these episodes and looking
back, but youíve also talked about people who have been born
in the last ten years, kids who are now discovering the old
episodes through things like FXX. Do you find that they have
a different experience when they go back and see the first
ten years and what sort of jokes you were doing then than
the ones they watch live now?
Al Well, it ages a lot
better than a topical sitcom, and so they can watch the old
ones. I find that younger viewers, kids coming up prefer HD
because thatís what theyíre used to, but Iím so lucky to
work on a show where weíre doing a tribute at the Hall Of
Fame that they came to us and asked if we would do for the
ďHomer at the BatĒ episode. I donít know how many episodes
of television that are 25 years old you get to do a cool
panel with Hall of Fame baseball players on, so I count my
Fred Thatís great. Keep it up. Thank you.
Al Thank you.
Michael Thank you, everyone, for
joining us on this call today, and a reminder that an
all-new episode of The Simpsons airs this Sunday at 8 p.m./7
p.m. Central on Fox.
Al, thank you so much for your
Al Thank you. My pleasure. Bye-bye.
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, this conference will be
available for replay starting at 2:40 this afternoon and
running through April 5th at midnight.
does conclude our conference for today. We thank you for
your participation and using the AT&T Executive
TeleConference. You may now disconnect.
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