Interview with Al Jean of "The Simpsons" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite
 

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By Suzanne

Al Jean 

Interview with Al Jean of "The Simpsons" on FOX 3/29/17

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.

Final Transcript
FBC PUBLICITY: Executive Producer: Al Jean of The Simpsons
March 29, 2017/1:00 p.m. PDT

SPEAKERS
Michael Roach
Al Jean

PRESENTATION

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.

I 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 again.

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.

Suzanne Are 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.

Suzanne Okay. And so did you answer my question about The Paper Chase?

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?

Al Theyíre 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 fine.

Suzanne Okay. Thank you very much.

Al Thank you.

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.

Al Thank you.

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.

Al Thank you.

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.

Terry 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 that.

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 episodes?

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.

Fred 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.

Fred Is that where the episode, ďThe Simpsons Spinoff ShowcaseĒ came from?

Al I think it was inspired by that a little bit, but it was talked about after that.

Fred Was the Krusty idea to have someone in live action play Krusty?

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.

Al 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.

Stacy 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 wonít.

Al Itís all coming together. Thatís all I can say.

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 this season.

Al Thank you.

Moderator [Operator instructions]. Weíll go to the line of Robin Rowe [ph] with KaashTV [ph].

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 called in.

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 much.

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 really cool.

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 blessings.

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 time today.

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. 

That 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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