30
Jul
09

Partial Interview with George Meyer

Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner1

Wow, my first published article, hoo!  Although someone else’s name is on it.” – Lisa Simpson
“Heh heh, welcome to the humiliating world of professional writing.” – Homer Simpson

Earlier this month a book called And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft and the Industry came out.  It appears to be exactly what it sounds like.  Mike Sacks, the author, was interviewd and let this precious gem drop:

TV writers are given a lot of territory. Aren’t screenplays every comedy writer’s dream?
When you look at The Simpsons, Freaks and Geeks or Arrested Development, you can see some of the sharpest humour writing of the past 25 years. The Simpsons Movie didn’t come close to the TV show in terms of being funny and sharp.
TV writers are given a lot of territory. Aren’t screenplays every comedy writer’s dream?

When you look at The Simpsons, Freaks and Geeks or Arrested Development, you can see some of the sharpest humour writing of the past 25 years. The Simpsons Movie didn’t come close to the TV show in terms of being funny and sharp.

A-fucking-men.  Reading that led me to the book’s website.  There I found an extract from the interview with Simpsons alum George Meyer.  It is, obviously, worth reading in full, though I can’t resist posting this:

You can see that sensibility in many episodes of The Simpsons. As opposed to most shows, The Simpsons is never afraid to mock religion and the religious.

I think what we’re really satirizing is moral certainty—the myopia of the pious. The religious ferociously defend their own beliefs, but if a Sioux wants to keep a Target store off his sacred land they’ll laugh in his face.

I always enjoy it when I see or hear a religious type cite The Simpsons as a show that portrays religion positively.  They usually have no idea how badly they’re humiliating themselves.  It’s beautiful.


3 Responses to “Partial Interview with George Meyer”


  1. 1 blogreader
    27 July 2010 at 11:45 am

    “I always enjoy it when I see or hear a religious type cite The Simpsons as a show that portrays religion positively. They usually have no idea how badly they’re humiliating themselves. It’s beautiful.”

    Are you on crack? It’s actually Zombie Simpsons that is very critical of religion. The real Simpsons are way more conservative in that regard.

    Speaking of George Meyer, he has written “Homer the Heretic” and this could be shown at sunday school.

    From wikipedia:

    ” Ned Flanders sees the fire and rushes to rescue Homer, pulling him free of the house just as the fire department arrives. After the blaze is extinguished, Homer fears that God was delivering vengeance. Reverend Lovejoy suggests that God was actually working in the hearts of Homer’s friends, despite their different faiths. Lovejoy convinces Homer to give church another try”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homer_the_Heretic

  2. 2 blogreader
    27 July 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Another examples are “Bart sells his soul” and “Bart gets an F”.

    Bart prays to God and asks that something happen to make him miss school the next day so he can have more time to study. That night, Springfield is hit with a massive blizzard, and the schools are closed.

    After receiving word of the school closures, Bart excitedly prepares for a fun snow day. However, Lisa reminds him of his prayer, and he decides to study for the rest of the day while everyone is outside having fun…[…]… Mrs. Krabappel, stunned at this obscure historical reference, realizes that Bart did make an honest effort after all. She gives Bart an extra point for demonstrating applied knowledge, pushing his grade up to a D-. Bart is proud of this, and he runs throughout Springfield, yelling to people that he actually passed. Homer proudly displays Bart’s new personal best on the refrigerator, and Bart declares part of the D- “belongs to God.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bart_Gets_an_F

    You may not like this, but the truth is, Zombie Simpsons are atheistic, while the classic Simpsons were not. The evolution of Lisa shows this more than anything else. Would she remind Bart of a prayer in a today’s episode?

  3. 3 Charlie Sweatpants
    28 July 2010 at 5:07 pm

    I certainly wasn’t expecting a comment on a year old post, but thanks for the interest.

    I see what you’re getting at, but I think you and I are working from different definitions of “religion”. Without getting into a philosophical or definitional debate, for which this isn’t the place, I always try to separate “religion” from “faith” or “belief” (both in general and when discussing Simpsons); they are very different things that all too often get conflated. The show always assumed the existence of god, true, but it doesn’t have to be atheistic to be anti-religious.

    Religion is a set of practices, rituals and rules. Do this before you eat, come to this building at this time of the week, don’t do/screw/eat/drink this or that. That’s the “moral certainty” Meyer is describing. Oh, and give money. Whether it’s Buddhist monks begging in the street or the fantastic luxury of the Pope, all religions will lighten your wallet.

    Faith and belief, on the other hand, are much more nebulous concepts that usually boil down to a person’s innate sense that there is some kind of supernatural “higher power”, whether it’s a god, many gods or something like karma. You can have faith and never (or rarely) go to church; in fact, that’s what most Americans do. So while pretty much all religious people have faith, not all people with faith are religious. The Simpsons mocked religion, not faith.

    Take “Homer the Heretic”, only the most liberal and ecumenically minded of Sunday school teachers would ever consider showing it. Homer’s speech about “what if we picked the wrong religion” is about as anti-religious a statement as has ever been allowed on American television. Later, he convinces god that going to church is stupid! Almost nothing could be more anti-religious than having the deity declare church, including those boring sermons, a foolish waste of time. God is depicted as a sort of laid back prankster who gives his clergy canker sores, shows up in tortillas for fun, and allows air hockey in heaven. At the end, Apu and Krusty show up too, the whole message being that your religion doesn’t matter (as the Wikipedia summary you quoted states explicitly). It’s not an atheist message, but it is an anti-religious one.

    “Bart Gets an F” assumes the existence of god, but that kind of self-interested intercessional prayer is generally looked down on by serious religious types. “Bart Sells His Soul” doesn’t even go that far, it mocks the church for being motivated only by its collection plate, and the closest it comes to spirituality of any kind is to cite Pablo Neruda. Now, I’m no expert on Neruda, nor do I know what faith he may or may not have had, but he was a communist, and communists are notoriously anti-religious.

    The show was never atheistic, nor would it have been allowed to be, but it was relentlessly critical of religion, especially how it’s practiced here in America. That’s why I find it amusing whenever I see uptight religious people praise the show, they were being mercilessly mocked, but they’re too myopic, as Meyer put it, to see it.


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