Posts Tagged ‘George Meyer

18
Apr
20

DVD Commentary: Crepes of Wrath with Wes Archer and George Meyer

Wednesday was the 30th Anniversary of “The Crepes of Wrath”. So I busted out my Season 1 DVDs and spent some quarantime listening to Wes Archer and George Meyer’s commentary.

Wikipedia says these DVDs were released in September 2001, so the commentaries were probably recorded in early 2001 or so. From early 2001, this episode was 11 years old. Today it is 30 years old, so the time between the commentary recording and now is roughly double that between the episode and the recording. This gives an interesting flavor some of what’s said.

By the time this was recorded, Archer was already done with the show. His last directing credit is “Homerpalooza” from the end of Season 7. He’s since gone one to do stuff like Bob’s Burgers, Futurama, Disenchantment, and Rick & Morty.

Meyer was still there but had one foot out the door. His last writing credit is “The Parent Wrap”, which was the second episode of Season 13 but produced at the end of the Season 12 production run, i.e. right about when they were recording this. So while he has some producer credits for a couple more years, George Meyer never actually wrote another one after he recorded this commentary. This is him looking back on work that he still does but is already preparing to quit.

—–

Meyer opens things up by joking about how they originally found writing the chalkboard gags delightful and now it’s a tedious chore and always falls to the newest writers on the staff. So Bart writing on the chalkboard was a great idea that was kind of tired by *Season 12*. Even these two couldn’t imagine the bland, mushy, paint-by-number thing would keep going for twenty more years (and counting).

Meyer mentions that the idea was inspired by the French movie Manon of the Spring. He then quips, “Which I have not seen”. Heh.

Meyer talking about how he got on the show: had been working on a movie for David Letterman in Colorado and agreed to come out and work on the series in October of ’89, working on the show fulltime after that because he liked it so much. I’ve said this a lot of times, but it is a legit thermodynamic miracle that The Simpsons ever happened. Every cog, part, and gear of the entertainment industry is intended to prevent things like The Simpsons.

As Homer lies on the floor, crippled by Bart, Archer notes that, “Low angle on Homer’s face was always difficult to animate because the mouth animation was different from the regular mouth charts”. Here’s the shot:

The next shot is Bart’s messy room, which Archer notes is “filled with props”. Meyer immediately chimes in about how the writers would torment the animators by never thinking about how much stuff is in a scene.

Archer notes that the design for Milhouse was taken from a Groening sketch.

Meyer notes that the cherrybomb bathroom scene was where he began to realize what you could get away with in animation, “the way she blasts off the toilet is a just a thing of beauty”.

They made the foreign country Albania because they hadn’t seen it much in other productions and John Belushi was Albanian. They named Adil after Albanian ruler and noted asshole Enver Hoxha.

At the airport, the steward’s pull and throw of Bart onto the plane was “a little cartoony”.

Meyer on Simon: “I believe that’s real Albanian, and we started early on trying to get the actual language if we could, at Sam Simon’s instigation. He was really big on research and getting things right. And I’ll always be grateful to him for that.”

Archer then notes that they had to research a certain airport in France for the shot of the plane landing. No idea which. I know very little of French airports.

As Bart goes to the winery in the motorcycle, they’re discussing how they liked getting references in, like the painting backdrops and Maurice Chevalier song.

As Lisa reads random facts from the Albania book, Meyer jokes that their process was what Lisa’s doing: just looking through the almanac to find out a few facts about this country.

“Real French! Nothing but the best for our viewers.”

Archer notes that facial closeups mean less background to draw. I think all the background props in this one still haunt him.

“Yeah, there’s always a dinner scene in these old shows where they’re eating mush.”

Meyer’s reminiscing about how animation makes episodes like this possible, where you can switch kids and have a sprawling story which you couldn’t do on a normal sitcom.

Complimenting the animation as really coming together toward the end of Season 1, with the glow from the candle, and the shadows on Bart, and the “cool looking” Donkey.

At SNL and Letterman, Meyer used to work with Jim Downey, who used to tent his fingers and say “Excellent”, which Adil does here.

“I spent a lot of time drawing those donuts.” – Perhaps the most Simpsoniest(?) Simpsons commentary comment ever.

“The nuclear plant tends to not have many people around. And at night it just seems to close down entirely, which is not the case with most nuclear plants.” – Ha!

“Pillow talk” scenes with Marge and Homer were “kind of encouraged by Jim Brooks”. Meyer calls them good to use for both exposition and “intimacy and sweetness”.

Archer discusses how they try to get a lot of “acting” out of Bart as he painfully reads his letter from home, which means the frayed clothes, the messed up hair, the line under his eye.

“That little halo behind the candle, I know how hard that is to get right now.”

The idea for this anti-freeze scheme came from a real life scandal where anti-freeze was found in wine, though in real life it apparently wasn’t intentional. Meyer thinks that was “our flourish”.

As Hugo tests Bart’s vision, “This is kind of a dark edge. They’re perhaps going to blind a small child.”

“We became sign happy as the show progressed.”

When Bart starts suddenly speaking French, Meyer chimes in sarcastically, “I buy it! I hope you do too!” – HA!

Next comment, “Bart did seem to forget his French over the years. It didn’t really come up that much after this.” – There’s a gently parental sympathy for this episode from Meyer. Archer is kind of straightforward about what happened, Meyer has more of an attitude like, “Yes, I know my child’s art project sucks, but it’s still nice”.

Archer pleased with how the end scene with the swat team and Sparrow in the treehouse came together.

Apparently the FBI guy with the megaphone wasn’t an effect. They used a real bullhorn at the microphone. And it sounds a lot like Shearer, so now I have the image of Derek Smalls pointing a bullhorn at a studio mic.

“It was a little unclear what happened there with Adil’s microphone. He seemed to drop it at an inopportune moment. Perhaps we could’ve thought a better way for him to give himself away.” – See what I mean? Meyer clearly doesn’t think this one is quite up to snuff by later standards, but he’s not angry about it or anything, just noting them.

“But it worked. People got the point.”

Adil: “I hope this experience will not sour you on the student exchange program.”
Meyer: “I like that line. It’s a subtle line, but I thought it was really funny.”

—–

I enjoy these older commentaries where there’s only two or three people. Not only does it make telling people apart easier, but you get more of a sense for how they actually feel about the episode. If you want to hear this one yourself, it’s on Disc 2 of the Season 1 collection.

27
Mar
19

Quote of the Day

“Homer, this is a terrible thing that’s happened. But we can’t blame ourselves.” – Marge Simpson
“We can and will!” – Homer Simpson
“Children need discipline! You can ask any syndicated advice columnist.” – Marge Simpson

Happy birthday, George Meyer!

27
Mar
18

Quote of the Day

“Mr. Simpson, I presume.” – Not Henry Morton Stanley

Happy birthday, George Meyer! 

27
Mar
15

Quote of the Day

Separate Vocations15

“First question: if I could be any animal, I would be a) a carpenter ant, b) a nurse shark, or c) a lawyer bird.” – Mrs. Krabappel

Happy birthday, George Meyer!

27
Mar
14

Quote of the Day

Stubbiness

“You think she has talent?” – Marge Simpson
“Sure!” – Li’l Ludwig’s Guy
“Do you think she could be a professional some day?” – Marge Simpson
“Oh, Lord, no!” – Li’l Ludwig’s Guy
“But I’ll practice every day!” – Lisa Simpson
“Yeah, well, I’ll be frank with you, Lisa.  And when I say frank, I mean, you know, devastating.  You’ve inherited a finger condition known as stubbiness.  It usually comes from the father’s side.” – Li’l Ludwig’s Guy

Happy birthday George Meyer!

27
Mar
13

Quote of the Day

Homer the Heretic10

“Homer, please don’t make me choose between my man and my God, because you just can’t win.” – Marge Simpson
“There you go again, always taking someone else’s side: Flanders, the water department, God.” – Homer Simpson

Happy birthday George Meyer!

27
Mar
12

Quote of the Day

Homer the Heretic8

“You know what I really hate about church?  Those boring sermons.” – Homer Simpson
“I couldn’t agree more.  That Reverend Lovejoy really displeases me.  I think I’ll give him a canker sore.” – God

Happy birthday George Meyer!

27
Mar
11

Quote of the Day

Homer the Heretic6

“Thou hast forsaken my church!” – God
“Well, kind of, but-” – Homer Simpson
“But what?” – God
“I’m not a bad guy, I work hard, and I love my kids.  So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I’m going to Hell?” – Homer Simpson
“Hmm, you’ve got a point there.” – God

Happy birthday George Meyer!

18
Nov
10

Simpsons Alumni Update: George Meyer & the Mr. Burns Toad

Mr. Burns Toad

Both images from Conservation International.

“Why here’s the fellow.  Wiry, fast, firm proud buttocks, reminds me of me.” – C.M. Burns

Deep in the jungle primeval in Colombia, a couple of new species were discovered, a frog and two toads, to be precise.  One of them, pictured above of the genus Rhinella, was dubbed, in an excellent publicity ploy, the “Mr. Burns” toad.  Unlike that “Homer Simpson gene” from a few months ago, these scientists have a Simpsons alum to back up their gimmick.  Here’s Dr. Robin Moore:

"As for the new beaked toad, it is easily one of the strangest amphibians I have ever seen. Its long pointy snout-liked nose reminds me of the nefarious villain, Mr. Burns, from The Simpsons television series."

After seeing pictures of the new species, Simpsons series long time writer/producer and amphibian enthusiast, George Meyer said of the resemblance, "The toad’s imperious profile and squinty eyes indeed look like Monty Burns." Meyer is an active member of Conservation International’s Chairman’s Council.

Here’s the toad looking imperial and godlike:

Mr. Burns Toad2

(via Columbia Reports)

27
Mar
10

Quote of the Day

Separate Vocations4

“Bart Simpson on the side of law and order?  Has the world gone topsy-turvy?” – Principal Skinner
“That’s right, man.  I got my first taste of authority . . . and I liked it!” – Bart Simpson

Happy Birthday George Meyer!

10
Mar
10

Sex Where There Was No Sex Before

Famed Simpsons writer George Meyer pops up in The New Yorker from time to time.  This piece, which to my surprise is free on-line, is from three years ago.  In it Meyer demonstrates the panache for the absurd that served the show so well for so long.  The premise is fairly simple, take one of the most boring things imaginable (in this case conferences) and describe it erotically using every word this side of “heaving”.  The results are amazing:

There’s nothing subtle about a PANEL DISCUSSION. Its thrills are dizzying, electric, a filthy mule kick to the greedy core of desire. Wisdom crackles from the dais. Insights dart and flash like the doomed fish in a whore’s aquarium. You take notes like a madman, but your pen flies apart, slinging hot ink down your pant leg.

I cannot resist a second:

There are times when a man’s soul is so battered, so hopelessly trampled, that the only balm is a TELECONFERENCE . . . or two, or three. Where is the shame in this? The French do it.

Read the whole thing.  It’s breathtaking in its ludicrous sincerity. 

17
Oct
09

Page to Screen

One of the consistently puzzling aspects of Zombie Simpsons, for me anyway, is trying to imagine how anyone, in a writers room, at a table read, really at any point in the creation of the show, could’ve found some of this stuff funny.  Was it really a laugh riot in the studio when they were discussing different things for Marge to spell out with the rhythmic gymnastics ribbon?  Did somebody mention old Rodney Dangerfield movies and everyone just started cutting up?  It’s pretty hard to picture. 

The examples above are from Season 21, but this interview with George Meyer (which is partially excepted in the Ortved book) sheds some light on a possibly similar situation from Season 12.  In discussing the Hobo from “Simpsons Tall Tales” Meyer says:

That one had my personal favorite internal gag that nobody outside of the show will ever see. At one point, the hobo is spinning a yarn, and Lisa interrupts with a story of her own. The hobo snaps, “Hey, who’s the hobo here?” And in the script, his dialogue note is “[ALL BUSINESS].” [Laughs] I love the idea that a hobo would be “all business.”

I laughed when I read that (it’s in the book).  The idea that a hobo would be “all business” is hilarious, but when you watch that the episode that gets lost.  The description is better than the actual scene. 

It’s clear from the quote that Meyer knows that those of us not in the room won’t see that.  But it’s also clear that the creation process was funnier than the finished product.   And while this is just one example, and it probably doesn’t apply to the overwhelming majority of Zombie Simpsons crapola, it’s illustrative of how things can get lost in translation. 

(The whole Meyer interview is a good read.) 

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.




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