BRISTOL - An Emmy-winning writer for ‚ÄúThe Simpsons,‚ÄĚ Mike Reiss, stopped by the Bristol Public Library Thursday night to talk with over 200 guests about his experiences scripting the show,and about his new book, ‚ÄėSpringfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons.‚Äô
‚ÄúI wasn‚Äôt going to miss this for the world,‚ÄĚ city native Reiss said, ‚ÄúNot too many people say this, but I am thrilled to be in Bristol on a Thursday night at the library.‚ÄĚ
In his youth, Reiss said, he spent a lot of time at the city library, reading a variety of books that helped advance his interest in writing.
‚ÄúI read every humor book in this library, every book about TV, every book about movies. I owe this library a lot, and not just in the fines for taking ‚ÄėGreen Eggs and Ham,‚Äô which I will return when I‚Äôm finished reading it,‚ÄĚ he said to laughter from the crowd.
Reiss said Bristol provided good material for his comedic writing.
‚ÄúFor example,‚ÄĚ he said, ‚ÄúIn the very first episode of ‚ÄėThe Simpsons,‚Äô when Homer is playing Scrabble and throws it into the fire, I actually had that happen in my youth, from one of my childhood friend‚Äôs father.‚ÄĚ
In another episode, Lisa has a crush on her substitute teacher with a slight deformity.
‚ÄúWe used a real-life example of a substitute teacher I had in school who had a deformity. The animators decided to make the teacher look like me and the teacher was voiced by Dustin Hoffman,‚ÄĚ laughed Reiss.
Reiss explained that there are 23 writers working on the show and each season contains 22 episodes. He said it can take anywhere from nine months to a year to create one episode.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre a very topical show,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe take ideas from TV, from movies and our personal lives. A lot of people ask how we have ‚Äėpredicted the future,‚Äô especially the episode back in 2000 in which Donald Trump becomes president.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to tell you and I can‚Äôt make this up. One day were sitting in the office trying to come up with content and we‚Äôre thinking ‚ÄėWhat‚Äôs the stupidest thing we as Americans can imagine doing?‚Äô Someone, I can‚Äôt remember who, said, ‚ÄėTrump as president.‚Äô And everyone just laughed.
‚ÄúListen, when ‚ÄėThe Simpsons‚Äô makes fun of the world, that‚Äôs called satire, but when the world sets this stuff up for ‚ÄėThe Simpsons,‚Äô that‚Äôs just messed up,‚ÄĚ he said, laughing.
On creating content for ‚ÄúThe Simpsons Movie,‚ÄĚ which came out in 2007, Reiss said the script took four years to write.
‚ÄúThere was 165 drafts, nine writers and 11 directors. And while there‚Äôs no plans right now for another movie, I would like to see one. Maybe in CG or live-action. If they make it live-action I could see Vin Diesel as Homer and William H. Macy as Ned Flanders,‚ÄĚ he joked.
His favorite characters to write for are Homer and Grandpa Simpson.
‚ÄúHomer is a comedy writer‚Äôs dream. He‚Äôs fat, he‚Äôs dumb, he‚Äôs ugly, he‚Äôs a drunk, he‚Äôs the Seven Deadly Sins. Grandpa is fun to write because a lot of kids and parents watch ‚ÄėThe Simpsons,‚Äô not so much older viewers, so we‚Äôre not really offending anyone,‚ÄĚ he said.
After the program, guests had the opportunity to meet with Reiss, shake his hand, ask for autographs and, in some cases, reconnect.
‚ÄúIt was unbelievable, I couldn‚Äôt have been more pleased. I do a lot of public speaking and I was glad the audience was able to laugh at some of the more daring jokes. It was wonderful seeing people from every aspect of my life. I saw former teachers, neighbors and old friends. There were people I haven‚Äôt seen in almost 40 years. It was just a wonderful time,‚ÄĚ Reiss said.
Lindsay Vigue, chairwoman of the Bristol Arts and Culture Commission, was thrilled that Reiss was available and willing to do a presentation at the public library.
‚ÄúHe was nothing but kind, warm, gracious and accommodating. He is very vibrant and creative and breaks boundaries with diversity. It was a wonderful time and we were thrilled with the turnout and the amount of laughter from the audience. We know Bristol is very sports-centric, but we thought this program would be good for the community to support the value of the arts,‚ÄĚ Vigue said.