Back in 2011, during a Twitter discussion about whether Milhouse’s design was inspired by Wonder Years actor Josh Saviano, Simpsons superdirector David Silverman dismissed that theory, mentioning Milhouse had originated from an unproduced Saturday morning cartoon Matt Groening had pitched to a network in the 80s, and his design was recycled for a Butterfinger commercial. I wrote about it at the time.
John Swartzwelder has given his first-ever interview with The New Yorker, where the legendary Simpsons writer talks at length about his past and reflects upon his work.
This is a huge surprise, because Swartzwelder has a reputation as a mysterious, eccentric guy. As John Ortved wrote in his book, “Swartzwelder is an enigma. No one I interviewed knows much about the man, and unlike [George] Meyer, he has never given an interview or spoken publicly about himself or his work.” Fellow Simpsons writer Matt Selman blogged, “John Swartzwelder is immensely private. He would not want to be blogged about.” The only time his voice has been heard publicly is when showrunner Mike Scully called him during a DVD commentary (in an interview with the podcast Talking Simpsons, Scully says he had to give him an animation cel to get him to sign a release form). Amazingly, he still holds the record for most episodes written, even though he left the show nearly two decades ago.
In the interview, which writer Mike Sacks says was “in the works for over a year,” Swartzwelder reflects on his time in advertising and Saturday Night Live, offers some great writing advice, clarifies some misperceptions about the diner booth he installed in his home, shares his thoughts on the deification of the Simpsons writers’ room (“I know some people think of us as gods, and maybe we are. I’m not saying we’re not gods.”) and the word “Swartzweldian” (“about the most awkward-sounding word in the English language”), reveals his favorite season, and confirms the mostly-promotional Twitter account @JJSwartzwelder is him. He also mentions a cartoon he drew for George Meyer’s cult zine Army Man featuring “some nicely drawn chickens” with perfect beaks (you be the judge).
The whole thing is oozing with great jokes and is very much worth your time.