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.
[The New Yorker]
Pistol Pete, a 1996 pilot for a Western spoof written and produced by legendary Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder, has surfaced for the first time thanks to a mysterious benefactor on YouTube:
The show centers around Pistol Pete, a fake cowboy starring in a New York City Wild West stage show who becomes the real sheriff of a Western town, played by the impeccable Stephen Kearney. It’s kinda like the Adam West Batman series set in the West with absurd Swartzweldian gags.
Like its mysterious creator, Pistol Pete gained some notoriety because pretty much nobody outside the people who produced it had ever seen it. Will Harris of Antenna Free TV wrote a comprehensive account – or at least as comprehensive as you can be about something you’ve never seen – about it last year, scoring interviews with Kearney and co-star Mark Derwin. Apparently, Swartzwelder was in such high demand that the studio pretty much gave him whatever he wanted. Unfortunately, the Fox network declined to pick it up as a series, possibly because Rupert Murdoch was feeling sleepy when the executives screened it.
Upon discovery (…?) of the video, Swartzwelder e-mailed it to Harris, who then tweeted it to the world. Now, perhaps the only big Simpsons writer “holy grail” that remains is George Meyer’s script for an unproduced movie that was to star David Letterman.
[YouTube via Twitter]
“Meh,” that ever-popular expression of indifference or existential apathy, entered into our collective vernacular thanks to a boost from The Simpsons. But whence did meh come from originally? Language talkin’ guy Ben Zimmer has been looking into its etymology for years and seems to have traced it back to Alexander Harkavy’s Yiddish-English-Hebrew Dictionary from 1928. In trying to find out where the Simpsons writers got it, Zimmer managed to get a response from reclusive shaman John Swartzwelder:
…Swartzwelder did have a memory of where he first came across meh, though it wasn’t in Mad. “I had originally heard the word from an advertising writer named Howie Krakow back in 1970 or 1971 who insisted it was the funniest word in the world,” he told me. So let’s thank Mr. Krakow for his unwitting role in the spread of the meh meme.
Case closed, maybe?
[Language Log via Slate]
One of the specialty drinks served at Moe’s at the Simpsons area in Universal Orlando is the “Mt. Swartzwelder Apple Drink,” named after legendary Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder. Also, a non-alcoholic (booo), non-flaming Flaming Moe described as having a “great citrus taste” and a zero-calorie cherry-flavored Buzz Cola, neither of which is canon, blegh.
It’s all a cruel hoax by a creative writing student in London
. But he did manage to fool a bunch of Swartzwelder’s former co-workers which is pretty damn awesome.
The notoriously reclusive, Ron Swansonesque Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder joined the notoriously narcissistic social microblogging platform known as “Twitter” under the username @SwartzwelderJ.
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Reclusive former Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder has a new* book out called Dead Men Scare Me Stupid that you can purchase on Amazon or through eBay. I am only posting about this so I can use the category “GENERAL SWARTZ-WATCH.”
*Came out two months ago [Amazon via Simpsons-L]