Al Jean


Things were looking Grim for TV’s highest-rated animated series a couple of weeks back, but “The Simpsons” executive producer Al Jean helped convince Moe to keep the bar open a few more years, Mr Burns to continue hatching evil plans, and Maggie to keep on her with her plight to one day lose the diaper. It’s a testament to the strong relationships formed on the hit Twentieth Century Fox series that the show not only continues but has lasted as long as it has. In this exclusive interview with CLINT MORRIS, Jean talks about the past, present and future of the “Simpson’s” world.

I know you took a leave of absense at one stage from “The Simpson”, working on shows like “The Critic”, what inspired you to return to the show?
Whenever I was working on another show, even the Critic, which I loved, every day I wished I was back on the Simpsons.

Oh, really?
The characters are so perfect, the ideas come so fast and frequently and the working conditions–especially the people–are simply the best. And this comes from someone who considers himself a jaded comedy writer.

So who is the jaded comedy writer’s favourite character to write for on the show?
I guess it would be Lisa–growing up I wasn’t cool, like Bart. That was my sister.

You’re Lisa!?
I was more intellectual, and it’s great to have a character who can give a voice to that. But no mistake, Bart rocks too.

Who has been your favourite guest-star to have on?
99.9 per cent of them have been incredible–both talented and a thrill to meet.

I bet..
If I really had to pick a favorite, I’d say two–the late great Phil Hartman and the incomparable Kelsey Grammer.

Both amazing. Now, you do many of the DVD commentaries on the discs. Do you put your hand up to do those? Do you find doing them enjoyable?
I won’t deny that it is sometimes a little difficult to find new things to say, which is why we like to mix in new people including the guest stars. But to me it is both a responsibility and a point of pride to appear on the commentary of every episode I was showrunner for – 294 and counting.

294!? I love the man, and I don’t think anybody much asks about James L. Brooks. What’s it like working with such a legend?
I actually get asked quite a lot about Jim, because he is, in my opinion, the best there ever was at what I do for a living.

What makes him the best?
What is really amazing about him is he never rests on his laurels–never says, “Do what I say, because I created the Mary Tyler Moore Show”. He just wants his ideas – which are great- to stand or fall on their own merits, like any other writer.

It took quite a long time for the first “Simpsons” movie to come together. Do you think we will ever see another and if so, would you write it?
I had always felt it would be best to wait after the series concluded to do the Simpsons Movie, but when it became clear the show might never end, we decided we had to get cracking on the film. If there is a sequel, there would have to be a script we believed in as much as the first one. At the moment we are concentrating solely on the show.

Bummer! What projects outside of “The Simpsons” are you working on?
Just living my life and seeing my family when I can.

I hear ya on that one..
.. I did work on a bit last year for “Funny or Die” where the Saturday Night Live Presidents came together to support the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. It was an amazing experience..

”The Simpsons season 14” available on DVD and Blu-ray now thanks to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment