Joel Cohen, a 16-year veteran writer on “The Simpsons” talks about his work and what it’s like in the writer’s room of the iconic show. He has also just released a new book “How to Lose a Marathon” which chronicles his training journey leading up to the 2013 NYC Marathon. Following is a transcript of the video.
Simpsons is amazing. I mean, it’s it’s — I am the dumbest person in any room I’m in, but particularly in that room. It’s a lot of Ivy League educated, really smart, funny, talented people who have this job that they just are creating what’s become this iconic, cultural fixture for almost 30 years. And it’s great. It’s people sitting around yelling stuff at each other and at a TV screen trying to get the next joke in to move us to the next joke. And we do it every day for 52 weeks a year and crank out 22 episodes. It’s amazing.
I’d say every day there’s a joke I go home with that is like one of my favorites that somebody has pitched that’s really funny. A joke that I will — that I can think of just at the spur of the moment is, we had an episode once where I think Lisa was making a movie for the Sundance, Slamdance film festival, or some version of Sundance film festival, and she decided to film her own family and she was assigning roles, and she said “Homer you’ll play yourself” and then Homer said “Why, ‘cause I’m fat?” So, I thought that was funny.
In the course of a day, we write without exaggeration — 50 jokes go in the script and to get there we’re pitching 1,000 jokes. So, a lot of times at the end of the day, when we go back, or when we talk about it in the room, who wrote that joke? We can’t even remember because, often there’s so many, and often to get to the final joke that goes in the script, it’s kind of building upon two other people’s pitches. So, it’s hard — I know that’s not a satisfying answer, one of many not-satisfying answers today. But, it’s hard to think of an individual joke that I’ve written.
Most of the people there, we really are not employable anywhere else, so we’ve stayed there for the bulk of our time. But, yeah, I’d say there’s a little bit of turnover, but, you know, I’ve worked there 16 years and I’m middle of the pack seniority-wise. And our rookies have only worked there three years. But there’s people longer than me as well.