Chat with Matt Groening, creator of "Futurama" and "The Simpsons"
April 6, 1999
Host Matt, welcome to the show! Let's jump right in - we have so many
Questions for you tonight.
Question hobgoblin: How old were you when you first came up with the idea
for "The Simpsons"? I know that the show has been on for a long time.
Matt_G First of all, greetings to everyone all over the world who are tuning
in on this chat.
Matt_G I understand it's quite early in the morning in England.
Matt_G "The Simpsons" originated in high school.
Matt_G I wrote a bleak little novel called "The Mean Little Kids" starring a
teenage Bart Simpson with buckteeth and a very bad complexion.
Question Satsuka: How did the idea of "Futurama" come to you?
Matt_G I've been a sci-fi fan since I was a kid. I really loved those old
sci-fi magazines with those garish covers and thought it would be fun to do
an animated version of the book and magazine covers I loved so much.
Host Was "Life In Hell" an outgrowth of the Bart Simpson character?
Matt_G All my cartoons are an outgrowth of my doodling in the back of the
classroom in grade school when I should have been paying attention.
Matt_G The teachers thought I was a goof-off.
Matt_G So I had to become a successful cartoonist to prove them wrong.
Matt_G I know the Questions are pouring in. I'll try to answer as many as
Question RoutyRyanP: What do you think of all the "Futurama" websites
already on the internet? Do you have a favorite?
Matt_G I understand at last count we saw 22.
Matt_G It's nice, they're all in the top 25. (Smile)
Matt_G Everyone on the "Futurama" staff is delighted by the intensity of
interest in the show at such an early stage.
Question Future-Boy: If you could have dinner with any one person from the
20th Century, who would it be and why?
Matt_G Hmm. . . any one person? I'd like to have one more dinner with Frank
Zappa, who I got to know several years ago before he died.
Matt_G There are about 100 more Questions I'd like to ask him about his
Question Satsuka: Do you plan on merchandising "Futurama"? I want action
Matt_G There are many merchandising plans in the works, but sadly, no action
Matt_G No. . . for you, we'll do action figures.
Question immike: Matt, now that "Futurama" is out, are you still going to
work on "The Simpsons" or are you going to stick with "Futurama"?
Matt_G I will still be working on "The Simpsons."
Matt_G These days the show is in good hands at Film Roman.
Matt_G And there's a great writing staff. So I feel like I can sit back and
enjoy the show more like an audience member.
Host Who is your favorite character?
Matt_G My favorite Simpsons character changes from episode to episode.
Matt_G I hold a special place in my heart for Lisa.
Matt_G She seems to be the only character who will escape from Springfield.
Host Are there any plans to make Bart and Lisa Simpson age?
Matt_G One of the great advantages of animation is that the characters don't
age, wrinkle, or develop strange personality disorders.
Matt_G So, the answer is no.
Matt_G They remain forever youthful and exuberant.
Host You still do "Life in Hell" comics every week. Do you ever think of
making them into a tv show?
Matt_G I have about 8 or 9 ideas for tv shows. "Life in Hell" is number 7 on
Host Are you going to have any Simpson characters show up in "Futurama"? I
know I've seen Blinky on the show.
Matt_G "The Simpsons" are still on the air in 1000 years. The difference
between "Futurama" and "The Simpsons" is that "The Simpsons" are fictional
and "Futurama" is real. (Smile)
Question OviD: I love the 3-d effects in "Futurama"! What made you decide to
do that in the show?
Matt_G When we started "The Simpsons" ten years ago, we couldn't do that
kind of animation. Now we do, so we got more ambitious. We try to make use
of 3-d animation, without making it look too much like it was done by a
Question Milpool: If you could pick a night for the show to be on, when
would that be? Or do you like it squished between two other animated shows?
Matt_G I don't care where the show is as long as its fans can find it.
Matt_G It seems pretty obvious that Sunday night after "The Simpsons" would
be a pretty good spot, but I think "Simpsons" fans are smart enough to find
it any night of the week.
Question MattWood: Is there going to be a "Simpsons" feature film?
Matt_G We have had some early, maybe, kinda, sorta, preliminary discussions
of doing a "Simpsons" movie.
Matt_G I imagine there would be a "Simpsons" movie one of these years.
Question Growed: Matt, what advice do you have for students who are trying
to doodle in the back of the classroom and not pay attention?
Host Growed must not be an English major.
Matt_G Finish whatever creative work you're doing, finish it. I have pages
and pages of unfinished poems, stories, comic strips, and drawings.
Matt_G If I just expended a little more effort, they'd be finished works.
Matt_G I think being able to sustain your creative self expression to the
bitter end is very good training.
Matt_G The other thing I recommend is no matter where you are in school to
try to get your work in front of an audience.
Matt_G A student newspaper, or xeroxing your work and handing it out.
Comment Jon: Matt, words can not describe what I think of you. Next to my
father you are the man.
Matt_G That's the Question?
Host That is just a Comment from him...quite a compliment though.
Matt_G Very cool.
Question HumorProbe: Is there any chance that Conan O'Brien will participate
again in the production of "The Simpsons" or "Futurama?"
Matt_G We're hoping Conan will realize the error of his ways, and come
crawling back to "The Simpsons." We may never forgive him for leaving.
Question HomerDoh: Are any fictional "Simpson" characters' personalities
based on someone real??
Matt_G And if they were, I would never admit it. (Wink)
Question El-barto: Is the beginning of each "Futurama" episode going to be
like Bart's blackboard where it says a different thing (i.e. in color, in
hypno-vision, on your tv)?
Matt_G We're throwing in lots of sneaky little details in every episode for
the discriminating fan.
Matt_G It's one of the fun things we do on "The Simpsons" and we're
continuing that tradition on "Futurama".
Question Astrihd: Will "Futurama" ever reach Australia? Everybody here is
talking about it and I've never heard of it before today.
Host My gosh it is late in Australia. I think it is tomorrow already.
Matt_G "The Simpsons" is more popular in Australia than just about any other
place in the world, and I expect "Futurama" to find its way there quite
Question Fatty: What is your absolute favorite cartoon BESIDES ones you've
Matt_G I don't have a single favorite cartoon.
Matt_G I like lots of cartoons. Currently on tv, I enjoy "Dr. Katz", "The
PJ's", "King of the Hill", "Dilbert", "Powder Puff Girls", "Space G",
"Dexter's Laboratory", "Hey Arnold", "KaBam!"
Matt_G As you can see, I watch way too much tv.
Host Where do you find the time to create with all the tv watching?
Matt_G I have the tv on above my drawing table. I take a peek out of the
corner of my eye when I should be paying attention.
Host My tv is like the radio station: it is always on but I hardly ever
watch it, I just listen to it.
Question chlorine_poop: At the opening credits of "Futurama" does the sign
in the lower left corner really say "DEFCON Cult of The Dead Cow"?
Host Wouldn't want to be Chlorine Poop. (Smile)
Matt_G No. But we'll change it to that right now. That's a good one!
Question IslandTalker: In "The Simpsons", they always talk about God and his
power, how he made it snow, thunder, etc. However, they are always
criticizing religions, like the Jehovah's Witness and the Cat.
Matt_G "The Simpsons" is equal opportunity satire. We'll poke fun at anyone
we can think up a funny joke about.
Question JackieBrown2002: In "The Simpsons", you have a lot of references to
different movies and stuff. Do you have a favorite movie or book that
influenced any of "The Simpsons" episodes?
Matt_G On "The Simpsons" we reference a lot of Stanley Kubrick and Alfred
Hitchcock films, because their movies are imprinted on our brains.
Matt_G I think the movie we have paid homage to the most over the last
decade is "Citizen Kane."
Matt_G You could probably construct an entire episode made up of the
references to "Citizen Kane".
Question beem237: Matt if there were to be a cartoon bar fight between "The
Simpsons" and "Futurama" who would win and why?
Matt_G Well, the characters in "Futurama" have ray guns.
Matt_G They have a slight advantage.
Matt_G However, Mo the Bartender would probably fight with broken bottles,
and Homer would no doubt run away.
Matt_G So, Homer would win by running away.
Host Homer would win by default...by lack of attendance.
Question Kyls1: You are on a deserted Island somewhere in the South Pacific.
What would be the 3 things that you take with you?
Matt_G Oh man!
Matt_G I have no clever answer for that.
Matt_G Next Question.
Question mac-gk-1: Who is the person you have wanted to cameo on "The
Simpsons" but haven't been able to get yet?
Matt_G The list of celebrities who want to be on "The Simpsons" is quite
long. We pretty much have our pick.
Matt_G The only people who turn us down are either actors who either too old
to get "The Simpsons" or actors that are too big that they have evil
publicists who won't forward our phone calls.
Host I would image that a lot of people call you to be on the show?
Matt_G Yeah. We have many rock groups and many actors on the list.
Question Clancey: Kang is my favorite (I actually got a tattoo of him). Any
chance of him & Kodos showing up in "Futurama"?
Matt_G That's a possibility - they may make a cameo appearance one of these
Host Scary getting a tattoo of Kang.
Question Kipsie: With all the work you have been doing for you "The
Simpsons" and "Futurama", how do you manage to fit in spare time for other
Matt_G The secret of a balanced life is to work with a lot of people who
work much harder than I do.
Matt_G "Futurama" and "The Simpsons" are staffed by people who knock
themselves out week after week, who allow me to toddle off and do online
Matt_G That's true actually. "The Simpsons" writers have gone home, but the
"Futurama" writers are probably still there.
Host (LOL) - You're still working anyway. Enjoying yourself?
Matt_G Yeah. It's fun.
Comment HariW: Matt is God! After this I shall return to my Matt Groening
Host Quite an impact you have there.
Host I guess they gave up the Gahunza for you.
Matt_G One of the great things about animation is that it makes you feel
like a god.
Matt_G You have these little creatures who wouldn't exist unless you thought
them up and gave them life.
Matt_G And with writers putting funny words in their mouth, it's like they
have free will!
Matt_G When the characters say jokes I don't like, I understand God's wrath.
Matt_G But when the episodes are great, all is well with the universe.
Question Your splendid creation has given me such joy. I would just like to
thank you, you have no idea how much joy your creation has given me. I can
always depend on "The Simpsons" to greatly improve my mood.
Matt_G On behalf of the hundreds of people who put on "The Simpsons",
including the actors, animators, writers, and bootleg t-shirt makers, we
Question Frank: The ironic humor in "The Simpsons" often suggests you are
quite cynical. What's your real outlook on life?
Matt_G I don't think of "The Simpsons" as being particularly cynical.
Matt_G We try to provide a celebration every week, and if we can possibly
tear down civilization at the same time, so much the better. (Wink)
Question Glacia_62: How long does it take to create one show of "The
Simpsons" or "Futurama"?
Matt_G It takes about 6 months to do a single episode.
Matt_G Obviously, we work on many episodes at the same time.
Matt_G We're still finishing up the first season of "Futurama" for
broadcast, and we're writing the second season simultaneously.
Matt_G In fact, as I'm doing this online chat, the "Futurama" are toiling
away back at headquarters.
Question nutsy125: Will there ever be a "Star Trek" spoof on "Futurama"?
Host Nutsy - great name. (Smile)
Matt_G We're going to try to stay away from extended spoofs of "Star Wars"
and "Star Trek", no matter how tempting that may be.
Matt_G I hope "Star Trek" fans appreciate the appearance of Leonard Nimoy.
He was a good sport, even when we had his disembodied head eating food like
Question amber22f: Who is the brains behind Ralph Wiggum. He must be a
Matt_G Nancy Cartwright, who plays Bart, also does the voice of Ralph. When
you see her do it in person, she gets this Ralph-like stare on her face that
brings the character to life.
Question RoBottik: Who wrote the theme for "Futurama"? It's really cool.
Matt_G Chris Tyng is our intrepid composer.
Matt_G He's working on multiple re-mixes of the theme and we're going to try
to put them out in some form as soon as we can.
Question evilangel2: After screening a "Simpsons" episode in Australia, is
there a chance you can do one in New Zealand and poke some fun at us as
Matt_G Sure, why not?
Matt_G "The Simpsons" in carrying on the tradition of having them visit
countries we know nothing about, have "The Simpsons" visit Japan in an
upcoming very special episode.
Question TheMightyLeifer-- How did you first get on Tracy Ulman? Did she
find you or did you find her?
Matt_G James L. Brooks, the brilliant movie director, gave me a call after
having seen my comic strip "Life in Hell."
Matt_G He said he was putting together a comedy show for the brand new Fox
network, and wanted to know if I had any ambitions to try animation.
Matt_G And I thought to myself "It's about time somebody made this call".
Comment Mr.Tinklebury: I think it would be great if there was a whole
episode dedicated to monkeys trained in the art of the Samurai.
Host That must be because of the Japanese statement earlier.
Matt_G We have Fry become college roommates with a super intelligent monkey
later this season on "Futurama."
Matt_G No sword fighting, however.
Matt_G But there will be plenty of biting.
Question murdochspe: How does it feel to know that people TATTOO themselves
with your "doodles", as it were?
Matt_G I think tattoos are the ultimate compliment for a cartoonist.
Matt_G However, I have mixed feelings when the people showing me their
tattoos have the characters' names misspelled.
Matt_G This has actually happened a few times.
Matt_G Isn't that sad?
Host Did you hear about the Marine that is suing the tattoo parlor for
misspelling "Villain" on his arm.
Host It took a year for him to notice.
Matt_G I never tell someone with a misspelled tattoo that the name is
Question nategilmore: The Simpsons Complete Guide to our Favorite Family was
great. I was wondering if there was going to be a second book to cover the
Matt_G We're working on a second volume, with all new material, so you won't
be paying for the same book twice.
Matt_G The tentative title is The Simpsons Forever.
Question Kevin_G: Will there be any more "Simpsons" houses built in the
future like the one that was built in Las Vegas??
Host That's Kevin G not Kenny G.
Matt_G I suggested to Fox that they build another "Simpsons" house and blow
it up live on the air.
Matt_G On Halloween.
Matt_G So stay tuned.
Matt_G Who knows? (Smile)
Question yokel: What do you think of the people who hate the "Simpsons"
because they think it's a bad influence even if they haven't watched an
Host This is a pretty astute Question .
Matt_G Part of the fun of being alive is knowing that you're annoying the
hell out of someone else.
Matt_G It's that great feeling Bugs Bunny has when Elmer Fudd starts shaking
Matt_G If nobody hated "The Simpsons", I'd know we've lost our touch.
Question RoBottik: Who drinks more? Barney or Bender?
Matt_G I believe Bender has a 30-gallon capacity, so Barney wins by a hair.
Question JListon: T-shirts...when do the T-shirts come out?
Matt_G The only t-shirts that exist right now are t-shirts for the staff
featuring Bender in his impending catch phrase: "Kill all humans".
Matt_G But don't worry, no doubt there will be so many t-shirts down the
line that you will get totally sick of "Futurama".
Matt_G That's the modern merchandise way.
Host We've got three more Questions...we're going to start rapping it up
Question EVEREST-EXPED: Do you ever just watch kids at school to get ideas,
or how do you get most of your ideas?
Matt_G Kids are a great source of ideas, and yes, I listen to kids all the
Matt_G I quote my 2 sons, Will and Abe, in my weekly comic strip quite
Question -XxX-MeL-XxX-: what did you do when The Simpsons became so popular?
And did you ever expect this show to be so popular??
Matt_G I have to admit that I thought if I could get a cartoon show on the
air, that it would be a hit.
Matt_G At the time, I did not understand exactly what the ramifications were
of being so popular.
Matt_G I'm still staggered by the vast amounts of fan mail and enthusiastic
response to "The Simpsons" on the internet.
Host Okay, two final Questions here.
Question TheMightyLeifer- Do you accept unsolicited material? And where can
I send it if you do? Also, do you have a website or address where I can
write to you?
Matt_G "Futurama" and "Simpsons" are both staff written.
Matt_G We have way too many writers as it is, and it's next to impossible to
break into the inner circle unless you went to Harvard with one of those
Host Do you have a website?
Matt_G We're working on a "Futurama" website, at which the "Futurama" staff
(including me) will try to answer as many Questions as we can on a regular
Matt_G We'll have more information. We'll be making an announcement about
Matt_G Look for a web address in the "Futurama" credits soon.
Host Here's a good one to end it on.
Question BigBillyRay--With all your success, what is the one thing you want
but you know you will never get?
Matt_G Oh my God! Let me think about this one.
Matt_G I know even after all this success, my high school teachers will
always think I'm a goof-off.
Host LOL - You'll never get the respect that you needed.
Host Anything in conclusion?
Matt_G Thank you all for your interest.
Matt_G I know most of you didn't get your Questions answered.
Matt_G Hang in there, and look for the official "Futurama" website.
Matt_G We'll continue to try to make a show worthy of videotaping,
freeze-framing, and criticizing on the Web.
Host Matt, thank you so much.
Host Everyone have a good night.
Host Everyone check out the transcript. It will be available on Fox.com.
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>alas, www.futurama.com is already taken... any ideas what Matt Groening