NEWINGTON - There were punchlines, one liners and zinger jokes a minute inside the Lucy Robin Welles Memorial Library in Newington Monday night, because of a Bristol native turned well-known writer.
Mike Reiss, one of several authors for The Simpsons over the past 30 years, paid a visit to the library then to speak about his book, “SPRINGFIELD CONFIDENTIAL: Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons.”
“If the Simpsons had been aging like real people all these years, Bart Simpson would be 40 years old. His mother, Marge, could be collecting Social Security,” quipped Reiss. “His father, Homer, would have been dead for eight years…Maggie would be a very feminine 31-year-old, who never says a word…she’d be Jared Kushner.”
Hailing from Bristol, Reiss opened up saying he was very proud to be from Connecticut, where one-third of the over 20 writers for Simpsons hail from. Immediately making a joke not even five minutes in to the presentation, Reiss said when most people ask why that is, other people will respond saying “Who cares?”
Reiss went on to talk about the history of the show, including the movie that came out in 2007 that had nine writers, 11 directors and 166 drafts of the script after working on the movie for four years.
“And yet, what’s the only thing people remember from The Simpsons movie … ‘Spider pig, spider pig, does whatever a spider pig does,” said Reiss. “That’s the kind of joke you write when you’re high, and we did.”
While being a “topical show” as college classes will label it, Reiss said the show takes about nine months to a year to get finalized and it can actually get the show into tricky situations.
The script will be written and then reviewed by one group of people that will go through every line and try to improve to the point that everyone in the group will break out laughing, Reiss said. Then another group will review the script and do the exact same thing, before another group does the same thing.
“A couple years ago Mr. Burns had a line in the show where he said, ‘Well, I’m no young matinee idol like Rex Harrison’…two days before that show aired, Rex Harrisson dropped dead,” Reiss said. “I changed it from Rex Harrisson to ‘Redd Foxx’ the star of Sanford and Son…the morning that show aired, Redd Foxx (dropped dead).
“That reminded me of something my grandfather told me when I was a little boy,” Reiss continued. “He said, ‘Michael, God hates you.”
Oprah being the most difficult of the over 800 guest stars on the show, and a fifth finger needing to be drawn on Simpsons characters when being aired in Japan because the Japanese don’t like the number four, were among other insights Reiss shared to the audience of about 50.
Never having a president of the country guest star on the show, crossover material with another show that Reiss created called “The Critic,” and character voice actor Hank Azaria being good at altering characters, like Groundskeeper Willie, were insider facts.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Kevin Mercure, who was in attendance with Brooklyn Cucchiara, both from Harwinton, of the event.
“I loved it,” said Cucchiara. “You got to be pretty smart to write jokes like that.”
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.