By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“I said, ‘I’d understand if there was an overlap in the distribution — that would make sense. But this is 10 bucks! And that means a lot to me!’ They said, ‘Nope — a contract’s a contract.’ So I said, ‘That’s fine, but when my contract is up in two months, then I’m going into Pasadena.’ Then they said, ‘Okay, fine, you’re fired.’ And I said, ‘Well, then I’m gonna sell my strip to the L.A. Weekly.’ And they said, ‘Not for two months, you’re not.’ After that, I decided, ‘You know what? For all I know, they’re lunatics at the L.A. Weekly too. So I’ll just mail in my cartoon and not find out.’ All I know is that the last time I showed up at a newspaper office, I got fired.”
“By the way,” Groening says, “no one has noticed this, but if you look in the upper left-hand corner of my comic strip, it no longer says Life in Hell.”
“What does it say?”
“Life Is Swell.”
“No it doesn’t.”
“Yes it does. I changed it in 2007.”
“In the large type?”
“In my little Japanese calligraphy pen which I misuse to make that scribbly look. It says Life Is Swell. Why? Well, I got sick of the word ‘hell’ as a comedy term about 15 years ago. But it was my trademark, my thing. So I was looking for a positive election in which I would change the name. I even put it in the strip. I can’t remember which election it was — Gore or Kerry — but I said, ‘If the election turns out the way I want it to, I will change the name of the strip to Life Is Swell.’ Then I kept it Hell until after the 2006 election. I thought, ‘Okay, I’m happy enough with the midterms, so I’ll change it in 2007.’ Like I said, nobody notices. I just think ‘swell’ is a funny word.”
“How to Write a Weekly Music Column” [continued]
. . . Start working in an office downtown.
Answer phones, type up classifieds, think up headlines, proofread, paste up issues, write articles, draw cartoons, deliver newspapers.
Start delivering in Chinatown, and work your way west, ending up in Malibu as the sun goes down . . .
It’s getting dark. I ask Groening if he ever has dreams in which he’s interacting with Simpsons characters.
“I only recall one,” he says. “And I barely remember it. I just remember saying, ‘Well, wait a minute. I’m real life, and this is a cartoon, so something’s wrong here.’?”
“When I was getting into animation as a child,” I say, “I had some really vivid dreams where there were animated characters interacting with live action. The best one involved this cartoon puppy — the happiest, friendliest puppy, who just wants to love and be loved by everyone. But he has a lighting bolt for a tail.”
“And if he touches you, you die. My brother and I were riding our bicycles, and the puppy was romping after us, and we’re going, ‘Yes! Good puppy! But don’t kill us!’ It was kind of an Edward Scissorhands situation. Or maybe I’d just learned about nuclear bombs.”
“Wow. That’s great. Did the dog have a name?”
“I believe it was Cartoon Electric Puppy — Electric Puppy, for short.”
“I have lots of dreams about working on TheSimpsons,” Groening says, “but they’re all real-life dreams. The most recent one is the best one, because . . . well, it was just a good dream. I dreamed I was in the back row of a giant auditorium, and I didn’t know where I was or why I was there. But it was this crowded, formal event, and I say to the person sitting next to me, ‘What is this?’ And he says, ‘These are the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies.’ And I say, ‘Really?’ He goes, ‘Yeah — you should be very excited. The Simpsons is up for the Nobel Peace Prize.’
“I say, ‘Wait a minute — no! It’s a cartoon! What’re you talking about?!’ He says, ‘I agree it’s far-fetched, but, you know, you should have a speech ready, because there’s a good chance that you might win.’ I say, ‘That makes no sense at all! That makes no sense at all!’ And then, [half-assed announcer voice] ‘And the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. . . The Simpsons!’ So I go up onstage, and I say to myself, in the dream, ‘I’d better have a joke.’ And I say, ‘Gee, it’s such an honor for The Simpsons to win the Nobel Prize. You know, this hasn’t happened to a cartoon since Porky Pig.’”
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