Last night, Mike Reiss, longtime writer for The Simpsons, made a stop at the Wallingford Library in Wallingford, Connecticut, to talk about the show and his new book about the show, Springfield Confidential.
Although Connecticut may seem a strange choice for a famous writer for a show based out of the West Coast, Reiss is actually a Connecticut native who looks on the town of Wallingford fondly. One of the first things he assured his packed audience was that he was “thrilled to be in Wallingford, Connecticut, on a Thursday night in the winter.” He also mentioned that there are seven Connecticut natives on the Simpsons writing team, the highest amount of people from any one state.
When he began to zero in on more show-specific topics, he showed a four-minute clip of the “smartest” Simpsons jokes, throughout the seasons. This included classics like the potato chips in space, Leonard Nimoy getting beamed up, and, my personal favorite, “It’s a two-party system!”
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Very cool panel! I just found out Mike Reiss will be at the Danbury library on the 26, so if you missed him tonight… (It looks like this is a big gross stack of books on the floor, but the book is actually on a stack of game guides perched precariously on the corner of my coffee table.) (Also, I got the book signed, but I made it out to my dad for his birthday, so obvs not going to post a picture of that here.) #thesimpsons #springfieldconfidental #mikereiss #wallingford #wallingfordlibrary #ct #finalfantasyvii #lol
He talked a little about the other writers, like Daniel Cohen, who “writes jokes for computers,” and poked some fun at Bob’s Burgers and Jimmy Fallon for lacking such smarts.
Reiss then pointed out that he’s been a writer for The Simpsons for thirty years, and that would mean that if the characters aged like real people, Bart would be forty, Marge would be collecting social security, and Homer would have been dead for eight years. He also addressed the actual progression of thirty years in the form of Trump’s presidency: in the episode “Bart to the Future,” it is implied that Lisa became president following a disastrous Donald Trump presidency. The prompt was “What is the dumbest thing that could happen?” Reiss said that a secretary even hesitated to take down the joke, as she was worried that it might really be too dumb.
Reiss also discussed how he is often asked about making another Simpsons movie–he joked that there were 165 drafts of the script and all anyone remembers is Spider-Pig. (Later, during the Q & A session, he said that no one on the writing team knew about Spider-Ham at the time of writing.) So, undoubtedly, there will be several, until there’s a really rotten one, and then there will be a few more.
He also addressed a few big Simpsons mysteries. One of them, which always seems to get different answers, is why Smithers stopped being black. Reiss claimed that after the team started watching completed episodes from the first season, it didn’t look very good to have a black man kissing up to his mean white boss. So, Smithers became a gay white man for all subsequent episodes.
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Thank you Mike Reiss…author of "Springfield Confidential" and writer of 30 years for the television show The Simpsons. Trumbull was thrilled to host your hilarious presentation this afternoon to a big crowd in our community room! #trumbull #mikereiss #authorappearance #simpsons #springfieldconfidential #comedy
Countries and celebrities react to the show differently, as well. Setting a Simpsons episode in a certain location tends to get the show kicked off the air or even the target of litigation, in the cases of Brazil and Australia. However, it appears to be extremely easy to get celebrity guest stars: usually their kids or grandkids talk them into doing it. Thomas Pynchon, an author who is famous for his reclusive nature, called the team and requested to be on the show to impress his teenage son. In fact, according to Reiss, he calls regularly and asks for spots–he “will not stop calling The Simpsons.” No one else can claim something like that!
Reiss also talked about side projects, like The Critic and some children’s books, which have invited both affection and scorn from fans and critics. He was excited to see all of his Critic fans in one room and, in relation to his story The Boy Who Looked Like Abe Lincoln, asked that the audience remember that all people who ban children’s books have no sense of history or humor, and have “filthy, filthy minds.” During the Q & A session at the end of the panel, he also mentioned working on the Ice Age, Despicable Me, and Minions films.
He then wrapped up the main part of his talk with a pull for Springfield Confidential. He said it was like “going on an eight-hour date with me,” and “If you read the book, you never have to talk to me again.” He was quick to add that his wife bought three copies.
The Q & A session was relatively short, and covered a few things not touched upon during Reiss’ talk: his favorite joke, for example, is the “Steamed hams” gag from “22 Short Films About Springfield,” he likes writing for Abe Simpson the most (supposedly no old people watch the show, so there’s nobody to offend), and of all the characters he created, his favorite is Troy McClure.
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The Springfield Confidential event at the Wallingford library was great! Longtime Simpsons writer Mike Reiss talked about working on the show and other projects and was genuinely funny… And the Wallingford library pulled out the stops with decorations. I would guess this poster has been gathering dust in their attic since 1999! (I want my own so bad!) #thesimpsons #springfieldconfidental #mikereiss #wallingford #ct #wallingfordlibrary #wallingfordpubliclibrary
All in all, it was a great talk. One of the first thing Reiss said onstage is that he’s a comedy writer, not a comedian, but he carried himself perfectly well and delivered jokes rapid-fire without any stumbling. Not a single joke missed, either. And, extra props to him, he actually had his own pen to sign his books with. That sounds obvious, but authors are weirdly bad at bringing writing utensils to book signings. He was also friendly with fans who chose to get books signed, which is always a big plus.
If you’re interested in your own copy of Springfield Confidential, you can check it out here. I haven’t done more than flip through it yet, but it appears to live up to Reiss’ talk.
You can also check out the Wallingford Library’s calendar of events here, as well as sign up for notifications for Reiss’ upcoming events here. It appears that he has several events coming up throughout Connecticut, including a similar talk at the Danbury library on January 26 at 2 PM.