Stand and Deliver
This week's "Shouts and Murmurs" piece -- "I Killed Them in New Haven" by Simpsons writer Larry Doyle -- is hilarious.
In 1997, Doyle did a Slate diary.
Just before Christmas, Becky got an exciting new job in public relations; then about 5 p.m. on Jan. 2, the night before her first day, my agent called to ask if perhaps I wanted to move 3,000 or so miles to write for The Simpsons. My wife gave notice on her second day of work. A week later we were in Los Angeles finding me a temporary apartment. Four days later we discovered we had somehow bought a supercute house in the Hollywood Hills.
"Honey," my wife said this morning, looking around the apartment I have been living in for two months without her. "I think I'm going to get a maid in here."
"Why?" I asked, drawing it out, apparently to noncomical effect.
"Because I want to show her how a properly cleaned apartment looks. Maybe I'll even bring in two. Start a school."
My wife is real funny.
At lunch, we talked about our weekends. One writer had just gotten back from a vacation in Paris, where he confirmed that the restaurants did indeed have snooty waiters, and Amsterdam, where he reported that the brothels now have Disneyland-style animatronic prostitutes who provide price-list information at the push of the button. "For 50 guilders," the robo-harlot recited, "I will give you the hand-job of your life." This prompted another writer to recount that he had gone to Hermosa Beach on Sunday, where he had had the doughnut of his life. Somehow, we got onto the subject of starting a chicken farm, then the doughnut gourmand announced that he had started investing in a new biotechnology stock after getting a tip from an endocrinologist. This segued into discussion of an article in the current Scientific American, and subsequently Deadly Feasts, Richard Rhodes' new book about the spread of spongiform encephalopathies.
Then we went back to writing The Simpsons.
I told the guys at work I bought a house today.
"Congratulations," one of them said. "You're fired."
Every day at The Simpsons is one laugh after another.
People keep asking me what it's like to write for The Simpsons. I don't really know. Mostly so far I've watched other people write for The Simpsons. But I've learned this much:
- No joke is so funny that it can't be thrown out.
- It can always be funnier.
I thought I knew some funny people. I've worked at the National Lampoon, Spy, and Beavis and Butt-Head; I know New Yorker writers, Letterman writers, and at some point or another have been cornered by every one of Manhattan's young wags. But I've never been in a room with this many funny people (I am not stupid enough to try to provide an example here).
Back in New York, I was the sourpuss, the guy who never cracked a smile, never laughed at anything. Now I laugh all day long. I've never had so much fun.
It's the hardest thing I've ever done.