Super Safi’s Monday Morning Musings 78 – John Swartzwelder

Morning Musically-Minded, Medically-Minded, Masticators!

(Today’s post is sponsored by the letter “M”)

 

Over the past 600+ episodes, The Simpsons has taken us on an amazing journey involving music, science, and food to name a few concepts.

And what better way to start your week, than by discussing some of these concepts Monday morning?

So let’s get started this week by talking about one of the most prolific and interesting writers of The Simpsons.

 

In the seventy eighth episode of The Simpsons, The Front (Season 04, Episode 19), Bart and Lisa are disappointed by an exceptionally poor episode of Itchy and Scratchy. Lisa comes up with the idea of them teaming up to write their own episodes. Using the book “How To Get Rich Writing Cartoons” by John Swartzwelder, they write an episode and send it in to Roger Myers Jr..

When their script is rejected, the two believe it is because Myers would not take two kids seriously. So they resubmit the story, but this time using Grampa’s name. Roger Myers loves the story and has his secretary call Abe.

Secretary: “Is this the Abraham Simpson who wrote the Itchy and Scratchy episode?
Grampa: “Ishy and what? No, you must be some kind of crazy person.
Secretary: “I’m sorry, but we have a substantial check here for a Mr. Abraham Simpson.
Grampa: “That’s right. I did the Iggy.

Roger Meyers Jr. hires Abe as his newest writer.

Bart and Lisa explain to Grampa why he’s getting cheques and the trio decide to split the pay three ways. Bart and Lisa’s stories are so popular, they even get Abe nominated for an award.

At the award ceremony, Grampa finally sees Itchy and Scratchy when he is announced as a nominee. Upon being announced the winner, Abe goes and lambast the audience for watching something this violent.

But have you ever wondered who John Swartzwelder is?

 

 

John Swartzwelder

John Swartzwelder is an American comedy writer and novelist. Born in Seattle, Washington in 1949, John began his career working in advertising. In the mid-1980’s, he was hired to work on the comedy series “Saturday Night Live”. He later contributed to fellow writer George Meyer’s short-lived “Army Man” magazine. The Simpsons developer and original showrunner Sam Simon was a big fan of “Army Man” magazine.

Along with George Meyer and Jon Vitti of “Army Man” magazine, John would go on to join the original writing team of The Simpsons, beginning in 1989. Many other “Army Man” magazine writers would later join The Simpsons writing team; including Jeff Martin, David Sacks, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Kevin Curran, and Billy Kimball.

John Swartzwelder (February 8, 1949 – Present)

John worked on The Simpsons as a writer and producer until 2003, and later contributed to The Simpsons Movie. Season 16 was the first season to not feature an episode written by John. He wrote the largest number of Simpsons episodes (59 full episodes, with contributions to several others) by a large margin.

Here is a list of episodes he has written:

“Bart the General” (7G05) (1990)
“The Call of the Simpsons” (7G07) (1990)
“Life on the Fast Lane” (7G11) (1990)
“The Crepes of Wrath” (7G13) (1990)
“Bad Dream House” (7F04A) (1990)
“Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” (7F01) (1990)
“Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” (7F09) (1990)
“Bart Gets Hit by a Car” (7F10) (1991)
“The War of the Simpsons” (7F20) (1991)
“Bart the Murderer” (8F03) (1991)
“If Only I Had a Brain” (8F02C) (1991)
“Homer at the Bat” (8F13) (1992)
“Dog of Death” (8F17) (1992)
“Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?” (8F23) (1992)
“Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie” (9F03) (1992)
“Whacking Day” (9F18) (1993)
“Krusty Gets Kancelled” (9F19) (1993)
“Rosebud” (1F01) (1993)
“Homer the Vigilante” (1F09) (1994)
“Bart Gets Famous” (1F11) (1994)
“Bart Gets an Elephant” (1F15) (1994)
“The Boy Who Knew Too Much” (1F19) (1994)
“Itchy & Scratchy Land” (2F01) (1994)
“Homer the Great” (2F09) (1995)
“Bart’s Comet” (2F11) (1995)
“Homie the Clown” (2F12) (1995)
“Radioactive Man” (2F17) (1995)
“Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores” (3F04A) (1995)
“Bart the Fink” (3F12) (1996)
“Homer the Smithers” (3F14) (1996)
“The Day the Violence Died” (3F16) (1996)
“You Only Move Twice” (3F23) (1996)
“Mountain of Madness” (4F10) (1997)
“Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment” (4F15) (1997)
“The Old Man and the Lisa” (4F17) (1997)
“Homer’s Enemy” (4F19) (1997)
“The Cartridge Family” (5F01) (1997)
“Bart Carny” (5F08) (1998)
“King of the Hill” (5F16) (1998)
“The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace” (5F21) (1998)
“Homer Simpson in: “Kidney Trouble”” (AABF04) (1998)
“Homer to the Max” (AABF09) (1999)
“Maximum Homerdrive” (AABF13) (1999)
“Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” (AABF17) (1999)
“Take My Wife, Sleaze” (BABF05) (1999)
“The Mansion Family” (BABF08) (2000)
“Kill the Alligator and Run” (BABF16) (2000)
“A Tale of Two Springfields” (BABF20) (2000)
“The Computer Wore Menace Shoes” (CABF02) (2000)
“Hungry, Hungry Homer” (CABF09) (2001)
“Simpson Safari” (CABF13) (2001)
“A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love” (CABF18) (2001)
“The Lastest Gun in the West” (DABF07) (2002)
“I Am Furious (Yellow)” (DABF13) (2002)
“The Sweetest Apu” (DABF14) (2002)
“The Frying Game” (DABF16) (2002)
“Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington” (EABF09) (2003)
“Treehouse of Horror XIV” (EABF21) (2003)
“The Regina Monologues” (EABF22) (2003)

Beginning with the show’s sixth season, John no longer attended rewrites with the rest of the writing staff, having been given special permission to send in his drafts from home and let the other writers revise them. According to Matt Groening, his work needed the least amount of re-writes as well.

According to the DVD commentaries, he used to write episodes while sitting at a booth in his favorite restaurant “drinking copious amounts of coffee and smoking endless cigarettes” per Matt Groening. When the state of California passed an anti-smoking law, John bought a diner booth and installed it in his house, allowing him to smoke and write in peace.

John is notoriously reclusive, and very rarely makes media appearances. He has rarely been seen or photographed and had (until a few months ago) turned down any media appearance asked of him, including recording commentaries for the show’s DVD’s. At one point, fans of The Simpsons even debated his existence on the Internet. This was based on the fact of combining his reclusiveness and the vast number of episodes credited to him, some theorized that “John Swartzwelder” was actually a pseudonym for when writers did not want to take credit for an episode, or for episodes that were written by several writers together.

Post-The Simpsons, John started writing novels. He’s written a few stand alone novels, as well as a series of novels referred to as “The Frank Burly Series” revolving around a Detective Frank Burly.

In May 2021, nearly twenty years since his last The Simpsons episode, John finally gave his first media interview to date with Mike Sacks of “The New Yorker“. John said the reason he agreed to the interview was out of his fondness for “The New Yorker” and the writers whose work it has published in the past. The article can be found by clicking on the link below:

John Swartzwelder, Sage of “The Simpsons” – The first major interview with one of the most revered comedy writers of all time.

He is occasionally seen in the background of The Simpson scenes.

Most notably, as a joke of his reclusiveness, he was seen in the episode Hurricane Neddy as a patient in the mental asylum where Ned is being kept. When Ned comes home, among the “Welcome back” signs, we also see a “Free John Swartzwelder” sign.

Matt Selman wrote an article for “Time” about John, and referred to him as “one of the greatest comedy minds of all time. He is the comedy writer whose words makes the best comedy writers in the world laugh out loud.”

George Meyer said that “Even among comedy weirdos, he stands out. He’s irreplaceable.”

Fellow writer Dan Greaney has described John as “the best writer in the world today in any medium.”

 

 

Now that we’ve learned more about John Swartzwelder, be sure to come back next week when we continue our Monday morning musings with the next episode of The Simpsons.

Did you remember the episode? What’s your favourite Bart and Lisa team up episode of The Simpsons? What about your favourite Itchy and Scratchy episode on The Simpsons? Did you know of John Swartzwelder? Who’s your favourite The Simpsons writer? Sound off in the comments below. You know we love hearing from you.

8 responses to “Super Safi’s Monday Morning Musings 78 – John Swartzwelder

  1. Interesting post, thanks! Question, though…. How does one interpret what I think are the episode identifiers next to each episode? For example, what does “8F02C” mean? Anyone know?

  2. He’s my favorite writer 🙂

  3. His name sounds like he is of south-german origin. There is a region called “Schwarzwald” (the Black Forest) and someone living there is called a “Schwarzwälder”. Transformed into english pronounciation this makes “Swartzwelder”. So maybe his ancestors were Cockoo Clock manufacturers, because that’s what the Black Forest is famous for 🙂

    Happy tappin all of you!

  4. “Free John Swartzwelder”

  5. This is a great Monday Morning post Safi. Thanks! The New Yorker interview is very amusing. I caught up with it the week it was published – coincidentally I’d just a day earlier seen a video of a USC 2nd annual Comedy@SCAFestival panel discussion with The Simpsons writers who’d all been Harvard Lampoon staffers as Harvard undergrads.

    That panel, ‘Smart Asses: The Harvard Lampoon in Hollywood’ is amusing although the sound quality stinks. Sorry that I can’t search for the link right now but it’s on YouTube.

    It’s interesting how many Simpsons writers were Harvard grads who were all staffers at The Harvard Lampoon, writers and/or producers for SNL, David Letterman Show, It’s Gary Shandling’s Show, The Critic, Alf and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and more. That they ended up writing for the Simpsons was a real bonus for fans like us.

    Of course, Conan O’Brien was one whose later career has been more high profile than most. If you want a really fun, casual, round table with Simpsons writers I recommend the Serious Jibber Jabber ‘ “The Simpsons” Writers Reunion’ video (about 90 minutes) on YouTube.

  6. Happy Monday Safi (and fellow Tappers!) 😀☕🍩

    John Swartzwelder 👑
    George Meyer
    Jon Vitti
    Jeff Martin
    David Sacks
    Ian Maxtone-Graham
    Tom Gammill
    Max Pross
    Kevin Curran
    Billy Kimball

    👆🏻
    That’s all Comedy Writers Gold up there! This is why Seasons 1 thru 17 are considered the Holy Grail for The Simpsons (it’s not that there are Simpsons Episodes later on that weren’t funny – there are many funny Episodes still to this Day – but consistently funny back to back? Nah, hasn’t been that way for a loooong time!)

    “The Front’ (Season 04, Episode 19) is a great Grandpa Simpsons Episode! Roger Myers Jr + the Animation Studio + Matt Groening are all in our Game App (I know he’s a private reclusive, but what a gem it would be to have a Voiced John Swartzwelder in TSTO!) 😉

    Favourite Simpsons Writer?

    Conan O’Brien (because I am Team Coco!) for his Episodes “New Kid on the Block”, “Marge vs. the Monorail”, “Homer Goes to College”, wraparounds of “Treehouse of Horror IV” (hey Conan O’Brien even Guest Stars on The Simpsons!)😅

    https://youtu.be/SElXfoux0GY

    Favourite Itchy & Scratchy Episode?

    “Deep Space Homer” (Season 5, Episode 15) features one of my favourite Itchy & Scratchy Cartoons “Scar Trek: The Next Laceration” 😅

    https://youtu.be/oFbd0xVg9oo

    Favourite Bart and Lisa team up Episode?

    “Round Springfield” (Season 6, Episode 22) – this isn’t a traditional Bart n’ Lisa Simpson Episode, but I’m a sucker for the heartwarming way Bart uses his $500 medical injury settlement (from Krusty the Clown due to the bad batch of Krusty-O’s Cereal) to buy his Sister Lisa a a Bleeding Gums Murphy record so she can broadcast her Idol’s music throughout Springfield. 💜

    That was fun reminiscing about the Simpsons and Simpsons Writers, back to work with more ☕ n’ a 🍩 (have a nice Day Tappers!)

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