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In you were waiting for a meeting with James Brooks and you started sketching. What were you thinking? He wanted me to come in and pitch an idea for doing little cartoons on that show. While I was waiting—I believe they kept me waiting for over an hour—I very quickly drew the Simpsons family.

I basically drew my own family. I have a sister Lisa and another sister Maggie, so I drew all of them. Back in high school I wrote a novel about a character named Bart Simpson. I thought it was a very unusual name for a kid at the time. I thought it would sound funny. In my novel, Bart was the son of Homer Simpson. Did your father contribute anything besides his first name?

My father was a really sharp cartoonist and filmmaker. He used to tape-record the family surreptitiously, either while we were driving around or at dinner, and in he and I made up a story about a brother and a sister, Lisa and Matt, having an adventure out in the woods with animals. I told it to my sister Lisa, and she in turn told it to my sister Maggie.

My father recorded the telling of the story by Lisa to Maggie, and then he used it as the soundtrack to a movie. Any other commonalities between your father and Homer Simpson? Only the love of ice cream. The name Homer has been wall-to-wall around you—your father, your son, Homer Simpson. What does the name mean to you? My father was named after the poet Homer. My grandmother, his mother, was a voracious reader. She named one son Homer and another son Victor Hugo.

I think of it as a very heroic name in that Homer, even though he is getting kicked in the butt by life, he is his own small hero.

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OK, why do the Simpsons live in a town called Springfield? Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon. When I grew up, I realized it was just a fictitious name. I also figured out that Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U. Is it all love or is there a little love-hate? I loved growing up in Portland, but I also took it for granted. Now, I look back and realize how idyllic a place it was. My family lived on a long, windy road on a little dead-end street called Evergreen Terrace—also the name of the street the Simpsons live on—and in order to visit any friends I had to walk at least a mile through the woods to get to their house.

But when I say idyllic, I mean the external circumstances of my childhood were pretty pleasant. That does not take into that I was bored out of mind from the first day of first grade. Also, I was bullied. If you use certain words that can only be gotten by reading a book or two, that somehow enrages a certain kind of lug.

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When I was in fourth grade, these older kids surrounded me one day, and they told me they were going to beat me up after school. Knowing I was going to get beat up, I smashed one kid in the face as hard as I could, and then I got beaten up. The next day, all the kids were brought in to the school office, and they all had to apologize to me, and I just hated their guts.

Would you like to call them out by name now? Home growing up meant certain rituals that seem to be lost these days, which is about a family being in the same place at the same time. At dinner we all sat down for dinner together. Unless I committed some type of infraction, and then I had to eat at the top of the basement stairs. What do you think of Portland then and Portland now? Do you plan on moving back someday? Everything you can experience in Los Angeles, you can have a much better version of in Portland—including, very basically, the air you breathe.

Does your mom still live in your childhood home? If not, when was the last time you visited it? I visited my childhood home about two years ago. I was snapping a picture of it, and the owner came out and invited me in. It was pretty much as I remember it, except what was incredibly spacious to a little toddler now seemed so much smaller. The guy let me go down to my favorite place of terror, which was the basement. It was the scariest place in the house, and it gave me a lot of nightmares. I had to go back down and look at the dark room, and I realized that it was just a dusty—dark—cobwebbed little room in the corner of the basement.

What did your father do before he became a filmmaker? He grew up on a Mennonite farm in Kansas, speaking only German until he went to school. After the war, he was a surfer, filmmaker and ardent amateur basketball player. He perfected a basketball shot that he could shoot—without looking—over his head and consistently make from the top of the key. He made that shot for 30 years. My father was very worried that I was going to starve in Hollywood. He loved the show. He was really pleased with it. The only thing he said was that Homer could never, ever be mean to Marge.

He said that was a rule, which corresponds with the way he treated my mother. He was very nice to her. I thought that was a good note. Early on your focus shifted from Bart to Homer. When and why?

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Did it have anything to do with your own aging? The way I wrote them were Homer being angry and Bart being clueless little jerk, just driven in some weird way to cause trouble. I knew from the moment we decided to turn the shorts into a TV show that Homer was going to be the star. There are more consequences to him being an idiot. The writers on the show have been there for years. Whatever they want to write about, the animators can draw it. Has your son Homer ever created something with you as a character?

Would you be open to that?

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Of course, turnabout is fair play. That would be great. I very early on named a lot of characters after streets in Portland. I thought it would be amusing for people in Portland to be driving past the alphabetically laid-out streets. My goal was to name every character after streets in Portland, but we were in a hurry so I dropped that idea. In another way, is the show a way for you to never leave home? So you make everyone else feel comfortable? So does that make you the -one fool?

There are plenty of fools. I just admit it. How has it changed? I kind of miss that. What were those contradictions between TV life and life under your roof? Children were unnaturally polite. He was so polite but blatantly false in his pretending to be nice to adults—that appealed to me. But no one got a divorce back then. Beyond the topography of Portland and the names of your family members, did you borrow the sensibility of your hometown or your coming-of-age years for The Simpsons?

People in Portland, and generally in the Northwest, think of themselves as independent. Oregon has no sales tax, no major military installations. Portland has turned into an incredibly friendly community with great food, great architecture, great city planning and a lot of beauty. The biggest park in the United States within the city limits is in Portland. What do you think of it? How often do you go back to Portland? I go back to Portland a few times a year.

And then I visit my family. Continue or Give a Gift. SmartNews History. History Archaeology. World History. Science Age of Humans. Future of Space Exploration. Human Behavior. Our Planet. Earth Optimism Summit. Ingenuity Ingenuity Awards. Innovation for Good. Travel Virtual Travel. Travel With Us.

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