Matt Groening is famous for making The Simpsons
, Life in Hell
comics, and Futurama
. His last name is pronounced "Graining," or as every interview says "rhymes with raining."
He went to Lincoln High School, in Portland, Oregon. That was a great inspiration for The Simpsons because many of the characters are named after the streets in the area. After that, he went to Evergreen State College with Lynda Barry, who became one of his favorite artists.
It's hard to talk about him without bringing up his most famous TV show; The Simpsons. I believe Groening went to Harvard University, where he met many other people who he later hired as writers on the show. The Simpsons got its start as a filler short on The Tracy Ullman Show, where Groening came up with the ideas. Lisa and Maggie are the names of his sisters, and Bart was supposed to be him. Soon after, he took the idea to Fox, who was looking for new shows, and took a risk on a primetime cartoon.
If you look at a picture of Homer Simpson facing right, you'll see the Groening's initials in the shape of his sideburn and ear, like so:
He's been working at that job since 1989, when the Simpsons first began. Unfortunately, he's not as central to The Simpsons development or creation anymore, as a team of writers/animators have been hired. Every season his influence sorta diminishes, though in the beginning he was the main leader of the project. He still keeps the show running by directing what direction the show will take, etc.
He's rich, from the money Fox networks gave him for the show. Fox begged him for another show, so he came up with Futurama. He spent years looking at Science Fiction, then came up with some great ideas for his own new show. Fox immediately bought 13 episodes, but once they went into production, Fox started calling all the time asking for changes, saying some of it as too dark or offensive. Their biggest complaint was that "it wasn't The Simpsons." Groening resisted every step of the way, and takes personal blame/credit for how the ratings will go.He hates Hollywood, saying the industry is like Junior High School. "Bullies get respect, and kindness is a sign of weakness."
As for Fox, he watches some of it, but he knows that they are desprate for viewers, so things like Who wants to Marry a Multimillionaire? will still permeate TV, because of the lengths TV will go to. Iron Chef is a favorite of his.
His favorite sci-fi is The Space Merchants by Pohl and Kornbluth. Ted Rall and Tom Tomorrow is for his politics. He knows a lot about comics, and his favorite artists are Lynda Barry, Heather McAdams, Bill Griffith's "Zippy", Michael Dougan, Carol Lay (who he knows from way back), "Troubletown" by Lloyd Dangle.
Groening really knows what's going on in the world, which translates to some great jokes in his shows. There's a lot of intellectual or geek jokes that may go over most people's heads, but are still funny. That's why his shows are a success, they're funny on different levels; witty jokes for more mature people, with some Homer Simspson going D'oh for the kids. He was in an issue of Wired magazine, where he said that when he was a kid, he read 1984 and found it scary and disturbing. He read it again 2 years ago and was stunned by how mild it was. His conclusion is that the real world has become a worse, scarier place, with less privacy.
Lately there have been a bunch of rumors about him that are untrue. He is not Gwen Stefani's brother, although Gwen's brother Eric worked on the show in the first seasons. He did not write a humorous essay on the differences between men and women (which became a e-mail chain letter), and while he did write the font for The Simpsons, all the imitations you see of it nowadays are not his. There have been some lawsuits over his artwork being used without his permission.
He's probably the most bootlegged artist out there. There are The Simpsons t-shirts, ie. Bart Simpson vegan shirts saying "Don't eat a cow, man."
I think that Matt would love E2. That is, if he isn't here already, maybe he's TheBooBooKitty.
To hear a lot about what he has to say, listen to the DVD Commentary track on The Simpsons Season 1 on DVD. Great stuff, all his ideas for the show that did and didn't make it.
Interviews on the web:
Many thanks to Pseudo_intellectual for helping.