‘Simpons’ co-creator meets grim outlook with humor

  • By Frazier Moore Associated Press
  • Thursday, August 29, 2013 2:34pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

LOS ANGELES — Since word got out about Sam Simon’s cancer, this co-creator of “The Simpsons” and fervent philanthropist has heard from many people online asking to help rid him of his sizable wealth.

“Some people just want a million dollars. Or help with college tuition.

And the rest have business propositions,” he said with a laugh. “Like that should be my legacy: to lose money on your movie or your moisturizer line.

He flashes a piano-keys grin. Then he gets serious.

“I’m supporting the charities that I supported during my lifetime,” he said, “and I want to continue to do that.” With every cent of his fortune.

Simon, 58, presented himself, sporty in sweater and slacks, to meet with a reporter in the guest house of his swank estate in Pacific Palisades.

He fires up a robust Cuban cigar, then alternately sits and reclines on a banquette that looks out on his lawn of statuary, including one of the original casts of Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

Fitting. Sam Simon has had much to think about since his advanced colon cancer was diagnosed in November.

Having defied that diagnosis’ original death sentence — he was given three to six months to live — Simon continues to push ahead with no whiff of “Why me?”

“Instead, I think, ‘What else can I do to get out of it?”’

What he’s doing right now is mobilizing a dozen lines of attack, some traditional, some wacky.

Pick your poison. Simon is living the nightmare, but seems to frame it mostly with a laugh or a shrug.

Maybe that befits a world-class wag who has long thumbed his nose at authority and with humor for an audience of millions, and been richly rewarded for his labors.

Simon first turned his drawing talent into a job at an animation studio. He submitted a script, on spec, to the glorious ABC comedy “Taxi.”

His script was bought and produced, and Simon, in his 20s, was hired as a staff writer and soon rose to be the show runner.

From there he joined a new NBC sitcom called “Cheers.”

In 1987 he became a writer and executive producer on the Fox comedy series “The Tracey Ullman Show,” teamed alongside James L. Brooks and cartoonist Matt Groening.

They became the founding fathers of “The Simpsons.”

Simon was named creative supervisor, and he hired the first writing staff as well as creating several Springfield citizens, including Mr. Burns, the cadaverous industrialist, and Dr. Hibbert, the buffoonish physician.

Although Simon remained the least-known of the three creators, by many accounts he was the most hands-on.

“With ‘The Simpsons,’ people didn’t know what they were gonna see,” Simon said. “They didn’t have a clue.” The show was given time and free reign to flourish by the fledgling Fox network.

Simon left “The Simpsons” after its fourth season in 1994 owing to a strained relationship with Groening.

But it was a lucrative departure. His exit deal entitled him to royalties from “The Simpsons” that, as it enters its 25th season this fall, annually pad Simon’s wallet by tens of millions of dollars.

This sweet annuity has bankrolled the causes and alternative lifestyle he increasingly came to embrace: the Sam Simon Foundation, which rescues dogs from animal shelters and trains them to assist disabled veterans and the hard-of-hearing; the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society; and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Simon’s largesse carries over to humans, too, including a Los Angeles food bank feeding 200 families each day in Simon style: with a vegan menu.

Meanwhile, he keeps his hand in the comedy world, consulting a half-day each week on the FX comedy “Anger Management.”

He says death doesn’t scare him, however unpleasant getting there may be.

“I’m not sad,” he declares with a wave of his cigar. “I’m happy. I don’t feel angry and bitter. I want to do whatever I can to survive.”

More in Life

From Jasper to Banff: A Canadian adventure in an RV

Jennifer Bardsley plans to take her family on two-week roadtrip through Canada in a tent trailer.

Skippers share sea stories at Marysville speaker series

The Bellingham couple will talk about charter cruises on the historic wooden vessel they rebuilt.

Anxiety, or chronic worry, is a growing problem

Paul Schoenfeld shares four approaches to help keep your anxiety from getting out of control.

Expo in Stanwood can help you get ready for the country

The Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool is set for Jan. 27 at the high school.

Find many of our region’s winter birds in the Skagit Valley

If you love birding, also check out these bird-related festivals, lectures and other events.

What’s new this year for travelers in England, Ireland

The nations are improving tourism infrastructures and adding exhibits to well-known sights.

Curries continues home-cooked Indian cuisine at new location

The restaurant, now located on Evergreen Way, also puts an Indian spin on Northwest cooking.

‘Three Billboards’ wins top prize at Screen Actors Guild Awards

Director Martin McDonagh’s dark morality tale beat out “Lady Bird,” “Mudbound,” “Get Out” and “The Big Sick.”

2018 Nissan Rogue crossover gets set for autonomous driving

New features including ProPILOT Assist are added to Nissan’s best-selling model, the compact Rogue.

Most Read