It’s a Helluva Town

August 15, 2018 Author: Jon Johnson (Sir)

“Your superior intellect is no match for our puny weapons!” ~ Kang, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror II, “The Monkey’s Paw”, episode 42

Thirty years is longevity in the entertainment industry. Thirty years of a single constant, with little visible change in the outward appearance. That’s an impressive feat, one that is easier when the subject matter only ages when it’s convenient for the story. The Simpsons have been a story convenience for three decades now, with such an amazing array of licensed product there is little that hasn’t been sold with a Simpsons character on it. Thirty years is a lengthy period of time to collect stories that surround the creation process of an animated television program, so it came time for The Simpsons to break new ground: a tell-all book release.

Mike Reiss has spent nearly all of The Simpsons thirty years serving the show in some capacity, from head writer to showrunner to producer. His recent release, Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons, is an appropriately funny look back at his career, including some bits that don’t include the denizens of Springfield! The book makes a lazy pass at 300 pages, missing the mark by seven. It makes one think that Homer just couldn’t fulfill those last few pages, passing out in a heap with a whimper and a thud. Regardless, 293 pages of what turns out to be some laugh out loud anecdotes about work in Hollywood, coworkers, family and his ability to be funny.

Springfield Confidential is broken down in a linear format, passing through three acts as if it were a Simpsons script. It’s all Mike Reiss focused, which means there’s a lot of Al Jean, his writing partner for a hair-pulling amount of time, as well as name-drops from every year The Simpsons have been on the air. There are quotes from writers, guests, producers and comedians peppered throughout the various chapters, most of which have something friendly to say about Reiss. As part of the title includes “outright lies”, you could argue that they’re not all regaling the reader with positivity. But then, Reiss does say towards the conclusion that there aren’t many lies in the book. We shan’t call upon the good Oxford Dictionary for a definition of lie, though.

Abraham Simpson as Mike Reiss, circa 2020

If you are a Simpsons completionist, theoretician, philosopher or trivia maven, you will be surprised. The exposé the book gives is one beyond a trashy tell-all. It’s knee-deep in yellow paint, wallpapered with information that a Simpsons fan likely won’t find in over 300 hours of audio commentary on DVD collections. If you’re like me, you’ll be searching the internet to test the veracity of some of Reiss’ claims, such as using a Homer voiced GPS unit and getting lost in Massachusetts. Go figure that something so perfectly stupid is true.

The Real Mike Reiss

Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss with Mathew Klickstein, published by Dey St. Books, is available now from every outlet known to man. Just call Moe’s Tavern; Moe might sell you three or four copies cheap.

Not Matt Groening

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