Exclusive Interview with Al Jean, producer showrunner for The Simpsons with comic host Brett Walkow
Published: Thursday, August 18th, 2011
Actors Reporter host Brett Walkow interviews Al Jean on the 20th Century FOX lot in Los Angeles, California.
Al Jean got his start in the industry by writing for Johnny Carson of “The Carson Show,” who was one of the most popular show hosts of all time.
After working on the show for about a year and a half, Jean and his writing partner submitted a script to the “Garry Shandling’s Show,” which became his next window of opportunity two years later when Shandling contacted him and took him on board.
On their 23rd season and armed with 27 Emmy Awards (with three more nominations presently), many wonder how the show is able to keep creating material over time that is fresh and entertaining. Jean says the key to the success of the show contributes mostly to its broad universe of characters; that over the years of development the details and world is so rich and vast that it could cover 500 episodes and beyond.
Jean describes the production process of a standard episode; the conceptualization to air date takes anywhere between eight to twelve months. Usually during this period, there are script revisions and changes, but Jean also states that with animation there is a lot of freedom for change, and that if something goes wrong it could be fixed before air date.
When it comes to the content of the show, the writers stay away from topical issues and focuses the show mainly on topics that stand the test of time: family, personal, relationships…etc. Usually when shows are written, they are written in the sense that if the show were to be watched five years from now, it would still be topical and relate to the current time.
Jean had never expected the show to become the legendary success it is today. When the show was at its beginnings, Jean was excited to work with James L. Brooks and Matt Groening, who were also developers of the show – but none of them saw the decades of success the show would bring. Jean also describes his amazing work ethic with delivering details and ideas to life and he discusses his working relationship with Mark Kirkland (be sure to check out our interview with Mark Kirkland at Actors Reporter). Mark Kirkland has directed more episodes of The Simpsons than anyone else.
When it comes to Jean’s favorite Simpsons character, it would have to be Lisa Simpson – having two daughters himself, Jean finds himself relating to the Homer/Lisa relationship more than anything else in the Simpsons universe.
As a showrunner, Jean is responsible for the day to day operation of the television show – he jokingly remarks that if there is a mishap that occurs that it becomes his fault. His responsibilities include overseeing the budget, the writing, supervising direction and music – an extremely time intensive, multi-faceted position.
Aside from being the showrunner of “The Simpsons,” Jean also garnered a lot of attention from writing the infamous “Presidential Reunion” skit that has become a favorite on ‘Funny and Die.’ The skit includes many famous faces such as Will Ferrell, Chevy Chase, Dana Carver and Jim Carrey.
Jean’s advice for young and upcoming filmmakers is to really understand your niche and be ready to accept criticism when you put your foot into the industry. And as for writers who are sending out spec scripts (speculative screenplays), Jean tells it like it is: continue to be persistent and never give up.
Among the famous past guest stars on “The Simpsons” include Michael Jackson, the Beatles, Tony Blair and iconic graffiti artist Banksy. Future guest stars to look forward to include Keifer Sutherland, Jane Lynch and Jeremy Irons.
Al Jean’s http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0419830/
Interviews is a show on Actors Reporter, a channel on the Actors Podcast Network, a Pepper Jay Production.
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