The Simpsons Folder
Writer loves life with ‘The Simpsons’ — plans on sticking around awhile
By Erika Gonzalez, Rocky Mountain News
February 20, 2003
Tim Long grew up in Toronto, but his heart belongs to Springfield.
And it’s easy to see why the former Canuck has fallen in love with the famous fictional town, home to Duff Beer, Krusty’s Clown College and America’s favorite sitcom family.
“It’s like working for the premiere comedy boutique in the world,” says Long, a co-executive producer and co-writer for The Simpsons. “It’s just unbelievably fun.”
Long has spent nearly five years playing puppet master in Springfield, the animated backdrop for television’s most celebrated comedy, which marked its 300th episode last weekend. After 14 years, the show still garners respectable ratings and critical accolades, including a first-time Golden Globe nomination this year.
“I hope they nominate us again next year,” Long says. “There was so much free booze at that thing, and the meal wasn’t bad either.”
It sounds like the kind of life that any ambitious college student would strive for, which explains why Long has spent the last two days on the University of Colorado campus, discussing his unconventional career.
“My main advice is, ‘Don’t do it,’ ” he says, deadpan. “I don’t need the competition.”
Long’s visit is sponsored by the World Affairs Athenaeum, an offshoot of the university’s annual Conference on World Affairs. He wraps up his tour tonight with a speech that, despite its title, will touch only superficially on the show’s handling of social issues.
“We will not do any topic that we don’t think we can treat in a funny way,” Long says, adding that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks caused particular concern, because so many of the series’ episodes had been taped in advance of the tragedy.
“We had to go through our shows and see if there were any jokes that could be misinterpreted,” Long says. “Let’s face it, this show has been pretty loose and fast about buildings exploding and violence in general.”
Indeed, during its long tenure, The Simpsons hasn’t shied away from controversy, poking fun at everything from religion to plastic surgery.
Long is especially fond of spoofing pop culture.
In Behind the Laughter, he took aim at VH1’s formulaic documentary series, detailing The Simpsons’ rise to stardom and subsequent ugly decline.
Cirque Du Soleil, boy bands and Battlestar Galactica also have fallen prey to Long’s pen.
“I think there are a million good Simpsons’ ideas flying through the ether,” he says.
Humor has always driven Long, who says his comedy-writing career was cemented after he failed to land an internship with the Toronto Globe in college. Instead, Long interned for New York’s dry but now defunct Spy Magazine.
“I now thank the Globe for rejecting me,” he says proudly.
Long honed his comic chops at Spy, which eventually led to several Comedy Central gigs, including a writing position on Bill Maher’s original Politically Incorrect.
In 1995, he joined David Letterman, eventually rising to head writer, before departing the show for The Simpsons three years later.
And now that Long has arrived at television’s most desirable address, he has no plans to leave.
“I plan to stay as long as the show is fun. I’m going to ride this one till the wheels fall off.”