Matt Groening

Matthew Abram Groening (born February 15, 1954 in Portland, Oregon; his family name is pronounced 'greɪnɪŋ', rhymes with raining) is an Emmy Award-winning American cartoonist and the creator of The Simpsons, Futurama and the weekly comic strip Life in Hell.

Groening grew up in Portland, Oregon, the middle child of five children. His mother Margaret was once a teacher and his father Homer was a filmmaker, advertiser, writer and cartoonist.

He attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, a progressive school which he called "a hippie college, with no grades or required classes, that drew every creative weirdo in the Northwest." He served as the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Cooper Point Journal, where he was a regular writer and occasional cartoonist. He befriended fellow cartoonist Lynda Barry after discovering she had written a fan letter to Joseph Heller, one of Groening’s favorite authors, and had gotten a reply back. Groening has credited Barry with being "probably his biggest inspiration."

In 1977, at the age of 23, Groening moved to Los Angeles to become a writer. He described life in Los Angeles to his friends in the form of a comic book, and called it Life in Hell which was loosely inspired by a chapter entitled "How to Go to Hell" in Walter Kaufmann's book Critique of Religion and Philosophy.

Groening started the comic in 1977 by photocopying and distributing it in the book corner of Licorice Pizza, the record store in which he worked. He made his first professional cartoon sale to the avant-garde Wet magazine in 1978. The strip, entitled "Forbidden Words", appeared in the September/October issue and by 1980 the strip had become so popular in the underground that it was picked up by the Los Angeles Reader.

The Reader gave Groening his own weekly rock and roll column, "Sound Mix," in 1982. However, the column would rarely be about music, as he would often write about his "various enthusiasms, obsessions, pet peeves and problems" instead. In an effort to add more rock to the column, he would fabricate and then review fictional bands and non-existent records. In the following week's column, he would confess to fabricating everything in the previous column and swear that everything in the new column was true, until he was finally asked to give up the "music" column.

In November 1984, Deborah Caplan, Groening's then-girlfriend and co-worker at the Reader, offered to publish "Love is Hell", a series of love-themed Life in Hell strips, in book form. Released that December, the book was an underground success, selling 22,000 copies in its first two printings. Soon afterward, Caplan and Groening left the Reader and put together the Life in Hell Co., which handled syndication and merchandising for Groening’s projects.

Life in Hell is still carried in 250 weekly newspapers and has been anthologized in a series of books, including School is Hell, Childhood is Hell, Work is Hell, The Big Book of Hell and The Huge Book of Hell.

Life in Hell caught the attention of Hollywood writer-producer and Gracie Films founder James L. Brooks, who had been shown the strip by fellow producer Polly Platt. In 1985, Brooks contacted Groening with the proposition of working in animation on an undefined future project. That project would turn out to be developing a series of short animation skits (now known as The Simpsons shorts), called "bumpers", to be featured on the FOX variety show The Tracey Ullman Show. Originally, Brooks wanted Groening to adapt his Life in Hell characters for the show. Fearing the loss of ownership rights, Groening decided to create something new. Reportedly, he designed the look of the Simpson family in only fifteen minutes.
Groening on a panel at Comic Con International in San Diego for The Simpsons, which attracted nearly 5,000 people.
Groening on a panel at Comic Con International in San Diego for The Simpsons, which attracted nearly 5,000 people.

Groening storyboarded and scripted every short, which were then animated by a team including David Silverman and Wes Archer, both of whom would later become directors on the series.

Premiering on the Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987, the shorts became very popular, which led to a half-hour spin-off in 1989. The series quickly became a worldwide phenomenon, to the surprise of many. Groening said: "Nobody thought The Simpsons was going to be a big hit. It snuck up on everybody."

Matt Groening is credited with writing or co-writing "Some Enchanted Evening", "The Telltale Head", "Colonel Homer" and "22 Short Films About Springfield".

Attempts at spin-offs have been unsuccessful. In 1994, Groening and other Simpsons producers pitched a live-action spin-off about Krusty the Clown (with Dan Castellaneta playing the lead role), but were unsuccessful in getting the show off the ground. Groening has also pitched "Young Homer" and a spin-off about the non-Simpsons citizens of Springfield.

In 1995, Groening got in a major disagreement with Brooks and other Simpsons producers over "A Star Is Burns", a crossover episode with The Critic, an animated show also produced by Brooks and staffed with many former Simpsons crew members. Groening feared that viewers would "see it as nothing but a pathetic attempt to advertise The Critic at the expense of The Simpsons", and was concerned about the implication that he had created or produced The Critic. He requested his name be taken off the episode.

He has had several cameo appearances in the show, with a speaking role in the episode "My Big Fat Geek Wedding". He currently serves at The Simpsons as a creative consultant, as well as a writer and producer on the movie.

Groening named the main Simpson characters after members of his own family: his parents, Homer and Margaret (Marge or Marjorie in full), and his younger sisters, Lisa and Margaret (Maggie). As for himself, he decided it was a bit too obvious to name a character after himself and chose the name "Bart" (an anagram of brat). However, he stresses that aside from some of the sibling rivalry, his family is nothing like the Simpsons. Groening also has an older brother and sister, Mark and Patty, but these siblings were left out of the main Simpson family. In a 1995 interview, he divulged that Mark "is the actual inspiration for Bart."

Groening says he refused to name Homer's dad after his own father's dad, leaving it to other writers to choose a name. He says that the writers named the character Abraham, which by coincidence turned out to be the name of Groening's grandfather. Homer and Abraham are also the names of Groening's two sons.

The name "Wiggum" for police chief Clancy Wiggum was Groening's mother's maiden name. The names of a few other characters were taken from major street names in Groening's hometown of Portland, Oregon, including Flanders, Lovejoy, Powell, Quimby, Kearney, and Terwilliger.

After spending a few years researching science fiction, Groening got together with Simpsons writer/producer David X. Cohen (still known as David S. Cohen at the time) and developed Futurama, an animated series about life in the year 3000. By the time they pitched the series to Fox in April 1998, Groening and Cohen had composed many characters and story lines. Groening described trying to get the show on the air as "by far the worst experience of his grown-up life." His sole writing credit for the show was "Space Pilot 3000", co-written with Cohen.

After five years on the air, the show was cancelled by 20th Century Fox. However, in a similar situation to Family Guy, strong DVD sales and very stable ratings on Cartoon Network and Teletoon have brought Futurama back to life, which is slated for four direct-to-DVD movies, as confirmed by Groening in an April 2006 interview. Comedy Central commissioned 16 new episodes to be aired in 2008.

In 1994, Groening formed Bongo Comics Group (named after the character Bongo from Life in Hell) with Steve Vance, Cindy Vance and Bill Morrison, which publishes Simpsons and Futurama comics (including a two-part comic special entitled Futurama Simpsons Infinitely Secret Crossover Crisis, a fictional crossover between the two), as well as a few original titles. The goal with Bongo is to "try to bring humor into the fairly grim comic book market". He also formed Zongo Comics in 1995, an imprint of Bongo that published comics for more mature readers, which included three issues of Mary Fleener's Fleener and seven issues of Groening's close friend Gary Panter's "Jimbo" comics.

He plays the cowbell in the all-author rock and roll band The Rock Bottom Remainders, whose members include Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, James McBride, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount Jr., Stephen King, Kathi Goldmark, and Greg Iles.

Matt Groening has been nominated for 25 Emmy awards and has won ten: nine for The Simpsons and one for Futurama. Groening received the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award for 2002, and had been nominated for the same award in 2000. He received a British Comedy Award for "outstanding contribution to comedy" in 2004.

Groening and Deborah Caplan married in 1986 and had two sons together, Homer and Abe, both of whom Groening occasionally portrays as rabbits in Life in Hell. The couple divorced in 1999 after thirteen years of marriage.

He identifies himself as an agnostic. Groening has often contributed to funding Democratic party candidates.

His brother-in-law is Craig Bartlett, creator of Nickelodeon's popular animated series Hey Arnold! Craig is married to Matt's sister Lisa, and he gave Craig some useful advice in animation when Hey Arnold! began production in 1995.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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