ALBANY — Mike Reiss, the longest-serving writer and producer for “The Simpsons,” joked to a nearly-packed theater on Friday, Feb. 8 that they probably never heard of him before despite having played an essential role in ensuring the TV show’s decades-spanning success.
Sporting a yellow tie, Reiss appeared at Page Hall in the University at Albany’s Downtown Campus, located on 135 Western Ave. in Albany, at 7:30 p.m. to speak about his career and 2018 book, “Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons.” The event was free to the public and organized by the New York State Writers Institute. He even showed numerous clips of the show, which showcased how “The Simpsons” has long sharply satirized American popular culture, politics and the human experience through a rich vault of yellow animated characters.
Throughout the one-hour event, Reiss’ sense of humor evoked sheer audience laughter as he threw succinct jokes at celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Michael Jackson and Oprah Winfrey, and fellow animated series “Family Guy” and “Bob’s Burgers.” Owing to the show’s international success, he even told several anecdotes about how several countries have either frowned upon or banned the show. “Americans look at Homer Simpson and go, ‘That’s my dad,’” he said. “And foreigners look at Homer and go, ‘That’s an American.’”
One example was how Japan was reluctant to welcome “The Simpsons” since the characters all have four fingers and the number four is considered bad luck in that country. Another example was how Venezuela canceled the show in 2008 because it allegedly presented “bad American values” but Reiss pointed out the irony that the country then replaced it with reruns of the TV show “Baywatch.”
He reminded the audience of the show’s 2007 feature film, even singing along to the iconic “Spider-Pig” song, which he quipped was something the writers wrote when they were high. He added that he does not envision more “Simpsons”
films down the road although he joked, “I get the feeling that sooner or later, yes, we’re going to make another one and another one, and I think we’re gonna keep making more until they get loud and boring, and make two more — you know, like Shrek.” However, Reiss did tease the idea of a live-action “Simpsons” movie, and said its ideal cast could include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tom Cruise and William H. Macy.
As the event ended, he smiled and concluded, “I write comedy because I can’t help myself,” before being received with further applause. He then met with eager fans, took photos and gave out signed authentic “Simpsons” script covers.