Sam Simon Visits Old Dominion
Television legend Sam Simon met with a small group of Old Dominion students on March 2. The meeting took place late Saturday morning within the Baton Arts and Letters building.
Sam Simon is an Emmy award winning television producer, director and writer. Simon has worked within the television industry for decades and is most known for co-creating “The Simpsons.” In addition to his work within the television industry, Simon has played in the World Series of Poker, managed a Heavyweight Champion boxer and is an animal rights activist.
Witty, intelligent and easy-going, Simon wasted no time beginning Saturday’s event. Dressed casually in a multi-colored beanie, t-shirt and jeans, Simon remained seated at the front of the classroom throughout the event sharing memories of his time spent at Stanford University and his time at Filmation Studios. Simon then used that background information to segue into the later years of his career, which included working outside of animation on sitcoms like “Cheers,” “Taxi” and “The Drew Carey Show.”
After briefly introducing himself and discussing his career, he began taking questions from students.
Naturally, many of the questions were centered on Simon’s work on “The Simpsons,” along with the development and progression of the show. Created in the late 1980s, “The Simpsons” is the longest running animated series and sitcom. During his time there, Simon assembled the show’s first writing team and co-wrote numerous episodes. It has been over a decade since Simon left the show, but he appeared lively as he recalled his time spent there.
Throughout the event, Simon spoke highly of the team he worked with while working on “The Simpsons.”
“We had four or five people with IQs over 170 and kids that had graduated from Harvard at 16 and they were all working with me,” he laughed. “That was a real pleasure.”
“The Simpsons” has grown since Simon’s departure and it still remains one of the most popular televisions shows on air. When asked when “The Simpsons” should come to an end, Simon laughed, smiled and stated, “It should never end.”
Often prefaced with a funny memory or an insightful story, Simon also shared information on the industry and gave advice to the aspiring producers, directors and writers.
When asked about censorship, Simon shook it off. Telling students that he never changed anything within the scripts based on FCC standards and practices. He simply stated, “You don’t know what’s going to offend people.”
Simon also advised students to continue writing. While students are in the process of pitching spec scripts, they should be starting a new one; this way they are able to continue improving as a writer.
In addition to his advice, Simon offered his idea of good sitcom writing. His idea consisted of three parts:
You need a story that you are able to tell without jokes or dialogue that is still funny because the story is the most important thing. A good story is when you are able to pitch it and the things that happen sound funny.
2. Don’t be afraid of the quiet moments-
Don’t be scared if there aren’t three laughs per page on the script; you can push the emotion.
3. Love your characters
Viewers can see when writers don’t care about the characters. You have to care about the characters as if they are real people. When writers don’t care about the characters, it produces bad television.
Simon is a legendary figure within the television industry. His love of the craft and his diverse interests have allowed him to become a legend while also remaining current.
By: Dominique Bailey
Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor