Chauncé Hayden: You’ve come a long way since the days as a delivery boy for The Los Angeles Reader. Do you ever stop and think, how did a guy who used to spend his school days doodling, become so unbelievably successful?
Matt Groening: Um…It’s staggering to me on a daily basis. Just being able to pay my rent is an unexpected treat. All the perks and all the wild surprises that come from working on a successful TV show are quite gratifying.
You must find it strange getting paid for doing something that you used to get punished for?
Well I must say being rewarded for what I used to be discouraged from doing is probably the best revenge of all. On the other hand, if I hadn’t lucked out maybe I’d be in an insane asylum. But even if I were in a straitjacket, I think I’d still be doodling with a crayon in my mouth.
From what I’ve read, you seem like the type who would be just as comfortable without all the
fame and fortune. Is living as the other half lives all that you thought it would be?
I remember back in the old days when I was living in a cockroach infested apartment in Hollywood searching under the chair cushions for enough money to be able to buy a hamburger for dinner. My friends and I would wonder what it would be like to be successful. So the question we would
pose to each other was, if or when we make our big mark in the world, are we going to live the way millionaires do on “The Lifestyles Of The Rich
And Famous” or are we going to live pretty much the way we do now except with a lot more comic books, magazines and records lying around.
And the answer is?
The answer is pretty much “B.” I now have lots of comic books, magazines and records lying around.
Homer, Marge, Maggie and Lisa Simpson are each named after your own family members. How similar are those
characters to the real life characters?
Well nobody in my family is quite as ugly or as stupid as “The Simpsons” are. The main similarities are in some of the sibling rivalries that I had as a kid with my sisters. We fought quite a bit and always found ingenious ways to torture each other.
How much Bart is there inside of you? I would say there’s a smidgen of Bart in me. Bart’s more of a combination of me and all my friends growing up, and the worst aspects of all of us growing up at that.
I understand your father was a great influence on you. How much of an impact did he have on the way you view
That’s a hard one to answer actually. (Pausing, then laughing) At the moment, that’s something I’m exploring in
therapy! I’m learning more and more each day that he was more of an influence than I ever realized. He’s was a hard
working and very funny man. He taught me a very useful lesson early on, which was, “Don’t save your great ideas
for the future, you’ll always come up with more.” So now the second I come up with an idea I try to use it with
the confidence that later on down the line I’ll be able to come up with another idea.
Your father must have been very proud of you.
As the years have gone by, he got much more complimentary. He was not very encouraging at the beginning. Basically he was pretty
discouraging. He suggested that I get a real job because I would never make a living drawing.
I understand you went to a college in the Pacific Northwest that had no grades and no required courses.
It sounds like it would be right up Bart’s alley.
I don’t know if it would be up Bart’s alley because Bart is basically defined by his being a wise guy in school and rebelling against the rules.
The school I went to, (The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington) was very progressive in its policies and still is. Yes, there were
people like Bart who ended up there, but they got very frustrated because they could do whatever they wanted. There was nobody there to
say, “No, you can’t do that.” So for the most part, they dropped out.
Your father and son are both named Homer. Is it true that if you had “The Simpsons” to do over again you would
have given Homer Simpson a different first name?
No, I like the name Homer Simpson. However, I wouldn’t have called my son Homer.
But you did. Why?
He was born just before “The Simpsons” went on the air as a series. But now he’s just getting ready to go into school and I’m afraid he’s going to have to listen to all the funny names that kids that age come up with. So I would not name my son Homer if I had to do it all over again.