How They Wrote The Simpsons, by a Vintage Writer

A writer from The Simpsons' glory years tells how they made the classic episodes.

During the glory years of The Simpsons—either the first 10 seasons or seasons three through eight if you want to get picky—the show was groundbreaking, incomparably clever, and built on a foundation of unprecedented use of allusion. Bill Oakley, who wrote for the show for seasons four through six and produced it during seasons seven and eight, just penned a reflection for The Awl on how the impressive roster or writers crafted those classic episodes.

Here's a bit about the biannual writers' pitch retreats:

Many people were very, very intimidated by all this stuff and it was like the worst part of their year. But for us, it was our favorite part of the year. My writing partner Josh Weinstein and I would work really hard on these things and we'd usually have a couple of ideas stored up that we'd been working on for a couple months, and we just liked the opportunity to discuss them and have everybody there pitching in their jokes. And, you know, usually you would get laughs. And people would give suggestions like, oh, this could happen or that could happen, and you'd usually talk about the idea for about twenty minutes, with everybody pitching in stuff off the top of their head.

You wanted to have a story that had a beginning, middle, and end. You didn't necessarily have to have the act breaks, but you couldn't go into the retreats with just one sentence, you know, something like "Bart vs. Australia." These are busy, highly-paid people, and you didn't want to waste Jim Brooks' time with something half-assed. I'm pretty sure there was at least one guy who got canned after his crummy performance at the story retreat. So you wanted to be prepared, as your job was on the line to some extent. So you wanted to come in with a story that would take ten minutes to tell and would have the act breaks, or at least some semblance of the act breaks.


You can also read the second part of Oakley's essay here. It's part of The Awl's "Classic Simpsons Week" series, which offers a wonderful reprieve from whatever it is you're supposed to be doing at work right now.


Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News

An anonymous White House official claims President Trump cruelly limited Hispanic immigrants in their new book, "A Warning."

The book, to be released on November 19, gives an alleged insider account of the Trump White House and paints a picture of the president as a chaotic man who lacks the mental and moral acumen required for the job.

The anonymous staffer says that Trump once feigned a Hispanic accent and made fun of women attempting to immigrate to the U.S.

Keep Reading Show less
via KTVU / YouTube

The 63-year-old Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, currently branded the RingCentral Coliseum, is one of the most decrepit sports venues in America.

The home to the the NFL's Oakland Raiders (until they move to Las Vegas next season) and MLB's A's, is notoriously known as the Black Hole and has made headlines for its frequent flooding and sewage issues.

One of the stadium's few positive aspects is its connection to public transportation.

Keep Reading Show less
Hero Video
Yad Vashem

Since 1992, the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous has been holding reunion ceremonies between Holocaust survivors and rescuers once a year. But the tradition is coming to an end, as many have died or are too frail to travel. What might be the last reunion of its kind took place when a 92-year-old woman met up with the two surviving family members that she helped hide during the Holocaust, and their descendants.

Sarah Yanai and Yossi Mor introduced Melpomeni Dina (nee Gianopoulou) to their almost 40 family members, all decedents of the Mordechai family, the family of seven that Dina and her two sisters hid during WWII. "There are no words to describe this feeling," Dina told the Jeruselum Post. "It is very emotional for us to be together again."

Keep Reading Show less
via Facebook / Autumn Dayss

Facebook user and cosplayer Autumn Dayss has stirred up a bit of Halloween controversy with her last-minute costume, an anti-Vaxx mother.

An image she posted to the social network shows a smiling Dayss wearing a baby carrier featuring a small skeleton. "Going to a costume party tonight as Karen and her non-vaccinated child," the caption over the image reads.

Keep Reading Show less