What FXX’s Marathon Taught Us About The Greatest ‘Simpsons’ Writer Ever, John Swartzwelder

Senior Pop Culture Editor
08.27.14 12 Comments
simpsons Swartzwelder


Everything you need to know about the most accomplished writer for arguably the greatest show of all-time can be summed up in a two-minute YouTube video.

Between 1990 and 2003, John Swartzwelder’s name appeared on 59 Simpsons scripts, more than any other writer to date. He’s the genius behind “Homer at the Bat” and “Krusty Gets Kancelled” and “Rosebud” and “Homie the Clown.” If there was a Comedy Mount Rushmore, his mustached-face would be on it. Not that he’d show up for the ceremony — he’s notoriously press shy, a J.D. Salinger figure who typed out his scripts in a diner booth while chain-smoking. He doesn’t give interviews, there are very few photos of him online, and some Simpsons fans even believe he’s not real, that the other writers created him as an Alan Smithee-esque pseudonym. Because even when you think it’s John Swartzwelder, “it’s too bad this really isn’t John Swartzwelder.”

Since the FXX marathon began last week, many Simpsons writers and directors, especially Jon Vitti and Al Jean, have been tweeting behind-the-scenes facts about my/your/our favorite episodes, including an occasional insight on Mr. Swartzwelder, who now publishes (pretty good!) novels about a private investigator named Frank Burly. Here are a few things we’ve learned.

1. Here’s what he looks like on The Simpsons (on the left):

Here’s what he looks like in real life (next to Conan):

2. He does not keep up with Simpsons news.

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3. He was a sneaky SOB.

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4. He’s to thank for a fan-favorite line.

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5. One of the show’s better mid-series recurring jokes was his creation.

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6. Special mind was paid to animating his gut.

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7. He had an unlikely pre-Simpsons job.

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8. The other writers respect the hell out of him.

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9. But they probably hated him for being so damn talented, too.

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10. He is a gentleman, and technology is not his thing.

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