Simpsons’ writer and producer shares secret of show’s success

Andrea Cavallier

Ever wonder what it’s like to be in a room surrounded by the people who conjure up the lives and comedy of the longest-running sitcom on air?

According to television writer, producer and screenwriter Don Payne, “The Simpsons” writing room is a “smorgasbord of personality disorders.”

Payne, a Wilmington native, is an Emmy-award winning writer/co-producer for “The Simpsons” TV show and recently spoke to an auditorium full of people at UNCW Friday night.

After being introduced by the Interim Department Chair & Professorhead of Film Studies, Lou Buttino, Payne immediately generated laughter and applause from the podium.

The program was hosted by UNCW Film Studies Department, along with the Moviemakers & Scholars series, UNCW Division for Public Service and Continuing Studies and Celebrate Wilmington!

Payne talked about both the success and slight downfalls of the show while making sure to inject comedic relief into every other sentence. Payne commented that when the show first aired 17 years ago, people came to the conclusion that it was the end of civilization, therefore leading to controversy in American homes.

Payne’s other TV writing and producing credits include “The Brian Benson Show,” “Veronica’s Closet,” “Men Behaving Badly” and “Can’t Hurry Love.”

He recently sold an orginial feature screenplay entitled “Super Ex” to film studio, Regency Enterprises. With Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Kindergarten Cop) directing, Luke Wilson and Uma Thurman are set to star.

Payne’s biggest advice to future sitcom/screen writers? “If you want to write, definitely keep writing. My professor at UCLA said it best, ‘you want know the formula for successful writing? Ass plus chair.'”

A session of question and answer time followed his presentation, which brought up other interesting topics. According to Payne, Simpsons writers are not decked out in the show’s gear all the time, the gender composition of the staff includes 19 male writers and one female and Payne’s most identifiable characters are a combination of Lisa Simpson and comic book guy.

Payne was recently inducted into Wilmington’s Walk of Fame by Celebrate Wilmington! The ceremony, which took place at the Cotton Exchange, kicked off several public events.

The exhibit will be open until February 11, 2006. Objects featured in the lobby display include one of Payne’s Emmys, animation cells from “The Simpsons” and a script for “The Simpsons” episode Fraudcast News.

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