I realized I made a reference to John Swartzwelder in last week's post but hadn't written about him yet. A handsomely moustached recluse, gun lobbyist and self proclaimed "anti-environmentalist" who purportedly claims to own the worlds first baseball, Swartzwelder was the greatest Simpsons writer of them all. He wrote more episodes than anyone else, "Whacking Day", "Rosebud" "Homers Enemy" (the Frank Grimes episode), and oh so many more classics, as well as pitching in bizarre jokes to everybody elses episodes. If it's got hobos with bindles, 19th century base-ballers or references to Hitler, it's probably a Swartzwelder. When they banned smoking in the writers room, Swartwelder refused to come into work and was granted special dispensation to simply send in his drafts from home. According to Matt Groening, Swartzwelder would often drive over to the Fox lot in his big old Cadillac and hand him the script through the window of the car, like he was the mailman. "He'd sit there talking to you for 20 minutes but never get out of the car." He took to writing in a booth at his local diner, and when smoking was banned in all public spaces in LA, he reputedly bought the booth and installed it in his house...
Swartzwelder refuses to appear on any of the Simpsons DVD commentaries, but the other writers regularly gush over his greatness and point out his jokes. Conan O'Brien, another writing room alumni, describes him in one commentary as looking "just like a 19th century New York policeman, if you could put him one of those uniforms he would just make the most handsome 19th century policeman. You can just picture him, beating an immigrant to death..."
Since bowing out of the Simpsons after season 14, Swartzwelder has taken to self publishing a series of absurdist novels. They're really more like extended short stories, and even more like a string of simpsonsesque gags strung along some kind of flimsy plot line for a hundred pages or so. It really is the purest kind of comedy writing, and personally I had a smile on my face all the way through the three i've read so far. That is, when I wasn't laughing out loud or rolling around in hysterics...
You can dig each of the seven he's written so far on Amazon (with preview pages so you can have a read) via
which also has a list of all the episodes he wrote, and you can buy the whole set of seven signed book on ebay for about $100 bucks including postage. I highly recommend doing so!
Meanwhile, heres the first few pages of "The Time Machine Did It..."