Last night, I went to see Matt Groening at the Mershon Auditorium, along with my fellow PANEListas Sean McGurr and Tim McClurg. It was a conversation format presentation, with his friend and fellow Simpsons producer Tom Gammill interviewing him. In between the obligatory childhood and education questions, they chatted, joked around, and shared all sorts of hilarious anecdotes from the world of The Simpsons, Futurama, and Matt’s 30+ years writing and drawing the Life in Hell comic strip. Speaking of which, the two did a live reading of the aforementioned comic, projected large on the screen behind them, and the results were extremely funny.
Oh, and there were several cartoon montages from both of his hit animated shows, including an advance preview of the Twilight parody bit from this year’s upcoming Treehouse of Horror episode.
Amongst the anecdotes Matt shared, the funny ones that stuck with me included a bit about the weird notes they have gotten over the years from the FOX censors (aka “standards and practices”), one of which was their objection to a Homer Simpson line where he says “I’ve masturbated thousands of times.” They asked that it be changed to “I’ve masturbated millions of times,” presumably because that’s less realistic? Who knows with these guys. He also talked about his two sons, and how they alternated between thinking he’s funny and cool, or embarrassing and old news. During one occasion when they were leaning towards the latter, he recalled his older son saying something along the lines of “Dad, The Simpsons is cool, but Family Guy is where it’s at these days!” to which Matt replied “oh yeah? Then go ask Seth MacFarlane to buy you an XBox.”
Unfortunately, as enjoyable and funny as the evening was, it all ended on a low note when the question and answer session started. Not through any fault of Groening, who was charming and honest, but through a succession of one stereotypical socially-awkward nerd after another asking the most asinine questions. But to make matter worse, almost every single one of them asked that Matt either a) draw them a sketch, b) sign their t-shirt, c) sign their comic book, d) sign their body part, or d) look at a drawing they had made just for this occasion. And this is after Matt, rather kindly but nonetheless explicitly, stated that he can’t sign autographs or do sketches because of the sheer number of people in attendance. “There’s just too many of you guys,” he said. But that didn’t stop every single person in line at the mic to ask the same question. But it got even weirder, when one lady told a story about how her dad coached high school swimming in Oregon and she had a swim meet tracking sheet (can’t remember the technical term) that someone had drawn a picture of some character called McQueen on the back and she was sure it was Matt’s drawing and could he look at it because it’s awfully interesting, isn’t it? It was enough to make you cringe in your seat.
Oh well, despite the embarrassing Q-and-A, the rest of the evening was a total joy. Groening was charming, insightful, and as expected, funny. Plus, the whole event was presented for free by OSU, which is amazing, considering the stature of their guest.