We mentioned Matt Groening, indirectly, probably a thousand times, talking about his most famous success, The Simpsons. Do you remember for example when we talked about The Phantom of the Opera or Ayn Rand?
But who is Matt Groening, this creative genius father of the yellow men … and not only? Sit on Homer and family’s metaphorical sofa as we tell you everything!
Biography of Matt Groening
Matt Groening was born on February 15, 1954 in Portland, Oregon, United States, into a family of five children. His Norwegian-American mother, Margaret Ruth (née Wiggum), is a teacher and her German-American father, Homer Philip Groening, is a director, publicist and cartoonist. Homer, born in Saskatchewan, Canada, was raised in a Plautdietsch Mennonite family. His surname comes from the Dutch city of Groningen.
Matt’s grandfather Abram Groening was a professor at Mennonite Liberal Arts College. From Kansas he moved to Oregon in 1930. Groening grows up in Portland. He goes to Ainsworth Elementary School and then Lincoln High School.
From 1972 to 1977, he attended Evergreen State College in Olympia, a liberal arts school. He was the editor of the campus newspaper, for which he also wrote articles and drew some comics. He befriended cartoonist Lynda Barry after discovering that she wrote a letter of admiration to Joseph Heller, one of Matt Groening’s favorite authors, and received a response.
Groening recognizes Lynda Barry as a source of inspiration. He also cites Disney’s animated film 101 Dalmatians as the film that interested him in cartoons, along with the Peanuts series created by Charles M. Schulz.
In 1977, at the age of 23, Groening moved to Los Angeles to become a writer. He’d actually do a thousand jobs, including acting as an extra, hauling tables, washing dishes in a nursing home, landscaping at a gas station, purging, or even a chauffeur.
The result is a self-published comic series, Life in Hell, where Matt Groening describes his life in Los Angeles to his friends. The Life in Hell title is loosely inspired by the How to Go to Hell chapter of Walter Kaufmann’s Critique of Religion and Philosophy.
Groening distributes his comics in a corner of the record store where he worked. In 1978 he sold his work for the first time for the avant-garde magazine Wet. The comic, titled Forbidden Words, appeared in that year’s September-October issue. He then works in the Los Angeles Reader, a brand new alternative newspaper, which published articles, news, editorials and responses to calls or letters from readers.
He decides to present his comics to the publisher James Vowell, who, impressed, offers him a place in the newspaper. Life in Hell officially debuts as a comic in the Reader. In 1982, Vowell gave Groening his weekly music column: Sound Mix. But the column rarely talks about music, Matt prefers to write about his art.
One day, to justify the name of the section, Matt Groening starts inventing soundtracks and music that he comments on. He admits this deceptionin a later issue where he swears his future sincerity, however the rubric is taken from him. Among the followers of Groening’s column is Harry Shearer who would later become one of the voice actors of The Simpsons.
Life in Hell becomes popular as soon as it is released. In November 1984, Deborah Caplan, Matt Groening’s girlfriend and colleague, asked him to publish Love is Hell, a series from Life in Hell based on romantic relationships, in book form.
Published a month later, the book was a real success, twenty-two thousand copies were sold during the first two runs. Soon after, Caplan released Work is Hell. Subsequently, Caplan and Groening team up to found Life in Hell Corporation to sell Life in Hell merchandise.
Matt Groening then founds a publishing house, Acme Features Syndicate, which publishes Life in Hell. Currently, Life in Hell is still published in two hundred and fifty weekly magazines. Several books of the same series have also been published, including School is Hell, Childhood is Hell, The Big Book of Hell and The Huge Book of Hell. Matt Groening and Deborah Caplan married in 1986 and have two children: Homer (who goes by the name of Will) and Abe. However, the couple divorced in 1999 after thirteen years of marriage. Groening is the brother-in-law of the creator of Hey Arnold !, Craig Barlett, who is married to his sister Lisa.
Backgroung and creation
In 1985 producer James L. Brooks contacted Groening with an offer to work on an as yet undefined future animation project, which was to be developed into a series of short animated parodies, for variety channel Fox.
Brooks wants Groening to adapt Life in Hell’s characters for the screen, but Groening fears both of having to give up his copyrights and facing a show failure, a failure that would have ended his comic and career as an actor.
Matt Groening so conceives the idea of The Simpsons in the corridor of James L. Brooks’ office, and immediately sketches his version of a deranged family. Matt Groening decides to give the main characters of The Simpsons the names of members of his own family: his parents, Homer and Margaret (the full name of Marge or Marjorie), and his younger sisters, Lisa and Margaret (Maggie).
Claiming that it is a little too obvious to name one of the characters as himself, he chooses the name Bart an anagram of Brat. However, he points out that, aside from the rivalries between parents and children, his family has nothing to do with that of the Simpsons. Groening also has an older brother, Mark, and an older sister, Patty. Maggie Groening, one of Matt’s younger sisters, is the co-author of educational books for The Simpsons.
Like family members, several characters on the show have names inspired by real people, places, or movies. Police Chief Clancy Wiggum’s name is the maiden name of Matt Groening’s mother. The names of some of the other characters come from the main streets of Groening’s hometown of Portland, Oregon. Among them are the Flanders, the Lovejoys, the Powells, the Quimbys and the young delinquent Kearney.
Success of Matt Groening and The Simpsons
On April 19, 1987, The Simpsons first appeared on TV, on the Tracy Ullman Show. Success is immediate. The short-form series will produce 48 episodes before becoming a stand-alone show in 1989. In fact, Matt Groening is invited by Fox to produce The Simpsons in a longer version of twenty-two minutes. Groening has since gone down in history, because, before him, a cartoon had never been the subject of prime time on a major network.
The genius behind the project was honored the following year with an Emmy Award for Best Cartoon. This award will be just the first of a long list. Groening will receive a total of 11 Emmys (in 1991, 1997, 2000 and 2008 among others) and will be nominated for the same 25 times.
In January 1993, Matt Groening founded the Bongo Comics Group, in partnership with Bill Morrison, Steve and Cindy Vance. The company publishes many Simpsons spin-off comics, such as Itchy and Scratchy Comics or Krusty Comics.
At the same time, with The Simpsons ™, Matt Groening is at the origin of the most profitable brand in television history. Passionate about science fiction, in 1997 he created a new cartoon called Futurama, which we will then tell you about in detail.
On January 14, 2000, Matt Groening’s The Simpsons received a star on Hollywood Boulevard. In addition to his Emmy nominations, he has been nominated for the Annie Awards, the Bafta Awards, the Peabody Award and the PGA awards, among others. He was also decorated in 2003 with the Rueben Award for Best Comic Creator of the Year, an award given by the National Cartoonist Society.
Between quotes and predictions
The success of The Simpsons is certainly attributable to the sympathy of the characters and their extraordinary proximity to everyday life: extraordinary and everyday, in fact, they manage to blend through a mixture of irony, humor and poetry.
The recipe of The Simpsons brings the little ones closer with the sympathy and aesthetics of the characters, but adults grasp the quotes that are no longer counted. Only in our blog have we mentioned them for Michael Jackson‘s Thriller, Joan of Arc, Mozart, Edgar Allan Poe, Neil Gaiman and also Johnny Cash dubbing a psychedelic coyote !
But Matt Groening is most famous for his predictions about the future of humanity. One above all: the Trump presidency! He then predicted Lady Gaga at the superbowl, the GOT finale, the gold of the US curling team in the final against Sweden, the scandal of faulty voting machines, the espionage of the NSA, the nobel for the economist Bengt R Holmstrom, Disney’s acquisition of Fox. And then a series of technological breakthroughs such as the automatic phone corrector, 3d printing for cakes, a device for translating children’s crying, Farmville, the smartwatch. But there is so much more, enough to deserve the title: Matt Groening the seer!
After spending a few years researching science fiction, Matt Groening joined forces with Simpsons writer and producer David X. Cohen (then known as David S. Cohen) in 1997 and created Futurama, an animated television series set, as says the name, precisely in the future.
By the time the series was sold to Fox in April 1998, Groening and Cohen had already created many characters and storylines. The first episode airs on March 28, 1999. Futurama brought together nearly nineteen million viewers and allowed Groening to win his 11th Emmy.
However, it was discontinued by Fox after season five due to low ratings. However, in June 2009, the Comedy Central television channel ordered 26 new episodes of Futurama, set to air over two seasons in 2010.
The success of the series continues, so the channel announces that the series is extended until 2013.
Matt Groening’s other projects
On January 15, 2016, it was announced that Groening was in talks with Netflix to develop a new animated series. On 25 July 2017 the series , Disenchantment, is commissioned by Netflix. The first ten episodes premiered on the streaming service in August 2018, with the remaining ten episodes of the initial order scheduled to air in September 2019. Netflix has renewed the series for twenty additional episodes.
Groening described the fantasy-oriented series as originating from a sketchbook full of “fantastic creatures we couldn’t do in The Simpsons.
But Matt Groening is more than just a comic artist. Groening is known for his eclectic taste for music. His favorite artist is Frank Zappa, whom we told you about some time ago.
In addition, Groening is politically active and has made numerous electoral contributions, all in favor of Democratic Party candidates and organizations. He donated money to the unsuccessful presidential campaigns of Democratic candidates Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, as well as previously donating to the Massachusetts Senator’s campaign.
Who knows what surprises Matt Groening has in store for the future! Over time it has become public opinion that Matt Groening is a seer, because certain episodes of the Simpsons seem to have predicted the future. I don’t think I have the same paranormal powers but I can confidently predict some other Simpsons series and Groening’s legacy increase!