[T]he real creative force behind The Simpsons was Sam Simon. The tone, the storytelling, the level of humor – that was all developed on Sam’s watch.
―Kevin Levine (former Simpsons writer) on Sam Simon[1]
In the beginning, I was skeptical it could be successful, but I was not skeptical it could be good. I was hoping for 13 episodes that my friends would like. It's a good lesson, isn't it? If you do something trying to make your friends laugh and that you can be proud of, you can also be successful.
―Sam Simon on The Simpsons's first season[2]

Samuel "Sam" Simon (June 6, 1955 - March 8, 2015) was the co-creator of The Simpsons with Matt Groening and James L. Brooks. Outside the show, Simon had success as an American boxing manager, poker player, writer, director, producer and most recently philanthropist. He also worked on many other television shows including Cheers and The Drew Carey Show. In regards to his work The Simpsons, Simon has been credited for "lay[ing the shows's] foundation... and developing [the show's] sensibility." [3]

Simon died in his Los Angeles home at the age of 59 on March 8th, 2015 due to terminal colorectal cancer.[4]

The Simpsons

Simon is often said to have had been one of primary driving forces behind The Simpsons's success both critically and commercially. The series is regarded as one of greatest television shows of all time, with Time magazine naming it the 20th century's best.[5] In response to Time's list Simon said, “There weren't any TV series in the 19th century, so I assume that makes it the best of all time.”

Simon started as an executive producer and writer alongside James L. Brooks for the Tracey Ullman shorts. Both Brooks and Simon thought that the characters were strong enough to support a half-hour series and consequently The Simpsons's Season 1 aired in 1989. [6]

In a 1991 Roskin Blake interview the three (Sam Simon, James L. Brooks and Matt Groening) were asked whether they felt they would be able to compete with The Bill Cosby Show, which both Brooks and Simon were very doubtful, with Brooks saying "Not for a minute." Simon added that Cosby was a "fixture" for Thursday nights and that "we're hoping we'll do okay, but I don't think anyone expects us to beat them".[7]

Simon served as Executive Producer and Show runner with Brooks and Groening on Season 1 and Season 2 and was Creative Supervisor from Season 1 to Season 4. He assembled and led the original writers for the show: Al Jean, Jay Kogen, Mike Reiss, Jeff Martin, George Meyer, John Swartzwelder, Jon Vitti and Wallace Wolodarsky.


Sam Simon in The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular

Impact on The Simpsons

Former Simpsons director Brad Bird described Simon as The Simpson' "unsung hero". [8]

Former show writer Ken Levine said, “Sam brought a level of honesty to the characters. Is it too bizarre to say he made cartoon characters three-dimensional? His comedy is all about character, not just a string of gags. In The Simpsons, the characters are motivated by their emotions and their foibles. ‘What are they thinking?’—that is Sam’s contribution. The stories come from the characters.”[9] [10][11] Simon created and expanded much of The Simpsons universe and designed many recurring characters including Mr. Burns, Dr. Hibbert, Chief Wiggum, Eddie, Lou as well as guest star roles such as Bleeding Gums Murphy. [12][13] Simon concieved and wrote The Raven, the final segment of the Treehouse of Horror. Groening was skeptical of Simon's adaptation and felt it'd be "the worst, most pretentious thing [they had] ever done" on the show. [14] Despite Groening's reservations the segment has succumbed to praise, Ryan Budke of TV Squad wrote of the segment as "one of the most refined Simpsons pop references ever" and knows "people that consider this the point that they realized The Simpsons could be both highly hilarious and highly intelligent." [15] Simon was responsible for many of the most iconic moments of The Simpsons, including "The Land of Chocolate" sequence from Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk[16]

Relationship with Matt Groening

Throughout Simon's work on the show his relationship with Groening is renowned for its strain, Groening commented, Sam Simon was assigned to work with me, Groening recalls. It was a pleasant experience for a few months, but then became very contentious. His motto was '13 and out' -- the network's initial order was for 13 episodes -- and he thought the whole thing was going to be a failure. It wouldn't affect him, but my career would be ruined!" A moment later, he added: Make sure you put in that I think Sam Simon is brilliantly funny and one of the smartest writers I've ever worked with, although unpleasant and mentally unbalanced. On Groening Simon commented, When I see Matt now, I shake hands and say hello. I can't lie and say that Matt did what he didn't do, but I do appreciate him creating that family. Thanks to Bart Simpson I have a pretty good life.[17]

Many have drawn parallels between the two's relationship while working on the show and Homer and Moe's relationship in Flaming Moe's. Simon being Homer, the true creator of the hit show (Flaming Homer) and Groening being Moe, the man who steals the idea and takes the credit. This was a purported Mike Reiss quote, although in an interview with Guy Evans from the Smells Like Human Spirit Podcast, Simon is asked about this theory and after laughing says, "That may be true."[18]


Simon left The Simpsons and Gracie Films in 1993. Simon attributed his reasoning to "[not] enjoying it anymore," wished to pursue other projects, and "that any show I've ever worked on, it turns me into a monster. I go crazy. I hate myself."[19] Before leaving he negotiated a deal that would give him continuous credit on future episodes as executive producer and a share of the show's profits annually, particularly in home media. At the time this was not a significantly valuable share, but as the popularity of the show increased Simon earned an estimated $20-30 million annually despite not working on the show since 1993. [20] Simon commented: "When I was there I thought I was underpaid. I thought I wasn't getting enough credit for it. Now, I think it's completely the opposite. I get too much credit for it. And the money is ridiculous."[21]

Personal life

Simon was married to Jennifer Tilly from 1984 to 1991. Simon went on to co-create The George Carlin Show and The Drew Carey Show. Simon has won nine Primetime Emmy Awards. He was married to Playboy Playmate Jami Ferrel for a mere three weeks. [22] He was engaged to chef Jenna Stewart.

Charity Work and Terminal Illness

In 2002, Simon founded the Sam Simon Foundation, where he has self-funded a multi-million dollar project dedicated to rescuing stray dogs and training them as service dogs (to help people with disabilities).

In 2012, Simon was diagnosed with terminal/Stage 4 colorectal cancer. The cancer had since spread to his other organs and tissues, and was given an estimated three to six months to live.[23] Simon had arranged for his fortune to be left to various charitable causes, stating "The truth is, I have more money than I'm interested in spending. Everyone in my family is taken care of. And I enjoy this."[24] After 3 years of surviving terminal colorectal cancer, Sam died on March 8th, 2015 because of this diagnosis.


Developed by

Season 1

Season 2

Executive Producer

Season 1

Season 2

Character Design

Season 1

Season 2

Creative Supervisor

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Writer (1990-1992)


  • When Drew Carey and Norm MacDonald were on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" in 2000, they used Simon as their Phone-A-Friend(s).
  • Simon frequently appeared as a panelist on the PBS program "Mental Engineering".
  • Ever since Simon left The Simpsons during Season 4, he has always been credited in Treehouse of Horror episodes as "Sam 'Sayonara' Simon", but in "Treehouse of Horror XXII", it was changed to "simonsam@twitTERROR". It is believed by many fans that he is called "Sam 'Sayonara' Simon," because he left the show to do charity work.
  • In "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular", Simon looks a lot like Howard Hughes.
  • The audio commentary for "Krusty Gets Busted" reveals that Simon could not tell which one was Itchy and which one was Scratchy. Despite this, Itchy is the mouse and Scratchy is the cat.


  13. ^ Rhodes, Joe (1990-05-18). "The Making of The Simpsons The Art of Bart". Entertainment Weekly. pp. 36–43.
  14. Groening, Matt (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Treehouse of Horror" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  15. Budke, Ryan J. (2005-10-26). "The Five: Best Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Segments". TV Squad. Retrieved 2009-05-03.
  16. Jean, Al. (2003). Commentary for "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.

External links