I got to see Joel Cohen, writer and co-producer for ‘The Simpsons,’ speak last night on campus. He was a solid speaker, and showed us some classic clips from the show’s 19-year run.
It was really interesting to hear about their writing process, and how important it is for them to have a free flow of ideas. He said that it’s a tremendous accomplishment if a writer has 5% of their original material left in any one episode, because they go back and rewrite things so many times. One of the funniest parts was when he talked about Fox’s censors, and the memos they’ve sent back to the writers. A particular memo they sent back was, “Please delete Bart’s line of: ‘Bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard.’ This is a repetitious stream of bastards, and it’s unnecessary.” Joel then quipped, “Which is not unlike the Baldwin brothers.”
One concept Joel introduced that I’d never heard of is “The Blow,” which is apparently a very important element in writing comedy. The Blow is the joke at the end of a scene. It’s supposed to be the funniest joke, which gives the audience a huge laugh and makes it easier to transition to the next scene.