Reiss proves to be quite the character at ‘Simpsons’ lecture

Writer and producer of ‘The Simpsons,’ Mike Reiss, discusses his background, work on the show and other humorous, animated endeavors. (Matt Mance / Photo Assistant)

What exactly does a spider-pig do?

Even Mike Reiss, writer and producer for  “The Simpsons” and contributor to “The Simpsons Movie” could not answer that.

He could, however, take blame for contributing to the increase of couch potatoes in the world today.

Reiss visited the College on Thursday, Jan. 19 for the College Union Board’s Welcome Back Lecture. He spoke about his Harvard University background, his short-lived animated show “The Critic,” the 20- episode “Queer Duck” and, of course, his work on “The Simpsons.”

Reiss showed clips throughout the lecture, providing anecdotes of each situation, including one of his first-ever “Simpsons” clips featuring a cameo from Mary Poppins. Reiss claimed that he took the episode to Julie Andrews herself and she allegedly cursed him out.

Little did she know, “The Simpsons” would end up shaping both American and international cultures.

In 1989, Reiss and his fellow writers forecasted that “The Simpsons” would only last for six weeks, as most new shows often do. This year, Fox will air the show’s 500th episode on Feb. 16.

Now of course, if “The Simpsons” actually aged, Reiss predicted that Marge would be collecting social security and Homer would have already been dead for five years.

The 23-year-old show has no end in sight, however, and continues to evolve. Lisa, for example, has gone from a vegetarian to a Buddhist, and Reiss said that if the show keeps going, “We will make her a cannibal, or go to Rutgers.”

Another example of the evolution of a character is Smithers. After the first season, Smithers’ race and sexual orientation completely changed.

“Smithers is the first man in history to go from black and straight to white and gay,” Reiss announced, to which audience members laughed.

Aside from his writing, “Simpsons” fans may recognize Reiss from an actual episode.

The writer showed a clip of an episode from 1991, when Lisa developed a crush on her substitute teacher. Reiss based the character off of one of his own teachers and kept telling the artists that he wanted the substitute to have some sort of a deformity.

“The deformity was they made him look like me,” he revealed. The audience instantly started laughing as they recognized the episode.

Reiss eventually left “The Simpsons” (not for that incident) and made his own show, “The Critic.”

He showed a clip from “The Critic” where a Howard Stern reincarnated cockroach received the same birthing rituals as Simba. The clip caused many people to question why the show was ever canceled to begin with.  Despite this rather entertaining clip, the show did not receive much praise and was canceled. The clip caused many people to question why the show was ever canceled to begin with.

Reiss went on to write 17 children’s books, including, ironically, Christmas books.

“For those of you who haven’t seen a Jew before, this is a Jew,” he said, referring to himself.

Next up for Reiss was a return to “The Simpsons” and a new venture “Queer Duck,” a rather self-explanatory animated series. The show is extremely popular, Reiss said, especially in Britain.

Reiss was also one of the writers behind “The Simpsons Movie.”

As for this, he cannot believe that one of the most memorable moments for moviegoers was spider-pig. According to Reiss, the joke was written randomly for no reason and thrown in at the end of the creation process.

A single episode of  “The Simpsons” takes from eight months to a year to produce, so it was understandable that Reiss was flabbergasted as to why a random joke put in at the end would be such a hit.

But perhaps lightning really does strike when least expected. Reiss knows this firsthand.

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Arts & Entertainment Editor