Magz Osborne
Oct 11, 2011

INTERVIEW: The Simpsons' Joel Cohen talks creativity

Brought to Spikes Asia 2011 by DDB, Emmy award-winning writer and co-executive producer of The Simpsons, Joel Cohen spoke to Campaign about creativity, writer’s block and upsetting advertisers.

wide player in 16:9 format. Used on article page for Campaign.

Cohen opened the interview with a comment about the compact nature of the video camera, asked whether that meant he feels that size matters, “It sure does,” he quipped.

He went on to talk about the challenges of putting very bright, very creative people in a room together to write a script. How is consensus ever reached with so many egos in a room?

“Being competitive, or fighting with each other only keeps us at work later and innately we’re all lazy and want to go home,” he said, adding that having a common goal helps keep them working collaboratively rather than competitively.

On having such a diversity of talent working toward a common goal, Cohen said, “Ultimately someone has to be in charge, faced with this onslaught of ideas and working out which one will thread the needle.”

“We’re all well-versed enough enough, (well-versed enough enough?) to meet that common theme or tone, but having said that some of the best stuff comes from outside the tone.”

Asked whether the Fox network ever intervenes where upsetting advertisers is concerned, Cohen said that Butterfinger used to be a sponsor – but isn’t any more.

He also shared incidents of major stars keen on making cameo appearances without realising what they were letting themselves in for.

“Lucy Liu tried to bribe the writers with a huge pizza, and it worked. In a future episode the pizza made an appearance in the show.”

And the answer to writer’s block? “Opium, mainly. Or repeating yourself.”

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