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  • Writer's pictureDavid Baker

Cowabunga, Dude. It's been 68 years since Matt Groening was born!

As reported in The Writer's Almanac, today is the birthday of American cartoonist Matt Groening who is best known for creating The Simpsons cartoon series.

In 1954, Groening was born in Portland, Oregon, the middle child of five, and the son of a filmmaker and cartoonist named Homer.

While working at a pizza store in Los Angeles in the early ’70s, he began drawing and selling a comic called Life in Hell, about a pathetic, oppressed rabbit named Binky. He’d been using the comic as a way to describe his life in L.A. to friends who lived elsewhere.

He was writing a music column for the Los Angeles Reader, but he hated it because pop stars annoyed him, so he made each column up and apologized the next week. But his editor loved Life in Hell and let him do that instead of the music column. The strip proved so popular that Groening was able to publish several books, including School is Hell (1987), Childhood is Hell (1988), and The Big Book of Hell (1990).

James L. Brooks, a Hollywood producer and writer, loved the strip and asked Groening to adapt it as a series of shorts for his new television show, The Tracey Ullman Show. But Groening refused; he thought if the show did poorly, he would lose the rights to the comic. Besides, he said, “I think human beings resonate with audiences more than bunnies, but who knows?”

Instead, he created a dysfunctional family and named everyone, except the punky son Bart, after the members of his own family: Homer, Marge, Maggie, Lisa, Patty. “Bart” is an anagram for “brat.” The Simpsons debuted in 1987 on The Tracey Ullman Show and became a hit. It was spun off in 1989 and is now the longest-running animated show in the history of television.


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