Al Jean Interview: ‘The Simpsons’ showrunner
“It’s a myth people have that the show took a while to find itself,” reveals Al Jean describing the instantaneous popularity that came to “The Simpsons” in 1989. In our recent interview (watch the exclusive video above) Jean describes the success of the show as coming right off the bat. “It was a smash! I went to Disney World and I had a ‘Simpsons’ jacket on and people were asking if they could buy my jacket. There was never a point where the show wasn’t white hot.”
Jean is the current showrunner for “The Simpsons” and has been there since the first season debuted on Fox. He took on his current responsibilities with his writing partner, Mike Reiss, during the show’s third and fourth seasons. He returned to that position at the beginning of the 13th hit season in 2001, without Reiss, and has been in the position ever since.
“The Simpsons” has had an incredible history with the Emmys since the very beginning. The show has taken home the honor for Best Animated Program a record-setting 10 times, double the amount won by the next closest program, “South Park.” The show collected the honors in 1990-91, 1995, 1997-98, 2000-01, 2003, 2006 and 2008. Jean collected trophies for all those except for 1997 and 1998. For the 2018 ceremony, the show is nominated for the episode “Gone Boy.” Jean’s strategy in determining which episode to submit to the Emmy voters has gotten more data driven over the years. He will frequently use ratings on IMDb and reviews from sites like The A.V. Club and Den of Geek to see which episodes were received the best by fans.
Jean also discusses the two years where “The Simpsons” tried to break into the race for Comedy Series. “Critics kept telling us you should be in the regular category and by season four we had negotiated that with the TV Academy,” he says. “In seasons four and five we submitted in the regular comedy category and got nothing. So we bravely turned tail and fled back to the animation category.” Jean says the experience taught him to not necessarily trust everything that he reads in articles.